Pondering a Decade, Making Whoopie (Pies), Lighthouse Dreaming

Yesterday my little girl turned 10.

With it came a deluge of memories and stories from we parents, all which she soaked up while peppering us with questions.

More stories.

It is good to look back over a decade—with all its highs and lows—and throughout it we watched this person growing and becoming the lithe girl with the crooked grin, mussed hair, musical bent and horse obsession.

Yesterday we reveled in the day of her birth with some of the usual birthday trappings and some new ones (in lieu of cake she requested Whoopie Pies, which I am now a near-expert at making). I couldn’t help but smirk while mixing the filling yesterday morning: from making whoopie to whoopie pies—this could be a goofy tabloid headline for the day…. (recipe at the end).

Today we took a family trip to Burlington, Vermont, about an hour away. Brunch at Handy’s Lunch is a tradition that began exactly 10 years ago when friends Sara and Bob first took me there. This was after Sara and I—both eight and a half months pregnant—treated ourselves to pedicures and then hobbled around the corner through ice and snow to Handy’s—a little horseshoe-shaped lunch counter with a vibe of yesteryear. Coffee in chunky diner cups, overeasy eggs with hashbrowns, and friendly banter with the owner and waitstaff. We watched our pancakes and eggs sizzle on the griddle just a few feet away.

The day was mild, and—with its valley elevation and lake effect weather—there was no snow to be seen in Burlington. Just a stiff breeze off the water, and a breathtaking view over to the Adirondacks in New York state. Our visit to the lake museum on the waterfront reminded us that Lake Champlain and the valleys around it used to connect to the ocean via ice and water from the St. Lawrence seaway all the way north to Labrador. Beluga whale bones and other evidence of ocean life have been found in the lake region.

As we left Burlington in the late afternoon, the sun streaked through the broken clouds, illuminating the lake and the small lighthouse perched beyond the breakwater. It still surprises me to look out from the busy city streets to the beacon shining in front of the layered blue mountains. My thoughts strayed to the idea of living in a lighthouse…one of my childhood fantasies that I still indulge now and then.

We left the city traffic and hubbub and turned for home, back to the snow-covered hill and the little house where we three begin the next decade.

Whoopie Pies

Makes about 24 pies


  • 1 c vegetable shortening
  • 2 c sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 c baking cocoa
  • 4 c flour
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 c milk
  • 1/2 c buttermilk
  • 2 tsp vanilla
  • 2 tsp baking soda, dissolved in 1 c hot water


  • 1/2 c softened butter
  • 1/2 c vegetable shortening
  • 1 c sugar
  • 1 tbsp  flour
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1/2 c warm whole milk

For the cake:

Preheat oven to 350.

Cream shortening and sugar together.

Add eggs and blend well.

Separately, combine cocoa, flour and salt. Mix well (I used a mixer on low to medium).

Combine milk, buttermilk and vanilla. Add this, alternating with dry mixture until combined.

Dissolve baking soda in hot water and stir into batter. The batter will be thick.

Drop by the tablespoon (it seems like too little, but it will be just right), onto a greased cookie sheet.

I fit 12 per sheet and learned that baking a single sheet at a time produced the best cakes.

Bake for 8-10 minutes until puffed into rounded domes and slightly dry on top.

With metal spatula, remove cakes to a cooling rack.

For the filling:

Put all of the ingredients in the bowl of a mixer and mix on low to combine. The mixture will be chunky and not too attractive. Be patient.

Mix on medium to medium-high for about 5 minutes until the filling is smooth and whipped.

Fill the pies and serve immediately or wrap individually. Freeze extras if you are lucky enough to have extras!

2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Just A Smidgen
    Jan 29, 2012 @ 23:34:25

    Happy Birthday to your little/big girl! These are such precious memories.. and more yet to come!


  2. Sara Pinto
    Jan 30, 2012 @ 05:21:04

    I remember that lunch at Handy’s well, my dearest! And how big our babies are now…I’m thinking when mine turns ten next week, we will definitely be making whoopie pies! Love you like mad and miss you even more. Sara



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