Okay, so it’s kind of cheating to do whoopie pies for a pie recipe since whoopie pies are really more like little cakes. But taste these and tell me that you miss actual pumpkin pie. No way. You know what you also won’t miss – like, 8 hours of work, because that’s basically how long it takes to make an actual pumpkin pie from scratch. These little babies are surprisingly quick to prepare (by dessert standards, okay, not by actual quick-activity standards), especially for something so cutesy and fiddly-looking. And bonus: they can be doled out into tinier servings, meaning that you’ll still eat too much dessert after a big meal, but in an incremental way that maybe won’t leave you feeling quite as sick for quite so long afterwards.
Pumpkin Whoopie Pies with Bourbon-Brown Butter Icing
Adapted from Gina Enriquez (Gourmet)
Makes 20-25 whoopie pies
1 ½ cups all-purpose flour (measured correctly)
½ tsp baking powder
½ tsp baking soda
½ tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon
¼ tsp cardamom
¼ tsp ground ginger
¼ tsp nutmeg (preferably freshly grated)
¼ ground cloves
1 cup packed light brown sugar, any hard lumps removed
½ cup canola oil
1 15-oz can unsweetened pumpkin puree (NOT pumpkin pie filling)
1 large egg, room temperature (expedite this by placing the egg in a deep bowl of warm – not hot – water for 15 minutes prior to cracking)
1 tsp vanilla
5 tbsp unsalted butter (this is just over ½ stick)
½ brick (4 oz) full-fat cream cheese, room temperature
1 tbsp bourbon (or slightly more if you like it punchier, but don’t go overboard)
2 cups icing sugar
Pinch of sea salt
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line 2 large baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone liner. Set aside.
Make the cake batter by whisking together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, cardamom, ginger, nutmeg, and cloves in a small bowl. Set aside. In a large bowl, whisk together the brown sugar, oil, pumpkin puree, egg, and vanilla until smooth. Use a spoon to gently stir the flour mixture into the pumpkin mixture until no dry spots are visible. Use a 0.75 – 1 oz spring-loaded scoop to drop mounds of batter onto the prepared baking sheets (this just under 2 tbsp of batter per mound if you’re a normal person who doesn’t own one of these). The mounds should be 2 inches apart from each other and at least 1 inch away from the rim of the sheet. You may need to bake 2 separate batches if it means not overcrowding the trays.
Bake the cakes in the middle of the oven for 15 minutes, turning the sheets from front to back at the 7 ½ minute mark. The cakes should be springy to the touch and lightly golden brown on the bottoms. Transfer to a wire rack and let rest until completely cool. Obviously you should not be a dummy and try to ice warm cakes. You know that, right? RIGHT?
While the cakes cool, make the icing. Place the butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Let the butter foam and bubble, stirring it occasionally. Once the foaming has subsided, start stirring any bits that are getting stuck on the bottom of the pan. Once the whitish particles in the butter start turning golden brown (they should look like toasty bread crumbs in the bottom of the pan), take the butter off the heat and pour into a bowl to cool, scraping in all of those delicious crispy bits left in the pan. Let the butter cool completely.
Beat the cream cheese with a standmixer or electric beaters until completely smooth. Scrape in the cooled brown butter and continue beating, even if the mixture begins to look curdled. It should smooth itself out after another minute of whipping. Pour in the bourbon and then slowly start beating in the icing sugar, turning the beaters to the lowest setting. Continue beating until all of the sugar has been worked in and the icing is smooth and creamy, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed. Transfer the icing to a piping bag fitted with a large circular tip (or to a large Ziploc bag) and let it firm up slightly in the fridge for 15-20 minutes.
When you’re ready to assemble the whoopie pies, start matching pairs of cakes together based on size and shape. You want to make 20-25 pairs of cakes that are as identical to each other as possible. Using your piping bag (or, if using a Ziploc, push the icing to one tip of the bag, then cut ~ ½ inch off the tip), pipe a small amount of icing onto the flat side of one of your cakes, working concentrically from the outside edge inward. Top with the matching cake and place on a lined baking sheet or tray. Repeat with the remaining cake pairs, keeping in mind that one cake may be better suited as a “bottom” (due to being slightly flatter or less tippy) and the other as a “top”. Insert all of your HILARIOUS top/bottom jokes here. Once all of the cakes have been assembled, cover the baking sheet/tray loosely with plastic wrap and refrigerate.
About 30 minutes before serving, take the cakes out of the fridge and let them come up to room temperature. Keep telling yourself that that was your last one, no, okay, well then that one was definitely the last one. Ughhh, okay, this one truly is the last one, I swear. Repeat.