SMS: Spiced Pumpkin Cookie Cakes

Spiced Pumpkin Cookie Cakes 3

As a special treat, my Mom used to take my big sister Jessica and I to our local bakery, where we were each allowed to make our own selection. While I always hemmed and hawed, usually allured and distracted by the cupcakes topped with a huge pile of frosting meant to resemble Sesame Street characters (to this day I’m baffled by their appeal), I ultimately chose one of two pastries: a half moon cookie (also known as a black-and-white cookie) or a classic whoopie pie. Both featured two contrasting elements, had a soft, tender texture, and were utterly delicious. I have fond memories of savoring every bite of my preferred snack, knowing that I had done something my Mom recognized and appreciated worthy of a sweet reward. To this day, whoopie pies bring back encouraging childhood memories, and yet this recipe marked their inaugural appearance in my kitchen. After completing Melissa Murphy’s Spiced Pumpkin Cookie Cakes, and receiving nothing but glowing reviews from both my family as well as the hospital nursing staff currently caring for Jess (I figured that sharing these pies with her medical providers would be a wonderful way to express my sincere gratitude for all their help), I knew it would not be their final showing in my home this season.

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A whoopie pie, also referred to as a gob, bob, or black-and-white is a type of cookie sandwich composed of two round, mound-shaped pieces of cake, usually chocolate or pumpkin flavored, that are filled with a sweet, creamy frosting. According to Pennsylvania Amish tradition, generations of Amish women would utilize leftover batter to prepare these baked treats, and pack them in their farmers’ lunchboxes. Legend says that upon discovering the cookie cakes in their lunches, farmers would shout with excitement, “Whoopie!”, giving the sweets their unique name. While most renowned in New England, and adopted as a state tradition in Maine, whoopie pies are gaining popularity across the United States.

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Melissa must have missed the memo about the animated farmers’ exclamation, because she titled her recipe “Cookie Cakes”- although it may be a more descriptive name, it’s nowhere near as entertaining to say. Regardless of designation, these delectable little morsels are the ideal antidote to blustery New England weather. Puffy pumpkin cakes accented by warming fall spices and thoughtfully paired with a citrus spiked cream cheese frosting make for an exceptional flavor combination which dances on the tongue. As a New England native, I’m accustomed to the colossal sized saucers sold in bakeries up here that are challenge for one taster to finish without sharing a bite or two. But Melissa’s cakes are of a daintier nature- I made mine a bit bigger than stated in the directions, and my cookies were still only 2½ to 3″ in diameter. The pumpkin imparted a deep burnt orange hue to the cake portion, which contrasted beautifully with the bright white creamy filling. Speckled with finely grated orange zest, the cream cheese, butter, confectioner sugar frosting had that extra punch of bright flavor, a nice twist on the original straight-up vanilla cream. I’ve come to the conclusion that Melissa considers citrus zest one of her secret weapons in the kitchen- elevating the level of sophistication many of her baked goods embody and offering a surprise twist to the classics. In certain applications, I’ve felt it was misplaced and detracted from the overall appeal, however, I feel it gives just the right amount of pep these pies need. I’m even thinking about adding it to my favorite pumpkin loaf recipe- a killer quick bread I will definitely be sharing with you soon!

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I highly recommend you hop over to the kitchen and bake a batch of your own, or bookmark this yummy recipe to serve at your next soiree this season- they’d be the perfect hand held single serve dessert for your Halloween party or even Thanksgiving. If you do whip up some of Melissa’s cookie cakes, I have a few recommendations to expedite the process. Melissa advocates using a pastry bag to pip the batter onto prepared cookie sheets- I found this step unnecessary, and really, if you can avoid the hassle of cleaning out a bag and tip, I say take advantage of the opportunity. I found that my handy dandy small-sized ice cream/cookie scoop worked perfectly, and bonus!- it ensured that all my cookies came out nice and round and exactly the same size, which made for even sandwiches. My scoop distributed about 1 tablespoon of batter per cookie (much more than Melissa’s suggested rounded teaspoon, which seemed kind of measly to me), but the baking time remained the same- mine passed the toothpick test in about 13 minutes. I also ditched the pastry bag for dispersing the frosting- my small offset spatula, which I can’t live without, by the way, worked just fine. I didn’t bother measuring out a specific amount of filling per pie, I simply spread on an even layer that was enough to support the top and leave space between the two halves. A little squish, and you’ll be in business.

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Sending out a big “WHOOPIE!” to Debbie for her fabulous SMS selection. You’ll find the recipe over at Every Day Blessings of The Five Dee’s, in The Sweet Melissa Baking Book, as well as catalogued in my keeper files. And don’t forget to take a peak at the plethora of pies produced by all the other ladies on our blogroll.

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Joy Heart 2

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20 responses

  1. Your cookies look wonderful! I’m sorry to hear your sister is in hospital, I send kind thoughts your family’s way. You have brought back memories of choosing treats from bakeries as a child, it was always an overwhelming decision for me.

  2. Well Joy, I must admit that I have not thought of those special bakery trips in a long time. It is a wonderful sweet memory that you evoked. Thank you for that. And thank you too, for the Whoopie pies. They were absolutely delicious, and the hint of orange zest was flavorful and light. As you well know, icing has never been my favorite part of any backed goods, but your icing never fails to delight, and this was no exception. Something else I learned today was how the came to be so named. Another great job!

    With lots of love and appreciation,

    Mommy

  3. Oh, the memories that flavors, colors, and treats can bring to mind. You love whoopie pies as a child and yet making these is your first? How wonderful! You shared with those that matter in your life ‘and’ you have a new recipe to add as a favorite. I think this makes the recipe a complete success! =)

  4. Sorry to hear about your sister. Hope she’s feeling better soon! As a fellow New Englander, I can definitely relate to feeling like these were perfect for the weather we’ve been experiencing lately. Your cookie cakes look perfect – great job!

  5. I love that your mum comments on your posts, it really makes me smile!

    Your cookies look amazing, so moist and yummy and I really enjoyed the whoopie pie history. I always wondered where they got their name.

    Katie xox

  6. I have to say, I don’t understand the appeal of the character cupcakes either. Why you would purposely give that much sugar to a child is beyond comprehension! And its so funny you brought up the whoopie pies, because as I was assembling the cookies yesterday, I thought to myself “These aren’t cookie cakes, they’re whoopie pies!” We live very close to the Pennsylvania Amish, so needless to say, whoopie pies are pretty popular around here.
    Your cookies look wonderful and I like the fact you made them a little bigger. I thought about using the cookie scoop afterwards and its good to know it worked out for you.

  7. Your cookies turned out great. So nice and even. I love how the filling oozes out slightly from within the two cookies. From others’ comments it sounds like this was another winner by Melissa. Will have to add it to my todo list.

    Funny you should bring up the HUGE cookies in your neck-of-the-woods. That’s one of the things I noticed while visiting Boston. At first I thought it was a “fluke” but then several bakeries later, I realized, “nah, that’s just how they bake cookies over here!”, ha ha.

    Sorry to hear about your sister. I wish her a very speedy recovery. And I wish you and your family strength to deal with this situation. How nice of you to bring cookies to the nurses. They have such a demanding job and I’m sure they appreciated your gesture very much.

  8. Oh Joy, that last picture CALLS to me. That frosting just BEGS me to scoop it off with my finger! I didn’t bake these because I couldn’t find pumpkin puree (although I WAS thinking to make my own, but a lot of the homemade puree pies didn’t puff up very well) so I’ll be scouring to make these soon because they just look too delish! I might substitute the orange zest for either maple syrup or some cinnamon.

    I love the story of your mom giving you a treat for whatever job-well-done deed you did!! The world needs to go back to the simplicities of life, such as a baked goodie for the deserving child. It builds memories, as you are well aware of.

    My coworker is a nurse so I hear how hectic it can be, and I bet your whoopie pies were just the remedy to a busier-than-belief day and an excuse to stop, savor, and smile. I bet they are thankful for you 🙂

  9. Pingback: Pumpkin Whoopie Pies « Eats n Drinks

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