The December Daring Bakers’ Challenge had us all cheering – the lovely and talented Bourbonnatrix of Bourbonnatrix Bakes was our hostess and challenged us to make fun, delicious and creative whoopie pies! Delicious little cake-like cookies sandwiching luscious filling in any flavors we chose… What else is there to say but “Whoopie!”
So, I’ve been meaning to post about Christmas cookies for the past two weeks… but I’ve literally been too busy baking the things to post about them at all. Now that Christmas 2013 has passed (MERRY CHRISTMAS, by the way!), when I finally do get around to writing about them, you can consider it extremely early preparation for next year…
(Oh, and while we’re on the subject of Christmas: who has two thumbs and a new camera? This lucky girl, that’s who! I’m still figuring the ins and outs of a digital SLR (it’s a big step up from the old point-and-shoot that has served me so well for the past four years!) but I am pretty stoked to start taking and posting better pictures!)
OK, back to the task at hand: whoopie pies! Thank goodness Bournonnatrix, our December host, decided to take it easy on us during this busy month of baking and holiday build-up. She gave us a few basic recipes for whoopie pie “cakelets” and fillings, and then let us run with it. I decided on chocolate whoopie pies, which are normally paired with a marshmallow cream frosting made with marshmallow fluff. I have no problem buying marshmallows, but for some hypocritical reason, store-bought marshmallow fluff in a jar skeeves me out, so I decided to make my own. It turned out to be AWESOME: it tastes fantastic and has that chewy-stretchy marshmallow texture, without all of the scary unpronounceable ingredients.
Making marshmallow fluff is similar to making Seven-Minute Frosting, and differs from homemade marshmallows in that it doesn’t contain gelatin, which is what causes homemade marshmallows to set. It makes a delicious frosting with whipped butter, icing sugar, and a little peppermint extract thrown in there for season appropriateness. I highly recommend making marshmallow fluff, either for this recipe or some other reason entirely.
I took these whoopie pies to a work potluck, where they disappeared pretty quickly and received lots of praise. To be honest, as I was assembling these (early in the morning before work, hence the dark, poorly lit pictures) I was a bit doubtful about how they were going to taste – the chocolate cakes didn’t look all that appetizing, and I had added a LOT of peppermint extract to the frosting – but they turned out to be delicious. Thanks to a good amount of brown sugar and cocoa powder in the batter, the cakes were moist and chocolatey, and the frosting was definitely minty but not over-powering. I’m undecided if I will make whoopie pies again, but they are certainly easier to transport than cupcakes, so that’s definitely a vote in their favour! More whoopie pies made this month by the Daring Bakers can be found here.
Happy Holidays everyone – I promise I’ll be back with COOKIES in the next few days!
Chocolate Peppermint Whoopie Pies
Adapted from King Arthur Flour. Makes about 16 small whoopie pies – I say “small” because while these were still plenty large, I used only 1 tablespoon of batter per cakelet, where the original recipe calls for 1/4 cup of batter to make what I can only imagine must be family-sized whoopie pies!
Chocolate Cake Batter
Preheat the oven to 350˚F.
In the bowl of an electric mixer, cream together with the paddle attachment:
1/2 cup unsalted butter, soft
1 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1 tsp coffee powder
1 tsp baking powder
3/4 tsp salt
1 tsp vanilla extract
Once smooth, beat in 1 egg, then sift in 1/2 cup cocoa powder (I used Dutch process for a darker colour).
Alternately mix in 2 1/3 cups all purpose flour and 1 cup milk, making 4 additions of flour and 3 of milk. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and mix until the batter is smooth.
Drop the batter by tablespoons a few inches apart on a baking sheet lined with a silicon mat or parchment paper. Bake in the preheated 350˚F oven for 15 – 16 minutes, until set and firm to the touch. Transfer to a rack and cool completely. I found that the flavour and texture of the cakes improved the next day, so store them in an airtight container overnight before filling, if possible.
Peppermint Marshmallow Cream Filling
In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat with the whisk attachment until very fluffy:
1 cup unsalted butter, soft
1 cup icing sugar
Add 1 1/3 cup marshmallow fluff (recipe below) and beat to combine.
1/4 – 1/2 tsp salt (to taste)
1 1/2 – 2 tsp peppermint extract (to taste – the amount will depend on the potency of your extract, so start with a little bit and work up)
Continue beating until the frosting is very light, fluffy, and stiff enough to pipe. If necessary, add more icing sugar to get the desired consistency.
Place a handful of peppermint candies or small candy canes in a Ziplock bag and crush into little bits with a rolling pin. Place in a bowl – you’ll need about 1/3 cup total peppermint bits.
Scoop the frosting into a piping bag with a large round tip and pipe it generously on the flat side of half the chocolate cakelets, right to the edges. Sandwich with the remaining cakelets, then dip the edges in the peppermint bits so they stick to the frosting.
The whoopie pies can be stored between waxed paper in an airtight container for up to 3 days before serving. They are best eaten at room temperature.
Homemade Marshmallow Fluff
From Chow. Makes about 2 1/2 cups. A candy thermometer is essential for this recipe!
Wipe the bowl and whisk attachment of an electric mixer with a paper towel moistened with vinegar – this will remove any oily or greasy residue that would prevent the egg whites from whipping up properly.
On medium speed, whip together:
2 large egg whites, at room temperature
1/4 tsp cream of tartar
Continue whipping until soft peaks form, then stop the mixer and set aside.
In a medium saucepan, stir together:
3/4 cup granulated white sugar
1/2 cup corn syrup
1/4 cup water
1/8 tsp fine sea salt
Bring to a boil over high heat, swirling occasionally, until the mixture reaches 240˚F on a candy thermometer.
With the mixer whisking on low speed, temper the eggs by slowly pouring about 2 tbsp of the boiling sugar syrup into the egg whites and letting it mix in. In a thin stream, gradually pour in the rest of the sugar syrup, trying to aim it right between the beater and the side of the bowl. Increase the mixer speed to medium-high and whip for about 7 minutes, until the mixture is thick and glossy.
Add 1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract and whip to combine. Use immediately or store in the fridge in an airtight container for up to 2 weeks.