Oh My! Whoopie Pie!

I go the library a lot. I don’t usually browse, but order my books online then retrieve them at the library. The wonderful folks at the library are kind enough to cull and shelve the books for me, but have also placed a large selection of cookbooks, my personal favorite, next to the reserved pick-up area. The Whoopie Pie Book caught my eye on such a pick-up day. I snagged it and brought it home. The cover is lovely and the information inside is even better! The books author, Claire Ptak, makes the recipes straightforward and easy to follow, though the icing creation is a bit intense, it’s not difficult and well worth the effort..

There are 60 recipes for the popular cake sandwiches, which seem to have become as ubiquitous as the cupcake. Like the cupcakes, I’ve eaten a few whoopie pies, and found many of them lacking. While I appreciate the need to make them quickly, using a boxed cake mix (or worse, canned icing, which I can barely force past my lips these days) does these tender little cakes a disservice. Once I narrowed in on which recipe I wanted to try first, I quickly knew this was THE way to make these wonderful little cakes.

My baby sister had a birthday coming, so I whipped up a batch in her honor. I chose the Chocolate Chip Whoopie Pies with Chocolate Marshmallow filling, which I knew she would like. Conveniently, I had the ingredients for these on hand! Sadly, she never got any of the whoopie pies, we ate them all.

Chocolate Chip Whoopie Pies

Recipes from The Whoopie Pie Book, copyright © Claire Ptak, 2011. Reprinted by permission of the publisher, The Experiment. Available wherever books are sold.

  • 2 c (280g) all purpose flour
  • 1 t baking powder
  • 1 1/2 t baking soda
  • 1/4 t salt
  • 9 T unsalted butter, softened
  • 1/2 c sugar
  • 1/2 c light brown sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 c buttermilk
  • 1 t vanilla extract
  • 1 1/4 c dark chocolate chips

Directions:

  1. In a bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, and baking soda. Stir in the salt. Set aside.
  2. In the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter and sugars together until light and fluffy. Add egg and mix well. Combine buttermilk and vanilla in measuring cup and add this to the mixture, beating until combined. Slowly add the dry ingredients in two batches until just incorporated. Stir in the chocolate chips. Refrigerate for thirty minutes. Try to avoid stuffing all the batter straight into your face.
  3. Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper. I use a Silpat.
  4. Using a small scoop (or two teaspoons) drop 18 large or 48 small scoops of batter about two inches apart onto the prepared baking sheets. Bake in the middle of the oven for 10-12 minutes (large) or 8-10 minutes (small), until the cakes are left with a slight indent when touched with a finger. Do not over bake.
  5. Remove to a wire rack and cool completely before frosting.

Chocolate Marshmallow Filling

  • 4 oz dark chocolate, broken into small pieces
  • 3 large egg whites
  • 3/4 c sugar
  • 2 T light corn syrup
  • pinch salt
  • 1 t vanilla extract
Directions:
  1. Melt the chocolate in a heatproof bowl over a tan of simmering water. Once the chocolate has melted, take the bowl off and let the chocolate cool.
  2. Return the pan of water to a boil. Place remaining ingredients into the stainless steel bowl of  a standing mixer, then place the bowl over the boiling water. Whisk continuously by hand until the sugar has dissolved and the mixture is frothy and slightly opaque (10-15 minutes).
  3. Remove the bowl from the heat and transfer to mixer. Whip using a whisk attachment on high speed until it is white and holds its shape. Fold in the  melted chocolate. Ice the cooled whoopie pies immediately.

Don’t be daunted by the icing preparation. I got Mr. Bundt to whip and he felt important. He is also taller and has more muscles than me, so it gave me the opportunity to stroke his ego a bit. Then I fed him these. Now he thinks I’m the best thing ever. Win/win I’d say.

The icing recipe makes plenty, so stuff your pies as full of icing as you can stand. I like just enough to wet them down a little, but you can do yours your way! These would be lots of fun to assemble with kids. Let them fill the sandwiches, then you could roll the edges in sprinkles, chopped nuts, tiny chocolate chips, whatever you like. If you’re too chicken to make the icing, how about filling them with a scoop of ice cream?

Can’t get enough whoopie pies? Check out these recipes!

The Pioneer Woman’s Oatmeal Whoopie Pies

Chocolate Whoopie Pies by bakerella

Advertisements

Spring Birthday Party

Crocuses

It’s spring here! Guess how I can tell? These crocuses were actually a little late to the party, my daffodils had already bloomed before these guys got started. But they’re pretty sweet!

I can also tell you that spring is coming because we’re in full swing with the birthday season here. My Mom and Grandma have birthdays about two weeks apart, so we gathered to celebrate both. I thought I’d share them with you!

The menu was: Chicken Caesar Sandwiches, Kale and White Bean Soup, Green Salad, and Revelatory Caramel Cake.

I also made some PB&J and turkey sandwiches for little ones who might not care of the regular sandwiches. Do you dig my green St. Pattie’s Day nails?

Several years ago I bought the biggest table that would fit in my dining room. I don’t really believe in a table for the kids that’s separate from the adults. How are the supposed to learn to act like humans if they never eat with them? So I got a big bench where lots of little butts can schooch in together.

And this is how I set up my table. I believe in cloth napkins and centerpieces, though we usually have so much food that a centerpiece is kicked to the side. A centerpiece doesn’t need to be an expensive, fussy deal from a florist. My forsythia were already starting to bloom, so a few days before the party I brought some in so they would have time to acclimate to the warmth of the house and open up.

Several years ago I also invested in some rather inexpensive white plates (with matching bowls and salad/dessert plates) and silverware. Enough for 10-12 place settings. We don’t use them everyday, but when we have a special occasion I like to use them. The white is nice because you can add any color plate, placemat, tablecloth, whatever, and it coordinates. These special meals are my gift to my family and I want them to look as beautiful as a wonderfully wrapped present (which I don’t do).

Chicken Caesar Sandwiches

I served these Chicken Caesar Sandwiches for a luncheon a few days prior and am totally addicted to them. My family loved them too! What a great sandwich!

Chicken Caesar Sandwich

Recipe courtesy Barefoot Contessa

  • 2 split (1 whole) chicken breasts, bone in, skin on (I also use a whole rotisserie chicken in a pinch)
  • Good olive oil
  • Kosher salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 4 ounces thinly sliced pancetta
  • 1 large garlic clove, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons anchovy paste (don’t be tempted to omit this, stop being a chicken and give it a try, it doesn’t taste fishy, I swear!)
  • 1 teaspoons Dijon mustard
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1/2 cup good mayonnaise
  • 1 large ciabatta bread
  • 2 ounces baby arugula, washed and spun dry
  • 12 sun-dried tomatoes, in oil
  • 2 to 3 ounces Parmesan, shaved

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

(Skip this step if using a rotisserie chicken). Place the chicken breasts on a sheet pan skin side up. Rub the chicken with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Roast for 35 to 40 minutes, until cooked through. Cool slightly, discard the skin and bones, and slice the meat thickly. Set aside.

Meanwhile, place the pancetta on another sheet pan in a single layer. Roast for 10 to 15 minutes, until crisp. Set aside to drain on paper towels.

Place the garlic and parsley in the bowl of a food processor fitted with a steel blade and process until minced. Add the anchovy paste, mustard, lemon juice, and mayonnaise and process again to make a smooth dressing. (Refrigerate the Caesar dressing if not using it immediately.)

Slice the ciabatta in half horizontally and separate the top from the bottom. Toast the bread in the oven, cut side up, for 5 to 7 minutes; cool slightly. Spread the cut sides of each piece with the Caesar dressing. Place half the arugula on the bottom piece of bread and then layer in order: the sun-dried tomatoes, shaved Parmesan, crispy pancetta, and sliced chicken. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and finish with another layer of arugula. Place the top slice of ciabatta on top and cut in thirds crosswise. Serve at room temperature.

A simple green salad, just dressed mixed greens and a few shavings of Parmesan cheese is a great accompaniment for a flavorful sandwich like the one above. You don’t want the flavors in the sandwich and the salad to compete. Mark Bittman has a lot of great vinaigrettes you can mix up quickly. WAY better than that fat-laden stuff out of a bottle!

Since I served the soup hot, and don’t like to be pointing the camera at my hungry family while they’re trying to eat, there aren’t any soup photos. But here’s the recipe. It’s a great soup. I make a big batch and use it for lunches or a quick dinner.

Kale and White Bean Soup

Recipe courtesy of Real Simple

Heat the oil in a large pot over medium-high heat. Add the garlic, celery, onion, 1 ½ teaspoons salt, and ½ teaspoon pepper and cook, stirring occasionally, until tender, 4 to 6 minutes.

Add the beans, pasta, kale, rosemary, 8 cups water, and Parmesan rind (if using). Cover and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer until the pasta and kale are tender, 4 to 5 minutes.

Remove the Parmesan rind. Stir in the lemon juice and sprinkle with the shaved Parmesan before serving.

Revelatory Caramel Cake
No birthday would be complete without cake! I had a hard time committing to a cake. I wanted one that everyone would like (thereby eliminating coconut) but I also wanted something different than what I normally do (thereby eliminating chocolate). So I decided on a Caramel Cake and it was a great choice. It was soooo good! I had been hanging onto this recipe since it appeared in Food & Wine, September 2010.

Revelatory Caramel Cake

Recipe courtesy of Food & Wine 

from The Southern Foodways Alliance Community Cookbook

Cake

  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 4 large egg whites, at room temperature
  • 2 1/4 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 3 cups sifted cake flour
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 4 teaspoons baking powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, cut into tablespoons, softened
  • 3/4 cup heavy cream
Icing
  • 3 cups sugar
  • 3 tablespoons light corn syrup
  • 1 1/2 cups whole milk
  • 1 stick unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream

Preheat the oven to 350°. Butter three 8-inch cake pans; line the bottoms with parchment paper. Butter the parchment and flour the pans, tapping out the excess.

In a bowl, mix 1/4 cup of the milk with the egg whites and vanilla extract. In the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the paddle, mix the flour with the sugar, baking powder and salt. Add the butter and the remaining 3/4 cup of milk. Beat at low speed until blended, then beat at medium speed until smooth, 1 minute. Beat in the egg white mixture in 3 batches.

In another bowl, using an electric mixer, beat the cream until soft peaks form. Stir one-third of the whipped cream into the batter, then fold in the rest. Divide the batter between the pans and smooth the tops. Bake for 25 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the centers comes out clean. Let the cakes cool on a rack for 10 minutes. Unmold the cakes and peel off the parchment. Invert the cakes and let cool completely.

In a saucepan, stir 2 1/2 cups of the sugar with the corn syrup and milk. Cook over moderate heat, stirring until the sugar dissolves. Keep warm.

Sprinkle the remaining 1/2 cup of sugar in a deep, heavy saucepan. Cook the sugar over moderate heat, swirling occasionally, until an amber caramel forms. Carefully pour the warm milk mixture over the caramel. Cook over moderately high heat, stirring, until the caramel dissolves. Stop stirring and cook until the caramel registers 235° on a candy thermometer. Remove from the heat. Stir in the butter, vanilla and 1/4 cup of the heavy cream. Strain the caramel into the bowl of a standing mixer. Let cool for 15 minutes.

Beat the caramel at medium speed, gradually adding the remaining 1/4 cup of cream, until creamy, about 15 minutes. Let icing cool at least another 15 minutes, longer if your work area is warm.

Set 1 cake layer on a plate. Pour enough icing over the layer to cover the top. Top with a second cake layer and cover it with icing. Add the final cake layer and pour the rest of the icing over the top of the cake, letting it run down the sides. Working quickly, use an offset spatula to spread the icing gently around the cake. Let the cake stand for 2 hours to set the icing before serving.

Tip: This cake is even better the day after it’s made.

Once lunch was over the cousins got to play. This is my niece and my daughter.

We checked out a little more nature in our yard.

And acted silly! See the nice shiner my niece gave herself? It’s hard to be little!

How does your family celebrate big days? Is it a small group of a few or a big extended family? If you could have any birthday cake in the world, what would it be?

I Like Big Bundts and I Cannot Lie: Cranberry Orange Bundt Cake

You other brothers can’t deny, That when a girl walks in with an itty bitty waist, And a round thing in your face . . . oh, sorry, it had to be done. Apologies to Sir Mix-a-Lot. But he does. And I do. In fact, I’m so in love with this particular bundt cake that I’ve made it three times since Christmas. And the spellchecker keeps changing bundt to burnt. So if I say burnt cake at some point, know I mean bundt. No one likes a burnt cake.

This is the perfect cake to go with an afternoon cup of tea or coffee, or a light midnight snack! It makes a generous sized bundt so you can take half to a friend, neighbor, or hairdresser.

Cranberry Orange Bundt Cake

Serves 18. Calories 249, Fat, 8.7g

Recipe adapted from Cooking Light

  • 13 1/2 ounces all-purpose flour (about 3 cups) plus several tablespoons for flouring the pan
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 3/4 cups granulated sugar
  • 12 tablespoons butter, softened + extra for greasing the pan
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 3/4 cup low-fat buttermilk
  • 1 cup sweetened, dried cranberries
  • 1/2 cup fresh orange juice
  • 2 cups powdered sugar
  • 1/4 cup fresh orange juice
  • 1 tablespoon butter, melted
  • 2 teaspoons grated orange rind

Gather the ingredients

Combine 1c sweetened , dried cranberries and 1/2 c fresh squeezed orange juice in a microwave safe dish. Microwave for 1 minute, let stand for 10.

Microwave the orange juice and dried cranberries

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease a large bundt pan with softened butter. Heavily. Generously. Thickly. Make sure to get into every crack and crevice. When you think you have enough butter on there, put on a little more. Generosity in this step will ensure an easy release later. I use cheap paint brushes for tasks like these then pop them in the dishwasher. Don’t have a brush? Use a knob of butter and a paper towel. After you’ve buttered, dump a tablespoon or two of flour in the pan and shake it around. Coat every buttered surface. Do this over the sink and you can tap out the excess. See? Looks like snow.

Generously grease your bundt panDon't miss a spot!

Weigh your flour or lightly spoon it into measuring cups. Whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a bowl.

Weigh your flour

In a bowl, mix granulated sugar, and 12 tablespoons of butter on medium speed until well blended. Add eggs, one at a time, beating after each addition.

Mix the sugar and butter on medium speedAdd the eggs one at a time

Beat in vanilla. Add flour mixture and buttermilk alternately to the butter mixture, beginning and ending with flour.

Beat in the vanillaMix in flour mixture alternately with buttermilkAlternately with buttermilk

Fold the cranberry mixture into the batter. Notice that I’ve given up the mixer for a soft spatula. Folding is simply using the motion of a J (Go ahead, draw a J in the air in front of you, get the idea?) to carefully incorporate the ingredients.

Fold cranberry mixture into the batter

Pour the batter into the prepared pan and smooth out the top. Bake at 350 degrees for about 45 minutes, but start checking for doneness at 30 minutes. It’s also nice if you can rotate your pan halfway through cooking. Most ovens have hot spots and this will keep your cake cooking evenly.

Pour the batter into the prepared panSmooth the top

Once the cake is done, cool on a wire rack for five minutes, then turn the rack over onto the top of the bundt pan and flip to release cake onto rack and continue to cool. Do not pull a Mr. Bundt and pick the pan up and beat it against the rack. This will not get you a pretty cake. I am not making this up.

Now for the best part! Glaze!

Zest your orange. I use the same orange that I used for juice. No reason to waste any. Do not zest your fingers. Trust me. It will not add to the flavor. Also, don’t zest into the white part of the peel called the pith. It’s bitter and also won’t add to the flavor.

Zest your orange

Combine the powdered sugar, 1/4c fresh orange juice, 1T melted butter, and orange rind. Stir until smooth. Glaze will be loose.

Add the juiceAdd powdered sugarMix until smooth

Now, here’s what I think. And since I’ve made this cake three times I’m an expert so listen up. This glaze is GOOOOOOD. You could just pour it over the warm cake, let it run off, and eat. But that seems to be a waste to me. You can see from the photos that I put a sheet of Cut-rite in the bottom of a sheet pan, sat the rack with the cake on top, and poured on my glaze. This catches the excess glaze but it also keep you from sticking your tongue in there and lapping up the glaze like a crazy person. Not that I’d know anything about that. Then, as the glaze ran off and cooled, I scooped it up with my spatula and poured it over again and again until I had coated the entire cake and used up almost all the glaze. Much messier and a little more time-consuming, but SO worth it.

Icing the cake

Either way, it’s a beautiful, light cake.

Beautiful bundt!

Any foods you’re addicted to lately? What’s your favorite snack cake? Is there a food that helps you get through winter?