There are three things that stand out in my mind regarding the summer of 1992: Gyspy moths, Stephen King, and whoopie pies.
I was just a little kid then so it’s amazing that I remember anything at all, but you can blame the gypsy moths for that. They were insane that summer. The caterpillars infested every tree, chomped leaf after leaf and left nothing behind. The destruction they caused was a major topic of conversation: “They’re killing the trees!” Having just learned about where we get our oxygen, I legitimately thought that these moths were going to be a bigger issue in adulthood than they’ve been so far.
My grandmother owned a little store at this time. It was part convenience store, part sandwich shop, and part video rental. My mother helped out often, which means I was there a lot. Luckily, my uncle rented the space above the store so it wasn’t uncommon for me to grab some snacks, go pick out a movie, then run up there to watch it.
Besides whoopie pies, this store is where I discovered cheesecake for the first time. She sold little individual ones with cherries on top, and boy were they good. I also first discovered flavored carbonated water here—Clearly Canadian! I always chose blackberry. The shape of the glass bottle made me feel so posh and mature.
I sort of miss standing in front of a big wall of movies and meticulously studying the covers to decide which one I wanted to watch. I was particularly fascinated with horror movie covers: big-boobed women with knives, creepy skeleton fingers, a man whose face looked like it was melting off, etc.
My uncle was (and I assume still is) a huge Stephen King fan, and I remember him telling me over and over again how much better the books are than the movies. Yet, one particular day when my cousin was also visiting we somehow ended up watching Pet Sematary. This movie scared the ever-living crap out of me. I mean wtf were you thinking, Uncle Marc! 😛
As if Aunt Zelda wasn’t enough, I had to deal with the realization that the setting of the movie looked like so many places I visited on a weekly basis. We even supposedly had an “Indian graveyard” buried deep into the woods not far from my house. Whereas before my friends and I would spend countless hours exploring the woods looking for it, now I didn’t want anyone to find it. Ever. Stay hidden, please.
I literally bawled my eyes out after this movie while my cousin (who was always the stronger one) looked at me like I was nuts. I think I was just completely shocked that there was no happy ending. In my little mind there needed to be a happy ending or Gage was going to come slash all of our ankles! D: My uncle threw on some cartoons to try to bring me back down to childhood.
Between Gage’s achilles slashing and Annie Wilke’s sledgehammer ankle bashing (Misery, 1990) it’s no wonder I have to sleep with my feet completely under the covers.
I wish I could say that this is the point where I took a huge bite of a whoopie pie and everything magically became better, but no—I have misled you with the title of this post. While they do help, nothing can truly prepare you for Mr. King’s imagination.
Seriously, I wonder how things would have turned out if someone just handed Gage a whoopie pie. I assume he would have snapped right out of his zombie psycho killer state and all would be well again in Ludlow. I can tell you one thing—a whoopie pie would have been easy enough to find. You can’t visit a convenience store in Maine without seeing a bunch of them wrapped up for sale on the counter. They are everywhere! And while there are several recipes floating around the internet claiming to be the “real deal,” I can promise you that everyone is talking out of their bum. There are too many variations for any one recipe to stand out. In a sense they are all real, even this one.
The one thing that sets Maine whoopie pies apart is Marshmallow Fluff. That’s it. The recipe for the cakes themselves may change—you may see some that are really dark or really light, or some with huge cracked domes and others that are flat, etc.—but if the frosting isn’t right then just forget it. If you see a recipe for a “real Maine whoopie pie” that uses regular ole vanilla buttercream for the filling, do what I do and break down like it’s the end of Pet Sematary and then angrily close out that nonsense. I know those recipes exist because I’ve seen them!
I don’t have Marshmallow Fluff where I live, which means that I had to substitute it with a different brand. I personally don’t think that it makes too much of a difference. Staunch Mainiacs may disagree, claiming it MUST be their beloved Fluff. I would probably say that too if I still lived in Maine, but in all honesty I think it’s just a pride thing. With that being said, they do sell Fluff on Amazon if you want to go that route.
You can eat these at room temperature, but I happen to love the way they taste cold, right out of the fridge. I think it’s because when I was younger my mom would leave my leftover birthday cake in the fridge and tell me not to eat any. To get around that, I’d take a knife and cut the straightest line I could right along the edge and then eat that piece. I mean surely she wouldn’t notice if the perimeter of the cake shrunk by half an inch, right?
Oh shoot, it’s uneven…better do it again…
Anyway, it’s recipe time!
Step 1: Preheat your oven to 375º F, 190 C
Step 2: Sift together your flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder, salt, and instant coffee/espresso powder. Set aside.
Step 3: Beat together the shortening and sugar until light and fluffy. Three to five minutes. Then add your egg yolks, one at a time until fully incorporated.
Step 4: Add your dry ingredients into your butter/shortening mixture by alternating with the milk. I fold it in with a spatula rather than beating it. Add the vanilla last.
Step 5: Drop blobs of batter onto a parchment-lined baking sheet, making sure to leave PLENTY of space between. More than you would for cookies. Here’s what happens if you don’t.
Step 6: Bake for approximately 7-10 minutes depending on the size. They will spread and dome quite a bit. Let them cool before removing from the baking sheet.
Size differentials: The left shows the size of the whoopie pie when you use 1/4 cup of batter. The middle is 1/8th cup, and the right is one domed tablespoon. I’m realizing now that I really should have gone the extra mile and weighed the batter.
Step 1: Beat it like MJ. There is no exact science to this. You want it thicker and glossier than your average buttercream. Beat about 4 minutes. Feel free to add a splash of vanilla if you’d like. Also, sorry for the poor photo quality. I think it’s obvious that I decided to finish up my whoopie pies after the sun went down.
Step 2: Pipe your icing onto your cakes and sandwich them together. Voila!
Wrap these up individually in some plastic wrap and store them in a dry area. Better yet, put a couple in the fridge so you can eat them cold like me. Remember to give some to friends!
I’m sure you’ve seen a million versions of whoopie pies—red velvet, banana, pumpkin spice, etc. I prefer regular ole chocolate, but I’m definitely thinking of experimenting to see if I can create the next best thing. If you have any flavor ideas then drop me a line!
Until next time <3
- 2 c (228 g) sifted all-purpose flour (sift first, measure after)
- 1 c (200 g) granulated sugar
- 1 tsp (4 g) baking soda
- 1 tsp (4 g) baking powder
- 1 tsp (6 g) salt
- 1 tsp (2 g) instant coffee or espresso powder
- 5 tbsp (30 g) cocoa powder
- 1/2 cup (100 g) shortening
- 2 egg yolks
- 1 cup (237 ml) milk
- 2 egg whites (If you're really worried about this just buy the pasteurized egg whites that they sell in a milk carton)
- 2 cups (227 g) of powdered sugar
- A pinch of salt
- 1/2 cup (100 g) shortening
- 2-4 heaping spoonfuls of Marshmallow Fluff (or equivalent)
- Preheat your oven to 375º F, 190 C
- Sift together your flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder, salt, and instant coffee/espresso powder. Set aside.
- Beat together the shortening and sugar until light and fluffy. Three to five minutes. Then add your egg yolks, one at a time until fully incorporated.
- Add your dry ingredients into your butter/shortening mixture by alternating with the milk. I fold it in with a spatula rather than beating it. Add the vanilla last.
- Drop blobs of batter onto a parchment-lined baking sheet, making sure to leave PLENTY of space between. More than you would for cookies.
- Bake for approximately 7-10 minutes depending on the size. They will spread and dome quite a bit. Let them cool before removing from the baking sheet.
- Combine all ingredients and whisk to combine.
- Pipe onto half of the cakes, sandwich them with the remainder, and voila!