All I can smell is the dark chocolate cakes coming out of the oven. It’s that really rich strong smell of what will soon be a whoopee pie. It’s the only memory I have of my mother and it’s a very faint one.
My mother passed away when I was 4 years old. I always heard about her baking and how much of a positive impact it had on people. Any time I asked about her, baking was always the first thing people would say. Mom made the best whoopie pies. She also made these incredible doll cakes with their large ball gown the size of a mixing bowl. Then she would put a doll into the center of the cake up to her waist where mom would seal with a beautiful buttercream waist band. She would pipe what seemed like a million stars to cover the gown. With three daughters, I can only imagine she made these cakes often.
It wasn’t until I owned my own bakery in Wells, Maine that I decided to make them for everyone. I spent a lifetime searching for her recipe. In the meantime, I just made the best whoopie pie I could think of. Mine were made with strong brewed coffee in the cake. Once they were cooled, I filled them with a sweetened buttercream. They never hung around very long in the bakery. It still wasn’t my mom’s recipe but it worked for the time. I sold somewhere in the neighborhood of four dozen a day during the week and up to eight dozen on the weekends. I’ve even made a wedding cake out of whoopie pies. Everyone that walked into the bakery would comment on the scent of dark chocolate cake coming from the ovens. It’s those comments that would bring me back to the only memory of mom. It kept it alive for me. If I could offer people a lifetime of great memories associated with the scent of chocolate cake just like I had experienced, it was a major win for me. That’s what food is all about.
I always make them by hand mixing them in a bowl. The real trick to the whoopie pie cake is getting the consistency right. If the batter is too loose, the cakes will spread. If the batter is too thick, the cake will be hard and not like a soft chocolate pillow. It takes experience but once you figure out the feel, you’ll never forget it. I prefer to hand mix most of my recipes just for that reason. It’s so important to have the feel. That’ll keep you from over mixing recipes which can cause problems. Generally over mixed batters can’t relax resulting in a tougher cake. Once mixed, I then line a baking sheet pan with parchment paper so my cakes won’t stick. I line them up like soldiers in a four by six pattern using a yellow handled ice cream scoop. This keeps them all the same size. I bake them and then pull them out of the oven to cool where they can be seen and smelled. While the cakes are cooling, I whip up a sweetened buttercream using real local butter softened so it whips up nice and fluffy. I sift powdered sugar into the butter and add real vanilla. I finish it with a pinch of salt and bring it all together in my KitchenAid mixer with the whip attachment. Once the cakes are cooled, I flip half of them over and use red handled ice cream scoop to add the filling. Pop the top on and you have a classic New England Whoopie pie. You can get creative with the fillings and add peanut butter or peppermint. You can even color the filling to match a school or college colors. There’s so much room to be creative with these. You can make mini ones and even make a birthday cake out of one.
When I was in my early 50’s, I finally asked my cousin Lori if she had her mother’s recipe. I figured if I’m never going to find my mom’s, I know her mom made really good ones and that’ll be a little closer to me. When I asked her she told me that it was the same recipe my mom used to use!! She said both of our moms used the same recipe! She sent me a picture of the original hand written recipe. I was so thrilled. I looked at the recipe and of course she used Crisco. How oringinal! I’m not a fan of Crisco and I don’t use it but the rest of her recipe was very similar to mine. Her filling used canned milk. I thought that was interesting. That certainly would have kept it sweet! I spent a lifetime searching for her recipe and I had access to it all along. This is definitely the time to say “Better late than never”.
I love to make these desserts for anyone. Every time I do I feel like a piece of my mom is still working through me. I feel the same love I imagined she put into each and every one. It’s a tradition I wanted to keep sharing. It’s her legacy to make great tasting baked goods from her heart. It’s all I have of her. Every time I make them and someone says thank you I just want to tell them to thank my mom.