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Sincere Acts of Sweetness

August 26, 2008

Pumpkin Whoopie Pies

Whoopie pies are all the rage these days. Just recently, Oreo unveiled their new Cakesters which are at their core just whoopie pies. Although I haven't had one yet, I'm willing to bet that they are overly sweet, dry, and bland. I say, skip 'em! Try making them homemade instead; I guarantee you'll love them.

Actually, whoopie pies are even bigger in Pennsylvania and other heavily populated Amish states. I spent some time living in southern Maryland and every convenience store and mom and pop restaurants had whoopie pies for sale. They almost always came in chocolate but at one little gas station (that also sold shrimp by the pound), sold the very best pumpkin whoopie pies in the world. It has been years since I lived in Maryland and I had almost completely forgotten about those whoopie pies. But I seem to remember eating them almost daily while I was pregnant with my son.

Last month I was challenged by another fellow baker at work to a dessert-off. We were to make two desserts, one of them being made out of pumpkin (I'll post the other entry next week). Although I was excited by the challenge, nothing was coming to mind for either ingredient. Then one afternoon I was wandering past the bargain book bin at my local Marshall's, when I found the book "The All American Dessert Book," by Nancy Baggett. The first thing I did was look in the index for pumpkin recipes and I was so excited to find this little gem. I scanned the recipe, got a good vibe, and stuck the book in my cart. I had my entry!

On the day of the competition I felt my whoopie pies made a great showing. The majority of the folks that had one had never even heard of them before. Since my competitor (she made pumpkin ice cream) and I didn't care about who won, all we did was solicit comments from those who indulged. Here were some of the comments that I received:

"By far my fave of the entire challenge. These made me feel like a kid, but a sophisticated kid who eats pumpkin!!!"

"Probably my favorite. It reminded me of a Little Debbie Oatmeal cream pie, but better because of the moist pumpkin flavor."

"Not as pumpkin-y as I would have liked. But good spice flavors and just the right balance of sweet, but not too sweet. Also, very appealing texture."

"This was my favorite. I liked that the cookie was moist and soft and that the inside frosting was sweet but not too sweet."

And this was my favorite comment of the day. This came from my colleague Craig who told me the day before that he didn't like pumpkin...

"WOW! Incredible!! This was my favorite of all of the desserts. It was amazing. The cake was dense, moist, and had a great texture. The pumpkin flavor was subtle but present. I think that this is the best pumpkin dessert that I have ever had!"

I think that last comment says it all. :-)

Pumpkin Whoopie Pies
Yield: One recipe only yielded about 15 good sized sandwiches. You could get more if you made the cookies smaller.
Adapted from "The All-American Dessert Book" by Nancy Baggett
Note: I do not recommend doubling this recipe unless you have a very large, professional sized mixer. I found that out the hard way :-)

4 cups all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons ground cinnamon
2 1/2 teaspoons ground ginger
2 teaspoons ground cloves
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 1/4 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoons of salt
2 sticks unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup shortening, at room temperature
1 2/3 cup dark brown sugar, packed
2 tablespoons mild-flavored molasses
2 tablespoons real maple syrup (not corn syrup based)
1/3 cup full fat sour cream, at room temperature
1 large egg, at room temperature, slightly beaten
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups solid packed pumpkin

1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon unflavored gelatin (about 1 1/2 packets)
1/3 cup plus 1/4 cup water (divided)
1/2 cup light corn syrup
3/4 cup granulated sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract (clear vanilla extract is best to keep the color of the filling extra white)
1 cup powdered sugar, sifted
2 8-oz packages of cream cheese, softened and cut into several pieces

In a large bowl, thoroughly whisk together the flour, cinnamon, ginger, cloves, nutmeg, baking soda, and salt. Set aside.

In the bowl that fits to the mixer, with the paddle attachment, combine the butter, shortening, brown sugar, molasses, and maple syrup. On medium speed, beat until well blended and lightened, about 2 minutes, being sure to scape down the sides of the bowl at least once. Reduce the mixture speed slightly and add the sour cream, egg, and vanilla, beating until very light and fluffy, about one minute longer.

Beat in about half the flour mixture, scraping down the sides of the bowl several times as little pockets of dry ingredients will get trapped. Beat in the pumpkin just until it's smoothly incorporated. The batter will be very, very thick at this point. Take your time to beat or stir in the remaining flour mixture (being sure to look for flour pockets -- they are in there, believe me!) until smoothly incorporated, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed. Refrigerate about 20 to 30 minutes, or until slightly firm.

Position the rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 350F. Generously grease several large baking sheets, generously coat with non-stick spray, or use a Silpat mat (my personal favorite). Using a heaping 1/4 measuring cup or similar sized cookie or ice cream scoop, place uniformly shaped dough portions on the baking sheets, spacing them about 4 inches or so apart. (You can fit about 8 cookies to a cookie sheet).

Spray a 3" round cookie cutter with vegetable spray and place it over the cookie dough.

With one hand, gently but firmly hold the cookie cutter in place while you use your other hand to gently spread the dough out to meet the sides of the cookie cutter.

Gently twist and lift the cookie cutter up and away.

Bake for 12 to 16 minutes or until tinged with brown all over and just firm when lightly pressed in the centers. Transfer the sheets to wire racks and let them cook for at least 2 minutes to firm up slightly. Using a spatula, transfer to cooling rack and let cool completely.

In a small measuring cup, sprinkle the gelatin over 1/3 cup cold water. Let stand, st iring once or twice until the gelatin softens, about 5 minutes.

Get your mixture ready by fitting it with the whisk attachment and securing the bowl to the base.

In a heavy 2 quart saucepan, over medium high heat, stir the white sugar, corn syrup, and hot water until well blended. Set your timer for 30 seconds but don't start it just yet. Continuing stirring and raise the heat to high; bring to a full boil. Start your timer and continue boiling until the timer go off. Immediately remove from the heat and stir in the gelatin mixture until it devolves completely.

CAUTION! The sugar is very hot! Please be careful! Carefully transfer the mixture to a the mixer bowl and add the vanilla extract. With the mixture on medium speed beat for 20 seconds (Keep a large dish towel handy so can drape it over the mixture. I like to do this because the mixture is super hot and it will occasionally spit molten sugar). Gradually raise the speed to high and beat until the mixture is stiffened, very white, voluminous, and cooled to barely warm. This should take between 5 to 15 minutes. Reduce the mixture speed to low and slowly beat in the powdered sugar, being careful not to put in so much so soon that you get a big cloud of sugar when you turn on the mixture.

On medium speed gradually add the cream cheese, beating just until the mixture is completely smooth. If the filling seems too runny to spread, cover and stick in the fridge until it firms up.

Lay half the cookies upside down and either scoop or spread 1/4 to a 1/3 cup of the filling on the surface of each cookie. Top each cookie with a second cookie, paring up ones that are of similar size. Press down lightly on each pie so the filling almost squeezes out the edges.

If you can resist, store these in the fridge in between waxed paper or by themselves, for at least half a day or as long as 24 hours. They are yummy right away, but something magical happens if you wait. The moisture from the filling permeates the cookies just enough to give them a little extra moisture. They go from being two cookies with some filling between them to one entity. They are seriously worth waiting for.
These will keep if stored in an air tight container in the fridge up to a week or individually wrapped in waxed paper (traditional way to serve them) or in plastic bags. They can also be stored in the freezer for up to a month. Let come to room temperature before serving.

Nancy Baggett's original Pumpkin Whoopie Pie recipe is available via Google Book Search.

Would I Make This Again? Yes. These were really good. This is corny but this is the type of dessert I can see my grand kids (if I should ever have any) getting all excited about when they see me. I could see making these as gifts for the holidays as they would keep really well. When I make them the next time, I plan to be a bit more generous with the filling.


  1. These look SO good! I will have to send this post to my sister who laughs at me because once fall comes, I go into "all pumpkin, all the time" mode! :) I think this will be my first recipe of pumpkin season!!!

  2. Ohhhh those will look good on my thighs. :)

  3. ohhh that looks so good! i love pumpkin flavored ANYTHING! so good :)

  4. I'm all over this recipe. As soon as the weather cools. I'll be baking these babies.

  5. Bridget - Oh you're love these then. These are pumpkinlicious!

    Nicole - lol! You gave me a belly laugh on that one!

    Heather - thanks!

    Megan - Please let me know how they turn out when you make them!

  6. At my last office in NYC, a coworker would often bring in pumpkin whoopie pies from this place for us to share.
    They were heavenly!

  7. GO JULIA! YEA! BEAT HER! I feel like I'm at one of the twins' games. I love cheering on my fave to victory! :-)

    You're right I have seen several whoopie pie recipes out there. All of them more intersting than the original, chocolate. I'll have to add this one to the mix! One of the Twins loves pumpkin!

    Looking forward to entry number two!

  8. What an interesting way to use pumpkin! Great recipe!

  9. Ohhh...I love pumpkin! I'm so excited that it's getting close to that time of the year when pumpkin food starts popping up!

  10. Those are gorgeous! Thanks for posting some pumpkin - it is making me feel a little less heartbroken that fall has already arrived here in Seattle.

  11. These look so tasty! Perfect for fall, I love how the frosting just oozes out of the whoopie pies! Great pictures :).

    We would like to feature your whoopie pies on our blog. Please email sophiekiblogger@gmail.com if interested. Thanks :)

  12. These look awesome. I love pumpkin. We are all about the pumpkin at our restaurant right now!!

  13. Looks like an awesome recipe, my mixer is on the job right now. Question though, the mixing directions refer to adding salt with the dry ingredients, but your ingredient list does not have salt listed, I went with 1/2 tsp?

  14. Thanks Deb! I checked the original recipe and you were spot on! 1/2 teaspoon of salt. I fixed the post. Many thanks to you for pointing that out.

  15. YUM!!

    I'm having my first linky party on my blog and the theme is pumpkin. I'd like to invite you to come link up your favorite pumpkin recipe. The link is open until Wednesday at midnight, so please stop by and say hi.


    ~Cookin' Cowgirl


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