Blog surfing: Halloween favourites

One of the things I love most about the blogging community is the sheer amount of talent out there. As cheesy as it sounds, it is really inspiring to see what other bloggers come up with because believe me – these people are REALLY creative!

I’ve been trying to catch up on my ever growing pile of unread blog posts in my RSS reader, and have come across quite a number of brilliant Halloween inspired posts in the last week or so. Whilst I would love to make them all, I simply don’t have the time to do it at present, so I thought I would compile a list of my favourite Halloween posts so far…

*ALL photos in this post are courtesy of the respective bloggers 

“Batty” Battenburg cake from Sprinkle Bakes

I absolutely adore Heather’s blog, and she has inspired a great many of my baking experiments. This Battenburg cake is just another one of her marvellous creations – I mean, how COOL does this cake look? Totally blew me away. My favourite bit is the orange bat eyes. 😉

Black widow chocolate rum cupcakes from 6 Bittersweets

Xiaolu’s blog is one of my newfound favourites, and I urge you to check out her blog if you don’t already read it regularly. The ‘black widow’ spiders are made from modelling chocolate, which is something I’ve yet to work with – but I plan to experiment with it… soon! Xiaolu has helpfully detailed the instructions of how to make the spiders, if you wish to try recreating them.

Rat plaque brownie bites from Not Quite Nigella

One of the first blogs I discovered back in the day (which actually wasn’t too long ago!) was Lorraine’s, and her blog remains one of my favourite ones. She is a total wonder woman, and manages to blog EVERY SINGLE DAY. I kid you not. I have no idea how she manages to do it, especially when you consider the effort she puts into writing them (she’s really funny too!). Lorraine loves Halloween, and always puts on truly elaborate Halloween parties each year… which she blogs about, naturally. You can read her Halloween party posts here, here, and here.

Spooky shortbread fingers from Baking Quinn

Quinn has a number of great recipes on her blog (she inspired me to make Chinese New Year peanut cookies earlier this year!), and this is another one of them. These shortbread fingers are made with muscovado sugar, which I suspect adds a nice molasses-esque taste to them. I’ve seen a recipe for brown sugar shortbread in Bill Granger’s cookbook (of course, being me I find a way to bring Bill into everything), and I’ve now reminded myself that I need to try the recipe!

Oreo and M&M witch hats from Gourmand Recipes

These cute hats are from Ellie’s new-ish blog Gourmand Recipes – as I’m sure most of you know, she’s no newbie to the blogging world though, as she used to blog on Almost Bourdain (which if you should definitely check out if you haven’t yet). All you need to make these little babies are oreos, M&Ms, mini cones, and chocolate. How much simpler could it get? I can only imagine how good these would be with peanut butter M&M’s….. 😀

Halloween chocolate orange layer cake from Bakingdom

If you think this cake looks amazing now, just wait till you have a look at what it looks like on the inside! One word – amazing!

Devil-ish red velvet cupcakes from 6 Bittersweets

Another one from Xiaolu, and she’s made the red velvet cupcake even red-der! 😉 The tails and horns are made from modelling chocolate. I normally am not a fan of too much food colouring, but I figure Halloween is a good time to whip out the supplies!

Ghost cake from I Am Baker

Amanda churns out so many fantastic cakes that it simply astounds me… can you imagine being her neighbour? 😉 I only recently learnt of her blog, and I’m still trawling through her very impressive archive of posts. This ghost cake is just one of the many examples of her creativity…

Eyeball cake pops from Bakerella

The pop cake queen strikes again! These eyeballs somehow manage to strike the right balance of cute and scary… and I love them. Her creativity (and love of sprinkles) knows no bounds! 🙂 She also made some Halloween ‘character’ cake pops last year, which you can find here.

Decorated Halloween cookies from Sweetopia

Marian’s blog is a cookie decorating newbie’s heaven – she has everything from great ideas, to detailed tutorials on the how-to of royal icing and sugar cookies. I’ve learnt a great deal from her site, and I still continue to learn! These Halloween pumpkin cookies are by far the cutest ones I’ve seen so far. Look at them just smiling away at you! 🙂

Ghost marshmallows from One Million Gold Stars

Gail’s photo of her ‘drowning’ ghost marshmallow totally put a smile on my face! Imagine how good these would be dunked in some hot chocolate… mmmm. I’ve made my own marshmallows before, and I can safely say that they taste a LOT better than storebought ones. Trust me, once you make them you will find it hard to return to storebought.

So yes, these are my favourite Halloween treats so far! I’m sure there will be more in the coming days, and I’ll update the post as needed. 🙂 Please feel free to let me know if you have any favourite Halloween goodies that I haven’t included in the post – it’s always lovely to discover new blogs!

Baking for a cause: my first ever bake sale/tea party!

During my school days, I remember how we would have “canteen days” to raise money for our school. Each class (of approximately 30 students) would work together to set up a stall selling a variety of food and drinks. Our school was smart, and always had some sort of informal competition amongst the classes where a prize was given to the class with the largest profit margin… Which when you think about it, was an inspired idea because what child doesn’t want to feel like they have achieved something?

I remember my class selling a variety of things, from popcorn (which we popped on site, mind you!), iced lemon tea (which was very popular seeing as Malaysia is always hot and humid), satay, coconut water, sandwiches… And that’s where my memory starts to fail me. Appalling really, considering this was only about 10-15 years ago. What I do remember though was how much fun we would have working together throughout the day, whilst shamelessly promoting the items on sale. I can’t even remember if our class ever won, but I do remember the disastrous first few rounds of popcorn making attempts! Ah, memories.

So when I heard about Marie Curie’s Blooming Tea Party fundraising initiative, I was immediately transported back in time – and knew that I had to figure out how to throw a tea party of my own to raise money for them.

For those of you who haven’t heard of this organisation: Marie Curie Cancer Care consists of nurses, doctors and other healthcare professionals. They help to provide care for terminally ill patients in the community and in Marie Curie hospices, thus making it possible for these patients to spend their last days at home instead of in a hospital. They also provide support for the patients families through a time which can be very distressing and difficult. They do a fantastic job, and I certainly have only heard good things about them from patients and their families.

But yes – on to the actual event. After a fair bit of planning, I managed to get a venue and a date. Then came the hardest bit – deciding what food to make! I had so so so many ideas, and I kid you not when I say I stocked up my kitchen extremely well just in case I changed my mind at the last minute (or in case something went horribly wrong!).

Now that it’s all over, I can happily say that everything went really well, which I am very pleased about and am thankful for.

These were the things I served: (apologies for the substandard photos!)

Vanilla cake with raspberry frosting – this was the most popular item on sale, I’m not sure if it was because it was cake, or because the frosting was pink! This was the first time I’d used this recipe, but seeing as it was a recipe by Bill (whose praises I have sung many many times), I’m not surprised that it didn’t disappoint. The cake had a perfect crumb, and rose beautifully in the oven. I honestly think he must test his recipes tens of times, because how else have none of his recipes failed me? The frosting was something I made from the leftover royal icing from my sugar cookies (see below), milk, butter and some homemade raspberry jam.

Chocolate cake balls – I’ve made cake balls/pops several times, and love making them as they’re relatively simple yet very impressive. You can make them with any biscuit or cake – think oreos, tim tams, lemon biscuits, digestives… The list is endless really. This time round I decided to make them from chocolate cake, because 1) they looked cuter than a whole cake, and 2) it would give some variety. I used this chocolate cake recipe.

Sugar cookies – I started venturing into sugar cookie decorating a few months ago, as I was sucked in by the prettiness of it all. I also suspect the precision and patience needed to decorate them appealled to my inner OCD. I chose to use yellow as my theme colour (to match Marie Curie’s logo), and then worked from there. Because I had a ridiculous number of cookies to get through (I think it was approximately 120?) I kept it all relatively simple, with marbled designs. I also attempted to recreate the Marie Curie logo in icing, but can safely say that that bit didn’t go too well. Cookies still tasted good though! 😉

Chocolate cornflake clusters – I was so surprised at how well this went down, considering that it was so wonderfully simple to make. All you do is mix some melted chocolate (I used a mix of dark and milk) with regular cornflakes, then spoon them into muffin cases. Ta-dah, you have chocolate cornflake clusters!

Sausage rolls – because I felt there had to be something savoury on the menu. I originally planned to make curry puffs, but worried that they would not taste good when cold. I then remembered that I once saw Nigella making some sausage rolls on one of her tv shows, and went for that instead. The filling was made from sausage meat (I bought sausages and removed the casings), chopped onions, a dash of curry powder, salt and pepper. This was then wrapped in puff pastry, cut into little pieces, then baked in the oven.

Egg and cheese sandwiches – the other savoury item. I just felt that it wasn’t a true ‘tea’ event if there were no sandwiches… To keep it simple and accessible to more people, I decided on an egg/cheese/watercress filling. This was probably the least popular item on offer, and in retrospect I should have just baked another cake instead. Next time. 🙂 Thankfully managed to sell most of it though, so there was no food wastage.

Fruit squash – I had to resort to this for drinks as I was advised to not serve hot drinks due to health & safety regulations. A bit of a shame, as it made this a ‘tea party’ without any tea.

Writing about it now, it seems like there wasn’t very much food at all (primarily because there was only so much I could carry and transport!). I must say that it still took pretty much an entire weekend of baking, and I was completely exhausted post-event. Every single table surface in my flat was covered with cookies or cakes of some sort, which is something that I’ve not experienced before. Having said that, I would definitely do something like this again – especially since it was for such a good cause. Next time around I think I’ll forgo the savoury dishes, and stick to the sweets.

I set a fundraising target of £500, and am happy to say that I have reached this. A HUGE THANK YOU to everyone that has donated so generously (both online and offline), as I could not have done this without you all. A special word of thanks also goes to my friend Neal, who helped me on the day of the bake sale/tea party – it definitely brought me back to the days when we used to work together! 🙂

I am however still trying to get more donations, because at the end of the day, the more I can raise for Marie Curie the better. If any of you have benefited from the Marie Curie nurses, or if you simply want to help – please donate by clicking on the button below. Every donation counts, and you will help to make a difference to someone out there. 🙂

THANK YOU!

New York: Kyotofu

I was intrigued by Kyotofu the moment I typed their name into Google. This Japanese themed dessert bar and bakery goes on the theme of “changing the world, one soybean at a time”. Soybean? Oh, yes. The humble soybean is taken to new levels at Kyotofu, inspiring a whole range of innovative (and delicious!) savoury and sweet dishes.

Barbequed unagi – The only savoury dish I tried at Kyotofu. And to be honest, it was R’s dish as I chose dessert instead. This was actually a really nice spin on the usual unagi sushi you get in Japanese restaurants. The barbequed freshwater eel was wrapped in crisp phyllo dough, and served with whole sansho peppers and teriyaki sauce.

I would have tried more savoury dishes, but I was concentrating on the desserts each time we went to Kyotofu (we went twice, both at odd times, in between meals.) Catty tried their chicken tofu burger when she visited them last year and liked it, so I’d definitely want to aim to try more of their savoury food the next time I’m in New York.

Warm miso chocolate cake. I knew I had to order this when I saw it on the menu. I mean, how could I resist the combination of a warm miso chocolate cake with a mochi center, miso caramel, and adzuki shiro-an (red bean sweetened paste)? This was absolutely gorgeous, and I think I must have let out a little squeal of delight when it was brought to the table. I never thought that miso could be paired with caramel, but it worked really well… think of it as an Asian twist on salted caramel, because that is exactly what it tasted like. The warm chocolate cake was moist, and the mochi center was a pleasant surprise.

Whilst I was enjoying my warm chocolate cake, people kept on coming in to take away their soft serve. Intrigued, I decided that I simply *had* to try some. So I did. The waiter who initially served us (but had gone on a short break) was extremely surprised when he got back to find the ice cream in front of me, asking me “didn’t you have the chocolate cake?” with a puzzled look on his face. If only he knew how much I can eat…

Anyway, on to the soymilk soft ice cream sundae, served with a fruit compote, matcha mochi, brownie topping and pocky sticks. Kyotofu cycle flavours on a monthly basis, and in March they were serving matcha and black sesame ice cream. I believe it is chocolate and white sesame this month, and I only wish I could try the white sesame version! I really, really liked the ice cream. It wasn’t too sweet (always a plus), and was bursting with the flavours of matcha (green tea) and black sesame respectively. I don’t think I paid much attention to the toppings that came with the sundae, as I was too busy eating the ice cream itself. I especially liked how it was made with soymilk, which therefore meant I could *claim* to be eating something healthy. Sort of.

Because we enjoyed Kyotofu so much, we managed to squeeze in another trip just before leaving New York. Priorities. 😀 We tried their matcha lattes (both cold, and hot) – both were good. I felt that the hot version was better, but that might have been because it was a very cold day.

Anmitsuadzuki red bean, coffee & strawberry agar, shiratama dango (mochi-like balls made from sweet rice flour) and kinako ice cream. You get a choice of kinako ice cream or a vegan coconut sorbet, but I chose the kinako (soybean flour) as it was something different. This was again beautifully presented. It tasted as good as it looked, and my favourite bit of it was the kinako ice cream. The red beans had just the right amount of sweetness, and went well with the ice cream and the dango. I love anything chewy, so naturally really enjoyed the shiratama dango. I couldn’t eat the sugar wafer though – that was too sweet and too hard for my teeth!

Black sesame sweet tofu, served with a hoji-cha syrup. I had a hard time deciding between this, and their signature white tofu. I ended up choosing the black sesame version as I felt the white tofu version would be similar to “tofu fah” (one of the absolute MUST EAT’s everytime I go home). Like everything else here, there was a burst of black sesame goodness in each bite of the tofu. Despite the word “sweet” in the name of the dish, the tofu itself wasn’t all that sweet. I felt the hoji-cha syrup complemented the tofu very well, but R preferred the tofu plain – but then again, he does not have a sweet tooth. I still prefer “tofu fah” though, as it’s what I grew up eating. 🙂

I also bought a selection of their baked goods to bring back to London – again, this was influenced by the many, many people who walked in to do this each time I dined there. The photo above is of their genmaicha brown rice almond financiers (golden) and matcha green tea almond financiers (green). I absolutely loved these. Surprisingly I enjoyed the genmaicha ones more than the matcha, as the tea added an extra nutty flavour to the financiers.

Miso chocolate brownie. As you can tell from the photo, there were sesame seeds in this – I thought this was absolute genius. I’m definitely going to try making some sesame chocolate brownies very soon! I must say I couldn’t really taste the miso in this, but it was good nonetheless.

Chocolate chunk and hazelnut kinako cookie. What I really liked about Kyotofu was how they put a Japanese/Asian spin on their food. This looks like your standard chocolate chip cookie, but believe me when I say it was better than that. The kinako (soybean flour) added a pleasant nutty aftertaste to the cookies. Only way I thought this could be improved = some sea salt sprinkled on the tops of the cookies.

Mini cupcakes – chocolate souffle, matcha green tea, yuzu vanilla and apple cinnamon. Apparently their chocolate souffle cupcake was voted NYC’s best cupcake by New York Magazine – so obviously I had to try one. Whilst the chocolate souffle cupcake was good, my favourite flavour was the yuzu vanilla. The tangy yuzu cupcake had delightful notes of vanilla running through it, and like all their other baked goods, was not overly sweet.

I really enjoyed Kyotofu, and it is definitely a place I can visit over and over again. I can only imagine how often I’d pop in to get some soymilk soft serve if I was a New Yorker…. Fingers crossed I’ll get to try their tofu cheesecake, miso brittle and tofu marshmallows in the near future. In the meantime I’ll continue hoping that they may one day come to London!

Kyotofu
705 Ninth Avenue (between 48th and 49th)
New York, NY 10019
Tel: 212-974-6012
http://kyotofu-nyc.com/

A Taste of Green & Blacks, and a chocolate sheet cake!

Several weeks ago, I was lucky enough to be invited to a Green & Blacks event. For those of you who haven’t heard of Green & Blacks – where have you been??! (Kidding.) The event was held at the gorgeous Miele showroom, which is so well equipped I seriously wished I could move in.

I did ponder whether or not I should blog about this (seeing as it happened so long ago), but decided to as I honestly had an amazing time that evening. Plus, it’s always nice to blog about something you love (=chocolate). 😀

I’ve always been a massive fan of G&B chocolates (both their eating and cooking range is fantastic) – in fact you would be slightly alarmed at the number of G&B products I have stashed in my kitchen. From the 150g chocolate bars to their cocoa powder, I have it all. In fact, I have multiples of each. What can I say? I’m Chinese, and I’m “kiasu” (roughly translated as “afraid to lose”, or in this case “afraid to be without chocolate”).

The event was aptly called “Taste of Green & Blacks“, and was held in conjunction with their search for an assistant to Head of Taste Micah Carr-Hill. Yes, they are hiring! So if you think you’ve got what it takes, apply here to be in the running to become Green & Blacks Taste Assistant. Or, if you’re not particularly looking for a new job, you could apply to be part of the Taste Panel which will be made up of 30 people who are passionate about Green & Black’s chocolate. Winners will receive a copy of their new cookbook “Ultimate” and complimentary chocolate to be reviewed in their own time.
The lovely Gail, who coordinated the entire event beautifully.
G&B Head of Taste Micah Carr-Hill, explaining how the evening would unfold. The main event would be 15:15, where contestants had to cook a meal of their choosing in 15 minutes… with a budget of £15! The grand prize for being declared the winner of this challenge was a shiny new red KitchenAid mixer – certainly motivation indeed!

But before the excitement of 15:15, we were given a short talk by Matthew Stokes, who spoke about the science of taste. He briefly spoke of the five basic tastes (bitter, salty, sweet, sour and umami), and also talked about the flavourings (both natural and artificial) that are used in chocolate. He emphasised the importance of the sense of smell when it comes to tasting food and drink, and then passed out some smells – from the very pleasant vanillin, to the slightly unpleasant “smelly feet” scent of butyric acid.

Edd Kimber of He Eats having a sniff of one of the smells that were handed out – he doesn’t look too upset, so I bet this was the vanillin…

And then it was time for the 15:15 challenge, where nine brave souls battled it out for the glory (and the KitchenAid). It was interesting to walk around and see them hard at work during the course of the challenge, and I must say I was very impressed with how calm they seemed! I suspect I would have been in a complete flap if it had been me cooking.

Luiz of The London Foodie doing his thing – he even managed to sneak in some G&B cocoa powder in his savoury dish (you will be amazed to see what he managed to cook in 15 minutes, trust me).

Kavey of Kavey Eats carefully prepping the pears for her chutney.

MiMi of Meemalee’s Kitchen still managed to have a huge grin on her face despite waiting anxiously for her water to reach a boil…

In the midst of the 15:15 madness, we were invited to guess the ingredients used in the two “mystery ganaches“. Mystery ganache #1 was a white chocolate ganache with a very strong taste of lemon and vanilla… as well as a very familiar taste I just could not put my finger on. It turned out to be white tea and lime – no wonder I felt it was familiar, bearing in mind my obsession with tea!

Mystery ganache #2 completely stumped me. Apart from identifying the dark chocolate (which anyone would be able to do just by looking at the photo), I simply could not figure out what Micah had put into it. Turns out everyone felt the same, as Micah revealed at the end of the night that no one had got the ingredients right for ganache #2 – which contained coriander and coriander seeds! I would have honestly never guessed that in a million years, good job I’m not trying to apply to work for G&B as I would fail miserably at the whole selection process.

There were also two mystery cocktails (specially created for the night by Drinks Fusion), and we were again asked to guess which spirits/other ingredients they contained. Now I don’t drink very much at all, so I was honestly at a complete loss with this.

Drinks and nibbles were also served throughout the night, and whilst they look teeny – don’t be fooled. Have one too many and you will be stuffed….

But let me get back to the 15:15 challenge. Here are some of the dishes that were put forward…

Luiz’s dish of grilled quail with rose petals and dark chocolate. This was my favourite dish of the night – for one, it looked very impressive, and the scattering of rose petals really elevated ‘wow’ factor of the dish. The quail was cooked beautifully, and was tender, juicy and flavoursome. I’m so glad I’ve found his recipe, as I’ll have to try it out. Plus now I know it can be done in 15 minutes, i.e. can be cooked on a weekday night! 😉

Jack’s dish of pan fried scallops wrapped in pancetta, with pesto and capers. Doesn’t it look absolutely amazing? Those who did had very satisfied looks on their faces though. This looked very good, and I was upset that I didn’t get to try it – you snooze, you lose. 😦

MiMi‘s dish of shimeji shiso pasta – basically linguini, shimeji mushrooms, salmon roe (ikura) and shiso leaf. Now, I’m a massive fan of both shimeji mushrooms and ikura, so this was a no brainer really. Loved the combination of flavours in her dish, and I’m sure I’ll be making something similar at some point!

Simon’s dish of duck with a quince and peppercorn sauce, served with a cassoulet, and edamame with green beans in a basil emulsion. Phew. Even the name of the dish is enough to tell you that he accomplished an astounding amount of cooking in 15 minutes. Unfortunately this was another one of those ‘snooze/lose’ moments, as I didn’t get to try any of it.

Micah tasting MiMi’s dish. He was a perfect judge, and had a completely straight face when tasting the dishes. There was no indication whatsoever of whether or not he liked or disliked a dish. He’d be a good poker player I reckon…

And then it was time to end the night by announcing the winners of the various competitions that had been held over the course of the event. First up was the winner of the “mystery cocktail” challenge – Jennifer of Chocolate Ecstasy Tours won this, and walked away with her prize of some Riedel glassware. The cocktails turned out to be an Orange & Ginger Alexander (Cognac shaken with melted Green & Black’s chocolate and fresh cream, seasoned with ginger and orange served straight up with a dust of dark chocolate), and a Moth Flower (Black Moth Truffle Vodka, crème de mure, Noilly Prat dry vermouth and a of touch lavender eaux de vie shaken with fresh lemon and sugar, served straight up with violet foam).

Then for the winner of the ‘mystery ganache’ challenge – Micah said that he might have to make it easier next time around, as no one really got the right answers for them! (Phew, maybe my tastebuds aren’t too shot then). But, there was one person who had gotten fairly close at guessing the ingredients in ganache #2 -and that person was the lovely MiMi! She had correctly guessed that there was tea in the white chocolate ganache, and although she guessed green instead of white tea, it was still enough to see her walk away with her prize of Kyle Cathie cookbooks.

But really, we were all the most interested to hear who had won the shiny red KitchenAid. After telling us how impressed he was at the quality of the dishes on offer, Micah revealed that MiMi was the winner of the 15:15 challenge! She was completely flabbergasted, bless her. Just check out that massive grin on her face! 🙂

And now, in the spirit of all things chocolate – I’d like to share one of my favourite chocolate cake recipes. It’s a recipe from Ree (that’s Ree the Pioneer Woman), and it’s absolutely scrumptious. I’ve made it countless times, and everyone always loves it (and they usually ask for the recipe as well!). Another plus is that it’s very simple to whip up, and takes less than an hour from start to finish. Now, that’s what I call satisfying baking. 😉 A word of warning though, there is a LOT of butter in this… (and I’ve already cut down on some, haha).

Chocolate sheet cake
Slightly adapted from Pioneer Woman’s recipe

For the cake:

  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 cup caster sugar
  • ¼ teaspoons salt
  • 4 tablespoons cocoa (I used Green & Blacks)
  • 230g butter
  • 1 cup boiling water
  • ½ cup buttermilk
  • 2 beaten eggs
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla

For the frosting:

  • ½ cup finely chopped nuts (e.g. pecans, walnuts)
  • 80g butter
  • 4 tablespoons cocoa
  • 6 tablespoons milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 5 tablespoons icing sugar

1. Preheat oven to 175’C.
2. In a mixing bowl, combine flour, sugar and salt.
3. Melt the butter in a saucepan/pot over medium high heat. Once the butter is melted, add the cocoa and stir until combined.
4. Add the boiling water to the saucepan/pot, allow mixture to the boil for 30 seconds, then turn off the heat. Leave to cool for 1-2 minutes.
5. Pour the butter/cocoa/water mixture over the flour mixture, and mix until just combined.
6. In a small bowl, mix the buttermilk, beaten eggs, baking soda and vanilla.
7. Stir the buttermilk mixture into butter/chocolate mixture, and mix until well combined.
8. Pour into a sheet cake pan, and bake for 20 minutes or until cooked through.

9. While the cake is baking, make the icing.
10. Melt the butter in a saucepan/pot (I usually use the same pot from before). Add the cocoa, stir to combine, then turn off the heat.
11. Add the milk, vanilla and icing sugar, and stir well.
12. Lastly, add the nuts to the icing mixture, stir well, and leave aside until the cake comes out of the oven.

13. Once the cake is baked, pour the icing over the warm cake and leave it to set. Or if you prefer, you can eat it whilst it’s all warm and gooey – you pick!

Pumpkin whoopie pies

Whoopie pies have taken the world by storm recently, and have even been hailed as the “new cupcake”. Who would have thought that two round pieces of cake (sandwiched with a creamy filling) could become so popular?

According to folklore, Amish women used to bake these for their husbands and put them in their lunchboxes. When the men opened their lunchboxes after a hard morning in the fields, they would shout “whoopie!”. And thus the whoopie pie was born. Of course, there is no proof that this is how they got their name, but it’s a fun story, and I’m more than happy to go along with it!

I’ve been seeing a lot of pumpkin puree around recently, and so thought it would be fun to incorporate some pumpkin into some whoopie pies. It was quite interesting as I had never actually used pumpkin puree before, nor had I ever made whoopie pies. Oh, and I’d only ever eaten one whoopie pie from Hummingbird Bakery. Thinking back, I must say I didn’t really have much idea of what I was aiming to achieve, both taste and texture wise. But that’s the fun thing about cooking, no? The experimenting. Or sometimes, the disasters…

Shaping these whoopie pies were actually much harder than I expected. I don’t have a cookie scoop, so had to use two spoons to form them into the two domed halves. For my first batch, I didn’t smooth them out, hoping they’d even out as they baked. I can now tell you that they didn’t (not sure if this is true of all whoopie pie recipes, or just this one?). So I ended up spending a fair amount of time trying to make sure the rest of my whoopie halves were smoother and more respectable… I also ended up with rather unevenly sized halves, as I didn’t measure how much batter I used each time. Basically, I was lazy.
Having said that, the final product actually tasted pretty good. Instead of using the more “traditional” cream cheese filling, I decided to go for a dark chocolate one. And you know what, I’m glad I did. The bittersweet chocolate ganache/filling complemented the pumpkin perfectly, and I daresay I would not have enjoyed them as much had it been a cream cheese filling. (Thank you R for the suggestion!)
I also made some “mini” cupcakes with some of the batter. Mainly because I’d just bought a new silicone cupcake tray, and felt the overwhelming urge to use it. I didn’t fill the holes till the top, as I was hoping to get a effect of a paper lined cupcake (if you know what I mean). They didn’t turn out all that well (as you can see), but I’m definitely going to try to achieve that effect the next time I use the tray! Another thing that bugged me were the air bubbles in the batter, which caused little “holes” in the final product. I think I’ll try tweaking the recipe to make it more liquid next time around…  And yes, the frosting on the top does look a bit like a lump of poo – so I dusted them with icing sugar in an attempt to make them look less so. 😛

If you have any good whoopie pie recipes, do let me know as I’d love to try making them again!!

Pumpkin chocolate whoopie pies
Adapted from this recipe on Steamy Kitchen

For the whoopie pies:

  • 3 cups plain flour
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1 teaspoon  baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 250g butter, softened
  • 1 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1 can (425g) solid pack pumpkin puree (not pumpkin pie filling)
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla bean extract

For the chocolate ganache frosting:

  • 200g dark chocolate (I use Green & Blacks 72% cook’s chocolate)
  • 200g double cream
  • 20g butter

1. Preheat oven to 180°C. Line baking trays with parchment paper, and set aside.

2. In a large bowl, combine flour, spice blends, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Mix well.

3. In a mixer, beat butter and brown sugar (on medium-high speed) until it becomes thick and creamy.

4. Add the pumpkin puree, and beat until just combined.

5. Add eggs and vanilla, and beat until light and fluffy. (Mixture will be thin, like a muffin batter.)

6. Gradually add flour mixture (I added it in three batches), and beat until well combined.

7. Using a large cookie scoop (about 2 inches diameter), scoop batter onto prepared trays, and slightly flatten the whoopie pie halves with the back of your scoop. Leave them approximately 5cm apart. (If you don’t own a cookie scoop, do what I did and use two spoons).

8. Bake for 15-20 minutes, or until whoopie pie halves spring back when lightly pressed.

9. Cool the whoopie pie halves. Whilst waiting for them to cool, prepare the chocolate ganache filling.

10. Heat the double cream in a pan over medium heat, until it feels hot to touch.

11. Place the broken up chocolate and butter in a heatproof bowl. Pour the heated cream over the chocolate and butter, and stir until all the chocolate/butter is melted. It should form a thick and shiny frosting.

12. To assemble the whoopie pies: Pipe or spoon the chocolate ganache filling (about a tablespoon) onto that half. Place another half, flat side down, on top of the filling. Press down slightly so that the filling spreads to the edges of the whoopie pie. Repeat until all the halves are used.