Food Network Throwdown / Part I: The Neely’s Whoopie Pies Get a Healthy Makeover with our Chocolate Pumpkin Whoopie Pie Recipe

Not that we’re dating ourselves or anything, but it seems like just yesterday – the spring of 1993 to be exact – that the Food Network was first launched. We’ve seen a lot of shows come and go, and we were thrilled when our friend, dietitian Ellie Krieger, got her own show: Healthy Appetite. But other than Ellie’s recipes, most of  what we see on FN is pretty rich and decadent. Long story short, when Boston University graduate students, Cristine and Ashley, interned with with us this past winter and spring, we cooked up a fun project for them: Give some of Food Network’s most indulgent recipes a healthy makeover.

Cristine and Ashley poured over the FN website and came up with three recipes they were itching to rescue: the Neely’s Whoopie Pumpkin Pies, Giada’s Butternut Squash Lasagna, and Paula Deen’s Chicken Empanadas. So, in Part I of our three-part series, we take on the Food Network’s Whoopie Pies for a good ol’ fashioned Meal Makeover Mom Throwdown. The result is a healthy whoopie pie that tastes as rich and luscious as the super full-fat version.

Whoopie Pie Throwdown Mission:
- Swap the butter — 1 stick in the cakes and 1/2 stick in the filling — for something healthier
- Replace some of the all-purpose flour in the cakes
- Maintain the luscious, creamy flavor of traditional Whoopie Pies

Throwdown Makeover Magic:

- We replaced the butter in the cakes with canola oil and pureed pumpkin (there was already some pumpkin in the filling, so it made sense to use some in the cakes too)
- We replaced some of the all-purpose flour with whole wheat flour
- We made the filling with 1/3-less fat cream cheese instead of butter


This batter is pretty sticky — almost like a brownie batter. But trust us, it works every time.

The cream cheese frosting is light and fluffy.

Chocolate Pumpkin Whoopie Pies

Makes 14 Pies

For the Cakes:
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup whole-wheat flour
  • 3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1½ teaspoons baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup canned pumpkin puree
  • 2 tablespoons canola oil
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 cup 1% low-fat milk
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

For the Filling:

  • One 8-ounce package 1/3 less fat cream cheese, softened
  • 1/4 cup canned pumpkin puree
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • Pinch of salt

1. Preheat the oven to 400° F. Line two large baking sheets with parchment paper and set aside, Whisk together the all-purpose flour, whole wheat flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder, salt, and cinnamon in a medium bowl. Set aside.

2. Combine the sugar, pumpkin, and oil in a large bowl and beat on medium speed until well blended, 1 minute. Add the egg, milk, lemon juice, and vanilla extract and continue to beat until smooth. At low speed, gradually beat in the flour mixture until just combined.

3. Drop heaping tablespoons of the batter onto the prepared baking sheets, leaving about 2 inches between the cakes. Bake, 1 sheet at a time, about 8 minutes, or until the cakes are puffed and springy to the touch. Cool for 5 minutes on the baking sheet before transferring the cakes to a wire rack. Repeat with the remaining batter. You should make a total of 28 cakes.

4. For the filling, place the cream cheese, pumpkin, and vanilla extract in a large bowl, and beat at medium speed until blended. Gradually add the  powdered sugar, cinnamon, and salt and beat at low speed until blended. Raise the speed to medium once the sugar is incorporated and continue to beat until creamy.

5. To assemble, spread1¾ tablespoons of the filling on the flat side of half the cakes, and then top with the remaining cakes.

Nutrition Information per Serving (1 whoopie pie):  230 calories, 6g fat (2g saturated), 40g carbohydrate, 2g fiber, 320mg sodium,  5g protein,  30% vitamin A

Print Recipe

Before the Throwdown….
Calories = 350
Total Fat = 16 grams
Saturated Fat = 10 grams

After the Throwdown …
Calories = 230
Total Fat = 6 grams
Saturated Fat = 2 grams

Stay tuned for Part II when we give Giada’s butternut squash lasagna a rescue! And for more ways to bake luscious desserts using canned pumpkin as a fat replacer, check out our blog post on Cooking with Canned Pumpkin.

10 Responses to “Food Network Throwdown / Part I: The Neely’s Whoopie Pies Get a Healthy Makeover with our Chocolate Pumpkin Whoopie Pie Recipe”

  1. Love it! Definitely printing this one out for a fall treat. :)

  2. Angela Horne says:

    Is it 320 cals or 230? The recipe stats and the “after the throwdown” stats are not the same…

  3. Elizabeth S. says:

    Can egg whites and sugar substitute be used?

    • Liz says:

      Hi Elizabeth: The batter would probably be fine with 2 egg whites vs. the whole egg. As for using a sugar substitute, we’re not sure about that. We don’t cook with sugar substitutes. Since baking is an exact science, we hesitate to offer an opinion. If you want to give it a try, go for it. Keep us posted on the results. Good luck (and sorry we could not be of greater help).

  4. ruby says:

    Can unsweetened original almond milk be used instead of 1% low fat milk?

    • Liz says:

      We haven’t tried almond milk in this recipe, but we don’t see why it would not work. Give it a try and let us know how it works out! Enjoy …

  5. Noemi says:

    Is it possible to make mini whoopie pies such as using half a table spoon and if so does temperature or time in the oven change? Also can I make these a day in advance if so how can I store them?

    • Liz says:

      Hi Noemi: We have not made the Whoopie pies as minis, but we would suggest a cooking time of 5 minutes at the most if you’re halving the size of the pies. Do a test run with a few pies and see how it goes. As for storage, they should be fine on the kitchen counter or in the fridge, packed in a large, sealed container. Let us know how the recipe “makeover” works out for you!

  6. Noemi says:

    I sure will let u know when I test them out. Thank you very much for your feedback.

  7. Noemi says:

    I sure will let you know as soon as I test them out. Thank you for your feedback.

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