The Key to Whoopie Pies Is Marshmallow Filling

Lori Lamothe
(Vania Zhukevych/Shutterstock)

Whoopie pies have been a staple at my family's get togethers for decades. My great grandmother made them and handed down the recipe to my grandmother, who gave it to my mom. In my generation, it's actually my brother who has perfected the recipe. We've come to expect his huge whoopie pies stuffed with sweet filling every Thanksgiving (they're more like little cakes).

We've probably been making them for so long because the whoopie pie originated in New England. The "pie" is really a cake, well, two cake-like cookies, with a creamy filling between them. It's Maine's official treat (move over, blueberry pie) and it remains popular in Massachusetts, where it showed up in a Boston bakery in 1920.

Pennsylvania also lays claim to the whoopie-pie origin story. In fact, some say the name comes from the delighted cries of Amish children when they discovered the dessert in their lunch packs. But stories about the OG whoopie pie aren't limited to the United States. According to some historians, the dessert dates all the way back to medieval Germany.

Wherever it originated, when it comes to celebrating the whoopie pie Maine, quite literally, takes the cake. Not only does the state have an annual whoopie pie festival that draws thousands, it also holds the world record for the biggest whoopie pie. The record-breaking pie weighed in at a whopping 1,067 pounds and was "the size of a small spaceship." In fact, it was so huge a forklift was needed to assemble the top and bottom layers.

I've tried far too many variations--pumpkin whoopie pies, red velvet whoopie pies, orange creamsicle whoopie pies--and they're all good. I still think the basic recipe is the best, however.

There's an important difference between my family's whoopie pies and the storebought ones: the filling. The most important change is that our version includes marshmallow fluff. That may be because my great grandmother lived in Massachusetts, where marshmallow fluff was invented in 1917. Archibald Query sold the tasty condiment to the Durkee-Mower company in the early 1920s and it soon emerged in the Yummy Book, which included a whoopie pie recipe that required fluff.

Another key difference is that we double the filling recipe so that the ratio of filling to cake skews toward the filling. We also super-size them, which isn't great when it comes to calories but makes for a rich, creamy dessert.

I've made mini whoopie pies and topped them with powdered sugar or rolled the edges in sprinkles. The tiny pies are fun for kids (and keep their sugar intake somewhat low) and can be elegant as well.

Here's my great grandmother's recipe, complete with the old-fashioned spelling:

Whoopee Pies


2 cups flour

1/4 tsp. salt

1/3 cup cocoa

1 cup sugar

1 tsp. vanilla

3/4 cup milk

1 tsp. (baking) soda

1 egg

1/3 cup oil


1. In a medium bowl, sift together the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt.

2. In a large bowl, combine oil, sugar, egg and vanilla. Mix until combined.

3. Continue to mix on low speed while adding dry ingredients.

4. Spoon about 1/4-cup of batter roughly 3 inches apart onto a lightly greased baking sheet or parchment paper. You can also use a scoop.

5. Bake 12-15 minutes, depending on the size. (For smaller cookies, bake 10-12 minutes.)

6. Cool completely on a rack.

If you want a batch of super-size pies you will need to double the recipe.

Ingredients for Filling: (double this for thicker whoopie pies)

1 stick margarine, softened

1 cup confectioner's sugar

1 tsp. vanilla

5 heaping tbsp. marshmallow fluff

Instructions for Filling:

1. Beat margarine, vanilla, marshmallow and confectioner's sugar until well blended.

2. Add filling on top of the flat side of one cookie. Top with another cookie.

Serve immediately or individually wrap. You can refrigerate the pies for up to 3 days and I've been told you can freeze them (though I haven't tried this).

National Whoopie Pie Day (June 18) has come and gone but there's always a good reason--er, excuse--to make a batch.

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Writer, assistant professor, former baker. I cover cold cases, history, recipes, and culture. If you have a story idea you'd like me to investigate, you can email me at


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