Dealing with brutally cold and snowy winters that seemed to go on forever, “mud season” in the spring that would suck the boots right off your feet, black flies that took chunks of flesh when they bit, and mosquitoes the size of Pterodactyls all summer long was not my cup of tea.
But come late summer and early autumn, during the best stretches of weather New Hampshire had to offer, agricultural and state fairs started popping up all over the state. One of the most well attended and popular is the Hopkinton State Fair, and we were blessed with the good fortune of the fairgrounds being about 20 minutes away from our home.
Held annually over Labor Day weekend, the fair was a welcomed old friend; although signaling the start of cooler weather it also ushered in the disappearance of the plethora of mosquitoes that plagued the rural citizens of the state all summer. It also offered the pleasure of taking in the sights and sounds of a long history of agriculture in New Hampshire — a connection that also brought me, in my mind, “home” to Schuylkill County where farmland abounds: we’re not all just about Anthracite mining, you know!
Over the years, my husband James and I settled into a routine with the Hopkinton Fair; it had long since become our favorite of the many we attended. Usually lucky enough to get weather that permitted us to attend two days out of the four the fair is held, we dedicated one day to attending James’ favorite event, the horse pulling contests, and another day to attending mine — the semi-truck pulls (what can I say…I am truly my father’s daughter!)
Unlike many fair goers, we avoided the typical “fair food” and headed for the “church ladies” stand that served the best turkey dinners with all the fixings around or the fresh New England seafood stand. But we did partake in a very New England indulgence – cider donuts. These donuts can be found seasonally in supermarkets, bakeries, and at many apple farms and cider mills.
The “cake” style cider donuts are often paired with apple cider, and are usually covered with a cinnamon /granulated sugar mix. The cider donuts get their flavor from the concentrated apple cider used in the donut batter. These New England snacks are perennial favorites and can be addicting.
Every year, just before leaving the fair on our final day, James would patiently stand in a long line that slowly inched toward a bright red trailer that sold cider donuts by what seemed the gazillions. Inside the trailer, dozen-upon-dozen of these cake-like donuts floated down a line, frying in a bath of hot oil, only to be snatched up, dropped into a plain brown sack, tossed generously with cinnamon sugar, and passed along to eagerly waiting customers.
As James collected our order and turned to meet me, tiny spots of grease bloomed across the bottom of the bag, given up by the eagerly awaited contents. Still hot, we tucked that precious cargo into the basket of my mobility scooter, loaded up, and drove home where we savored our once-a-year treats with gusto.
Now back in Pennsylvania, I no longer have access to that iconic New England cider donut, but I find myself surrounded by an iconic Pennsylvania treat — whoopie pies, or “gobs” as they are known in Johnstown and western Pennsylvania — and I love them, too. So imagine my excitement when I found this recipe that marries the New England apple cider donut with the Pennsylvania whoopie pie!
These moist apple cider and spice cake-like whoopie pies with a spiced cream cheese filling are a match made in heaven. The whoopie pies get their cider donut flavor from real apple cider (not apple juice) that is boiled and reduced down into a concentrated syrup-like consistency then added to the batter.
True to form for a cider donut, the whoopies are dusted with cinnamon sugar before baking and may be dusted with more when ready to serve.
Because the filling contains cream cheese, they should stored in the refrigerator and keep well wrapped in plastic wrap for up to a week.
Additional whoopie pie recipes
Apple Cider Whoopie Pies (aka Gobs)Course: Recipes
2 cups apple cider
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, room temperature
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup dark brown sugar
3 Tablespoons vegetable oil
3/4 cup unsweetened applesauce, room temperature
2 large whole eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- Cream cheese filling
1 stick (1/2 cup) salted butter, room temperature
1 (8 ounce) package cream cheese, room temperature
4 cups confectioners (powdered) sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 teaspoon vanilla
Small amount of milk or cream, if needed
- Cinnamon Sugar
Mix 1/4 cup granulated sugar with 1/2 teaspoon of ground cinnamon in a small bowl.
- Reduce the apple cider – DO NOT SKIP THIS STEP. (May be done a day ahead; cover and store in refrigerator and bring to room temperature before using). Bring the apple cider to a boil over medium high heat in a saucepan. Boil, stirring occasionally until the volume is reduced to 1/2 cup and the liquid becomes “syrupy”. This may take about 25 to 30 minutes; check at 15 minutes and every few minutes after that. To check, carefully pour the reducing cider into a heat-safe measuring cup. If not reduced enough, return to pan and boiling and continue to reduce. Remove from heat and cool completely before using.
- Preheat oven to 350 F degrees. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone baking mats. Set aside.
- Whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt in a medium bowl; set aside.
- In another large mixing bowl, using a hand or a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, cream the butter, granulated sugar, and brown sugar together on medium-high speed until blended well. Add the oil, applesauce, eggs, and vanilla extract then beat on high speed, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed until thoroughly combined. Stir in the reduced cider and blend well.
- Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients, then mix on low speed until completely combined, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed. Batter should be thick.
- Using a medium cookie scoop (1 1/2 Tablespoons capacity), scoop mounds of batter onto prepared baking sheets about 3 inches apart. Sprinkle each lightly with cinnamon sugar.
- Bake the dough for 12-14 minutes or until the edges are just very lightly browned and the tops spring back when lightly touched. Remove from oven and allow cookies to cool on the baking sheet for 5 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely. Repeat with remaining batter. NOTE: Each “pie” or “gob” needs 2 “cookies”, so you need an even number of baked cookies.
- Cream cheese filling
- While all the cookies bake, make the filling: In a large bowl using a handheld or stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment, beat cream cheese and butter until fluffy. Add 1 cup confectioners’ sugar, vanilla and spices; beat until smooth. Beat in remaining confectioners sugar 1 cup at a time, beating until smooth. Add a little milk or cream if needed to achieve a smooth spreading consistency. Adjust spices if desired.
- Spread the frosting using an offset spatula or knife or pipe the frosting using a piping bag fitted with a round or star tip onto the flat side of one cookie and top with another, flat side toward the filling. Repeat with remaining cookies.
- Wrap leftovers in plastic wrap and store in refrigerator up to one week.
- If desired, sprinkle the whoopie pies with additional cinnamon sugar when ready to serve.
- Makes about 20 to 24 whoopie pies.