vegan sweet potato whoopie piesI have been on what you might call a whoopie pie kick lately. I made some classic chocolate-marshmallow whoopies a few weeks back when Mike Edison invaded Ian’s Pizza during his book tour and was shocked to find that so many Midwesterners were unfamiliar with this cookie-cake hybrid.

Whoopie pies, or gobs, are definitely a New Englander’s treat. Maybe I was subconsciously influenced by the time I spent in Massachusetts with my grandparents as a kid, but man oh man do I love whoopie pies. To make a whoopie pie, you basically need two mini cakes and something sweet to stick them together with. The classic version is a sturdy-but-fluffy chocolate cake with marshmallow filling. Around the holidays you might also see gingerbread or pumpkin cakes. Or cookies. Or pies, or whatever they are. There are a lot of goofy theories floating around about how and why whoopie pies were created and named, but the one that holds the most water with me is that they were a use for left over cake batter. As far as the name goes – I don’t know where it came from, but it makes me think of Ric Flair, which is a pretty righteous quality in a dessert if you ask me.

Anyway, my second favorite thing about whoopie pies, the first being that they’re delicious, is that they hold up really well in the mail. Unlike cupcakes, that either require that you make them in a jar or overnight ship them in really expensive packaging, you can easily ship whoopie pies. First of all, they’re sturdy. The cakes look fluffy but they’re really more on the chewy side, so they can hold up to being treated not-so-delicately by the USPS. Also, the traditional filling doesn’t call for any dairy, so you aren’t going to kill anyone with old buttercream should the package take an extra day or two to arrive. Why am I talking about the mail right now? More on that later.

This week is a special week in history and you might not even realize it. This week is Green Bean Casserole Pizza week at Ian’s Pizza. I have literally been looking forward to it since Green Bean Casserole Pizza week last year at Ian’s. It got Tony and I talking about casseroles and why they’re the best part about any big family meal. Seriously, all of them are the best. Broccoli casserole, green bean, sweet potato… especially sweet potato. As I kid I couldn’t believe my mom was just letting me scoop piles of candy-coated potatoes on my plate, leaving no room for vegetables whatsoever. But she did! And I loved it.

So now that it’s that time of year when everyone’s aunts are warming up their casserole dishes I thought I’d try my hand and turning my favorite one into a whoopie pie. I’m calling this an experimental recipe because I’m not quite finished developing it yet. But here’s what I made, feel free to tweak it all you like.

Candied Walnuts

  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 & 1/2 c whole or half walnuts
  • 1/2 tsp salt

Toast the walnuts in a 350 degree oven for about 5 minutes. I used a rimmed cookie sheet with a silpat. Keep an eye on them so they don’t burn. Once those are toasted, remove them from the oven and set them aside to cool. Pour the sugar in a medium saucepan with a thick bottom – keep the walnuts nearby because you’ll need to move quickly once the sugar melts.

Cook the sugar over medium heat, stirring occasionally at first. Once it starts melting you’ll want to continually stir it until everything it melted and a nice amber color. As soon as it’s amber, dump in the walnuts and stir to coat. Quickly spread them out on that same silpat (or parchment paper-covered) cookie sheet and use two forks to separate them. If you don’t do this (and if you don’t move quickly enough) you’re going to have walnut brittle. In my case, I shopped them anyway, so it doesn’t really matter – but if you choose to incorporate them in another way you’ll most likely not want one huge sheet of walnut candy.

Set that aside and make the cakes (or whatever.)

  • 2 & 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1 Tbs ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp ground nutmeg
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 c brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup non-hydrogenated margerine, room temperature
  • 1 & 1/2 cup pureed sweet potato*
  • 1/4 cup blended silken tofu**
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract

*If you can find it in a can, awesome. I couldn’t this year. So instead, I roasted two large sweet potatoes in a 400 degree oven for about 50 minutes. Then I scooped out the flesh, chopped it up and threw it in my food processor, pulsing it until it was pureed. Sweet potatoes are pretty fibrous, so this might take a while. Since my food pro was already dirty, I also threw 1/4 cup silken tofu in and blended it along with the potato.

**I used tofu because I happened to have some on hand. You could use your favorite replacement for one egg, or, use one egg.

Sift the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt together either into a small bowl or onto a sheet of waxed paper. Set aside. In a large mixing bowl, beat together the brown sugar and margarine. I use my stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment for this, you could also use a hand-held mixer. It will only take 2-3 minutes to get mixed together properly. Add the sweet potato and blended tofu. (If you blended them together, just dump it all in. Otherwise, whir the tofu for a few seconds until it’s smooth and chunk-free.) Mix just until incorporated, then add the vanilla and mix a few seconds more. The batter will be thick.

I use whoopie pie pans, but you could just use a cookie sheet covered with parchment paper. Using a mini ice cream scoop, or a tablespoon, scoop about 2 Tbs of batter and plop it onto the cookie sheet or greased whoopie pie pan – leave about 2 inches between scoops because they spread a bit. Bake at 350 degrees for 15 minutes – they’ll be firm to the touch when done. Cool on the pan on a wire rack for about 5 minutes, then remove from pan and cool completely.

Now you can make the filling. Whoopie pie filling is pretty weird, I have to say. Traditionally, it’s mostly vegetable shortening. Luckily non-hydrogenated shortening is available these days, so it’s not completely disgusting, but it’s still pretty greasy and weird. Some people simply fill whoopie pies with marshmallow fluff, and that’s fine. But I like how smooth and pretty it looks blended with shortening and powdered sugar, so that’s how I do it. I’ve tried a few variations of marshmallow filling and so far this one is my favorite.

  • 2 c ricemellow fluff*
  • 1 c non-hydrogenated vegetable shortening (I like Earth Balance)
  • 1 & 1/2 c powdered sugar
  • 1 & 1/2 tsp vanilla extract

*If you aren’t concerned with making these vegan, use regular marshmallow fluff. Or, go crazy and make your own vegan marshmallow fluff.

Beat together the fluff and shortening at low speed until mixed together, then kick it up to medium and beat about 3 minutes. Add the sugar, beating on low until mixed, and then on medium for another 3 minutes. Add the vanilla and beat about 1 minute more. The filling will be snow white and magically fluffy.

Time to assemble! I’m a little nutty, so I sort through my cookie cake things and find matching pairs. Sometimes a few will be oval shaped, or a little bigger or smaller than the others. I do my best to find each one a matching partner. I use a pastry bag to pipe a nice big pile of frosting on one cake, you could also use an offset spatula or even a spoon. Make a sandwich my smooshing another cake on top. Partner up all the whoopie pies and you’ll have a cute little pile of sweet burgers soon enough.

I chopped the candied walnuts and rolled each whoopie pie in them, so they got a little belt of sweet nutty goodness around them.

Other ideas:

vegan sweet potato whoopie pieMy husband thinks you should fold the chopped nuts into the filling so it’s less messy and you get some in every bite. TONY HAS SPOKEN. I zested a lemon into the filling thinking it might help brighten up some of these heavy fall flavors, but it got totally lost in there. I still think it could use some citrus… so do whatever you want with that information.

I wanna send you some mail:

Turns out, I really like to send whoopie pies in the mail. So much so, that I want to send some to you. So leave me a comment below telling me what kind you want. Classic? Pumpkin? Vegan? Not vegan? Sweet potato? Banana and peanut butter? Gingerbread? Let your imagination go nuts. Leave your request below and I’ll choose someone with a US shipping address to send these to on Thanksgiving Day. Once chosen, I will email the winner, well settle on a flavor and I’ll bake & ship you a package of whoopie pies from the Bake and Destroy kitchen! Can’t wait to see what you come up with!

Update: Congrats to Kelly! Vegan whoopie pies are headed your way!