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Most people have one special recipe handed down by a beloved family member. Tanya Clark is no exception.

The owner of Cutie Pies bakeshop in Thomaston holds dear her great aunt Caramel’s recipe for whoopie pies, delicious cookie sandwiches of chocolate cake and whipped cream filling.

“Ever since I was little I can remember my mother making whoopie pies for every holiday and family get-together,” Clark says. “They became a staple dessert in my household, and once I was opening up the bakery I asked my mother for the recipe so I can carry on the tradition on a larger scale and have all my customers try it since I loved it so much.”

Ever since she was 16, Clark dreamed of opening a bakery. “I come from a large Italian and Polish family where cooking and baking was a huge part of growing up. I always watched my family make such delicious dishes and admired that and knew I wanted to open up something of my own,” says Clark, who joined a culinary and baking program in high school.

Clark went on to earn degrees in food service management and baking and pastry arts from Johnson & Wales University in Providence, Rhode Island. During that time she served as head pastry chef at area fine-dining restaurants.

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In 2011, she and her husband, John, renovated an old ice cream shop in their hometown of Thomaston and opened Cutie Pies. “We’ve been unstoppable since!” says Clark, noting her great aunt’s whoopie pies was a recipe she started with. “We sell out every week!” The bakery also offers custom cakes and cupcakes, wedding cakes, brownies, cookies, pies and more.

“My style of baking is definitely comfort food and trying to bring back your inner child through dessert. So, we’re constantly finding new and different recipes to keep up with the trends and creating recipes to keep customers talking and coming in to find out what’s new on the menu,” says Clark, noting the bakery offers more than 200 flavor combinations of cakes and cupcakes. “We use ice cream and candy bar flavors as inspiration for the most delicious combined flavors.”

The whoopie pie, which Clark describes as simple, quick to make and satisfyingly delicious for children and adults, will always be her favorite. “During the Christmas season, chocolate is a big must in my family. We like all things chocolate, including pies, cakes, cupcakes, and, of course, these whoopie pies. It’s nice to have a wide variety of desserts on the table during the holiday season!” Clark says. “I like to make our dessert an experience that you won’t forget and keep you coming back for more. It brings me back to my childhood and I like to think I make my mom proud since she was the one who taught me.”

Tanya Clark's Whoopie Pies

Yield: 7 whoopie pies • Time: 30 minutes

Chocolate cake

  • ½ cup shortening
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 2 cups flour
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • ½ cup cocoa

 Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.

Place the sugar and shortening in a mixing bowl and with a hand mixer or stand mixer beat them for five minutes on high speed until it becomes nice and fluffy (Note: Do not mix by hand).

Stop the mixer and scrape the bowl to make sure all the ingredients are incorporated, then add the egg and vanilla and mix for two minutes on high speed, once again making sure all ingredients are incorporated.

Scrape the bowl again and add milk, mixing on low speed for 30 seconds until the mixture looks curdled.

In a separate bowl, sift together the salt, flour, baking soda and cocoa so there are no lumps, then add it to the batter and mix it on low speed for 1 minute. Once incorporated, mix it for about a minute on high until fluffy.

Spray a large baking sheet lightly with non-stick baking spray. Using an ice cream scoop (or a large kitchen spoon filled twice), drop the batter evenly apart on the tray so it has enough room to spread (about 2 inches apart). Make 14 scoops for a total of seven pies when sandwiched together.

Place the tray in the oven for 7 minutes or until the cakes are firm. To check for doneness, insert a wooden toothpick, and if it comes out clean, take the tray out of the oven and let it completely cool for about 30 minutes.

Once the pies are ready, remove from the oven and let cool for 30 minutes.

Filling

(you can make the filling while the whoopie pies are in the oven baking)

  • ¾ cup shortening
  • ½ cup butter or margarine
  • ¾ cup powdered sugar
  • ½ cup marshmallow creme (Fluff)

Place all four ingredients in a mixing bowl and, using the hand mixer, mix 4-5 minutes on a low speed until incorporated. Then mix on high speed until very light and fluffy, about 4-5 more minutes.

To assemble the pies

Fill a piping bag with the filling mixture. Pipe at least 2 tablespoons of the filling onto seven of the pie pieces. If you don’t have a piping bag, use a spoon. Place another pie piece on top to make a sandwich and push down slightly to seal the pie together. Serve and enjoy!

Note: If there are leftovers, wrap each pie separately in plastic wrap and store in the refrigerator. When you want to enjoy them, bring them to room temperature for at least 30 minutes before serving so the filling gets nice and soft again.

Pamela Brown is a former English professor, a prolific freelance writer, and author of Faithful Love, her first novel that inspired a love of writing. She resides in Connecticut with her daughter, Alexis, who makes her life an adventure. 

This article appeared in the December 2018 issue of Connecticut Magazine. Like what you read? You can subscribe here, or find the current issue on sale here.