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Whoopie Pies: Making Whoopie

Whoopie Pies: Making Whoopie

Could the whoopie pie rival the popularity of the cupcake or macaron? Australian Baking Business looks at the meteoric rise of this super-sweet American export.

Despite being undeniably born in the USA, the whoopie pie’s exact origin remains hotly contested. Many food historians consider the treat a Pennsylvania Amish tradition, the story being that Amish women would bake desserts called Hucklebucks from leftover cake batter and put them in their husbands’ lunchboxes. When the men discovered their treats at lunchtime, they would shout ‘whoopie!’ – hence the name it bears today.

The states of Maine and New Hampshire, however, also profess to be the birthplace of the whoopie, claiming the recipe has been handed down from generation to generation. Details aside, the whoopie pie remains one of the US’s best-loved treats.

Foodies with their eye on the US food scene have observed the whoopie with mild interest for years, but the craze was catapulted to international stardom when Oprah featured the Wicked Whoopie Pie on her show. Suddenly, whoopies began appearing in Parisian cafes and made a major debut in Harrods of London, which was quickly followed by upmarket retailer Marks & Spencer.

The key with any trend, of course, is to catch the wave before it breaks. Tracie Heyes, marketing communications manager for Australian owned and operated foodservice supplier Priestley’s Gourmet Delights, says the company quickly launched its Whoopies Downunder brand in response to the whoopie fever generated when Harrods added the treat to its luxury foods lineup.

“The daughter of one of our directors was in England at the time and witnessed the Harrods’ phenomenon,” Tracie says. “She wrote a product dossier and sent it across to us. We then flew in several boxes of the Wicked Whoopies from America. We didn’t feel they would appeal to the Australian palate as they were very, very, very sweet.

“We toned ours down substantially and worked on flavour varieties we thought would suit the Australian market, based on our experience in the cake industry.”

The industry response to Whoopies Downunder was like nothing the company had ever experienced.

“When we first launched them, the industry uptake was unbelievable – we’ve never seen so much enthusiasm for a new product in decades of releasing cakes,” Tracie says. “Everyone was so excited by the prospect of something new within the industry.”

She says consumer demand hasn’t been quite as strong, with the Australian public still largely unfamiliar with the whoopie pie concept. Tracie believes the whoopie pie has the potential be big in Australia, but creating consumer demand requires “a big marketing budget.”

Trend-savvy chef Rachael Scardilli also saw the potential big things when she started her Sydney-based business Oh Sugar! after seeing the whoopie pie on an American TV show.

“I immediately said to my husband, ‘These are going to be the next big thing.’ So I pretty much started my business based on that, thinking I was just going to market whoopie pies only,” she says.

While Rachael does get customers who contact her solely for whoopie pies, she says most people are unfamiliar with the concept, requiring her to ‘upsell’ them in addition to her product range of cakes, cupcakes, cookies, macarons and confectionary.

“Once they have tasted them they’re more than happy to order them though,” Rachael says. “I sold some to Southern Cross Stereo here in Sydney, which owns 2Day FM and Triple M, and they pretty much summed it up by saying, ‘We’re sick of cupcakes, we want something new to give to our clients.’ They ordered a fair few dozen whoopie pies to impress people and show them something different – something new on the scene. And that’s how I’m selling it to customers: be the first to show your friends and family what they are.”

A major selling point of the whoopie pie, Rachael says, is their convenience as party treats and their unique appeal to men and children in particular.

“I find men aren’t embarrassed to eat a whoopie pie as opposed to a cupcake. It’s like a throw-back really – just pop it in your mouth and it’s gone,” she says. “I recently did a guy’s 40th birthday with a Bulldogs football club theme, and they ordered whoopie pies. Apparently the men went crazy over them. It’s more of a masculine thing – a cake burger!”

Rachael has also modified her whoopie pie offering to suit the Australian market, steering clear of the often sickly-sweet version our American counterparts seem to prefer.

“I think whoopies appeal to people who don’t like the sickly buttercream loaded on top of cupcakes,” she says. “At the moment I’m doing mainstream flavours but I do want to go into more fruity types with lemon and coconut, which will appeal to an older crowd as well. The mini ones I do really appeal to customers as they aren’t as heavy and allow people to try a few different kinds.”

In terms of presentation, Rachael says there are two distinct breeds of whoopie – the rustic version with a simple dusting of icing sugar over the top and a heavily decorated version with glazes and ganaches. Regardless of its incarnation, she believes the whoopie pie will reach cupcake-level fanaticism in Australia.

“No-one would have thought the macaron would have rivalled the cupcake, which is what everyone talks about now. I do think whoopie pies are going to be another competitor in that race as well. I really believe in them.”


CHOCOLATE WHOOPIE PIES WITH VANILLA MARSHMALLOW FILLING

Makes 12 | By Rachael Scardilli of Oh Sugar!

INGREDIENTS
125g unsalted butter, softened
190g brown sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 large egg
290g plain flour
50g dutch cocoa powder
1¼ tsp bicarb soda
220ml buttermilk

FILLING:
200g caster sugar
200g glucose
2 tbsp gelatine powder
1 tsp vanilla extract
170ml water

METHODS:
Preheat oven to 170°C and line baking sheets with greaseproof paper.

Cream the butter until light in colour and then add the brown sugar and vanilla and beat for another 2 minutes until light and fluffy.

Sieve the flour, cocoa and bicarb together.

Gradually add the flour mix alternating with the buttermilk until well combined and mix is smooth.

Using a level 5cm ice cream scoop, place on tray leaving a 2-inch gap to allow for spreading.

Bake in the oven for 10-12 minutes or until the tops of the whoopies just spring back.

Allow to cool completely on the tray and then use a palette knife to help lift them off the baking paper.

Match each whoopie half with its closest partner in size.

Working quickly, pipe the marshmallow filling in the centre using a large plain piping nozzle and then top with the matching half flat side down and gently press together.

Store at room temperature in an airtight container for up to 3 days.

To prepare the filling, pour 85ml of water into large mixing bowl and sprinkle over gelatin. Leave for 10 minutes.

Combine sugar, glucose and remaining 85mls of water into a medium pot. Heat until it reaches 240°F/115°C.

Turn mixer on low and slowly pour hot sugar mix into gelatin.

Add vanilla extract.

Turn mixer onto high speed and beat until thick for around 15 minutes and mix has cooled.

 

RED VELVET WHOOPIE PIES

Makes 16 | Photograhy by Louise Lister, Styling by Rachel Brown

INGREDIENTS
125g unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup caster (superfine) sugar
1 egg
3/4 cup plain (all-purpose) flour
1/3 cup self-raising flour
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda (baking soda)
1/4 cup cocoa powder
2/3 cup buttermilk
2 tsp rose pink food colouring
1 tbsp tiny silver cachous

CREAM CHEESE FILLING
250g (8 ounces) cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup (80g) icing (confectioners’) sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
2/3 cup (160ml) thickened (heavy) cream

METHOD

Preheat oven to 200°C. Grease and line oven trays with baking paper.

Beat butter, sugar and egg in small bowl with electric mixer until light and fluffy. Beat in sifted dry ingredients, buttermilk and food colouring, in two batches, on low speed, until mixture is smooth.

Drop level tablespoons of mixture onto trays, about 4cm apart.

Bake pies about 8 minutes. Cool on trays. Meanwhile, make cream cheese filling.

Spoon cream cheese filling into piping bag fitted with 2cm fluted tube. Pipe filling onto flat side of half the pies; sandwich with remaining pies. Sprinkle edges of filling with cachous. Dust with a little extra sifted icing sugar.

To make the cream cheese filling, beat cream cheese, sifted sugar and extract in small bowl with electric mixer until smooth. Beat in cream.

 

RAINBOW WHOOPIE PIES

Makes 14 | Photography by Anson Smart, Styling by Steve Pearce

INGREDIENTS
250g butter, softened
1 cup brown sugar
¾ cup caster sugar
3 eggs
2½ cups plain flour, sifted
1/2 cup cocoa, sifted
1 tsp baking powder
Coloured sprinkles to decorate

PINK MARSHMALLOW FILLING
150g pink marshmallows
30g butter
60g white chocolate, chopped

METHOD

Preheat oven to 150°C. Place the butter, brown and caster sugars in an electric mixer and beat until pale and creamy. Add the eggs, one at a time, and beat until combined. Add the flour, cocoa and baking powder and mix until combined. Roll tablespoonfuls of the mixture into balls and place on baking trays lined with non-stick baking paper, allowing room to spread. Flatten slightly and bake for 15-20 minutes or until light golden. Cool on wire racks.

To make the pink marshmallow icing, place the marshmallows and butter in a saucepan over low heat and stir continuously until smooth. Remove from heat, add the chocolate and stir until melted and smooth. Allow to cool completely. Spread half the biscuits with the icing and sandwich with remaining biscuits. Roll the sides of the whoopie pies in the sprinkles to serve.

Tip: The dough is very sticky, so use damp hands when rolling into balls. The dough results in a soft, cake-like biscuit.


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