I think whoopie pies are amazing, but let’s be real. They’re probably a gajillion times more amazing because their name is so freaking cute. My taste buds are pretty much automatically excited to taste a cake sandwich because I have just uttered the word “whoopie.”
I grew up eating whoopie pies at my Grandma Betty and Grandpa Jack Tenney’s house. My brother and I used to spend lots of time with our grandparents going to kiddie swimming pools, sliding down the plush carpeted steps on our stomachs, and eating copious amounts of sweet pickles and whoopie pies. My Grandpa Jack wasn’t exactly amazing at cooking a lot of different meal styles, but whoopie pies were really his claim to fame. I actually got pretty confused when I saw whoopie pies outside of Albert Lea, Minnesota where they lived. I really didn’t understand that my grandpa didn’t invent them.
Very quickly whoopie pie cookbooks and baking tins made themselves evident in the cutesy baking world. But I don’t need a tin or book to make my family’s whoopie pies. They’re the real deal! I did update the filling a bit because the original is lard based. While lard is super yummy and everything it touches turns to gold, I figured I didn’t need to eat it more often than once a year at the Tenney Christmas. Marshmallow crème is added to the original filling, so I made it one big marshmallow crème!
Marshmallow crème is awesome because you don’t need gelatin like marshmallows. It’s also light and fluffy like a cloud and can be dyed pastel colors like pink. So it’s pretty much the most awesome thing ever. Roll it in sprinkles, and it’s my wet dream of sugar and cuteness factor.
Marshmallow crème is made by boiling corn syrup to a soft ball stage and mixing it into firm egg whites on high. First, the beating of the egg whites. Egg whites are predominantly protein and responsible for much of the structure of marshmallow crème. They are beaten quickly to incorporate air. This air will be the reason why marshmallow crème is so fluffy.
Second, the boiling of the syrup. Soft ball stage means that the sugar is heated to a state where the syrup holds shape for a very short period of time and then falls out of the structure. The soft ball stage serves the purpose of adding some secondary structure to the fluff. The boiling syrup is then added slowly while continuing to beat the egg whites. Hot syrup heats the egg whites making everything a-ok to eat, and it also denatures the proteins. The proteins denaturing is the primary structure of the marshmallow crème. They fan out and solidify which also allows them to bind more air. The fluff becomes firm but airy—confectionery’s loveliest enigma.
With Valentine’s Day coming up and all, I decided to make the whoopies all cutesy with pink fluff, sprinkles, conversation hearts, etc. etc. This will be my Valentine’s evening. Snuggled up with some wine and whoopies watching Scandal. Don’t judge. You know it sounds awesome. Jealous? Read on and you too can have awesome nostalgia.
Tenney Whoopie Pies
Makes about 30 cake halves (15 whoopies)
2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
¼ teaspoon Kosher salt
⅓ cup cocoa powder
1 cup sugar
2 egg yolks (whites reserved)
1 teaspoon vanilla
¾ cup milk
1. Preheat oven to 350⁰F. In the bowl of a stand mixer, mix the dry ingredients together until well combined. Mix the wet ingredients together in a separate bowl and add it slowly to the dry ingredients with the mixer running.
2. The mixture will be pretty thick for what you would consider a cake batter, but it’s supposed to be like that. That will keep the whoopie halves from spreading like a typical cake, but the actual cake will be tender, don’t worry.
3. Scrape the bottom of the bowl and continue mixing until it is all well-mixed. Scoop by tablespoon onto a parchment-covered cookie sheet and leave a couple inches between cake mounds just in case they spread more than you expect. I would recommend parchment on top of your cookie sheet, but if you’re going to skip that, be sure not to use a cooking spray. The extra oil will cause you to have spreading and baking issues with your whoopies. My grandma rubs Crisco on her baking sheets and sprinkles the top with a thin layer of cocoa powder.
4. Bake whoopies one tray at a time for about 6-7 minutes or until the top is firm to the touch. Let cool briefly and remove the whoopies from the tray to continue cooling. If they do not lift easily or if they get slightly gooey upon cooling, return them to the oven for another minute. These are extremely easy to handle, so fixing your baking mistakes has never been easier. Just don’t burn them. No coming back from that.
Adapted from Sweetapolita
2 egg whites, at room temperature (from above, these are the two reserved egg whites)
Pinch of cream of tartar
⅔ cup light corn syrup
1 cup powdered sugar
1 vanilla bean, seeds removed, pod reserved or discarded
Red food coloring
1. Wipe the bowl of your stand mixer with lemon juice or vinegar to make sure there is no grease in the bowl. Any grease or fat will prevent the whites from foaming and reduce the air incorporation. Place the egg whites and tarter into the stand mixer and begin to whip on medium speed with a whisk attachment.
2. Begin to heat the corn syrup on medium-high heat in a saucepan until boiling. Clip a candy thermometer onto the side of the saucepan and heat until it reaches 235⁰F. Do not let it touch the side or bottom of the pan, as that will give you a false reading.
3. While the syrup cooks, increase mixer speed to high and beat until egg whites are firm. When the syrup reaches 235⁰F, gradually pour it into the egg white mixture while continuing to beat on high. Beat for 2 minutes more until the mixture is glossy and thick.
4. Mix in the vanilla bean seeds and powdered sugar on low speed until combined. At this point, you don’t want to beat too much more because you will lose some air. Add the drop of food coloring and continue to mix until a nice pastel pink.
After the whoopies are cool, spread fluff on half of the whoopies and top with the other half. Roll the sides of the whoopies in sprinkles if you’re like me and can’t resist their charm.
Best enjoyed the day of!
RIP wasted sprinkles