Autumn in the Middle East is… different. This is the first Fall season of my life (okay, since I was a toddler) not spent somewhere that gets the familiar pre-holiday chill in the air, at least a little color on the leaves, and the beginnings of Christmas gearing up. In Israel, temperatures are still in the mid-70s, and there are plenty of people continuing to live the beach life. I’m super grateful that I got to spend the last two weeks in Europe so that I was able to experience some real Fall weather– it is, after all, my favorite season. In Budapest, Vienna, and throughout northern Italy and Rome, autumn is in full swing, and I was ecstatic to soak it up as much as possible– heavy coat, winter hat, and scarf in full effect! I’m back home now, and November definitely feels unlike November. I’m sad not to have a traditional Thanksgiving this year, so making these Pumpkin Whoopie Pies for Baked Sunday Mornings was just the thing to perk up my spirits. This is one of the classic recipes from BAKED: New Frontiers in Baking that I *think* I’ve made before, but after making it this time, I’m now wondering if either a) I messed something up previously, or b) maybe I was making an entirely different recipe! From what I remember, the cakes turned out flattish and sticky, not crackled and domed like the photo– so I wasn’t that excited to make them again. BUT! This time I achieved whoopie perfection, and I’d make them over and over again!
I wasn’t even sure these would be possible at first, but I was lucky enough to find pumpkin purée in a land where Thanksgiving doesn’t exist, Fall is but a blink between summer and winter, and there are no pumpkin spice anythings to be found. Fortunately, Philadelphia cream cheese is available here in some markets, so I already had that ready to go. As for the warm Fall spices, I brought most of them with me from the States, so that did not pose an issue. Time to Whoopie.
The cake batter is very quick and easy to whip up, though you need to plan ahead by chilling the pumpkin purée. To start, you’ll whisk together the brown sugar and vegetable oil, then add the pumpkin, eggs, and vanilla to make a dark orange medium-thick mixture.
Then add the dry ingredients that you’ve previously stirred together (flour, salt, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, cloves, ginger). That’s it, you’re ready to scoop! Given my past experience with the soft, sticky whoopie cakes, I was a little concerned at this stage because the batter seemed soft; I wondered if it would keep its shaggy shape or spread out into thin, anemic cakelets.
To my delight, the whoopie cakes turned out just lovely after about 10 minutes in the oven. (My baking times and temperatures have been so haywire in my oven here that I’m barely keeping track anymore! I’m pretty sure I bumped down the temperature a touch, but I was mostly going by sight.) They kept their domed shape and developed pretty crackles on top, just like the photo in the book. I was also concerned about overbaked, dry cakes, but they came out moist and soft, yet sturdy enough to hold the cream cheese filling. In other words, just right– this autumn-less baker was pleased.
The cream cheese filling is a snap to mix together, and so delicious that it’s almost tempting to skip the cakes and just dig in with a spoon. (But don’t do that because the cakes are really tasty.) You simply beat the butter until smooth, then mix in the cream cheese, add confectioners’ sugar (P.S. I didn’t even sift it), and finally vanilla. The only thing to keep in mind here is that cream cheese frosting can lose its structure if you over-beat it, so as soon as the sugar is smoothly combined, stop mixing.
Match up your whoopie cakes into pairs, flip over half of them, dollop some filling in the middle of the upside-down ones, and then sandwich them together so that the filling reaches the edges. This dessert is a perfect handful to bite into– smaller than a cupcake, but bigger than a cookie. Oh– the only unexpected thing is that the recipe made twice as many as stated, 24 rather than 12. If I may offer a suggestion: I dipped these in leftover caramel sauce from Caramel Apple Cupcakes and definitely didn’t regret it!
These are a fun alternative to pumpkin pie on your Thanksgiving table, or simply a scrumptious seasonal treat pretty much any time between September through December. You can find the recipe for Pumpkin Whoopie Pies at Baked Sunday Mornings, and see how my fellow BSMers liked them. Happy Thanksgiving to you and your loved ones! 🙂
© Dafna Adler & Stellina Sweets, 2018.