How to Make Chocolate Whoopie Pies from Scratch

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Chocolate whoopie pies are one of our favorite uniquely American treats. Learn how to make one of the Northeast's signature eats.

The United States is home to some pretty wonderful regional desserts, many of which you’ve already heard of and enjoyed. There’s Key lime pie from Florida, buckeyes from Ohio, Southern hummingbird cake and so, so many more—including delectable whoopie pies from the Northeast.

If you haven’t heard of these sweet snacks before or haven’t got around to making them, don’t waste any more time! You’ll want to whip up a batch of chocolate whoopie pies right away.

What Are Whoopie Pies?

Wondering what these treats are? Essentially whoopie pies are like the best-ever sandwich cookie.

The cookies in this case, though, are cakey. It’s thought that bakers in New England and Pennsylvania put extra cake batter to use making these handheld treats. Then extra frosting was used to sandwich the two sides together and voila—a whoopie pie!

Chocolate whoopie pies with vanilla filling are the most iconic iteration of this treat, but there are lots of tasty variations including pumpkin and red velvet.

How to Make Homemade Whoopie Pies

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This recipe for classic chocolate whoopie pies comes to us from reader Maria Costello who has fond memories of her mother making these treats. While this recipe makes about two dozen cookies, Maria says that they are so delicious they won’t last long. You’ve been warned!

Ingredients

For the batter:

  • 1/2 cup baking cocoa
  • 1/2 cup hot water
  • 1/2 cup shortening
  • 1-1/2 cups sugar
  • 2 large eggs, room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2-2/3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup buttermilk

For the filling:

  • 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • Dash salt
  • 1 cup 2% milk
  • 3/4 cup shortening
  • 1-1/2 cups confectioners’ sugar
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Go to Recipe

Test Kitchen-Recommended Tools

  • Stand mixer: For airy frosting and light whoopie pies, you’ll want to rely on some mechanical power (not just elbow grease). Our Test Kitchen’s own Josh Rink recommends a stand mixer for this recipe. We’ve got our eye on this one with a cast-iron-style finish.
  • Sheet pans: Of course cookies call for cookie sheets! We like these extra-large ones from our Taste of Home bakeware line.
  • Cookie scoop: To get identically sized whoopie pies, rely on a handy cookie scoop.

Directions

Step 1: Bloom the cocoa powder

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To give these chocolate whoopie pies even more chocolate flavor, start by blooming the cocoa powder. This technique might sound fussy, but it’s so simple. All you have to do is mix together hot water and cocoa powder and whisk it together. That’s it. Then set it aside for five minutes to cool.

Blooming cocoa is a simple way to really activate all the chocolate flavors. For this recipe, you’ll want to use natural cocoa powder (rather than Dutch-process cocoa). This is the most common type of cocoa you can find and it has the acidity needed to react with the other ingredients in this recipe. Remember: Baking is science!

Step 2: Make the batter

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In a large mixing bowl, cream together the shortening and sugar until light and fluffy. This should take about five to seven minutes, so don’t rush this stage. Creaming these ingredients helps dissolve the sugar for a smooth batter and helps add air so you have fluffy whoopie pies.

Once creamed, add in the eggs, vanilla and cocoa mixture and mix until well blended.

Then, in another bowl, whisk together the dry ingredients: flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Add this dry mixture to the batter alternately with the buttermilk. You’ll notice that this is more like cake batter than cookie dough, and that’s what makes these treats unique!

Editor’s tip: Buying a pint of buttermilk is well worth it for this recipe. The flavor of buttermilk makes bakes richer and the acid inside helps create extra tender cake. If you don’t have any on hand, you can try these buttermilk substitutes.

Step 3: Scoop and bake

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Next, use a two-tablespoon-sized cookie scoop to drop portions of batter onto a greased cookie sheet (you can also use a parchment-lined baking sheet). Leave about two inches between each cookie because they will spread slightly in the oven.

Bake the cookies for 10 to 12 minutes at 350º F. Then remove from the oven and place on a wire rack to cool completely.

Step 4: Start the frosting

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Because this is truly an old-fashioned recipe, it calls for a cooked frosting. It might seem unusual if you’re used to whipping up easy buttercream, but this is just the right filling for whoopie pies. It’s sweet, fluffy and sturdy enough to hold up to being squished between two cakey cookies.

Start making the frosting by combining flour and salt in a saucepan. Then gradually whisk in milk until smooth. Cook over medium-high heat until thickened—about five to seven minutes. Be sure to keep whisking as it thickens up.

Once thickened, cover and refrigerate until completely cool. If you wanted, you could even prep this step a day in advance.

Step 5: Finish the frosting

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Cream together the shortening, sugar and vanilla until light and fluffy—about five to seven minutes. Then add in the cooled, cooked mix and beat for an additional seven minutes. In the end, it should be very fluffy and delicious.

Editor’s tip: While you may typically use butter in frosting recipes, our Test Kitchen does recommend shortening here—and not just because it’s a more old-fashioned baking ingredient. The shortening ensures that when you refrigerate these pies (which you will if you’re storing them), the frosting won’t firm up in the fridge. With shortening, the frosting will stay creamy and soft.

Step 6: Assemble the whoopie pies

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All that’s left is to put the chocolate whoopie pies together. Use an offset spatula to cover the flat side of one pie with some of the vanilla frosting and top with the other half of the cookie.

When you’re done assembling, enjoy! Extra whoopie pies can be stored in the fridge and are best enjoyed within about five days. You can also freeze whoopie pies in an airtight container for up to three months.

How to Customize Your Whoopie Pies

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Chocolate whoopie pies with vanilla frosting are the most common flavor combo for this cookie, but there are many ways to customize these to suit your tastes.

  • Decorate the edges: The easiest way to add color, flavor and texture to whoopie pies is to roll the edges of the frosted pies in your favorite decoration. Use sprinkles, mini chocolate chips, toasted nuts, crushed cookies, candies—any fun extras you may have in the pantry.
  • Switch up the extracts: This classic recipe calls for vanilla extract, but you could easily sub in almond, mint or even orange extract (orange and chocolate are a match made in heaven!).
  • Add fruit: Want to make this dessert a bit fruitier? Add jam or even freeze-dried fruit to the frosting. It’ll give the filling flavor and color. See how great it looks with these chocolate-raspberry whoopie pies!
  • Stir up a boozy filling: Taste of Home food stylist Josh Rink recommends adding a splash of your favorite sip to this frosting recipe for an adults-only treat. Liqueurs like Irish cream, Kahlua and amaretto would all be welcome to the party.

See Our Test Kitchen Pros Make the Recipe

We chose this chocolate whoopie pie recipe as our May 2021 Bakeable challenge and unveiled it in a special live video. In case you missed it, check out Sarah Farmer and Josh Rink baking up a batch and sharing their tips along the way.

Lisa Kaminski
Lisa is an editor at Taste of Home where she gets to embrace her passion for baking. She pours this love of all things sweet (and sometimes savory) into Bakeable, Taste of Home's baking club. Lisa is also dedicated to finding and testing the best ingredients, kitchen gear and home products. At home, you'll find her working on embroidery and other crafts.