I often feel like I’m wavering between feeling supremely confident in my baking skills, and feeling like I have so much to learn. Every time I ice a cake, for instance, I get so frustrated with the imperfections and my lack of smooth icing abilities that if I don’t check myself, I’ll lapse into hopelessness. When I try a new cookie recipe that ends up spreading so much it drips all over my oven floor, I wonder how I could possibly be any good at this.
But then there are days like Saturday. Saturday, I was attending a pre-Thanksgiving potluck, and I decided to bring pumpkin whoopie pies. Now, while I’ve made hundreds of whoopie pies during my days at Treet, I’ve only made them a few times on my own. I had no go-to whoopie pie recipe – just the vast number of whoopie pie recipes out there on the Internet to choose from.
But I knew what I was looking for – I wanted a whoopie pie that was soft and cake-like, with a pretty equal ratio of white and brown sugar, and a liquid fat, like melted butter or oil. I evaluated the photos of recipes, favoring recipes where the pies looked moist and fluffy, rather than dense and craggy. And when I decided to use this recipe from Brown Eyed Baker, I knew I had chosen a winner. Not because I had a random hunch, but because in the photos the pies looked moist, it had the right sugar ratio, and because I could sub in melted better for the oil.
Well, I took them to the party, and despite the plethora of other desserts (cherry pie, fruit tarts, coconut macaroons, pumpkin cheesecake), they disappeared in a hot minute. The combination of pumpkin and cream cheese frosting is pretty damn irresistible, but it was lovely to hear how much people enjoyed them. “See,” I told myself. “You can do this.”
The good thing about baking is you can always get instant feedback – and an instant ego boost, if you’ve done your job right. Sometimes, we bakers really need it.
Pumpkin Whoopie Pies With Cream Cheese Filling
Adapted from Brown Eyed Baker
Makes approximately 18 two inch whoopie pies
Note – you may be tempted to up the amount of spices in this recipe. Please don’t. Too many pumpkin desserts don’t actually taste like pumpkin – they taste like cinnamon, or ginger, or allspice. This recipe is well balanced between the sweetness of the sugar and the earthy flavor of the pumpkin – the spices add a lovely note to that balance, but they shouldn’t overwhelm it.
Pumpkin whoopie pies:
1 1/2 (7.5 oz) cups all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
Pinch ground nutmeg
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup (3.5 oz) granulated sugar
1/2 (4.2 oz) dark brown sugar
1/2 cup (4 oz), unsalted butter, melted
1 1/2 cups (12.6 oz) pumpkin puree
Cream cheese filling (recipe follows)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line three baking sheets with parchment paper.
In a medium bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, ginger, and nutmeg.
In a small bowl, whisk together the egg and vanilla extract.
In the bowl of stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, place the sugars and mix until evenly combined. Add the melted butter and cream until uniform (make sure to break up any lumps of sugar – either with the paddle or your fingers). Add the pumpkin puree and mix until combined – making sure to scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl.
Add 1/3 of the dry mixture to the batter, mixing until combined. Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl and then add half of the egg mixture, mixing until combined. Repeat with another 1/3 of the dry mixture and the rest of the egg mixture. Add the remaining 1/3 of the dry mixture and mix until just incorporated.
Scoop two tablespoons worth of batter onto the prepared baking sheets, to form a small 2-inch round. If you don’t have a two tablespoon scoop, use an actual tablespoon, and use wet fingers to “shape” the round into a circle. Repeat with remaining dough.
Bake for 12-14 minutes, rotating 180 dgrees at the halfway point, until the rounds are lightly brown on the edges and the centers spring back when gently pressed. Let cool completely on the racks.
Fill the whoopies by piping a rosette of cream cheese icing onto half of the rounds using a star tip. Top with remaining rounds. Serve at room temperature.
Cream Cheese Filling
4 ounces (½ cup) unsalted butter, at room temperature and cut into 1 inch cubes
8 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature and cut into 1-inch cubes
3 cups (12 oz) powdered sugar, sifted
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
In the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat the butter until smooth and creamy. Add the cream cheese and beat until evenly combined and no lumps remain. Add the powdered sugar and beat until light and creamy. Add the vanilla extract and beat until combined.