Making Whoopie…Pies that is..

Rich choccolatey whoopie pie with cream cheese cherry filling

There’s a few regional treats and foods that we just can’t seem to find out here in California and my wife as a born and bred East Coaster, loves California but sometimes she just really has a hankering for some Taylor Ham (it’s like Spam but better), decent pierogi (amazing Polish dumplings similar to ravioli), good bagels and whoopie pies. I think the whoopie pie is really the thing she misses the most.

If an Oreo Cookie and a Chocolate cupcake had a baby, it’d be a whoopie pie. They’re this wonderful combination of rich, chocolatey cakiness and fluffy (super sweet) filling and they’re super easy to make. Not really sure why its called a whoopee pie because there’s nothing pie like about them but here’s my recipe

Cake

2 cups AP flour

1/2 cup cocoa powder

pinch of salt

1 stick of butter (softened and at room temperature)

1 egg

1 tsp vanilla extract

1 ¼ tsp baking soda

1 cup brown sugar

1 cup plain yogurt (you can sub sour cream, kaffir or buttermilk)

Preheat oven to 350F

In a large bowl, combine flour, cocoa, salt and baking soda and set aside In another large mixing bowl, cream butter and sugar together until fluffy. Add the vanilla extract, egg, and yogurt and mix until combined. Gradually add in the dry ingredients until they are well incorporated. Batter should be the consistency of brownie mix. Grease a baking sheet or line with parchment paper or a silicone mat. Spray a ice cream scoop with cooking spray and form batter into balls and place on the cookie sheet leaving a 2″ gap between cookies. To make the traditional smoothed topped whoopie pies, lightly wet your hands with water and shake off the excess. Run your fingers across the tops of the cookies and sides to smooth over any craggy points. I opt to leave them in their craggy jaggy state. Bake the cookies at 350 for 10-15 minutes. The cookies should puff up and a toothpick should come out clean when the cookies are done. Set on a wire rack to cool. Let the cookies cool completely before filling.

Filling

1 stick softened room temperature butter

1 8oz package of softened cream cheese

1 cup marshmallow fluff

1 cup powdered sugar

½ cup chopped candied cherries (optional)

1 tsp vanilla extract

Cream butter, marshmallow, cream cheese and vanilla together until well combined and fluffy. gradually add the powder sugar, if filling is still loose, continue to add powder sugar until filing is the consistency of cake frosting.

Peppermint Chocolate Layer Cake with Peppermint White Chocolate Buttercream Icing

Rich chocolate cake stacked high with layers of Peppermint White Chocolate Buttercream Icing and finished off with more buttercream, chopped up candy canes, and peppermint bark

I hope everyone had a relaxing Christmas Holiday, things are settling back down around the homestead and the marathon cookie baking and decorating has come to an end. Now that we’re heading into the New Year, things are also calming down at work and I should be back to having consistent days off which will hopefully allow the blogging schedule to fall back into place.

This week’s recipe came about because I was asked to bring a dessert for Christmas dinner.  I’ve been intrigued (read obsessed) with MilkBar’s layer cakes (and their corn cookie and crack pie). The gang over at MilkBar always seem to come up with these fanciful flavor combinations for their cakes and they have a distinct visual style with their unfrosted sides. It’s been ages since I’ve baked a layer cake, so I thought it would be kind of fun to try my hand at building a MilkBar style towering marvel.

Over the years via interviews and various cooking segments, Christina Tosi (the genius behind MilkBar) has shared how she goes about designing and assembling these cakes with the cake itself, the frosting and a textural element as the basic components. In this case because of the holiday I opted for crushed candy canes and crumbled peppermint bark for my textural elements. I also decided to use peppermint oil rather than peppermint extract, because it provides an intense wallop of peppermint flavor. You can certainly use peppermint extract, it just takes a lot more extract to provide the same intensity of flavor and that will impact the texture of the frosting. I was able to find food grade peppermint oil at a specialty shop, but you should be able to find it easily enough on the interwebs.

As it turns out, I must have given away our cake pans when we moved from NJ to CA. So I had to go out and buy new cake pans. I opted for 7″ inch springform pans figuring that the springform would come in handy for assembly, transport and unveiling. I lucked out and was able to find 3 identical pans at Homegoods.

There’s basically three stages to creating this cake, first its the baking of the cake, then making the buttercream and then the last part is the assembly of the cake itself. The whole process took about 8 hours, which includes the time the cake had to chill in the fridge so the icing could set up and help hold the.cake together so It could be transported to its destination.

Part 1…the cake

Ingredients

  • 3 cups AP flour
  • 3 cups sugar
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/2 tsp peppermint oil
  • 8 oz. melted extra dark chocolate
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 2 cups hot water
  • 8 tsp extra dark cocoa

Place a clean glass or stainless steal bowl over a pot of lightly boiling water to make a double boiler. Break the chocolate into small chunks and place into the bowl, stir until all the chocolate has melted. Set aside to let cool. While the chocolate is cooling, assemble the rest of the cake ingredients. In a large bowl, combine, flour, sugar, salt, baking soda and cocoa and set aside. In another bowl, mix the oil, water, sour cream, vanilla extract, peppermint oil and eggs lightly until combined then slowly pour into the dry ingredients.  Mix until just combined by hand or with an electric mixer. Slowly mix in the melted chocolate. Divide batter evenly between 3 prepared 8″ cake  pans and bake in an oven preheated to 350 for 40 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. Because I used smaller pans and filled them to about half full, the cake took closer to an hour to bake for me. Remove from the oven to cool on a wire rack for 30 minutes, then remove from the pans and let cool completely before icing.

Part 2….the Icing

Ingredients

  • 1lb unsalted butter (softened and room temperature)
  • 12 oz white chocolate chips
  • 1lb powdered sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/2 tsp food grade peppermint oil
  • 2 TBS corn syrup
  • ¼ cup heavy whipping cream

Use a double boiler or microwave to melt white chocolate chips and set aside to cool. Once the white chocolate has cooled but is still liquid, whip butter in a large bowl or stand mixer with whisk attachment on high speed until the butter turns pale yellow. Scrap down the sides of the bowl and add vanilla extract and peppermint oil and whisk on medium speed until flavoring is incorporated. With the mixer on low, slowly drizzle in the white chocolate and add the corn syrup*. Turn the mixer off and scrap down the sides. Add ⅓ of the powder sugar and turn the mixer on to low, mix until the powered sugar is thoroughly incorporated, turn off the mixer and scrap down the sides between each addition. Continue until all the powdered has been added. You should hear the motor of the mixer slow down. Now gradually start adding the heavy whipping cream. Your looking for a nice spreadable/pipable texture that’s not too loose. The icing should be airy but still hold a peak so you may not need all the cream.

Part 3….Assembly

Some assembly required. A springform pan and a sheet of clear vinyl hold the cake together during assembly.

 

  • large spoon or piping bag with large tip to apply icing
  • 1 cake pan
  • 1 cake board
  • a 10″ wide strip of acetate of clear vinyl.
  • clear tape
  • crushed candy canes
  • broken up pieces of peppermint bark

Cut the acetate of vinyl so that the length is equal to the circumference of the cake pan with 1″ overlap. The acetate/vinyl is what will allow you to build up the layers of the cake.  Level all three cakes, crumble the tops and set aside, you’ll use them to form the bottom layer of the cake.

Place the cake board at the bottom of the cake pan, then form a cylinder with the acetate/vinyl and place it into the cake pan, making sure that the cylinder is snug against the sides of the cake pan. Tape the top and bottom of the cylinder.

Spread a thin layer of icing on the cake board and pack the crumbled up cake into the bottom of the cake pan and top with a layer of buttercream. I find that its easier to use a piping bag for this rather than trying to spread with a spoon. Sprinkle the buttercream with crushed up candy canes and peppermint bark. Continue layering cake, buttercream and candy until get to the top layer. Frost the top layer and sprinkle with more candy canes and peppermint bark. Place a layer of plastic wrap over the top of the cylinder and place in the fridge to chill for at least 6 hours or overnight. This will allow the frosting to firm up which will help keep the cake together.

To serve, tip the cake onto its side and remove the cake pan, keeping a hand on the cake board so that it stays in place, turn the cake back up upright and place it onto a cake stand or plate. Cut the tape and remove the vinyl/acetate cylinder.

Enjoy….

* The corn syrup is necessary for texture and to help stabilize the frosting. Honey or agave will not substitute in this case because they’ll solidify and turn gritty when the cake is chilled.

Holiday Treats Part II-Sugar Cookies and more

Snowman Cookie

As I mentioned in a previous post, the thing I look forward to the most during the holidays is baking holiday treats. Here are a couple of my favorite cookie recipes, a simple kid friendly sugar cookie and a chocolate variation of the same sugar cookie. I’ve made a video to show you just how easy it is to prepare the sugar cookies. I’ve also included, my recipe for icing as well as some pictures to show you some examples of different ways you can decorate the cookies.

Chocolate Snowflakes copy
Chocolate Sugar Cookies
3 oz grated bittersweet chocolate
1 cup butter
1 cup sugar
1 egg
2 cups AP flour
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp vanilla
1 tsp baking powder

Put the butter and chocolate in a large microwave safe bowl. Heat on medium power for 2 minutes. Take out and stir half way through the cooking time. Remove from the microwave and stir with a whisk until the chocolate is completely melted and incorporated with the butter. Add the sugar, egg and vanilla and stir until blended. Slowly incorporate the flour, baking powder and salt. Turn out on a board or counter that’s been dusted with confectioner’s sugar. Knead dough until its blended and forms into a square. Wrap with waxed paper. Seal in a plastic bag and chill in the fridge for at least 2 hours.

Preheat oven to 375f. Divide dough in half and return the unused portion to the fridge. Roll dough out until its between 1/8″ and 1/4″. Then cut into whatever shape you’d like. Lay out on a parchment lined cookie sheet (or you can use a silicone baking mat). Bake 8 -10 minutes for softer cookies or 10-12 minutes for crispier cookies.

Icing
2 TBS Softened Butter
2 Cups Confectioner’s Sugar
2 tsp milk
1/4 tsp vanilla extract
2 to 6 tsp light corn syrup
paste or powdered food coloring

With a hand mixer, soften the butter then add in the powdered sugar. Slowly add in the milk. Gradually add in the corn syrup. The amount of corn syrup will vary depending on the consistency of the icing you’re trying to achieve. The icing needs to be free flowing to flood the cookie surface, but not too loose or it will run off the sides. For piping and lettering it needs to be thicker but still able to flow through a #3 or 4 tip. This should make enough icing to ice 4 dozen 3″ cookies.

Here are some ideas for different ways you can decorate the cookies depending on the season.

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6 Second Heath Bar Crunch Ice Cream

Me and dairy don’t get along too well so I’ve been looking for alternatives to using milk and cream in recipes. This recipe evolved as part of my effort to reduce the amount of dairy that I consume yet still be able to enjoy the occasional bowl of ice cream.

Ice cream has a very specific texture and mouth feel. The challenge with milk alternatives like soy milk, rice milk and almond milk is that they have too much water by volume. This causes large ice crystals to form during the churning and chilling process which makes gritty ice cream.

I’ve found that coconut milk is a good compromise that doesn’t sacrifice the texture of the ice cream. When coupled with flavorful ingredients like caramel and salt the slight coconut taste becomes more subtle.

Coconut milk isn’t particularly more healthful than heavy cream, it has only slightly less fat than heavy cream and double the carbs. So this substitution is strictly to reduce the total amount of dairy used in an ice cream recipe.

This recipe is a good base for other ice cream recipes. If you substitute sweetened condensed milk for the dulce de leche, you’ve got a sweet cream base. The sweet cream base can be used to start just about any flavor of ice cream simply by adding your favorite fruits and candies.

4 Heath Bars crumbled or
¼ cup heath toffee bits from the baking aisle
1 13.5oz. can coconut milk
1 can of dulce de leche (usually found on the ethnic food aisle)
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp salt
½ & ½ enough so the total liquid for the recipe is 1 qt

In a large mixing bowl, combine the coconut milk, dulce de leche, salt, vanilla and ½ & ½. Stir until the all the ingredients are well incorporated. Pour into ice cream maker and churn according to the instructions of your particular make and model ice cream machine. Add the candy bits toward the end of the churning process. This will keep them from getting broken up too much and get them integrated in to the ice cream before it hardens too much. If you like softer ice cream, you can eat it right away, but its better when its had a chance to ripen in the freezer for at least 4 hours. Makes 1 Qt.

Heath Bar Crunch Ice Cream with crumbled toffee and Twix

Heath Bar Crunch Ice Cream with crumbled toffee and Twix