You won’t even believe how fabulous these are! The cookies are soft, moist and loaded with warm fall spices; but the filling is what sends them over the top. It’s the most magically delicious buttercream ever!!
I often think about the fact that I would have never made a very good retail buyer. They’re the ones who make purchases for stores to sell 6 to 9 months later. That means in March, April and May, they’re into all things Christmas and when summer rolls around, winter sports, warming by the fireplace and ice skates are the things that fill their brains, yikes!
A food blogger’s job has a lot in common. I’m supposed to be thinking a bit ahead, getting you ready for the next season, before it ever arrives. I’m not great at that though, as I love living life in the here and now. I tend to get completely captured by each season’s wonderful flavors, produce and unique culinary specialties. If you’re a regular reader here at The Café, you may have noticed that I’m still head over heels in love with juicy tomatoes in a rainbow of colors, fragrant fresh basil, slender green beans, sweet, tender corn and summer’s bounty of ripe, juicy peaches .
But this past weekend, something happened that made this crazy cook’s mind begin to turn, to get excited about autumn and all the delightful food adventures waiting right around the corner. Scott and I packed up our car last Friday and drove three and a half hours west to meet family for a long weekend in the North Carolina mountains. We went from temps in the 90’s to cool, lovely days starting in the 60’s and peaking in the mid 70’s. That did it! Well, that and this…
The first glimpse of fall on this crimson-tipped tree was all it took to get my mind whirling; and these Pumpkin Whoopie Pies are, to me, the perfect way to celebrate a new season in the making. If you’re not familiar with whoopie pies, they’re an beloved tradition in the northeast United States and are the official state treat of Maine.
The story’s told that many years ago, Amish women would bake these little filled cakes (known as “creamy turtles” at the time) and put them in their farmer husband’s lunch pails.
I was curious about the history of Whoopie pies and had to laugh when I heard one rendition of their origination. The story’s told that many years ago, Amish women would bake these little filled cakes (known as “creamy turtles” at the time) and put them in their farmer husband’s lunch pails. When, after a morning of hard work, the hungry farmers would open their lunch and find the delicious little cakes, they would shout, “Whoopie!”. It’s also thought that Amish women made the original Whoopie pies from cake batter leftovers, which makes sense since, although Whoopie pies look like a cream filled cookie, they are actually much more cake-like in consistency.
I filled my Pumpkin Whoopie Pies with one of my favorite icings, an easy 4-ingredient, brown butter buttercream. Browning butter is a French technique called beurre noisette. Brown butter has all the wonderful qualities of regular butter, plus a delicious nutty flavor that makes baked goods, and any other recipe it’s used in, taste that much richer.
To brown butter, simply melt butter over low heat until it foams and begins to turn golden brown. The butter takes on a toasted aroma adding fabulous flavor to the icing. A splash of bourbon takes the delicious filling up one more notch, and is a perfect compliment to the warm spiced pumpkin cake.
I transferred my icing to a disposable decorating bag and piped the icing onto half of the cookies for a pretty look, but you can also just plop a spoonful of icing on the cookies and spread it with a knife to make things super simple.
I’m not saying I’m done with summer. Or should I say, summer’s not done with me yet – as we descended down out of the mountains, the temperature began to rise and the car thermometer read 95˚F by the time we returned home! But the calendar will be flipping to September within a week, meaning falling leaves aren’t far off. This trip to the mountains was definitely a catalyst for my autumn culinary inspiration!
The North Carolina mountains are beyond beautiful, and so different from the mountains in western United States.
Time with the family was precious. Our daughter, her husband and their little herd will soon be headed back to London, so we cherished every minute together.
Scott captured the weekend with his lens and I picked some of our favorite shots from the weekend to share…
Oh, and when I shared the delicious Pumpkin Whoopie Pies with the family, their response was a lot like the Amish farmer’s reaction!
So, as your friendly season announcer, I’m letting you know that it’s time to start thinking “fall”.
Whip up a batch of these amazing little treats and I’m quite certain your family will be shouting “whoopie!” too! And if you eat one too many, you can blame me, although, I’m just trying to do my job!
P.S. Traditional Whoopie Pies are a bit bigger and filled with a very fluffy cream filling. I like the smaller size for portion control and this is just my adaptation of this fun, sweet treat.
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- For the cakes:
- ½ cup 4 ounces of butter, softened
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- ½ cup of pure pumpkin puree
- ¼ cup of molasses
- 1 large egg
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- 2 ⅓ cups all-purpose flour
- 2 teaspoons baking soda
- 2 teaspoons cinnamon
- 1 teaspoons ground ginger
- 1 teaspoon ground cloves
- ½ teaspoon salt
- For the icing:
- 4 ounces butter 1 stick
- 5 cups powdered sugar
- ½ cup half & half possibly more
- 2 teaspoons vanilla
- 1 tablespoon bourbon
In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, spices, and salt. Set aside.
In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat the butter and sugar together until creamy and smooth.
Add the pumpkin, molasses, egg, and vanilla. Mix until well combined.
Add dry ingredients to wet ingredients and mix until combined. Refrigerate the cookie dough for at least 1 hour. The dough can be chilled for 2-3 days.
When you are ready to bake, preheat oven to 350° F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
Scoop up two tablespoon-size scoops of dough and roll into balls. (I like to use a two tablespoon cookie scoop for this for uniform sizing.) Dough will be sticky. It helps to flour your hands or dip each scoop of dough in a bit of flour before rolling.
Place balls on prepared baking sheet, about 2 inches apart. Bake for 10–12 minutes, or until cookies look cracked and set at the edges. The cookies will still be soft.
Let the cookies cool on the baking sheet for a 2-3 minutes after removing them from the oven, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.
To prepare the filling, melt butter in a medium size sauce pan over medium low heat. Continue cooking until butter begins to foam and bubble. At this point, begin swirling pan frequently (to prevent burning) but continue cooking until foam begins to turn golden. Once you see the golden color, remove pan from heat and swirl pan for an additional minute as butter will continue to cook off of the heat.
Cool butter for 10 minutes, then transfer to the bowl of an electric mixer.
Add powdered sugar, half and half, vanilla and bourbon. Starting on slow and increasing speed as powdered sugar is incorporated, beat for 5 minutes or until icing is smooth and fluffy. Add a bit more half and half if needed to achieve a slightly stiff, but creamy consistency.
To assemble the cookies, match them up in pairs by size. If desired, transfer icing to a decorator bag fitted with a Wilton 1A tip and pipe filling onto the flat side of one cookie starting in the center and working your way in a circular motion to the edges. Place the second cookie on top to create a sandwich.
An easier option is to scoop about a tablespoon or two onto each cookie surface and spread with a knife. Top with the second cookie.
Store in an airtight container in layers, separated with wax paper or parchment paper for 1-2 days. Whoopie pies can also be frozen. Thaw before serving.
* These parchment paper sheets are worth their weight in goldl. They're pre-cut to the perfect size for sheet pans and save a lot of time.