Makin' whoopie pies: Classic sweet treats with a third of the fat and calories

Whoopie PiesWhoopie PiesUntil I moved to Vermont, I had never heard of whoopie pies-a cream-filled cakey chocolate sandwich cookie originally from Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. They have a cultlike following in New England. At every roadside stop between here and Maine they are piled up in neat little stacks. And they're quite delicious…but often made with a filling of sugar-laced shortening. So they're not so stellar nutritionally.

We decided to makeover the classic whoopie pie and we had great success. Here's how a traditional whoopie pie stacks up against our madeover version:

Traditional Whoopie Pie
Calories: 679
Fat: 36 grams
Saturated Fat: 9 grams
Trans Fat: 4 grams

EatingWell Whoopie Pie
Calories: 202
Fat: 11 grams
Saturated Fat: 4 grams
Trans Fat: 0 grams

Here are the secrets of how we made whoopie pies healthier:

  • Replaced vegetable shortening with healthy canola oil and substituted nonfat milk for whole milk in the cookie.
  • Whole-wheat pastry flour replaced all-purpose flour.
  • A combination of nonfat yogurt and whipped cream thickened with gelatin replaced vegetable shortening, marshmallow fluff or whipped cream in the filling.
  • We made a whoopie pie with a slightly smaller portion size-many traditional versions are nearly as big as a salad plate!

These are great to bring to a potluck or for a kid's birthday party. And they're pretty easy to make but look impressive. Have fun with this recipe:

Whoopie Pies Recipe

Active time: 45 minutes | Total: 2 1/2 hours (including chilling time) | Makes 16 whoopie pies.

To make ahead: Press a piece of plastic wrap directly on the surface of the filling (Steps 4-5) and refrigerate for up to 1 day. Store the cookies (Step 3) in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 1 day. Refrigerate the assembled Whoopie Pies, uncovered, for up to 4 hours.

Classic whoopie pies combine a creamy filling sandwiched between cakey chocolate cookies. Some are filled with a marshmallow cream frosting while others are filled with whipped cream. Even those of us who grew up with the former fell in love with our lighter version of the whipped cream-filled treats.

1/3 cup canola oil
3/4 cup packed light brown sugar
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups whole-wheat pastry flour
1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup nonfat milk

1/2 cup cold water
2 teaspoons unflavored gelatin
1 cup whipping cream
2/3 cup nonfat plain yogurt
1/2 cup confectioners' sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1. Preheat oven to 350ºF. Position racks in the upper and lower thirds of the oven. Coat 2 large baking sheets with cooking spray.

2. To prepare cookies: Beat oil, brown sugar, egg and vanilla in a large bowl with an electric mixer on medium speed until combined. Whisk flour, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a medium bowl. Gradually add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients, alternating with milk; beat until smooth. Let the batter stand for 15 minutes.

3. Drop batter by the tablespoonful onto the prepared baking sheets, spreading the batter into a 2- to 3-inch circle with the back of a spoon if it doesn't spread itself. (Each large baking sheet accommodates 8 cookies-they will be close together.) Bake the cookies until firm to the touch, about 8 minutes. Let cool on the baking sheet for 2 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely. Wash, dry and coat the baking sheets with cooking spray again. Repeat with the remaining batter.

4. To prepare filling: While the cookies cool, stir water and gelatin in a small heatproof cup or bowl. Let stand 1 minute. Microwave, uncovered, on High until the gelatin has completely dissolved but the liquid is not boiling, 20 to 30 seconds. (Alternatively, bring 1/2 inch water to a gentle simmer in a small skillet. Set the bowl with the gelatin mixture in the simmering water until the gelatin has dissolved completely.) Stir the mixture until smooth. Let cool for 10 minutes.

5. Beat cream, yogurt, confectioners' sugar and vanilla in a medium bowl with an electric mixer on high speed until very thick, about 1 minute. With the mixer beating constantly, add the gelatin mixture in a steady steam until well combined. Cover and refrigerate until the cream filling is thickened to the consistency of pudding, about 30 minutes. Whisk again until smooth.

6. To assemble whoopie pies: Turn half the cookies bottom side up and top with a generous 2 tablespoons of the cream. Top with the remaining cookies. Chill in the refrigerator until the filling is set, about 30 minutes.

Per serving: 202 calories; 11 g fat (4 g sat, 5 g mono); 34 mg cholesterol; 24 g carbohydrate; 3 g protein; 2 g fiber; 144 mg sodium; 63 mg potassium. 1 1/2 Carbohydrate Servings. Exchanges: 1 1/2 carbohydrate (other), 2 fat.

By Jessie Price

EatingWell food editor Jessie Price's professional background in food started when she worked in restaurant kitchens in the summers during college. She started out testing recipes for EatingWell and then joined the staff here full-time in 2004 when she moved to Vermont from San Francisco.

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