It’s sort of blowing my mind how quickly the weeks in quarantine fly by and blend together. I generally feel that way in busy normal times anyway, but it feels like extra warp-speed right now. For months I’ve known that Baked Sunday Mornings is coming to an end, but there were still months and several recipes left. And slowly (quickly? who knows?) the weeks ticked by and the recipes got baked and snarfed… and here we are somehow. For the second-to-last recipe, we are assigned to make Brown Sugar Caramel Sauce from BAKED: New Frontiers in Baking this week, and I will be the first to shout from the rooftops about BAKED’s caramel sauces. However, I wanted to actually bake a full dessert, rather than simply the caramel. Instead, I turned to BAKED’s second book, Baked Explorations. When I joined BSM, the group was about ⅔ of the way through that￼￼ book, so I missed a bunch of the very excellent recipes that the group had already done, and I really wanted to bake some of the iconic ones before the group ended. One of those recipes was the Red Velvet Whoopie Pies. I am a girl who adores red velvet, and I will spare you my rant about the authenticity (or lack thereof) of red velvet because I’ve said my piece before. Suffice it to say, I think this is one of the signature recipes from Explorations, and although I had made them before, I’d never posted them on Stellina Sweets. So I decided this is the time, finally!
The whoopie pies are comprised of red velvet cookie-cakes smashed together with divine cream cheese frosting (the leftovers of which I may or may not have eaten with a spoon at 2am, but that’s neither here nor there). Okay, I know I just said I wasn’t going to preach about red velvet, but I feel like I need to mention just one particular thing. My understanding has always been that true red velvet must contain the following: cocoa powder, buttermilk, vinegar, and baking soda. This magical combination produces the unique flavor and tender texture of red velvet– not the red food coloring. This recipe contains three of the four, missing just the vinegar. I’m not sure how a teaspoon of vinegar would or wouldn’t affect the cakes, but they are so tasty and adorable that I’m not gonna die on that hill. (I guess the global pandemic has softened my stance slightly and forced me to re-examine my priorities?) The cake batter is made by creaming butter and shortening together in a stand mixer, then adding granulated and dark brown sugars, eggs, vanilla, and red food coloring. You’ll then alternate additions of the dry ingredients (flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda, salt) and buttermilk whisked with canola oil. The batter will be thick, swoopy, and pinkish-red.
It needs to chill in the fridge for 15 minutes before you scoop it onto cookie sheets. I prefer smaller pies, so I use a spring-loaded ice cream scoop that fits about 1 tablespoon of batter. The cakes baked for exactly 10 minutes, at which point they had just started to crack on top; take care not to over-bake these because they can dry out very quickly. I appreciate that these cakes keep their domed shape and don’t flatten out or get gummy on top.
Meanwhile, make the frosting, which is super simple. Cream the butter, beat in the cream cheese, then add the confectioners’ sugar, vanilla extract, and salt. I do this with a hand mixer rather than bothering with the stand mixer. (P.S. I also don’t bother sifting the powdered sugar.) Be careful not to overbeat because the cream cheese will lose its structure. I added an extra ½ cup of sugar because I wanted a stiffer filling.
To assemble the pies, I like to make something of an assembly line. I match the pies so that each pair are the same size in case of slight variations, flip over one cookie from each pair, then pipe a dollop of cream cheese onto the flipped cookies, and finally sandwich each pair together, squeezing them gently so that the filling reaches the cookie edges. My solo regret is that I under-filled the pies. Afterwards I realized that they should look chubbier, but I didn’t want frosting sloshing around, so I regrettably used a slightly meager amount. (Then I pouted a little and went to think about what I’d done.)
The recipe states that walnuts are a necessary component of Southern red velvet, which I didn’t recall hearing before. We’re supposed the roll the sides of the finished pies in chopped walnuts, to which I say NAH. I prefer them cleanly red-and-white, please and thank you. The pies should be stored in the fridge, but definitely let them come to room temperature before eating, as the soft cake texture is pretty essential. The cakes are denser than a tender red velvet layer cake since they need to hold their shape– yet another reason not to skimp on the filling!
I was so happy to enjoy these this week, and I was even happier to deliver them to friends by the half-dozen. There’s something about both red velvet and whoopie pies in and of themselves, and when you put them together, I find the combination to be really special and whimsical. The recipe for Red Velvet Whoopie Pies lives at Baked Sunday Mornings— head over there, and also take a look at the dozen+ bakers who used to participate back in the day!
© Dafna Adler & Stellina Sweets, 2020.