Photo by georgie_grd via flickr, under the Creative Commons license.
The New York Times is hinting that whoopie pies might be the next new big nostalgic baking trend, possibly displacing the cupcake trend. I had to give this one some thought, considering that the pioneering chockylit featured whoopie pies on her short-lived dessert blog, before disappearing into the Internets. But Jezebel isn’t so convinced, and neither am I.
I’ve never had a whoopie pie, so I can’t judge them from a culinary perspective. They actually sound pretty tempting: two small chocolate cakes, sandwiched together with a cream filling of some kind – a precursor to the Oreo cakester.
And, although this sounds blasphemous, whoopie pies have some advantages over cupcakes. First of all, while I love frosting, too many cupcake shops pile on too much frosting for a dramatic visual effect, overwhelming the cake in the process. But because the whoopie pie is made from two pieces of cake sandwiched together with frosting, there’s a better cake-to-frosting ratio. It would also be harder to over-frost a whoopie because there’s really only so much filling one can stuff between two pieces of cake before the entire operation becomes unstable.
That being said, the idea that whoopie pies are the new cupcakes is going too far. Even if cupcakes are “trendy” now, they also occupy a large space in our collective nostalgic comfort food psyche that goes much deeper than mere trend. I would bet that every child in America—from San Franscico, to Kansas City, to Tampa—grew up eating cupcakes at birthday celebrations. We’ve all drooled at the packaged cupcakes in the pastry aisle of our local supermarkets. We’ve all seen, and probably at some time tasted, a Hostess cupcake. Cupcakes have been woven into our early childhood memories.
But whoopie pies are a regional treat, at best. According to the New York Times article, they were originally an Amish creation, and became a popular New England dessert, especially in Pennsylvania and Maine. But they aren’t ubiquitous – they are not the classic, standard childhood treat that is the cupcake.
And while the whoopie pies featured in the Times article are cute, they just aren’t as pretty as cupcakes—and it’s the cupcake’s immense artistic possibilities that are a large part of its charm. Just looking at the beautiful photos on Cupcakes Takes the Cake makes you realize that the cupcake is essentially a blank canvas which, with the aid of frosting, fondant, and sugar, can become anything imaginable. You can have cupcakes artfully decorated with shamrocks, you can make cupcakes shaped like roses, you can decorate cupcakes to look like the blood smattered smiley face pins in The Watchman. But whoopie pies, because the filling is sandwiched between two layers of cake, don’t have the same artistic possibilities. Sure, you can make them in different colors and flavors, but can you decorate them to look like Elmo? I think not.
No, the cupcake craze, if it’s going to end, isn’t over yet – and I don’t see whoopie pies posing any kind of a threat. Still, since I’ve never had them before, I believe they’ll be making an appearance at our next party. Now I just have to choose between this Epicurious recipe, or the one in the New York Times. Buttercream filling, or marshmallow fluff? Decisions, decisions.
What do you think? Is the cupcake craze at an end? Is the whoopie pie a serious contender to replace cupcakes? Have you ever made a whoopie pie?