I’m a born-and-raised New Englander, so I’ve been eating (and loving) whoopie pies for as long as I can remember.
But I don’t think everyone everywhere is as familiar with the whoopie pie.
My college roommate (at a New England school but from a different part of the country) looked a little horrified the first time she saw a tray of them in the dining commons: “they’re trying to call that a pie!?”
So, for the uninitiated: whoopie pies are basically two miniature cookie-like cakes stuffed with cream.
Sort of a mini cake sandwich.
Traditionally made with chocolate cake and a marshmallow cream in the center.
Conveniently easy to eat with your hands.
Pretty genius, right?
I made my version more nutrition packed (and perfect for hot summer days) by baking light and airy vanilla cakes with lots of fresh lemon zest.
And adding plenty of juicy summer berries to create a thick, overflowing cake sandwich.
And to make them more patriotic and ideal of the upcoming July 4th holiday, I added a powdered sugar star on top.
It looks pretty and festive and is super simple to do.
Here is everything you need to get started.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
Begin by grating all of the skin from one lemon.
You’ll want just the top yellow layer, not the white pith below.
A micoplane zester makes this job easy – you will find a million uses for fresh lemon, lime, and orange zest once you buy one!
In addition to adding tons of flavor to the dessert, Lemon Zest also happens to be packed with nutrition including Vitamin C and fiber.
It’s full of citric acid, often used to help rid the body of toxic substances in detox diets.
Studies have shown that the pectin in lemon zest can help curb hunger.
Measure about 1/2 teaspoon of the zest and set it aside (it will be mixed into the cream filling later).
Then sift together the dry ingredients in a small mixing bowl: whole wheat flour, all-purpose flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.
Next, grab a large mixing bowl and whisk together: some low-fat Greek yogurt, canola oil, granulated sugar, an egg, vanilla extract, and the fresh lemon zest.
Slowly add the flour mixture to the yogurt mixture, stirring until everything is well combined.
Scoop tablespoons of batter onto a parchment-lined baking sheet (using a tablespoon guarantees the cakes will all cook evenly).
Leave plenty of space between each scoop (you should fit only six scoops of batter per baking sheet) because the cakes expand to about 3 times the size in the oven.
So you’ve gotta leave ‘em room to grow.
Bake for about 9-11 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of a cakes comes out clean.
Try not to open the oven to check on the cakes every few minutes during baking – continually opening the oven can deflate the cakes.
While the cakes are baking away, prepare the lemon cream sandwich filling.
In a mixing bowl, add some Neufchâtel low-fat cream cheese, some granulated sugar, and a bit of water and vanilla extract.
Also add that 1/2 teaspoon of fresh lemon zest you set aside earlier.
Use a handheld mixer, set on low speed, to blend the ingredients into a smooth, creamy frosting.
When all of the cakes have been baked, arrange half of them on your counter or large cutting board.
Very sneakily select the slightly misshapen or lightly burnt ones for the sandwich bottoms.
Because no one needs to see and know about those.
Use a spatula to spread a thin layer of the cream cheese mixture all over the flat side of each cake.
Then top with handfuls of fresh blueberries and diced strawberries.
Now for the tops of the sandwiches.
Place about 1/4 cup of confectioners’ sugar in a fine mesh strainer.
Next, two options:
a.) Quick and Easy: Hold the strainer over the cake tops and lightly tap the strainer, decorating the cakes with a gentle “snow” of powdered sugar.
b.) Festive and Patriotic: I prefer this method. It feels a lot like the craft projects my teacher assigned in 1st grade – which I miss, to this day. It’s actually very, very simple.
Grab a piece of computer paper or notebook paper, a pen, and a small star-shaped cookie cutter. Cut the paper into a square slightly larger than the size of the cakes. Trace the shape of the star in the center of the paper.
Fold the paper in half to cut into the center of the star.
Then unfold and cut out along the tracing, creating a star cut-out in the center of the square.
Arrange the star over the center of one cake half. Hold the strainer of confectioners’ sugar over the cake and lightly tap it, allowing the “snow” of powdered sugar to fill in every inch of the star shape.
Very carefully lift the paper off the cake and tap off any excess sugar until the paper is clean.
Then repeat until every cake top has its own lovely star.
If you don’t have a star-shaped cookie cutter that’s the right size for the cakes: Google images of “star outline” to print one out instead.
Top off each frosted and berried-filled cake bottom with a star top, and serve.
The lemon cakes are light and airy and taste sort of like a cross between a cake and a lemon sugar cookie.
The sweet lemon cream is a nice, indulgent-tasting complement to the fresh summer berries.
This is a yummy summer treat that also happens to be nutrition packed.
It’s also a perfect festive, patriotic dessert that’s easy to throw together.
If you asked a New Englander, I think they’d say that these whoopie pies taste like a “wicked” tasty sweet “summah” treat.
Here is the complete printable recipe:
Prep: 25 minutes
Cook: 20 minutes
Yield: 8 whoopie pies
- ½ cup whole wheat flour
- ½ cup all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- ¼ cup canola oil
- ⅔ cup granulated white sugar
- 1 egg
- ½ cup plain low-fat Greek yogurt
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 lemon, zested
- 3 ounces fresh strawberries, diced
- 3 ounces fresh blueberries
- ¼ cup confectioners’ sugar
- 1 cup Neufchâtel low-fat cream cheese
- ½ cup granulated white sugar
- 2 tablespoons water
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- ½ teaspoon fresh lemon zest
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
- Sift together the dry ingredients in a small mixing bowl: whole wheat flour, all-purpose flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.
- Set aside ½ teaspoon of the lemon zest (to be used later in the lemon cream).
- In a separate large mixing bowl, whisk together the yogurt, canola oil, ⅔ cup granulated sugar, egg, 1 teaspoon vanilla extract, and all of the remaining fresh lemon zest. Slowly add the flour mixture to the yogurt mixture, stirring until everything is well combined.
- Scoop tablespoons of batter onto a parchment-lined baking sheet. Allow a few inches of space surrounding each scoop (six scoops of batter per baking sheet) Bake for about 9-11 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of a cakes comes out clean.
- Meanwhile, in a mixing bowl, combine the Neufchâtel low-fat cream cheese, ½ cup granulated sugar, the water and 1 teaspoon vanilla extract. Add the ½ teaspoon of fresh lemon zest set aside earlier. Using a handheld mixer, set on low speed, blend the ingredients into a smooth, creamy frosting.
- Arrange half of the baked cakes on a clean counter and use a spatula to spread a thin layer of the cream cheese mixture all over the flat side of each cake. Top with handfuls of fresh blueberries and diced strawberries.
- Cut a sheet of lined or computer paper into a square slightly larger than the size of the cakes. Use a cookie cutter to trace the shape of a star in the center of the paper. Fold the paper in half to cut into the center of the star. Unfold and cut out along the tracing, creating a star cut-out in the center of the square.
- Arrange the star over the center of one cake half.
- Place about ¼ cup of powdered sugar in a fine mesh strainer. Hold the strainer of powdered sugar over the cake and lightly tap it, allowing the “snow” of powdered sugar to fill in every inch of the star shape. Very carefully lift the paper off the cake and tap off any excess sugar until the paper is clean. Repeat until all cake tops have a star.
- Top off each frosted and berried-filled cake bottom with a star top, and serve.
- Storage: cakes should be stored in a covered container at room temperature in a cool, dry spot. Lemon cream and berries should be stored separately in covered containers and refrigerated. Frost cakes immediately before serving.