Whoopie Cake ( Child of Whoopie Pie and Classic Icebox Cake)

Any food lover who has eaten a genuine whoopie pie has got to be cracking up over the current rage for – what shall we call it? – the new whoop-de-do : small cakes sandwiched with lots of rich filling that resemble the genuine article the way a square of ground Kobe beef filled with foie gras resembles a White Castle hamburger.        

You can read all about it in this New York Times whoopie pie story by Micheline Maynard, or just know that ever since she tapped me for an opinion about their origin,  I’ve had them rattling around in my head.

I’ve also had a container of very nice ricotta rattling around in the refrigerator. Also half a batch of the dough for Chocolate Split Seconds.

 pseudo whoopie pies

ricotta whoopie pies

Admittedly, whoopie pie outsides are soft while the split seconds are crisp. But a few hours together in the ‘fridge should fix that, I reasoned. And wouldn’t the delicate plain ricotta be lovely with the sweet cookies?

“No,” said Bill, who does not share my admiration of barely sweet desserts.

Back to the drawing board – and the sudden memory of chocolate wafer icebox cake, an easy, never-fail delight made frequently in my younger days and clearly, in retrospect, the inspiration for the not-so-whoopies.

THAT was a big success with Bill, and Lois, who helped him finish it up. ( It was also a big success with me, but I only tasted it, in the interest of not weighing 40,000 pounds.) 

Chocolate Wafer Icebox Cake

Ricotta Whoopie Cake

The original recipe, made from Nabisco’s Famous Chocolate Wafers and whipped cream (directions and picture right on the box) is much  heavier on the wafers. But the wafers are thinner than the cookies. Sweet whipped cream by itself gets cloying quickly, unlike ricotta plus whipped cream, which can be eaten with a spoon indefinitely. And of course I’m not trying to move product; the Nabisco recipe calls for a whole box.

To make Ricotta Whoopie Cake: roll some chocolate split second cookie dough (above) into 12 large-walnut sized balls, then flatten them onto the parchment lined cookie sheet with the lightly floured heel of your hand.

Bake at 350 for 8 to 10 minutes, until just cooked through. Cool on a wire rack.

Put 2 1/2 cups of whole milk ricotta in a mixing bowl with 1/4 to 1/3 cup of glazing sugar (confectioners sugar without the cornstarch) or regular confectioners sugar. Beat 1 1/2 cups of heavy cream until it forms stiff peaks, then beat the ricotta and sugar until the mixture is smooth. Gently stir the whipped cream into the ricotta. 

Sandwich the cookies with the filling, then sandwich the sandwiches ditto. Lay the stack on its side on a serving plate and frost with the remaining filing. Chill at least 6 hours; overnight is better. Slice on the diagonal to serve.

Honesty compels me to admit that by making this thing I’ve fallen into the upscale whoopie pie trap, so I’ll give the last word to my good friend Sandy Oliver, owner, editor and publisher of Food History News, who is quoted in Ms. Maynard’s story. Not surprising. Every journalist in America calls Sandy when they need to know where something came from (but then of course they never have room to tell you the really interesting asides).

 People always want to know the origins of whoopie pies. As far as I can tell they don’t have any origin. I jest. They do, but it seems to be unknowable at present, though I wish someone would tackle the topic and find out and put this whole miserable question to rest. On their native heath, Maine being one, they are actually really terrible. I ate one once. I know. They have their adherents, however. The upscale version by the same name are not really whoopie pies.

The real, and interesting, issue here is that this great sprawling country of ours has so many climates, such a varied geography, and so many ethnicities and wildly varied income levels that it is hard to find an American Dish. Hamburgers come close. But the food that is truly shared up and down and all around are very often commercial products like Coca Cola, or Twinkies, or Fritos. No matter who you are in the U.S.A. you will know what they are and probably have swallowed them, and your experience was identical to everyone else’s. So they are what we share as far as food history is concerned. Little wonder we are curious. Hence, in this region, the questions about Whoopie Pies.

What is a Whoopie Pie? The classic is two rounds the size of your palm of chocolate sponge cake held together with an odious mixture of confectionery sugar and Crisco, flavored with imitation vanilla extract.

Sandy Oliver

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  • Ali Said,

    I’m a native Mainer and I vividly recall the fantastic whoopie pies my mother made. Unlike what Sandy Olive refers to, the convenience store staple of supersweet Crisco frosting layered between gummy chocolate cake cookies and wrapped tightly in cling-wrap, real Maine whoopie pies are divine. Cakey chocolate cookies with a lightly sweetened, creamy cooked filing eaten the day they were made are a revelation. I may need to dig out her recipe and serve myself up a blast from my past. And I might just try your ricotta filling, which also sounds divine. I’m with you on the barely sweetened dessert.

  • leslie Said,

    Hi Ali

    Thanks for the memory; if you DO dig out your mom’s recipe, please send it along…

    I think (and I think Sandy thinks, too) that whoopie pies were probably commercial from the outset, with folks like your mom being what might be called early upscalers: good cooks who took hold of the concept and created homemade versions that were well worth eating.

    Although the origin is shrouded in mystery, food mythology abhors a vacuum, hence the tale about the Amish farmers yelling “whoopie! ” when they found the cakes in their lunchboxes.

    Oh please.

    C’mon, does this really sound even remotely plausible to you? Completely apart from the likely origin of “whoopie!” being the one that leads to “makin’ whoopie,” the Amish (along with most other Pennsylvania Germans), were and are dessert-making fools. There would have been heavy-duty sweets in those lunchboxes every mortal day, and there’s no reason to assume that the whoopie pie combo would have been greeted as anything super special.

  • Peter Said,

    Being from New England, we grew up baking and eating whoopie pies too.

    We have a couple different whoopie pie recipes we’d like to share, one is for traditional whoopie pies (from scratch) and the other is for whoopie pies that start off with a cake mix which makes them much easier to make.

    Give our homemade Whoopie Pies a try today and see what you think.


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