Growing up, I was an inveterate chocolate lover.

Chocolate cake with chocolate frosting. Oreos. Chocolate cream pie. And, of course, chocolate ice cream.

My brother, on the other hand, was Mr. Vanilla. White-on-white cupcakes. Vienna Fingers. Twinkies. Vanilla ice cream.

On hot summer nights after Little League games, our parents would treat us to a cone at the Kenwood Farms ice cream stand, just over the river from our home in in Glastonbury, CT. Dad would have peach; Mom, butter-almond. My sister, Meagan, was an orange sherbet type gal. No question at all about my choice: chocolate, with chocolate jimmies.

And Mike?

Vanilla. B-O-R-I-N-G.

Well, times have changed. Dad and Meagan are gone (and hopefully enjoying towering ice cream cones in Heaven). Mom has lost her taste for ice cream. Mike, true-blue guy that he is, has stuck with vanilla.

And me? Well, I still love chocolate, in all its guises.

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But a scoop of top-notch vanilla ice cream (or frozen yogurt), drizzled with the merest bit of vanilla-bean extract, has me reaching for a spoon just as fast a dish of dark chocolate sorbet would.

And vanilla whoopie pies stuffed with vanilla marshmallow-cream filling?

My own little piece of Heaven.

Preheat the oven to 400°F. Lightly grease two baking sheets (three, if you have them), or line them with parchment.

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Beat the following together until well combined:

1 cup sugar
2/3 cup (11 tablespoons) butter

Beat in the following:

2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon almond extract

Much like espresso powder heightens the flavor of chocolate, we feel almond emphasizes the taste of vanilla. Unless you really dislike almond flavor, we urge you to add the suggested almond extract in both cakes, and filling; while you probably won't taste any almond, the vanilla will really shine.

Add 2 large eggs one at a time, beating well and scraping the bowl after each.

Add 3 cups (12 3/4 ounces) King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour alternately with 2/3 cup milk, beginning with about 1 cup of the flour and 1/3 cup of the milk. Beat well after each addition. The final batter should be thick and fluffy.

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Scoop the batter onto the prepared baking sheets in heaping tablespoonfuls; a slightly heaped tablespoon cookie scoop works well here. Try to make each scoop as round as possible; the rounder the ball of dough, the rounder the cake. And it's easier to match the tops and bottoms of your whoopie pies when they're round, rather than irregularly oval.

Leave about 2" between each scoop; the cakes will spread.

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Bake the cakes for 7 to 8 minutes, or until they're springy to the touch and feel set. They won't be browned at all.

Remove them from the oven, and let them cool right on the pan; or transfer them to a rack to cool.

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The cakes' bottoms may be ever so slightly browned; but their tops will remain cream-colored.

Fill the cakes when they're completely cool.

Place the cooled cakes, in a single layer, on a couple of baking sheets lined with parchment, foil, or waxed paper. Tent loosely with plastic wrap or foil; don't seal them shut, as they'll become soggy.

Next: the filling. Since it needs to chill, preferably overnight, you might want to make it the day before you make the cakes.

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To make the filling, combine the following in a heavy saucepan, or in a microwave-safe bowl:

2 cups (1 pint) heavy or whipping cream
1 bag (10 to 10 1/2 ounces) marshmallows; mini-marshmallows are easiest to use
1 cup confectioners' sugar

Heat gently (in the microwave, or over a burner), stirring frequently, until the marshmallows melt completely. Remove from the heat, and stir in 2 teaspoons vanilla extract and 1/8 teaspoon almond extract.

Pour the filling into the bowl of your stand mixer or another mixing bowl, and refrigerate overnight, or until thoroughly chilled.

Remove the filling from the refrigerator. It will have stiffened considerably (photo, bottom left).

Beat at high speed, using your stand mixer or an electric hand mixer; it's impossible to beat thoroughly enough by hand, so please use a machine. Scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl to make sure you're incorporating everything.

Beat only until the filling is smooth and glossy; this will probably take less than a minute.

The filing will thin out and become almost sauce-like as you beat. DON'T PANIC. Set it aside to rest at room temperature for 30 to 45 minutes; it'll stiffen as it sits, bringing it back to spreadable consistency.

Note: There seems to be a continuous controversy around whoopie pie filling. Some claim only the original shortening/sugar version is "right;" others like marshmallow; still others prefer a cream-cheese based filling. If you're not a fan of this marshmallow filling, feel free to exchange it for your own favorite.

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Spread the flat side of half the completely cooled cakes with the filling; very slightly heaping a tablespoon cookie scoop (about 5 measuring teaspoons) is the right amount.

Top with the remaining cakes, flat side towards the filling.

Serve whoopie pies immediately; or cover lightly with plastic wrap, and enjoy within a couple of days. For longer storage, wrap individually, and freeze.

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Whoopie!

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Here's another iteration – strawberry cream whoopie pies. Add a layer of strawberry preserves atop the filling; I used fresh homemade preserves, quickly prepared in the microwave, as follows –

Combine 1 1/4 cups coarsely chopped or sliced fresh strawberries with 1/2 cup sugar, 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice, and a small pinch of salt. Place in a large microwave-safe bowl.

Heat berries in the microwave for 5 minutes, uncovered. Remove, stir, and heat for an additional 5 minutes. Stir again, and refrigerate; the preserves will thicken as they chill. Yield: about 3/4 cup preserves.

I have to admit, it was difficult getting a "sexy" photo of these humble pies. White-on-cream is a tough color combo, as far as a dramatic look goes.

But if you can get past their appearance and concentrate on flavor, these pies offer layer upon layer of sweet vanilla flavor. Their plainness is truly only crust-deep.

Read, bake, and review (please) our recipe for Double-Vanilla Whoopie Pies.

Print just the recipe.

PJ Hamel
The Author

About PJ Hamel

PJ Hamel grew up in New England, graduated from Brown University, and was a Maine journalist before joining King Arthur Flour in 1990. PJ bakes and writes from her home on Cape Cod, where she enjoys beach-walking, her husband, two dogs, and really good food!