Pumpkin whoopie pies are a delightfully sinful treat, generally made with cream cheese filling. This recipe amps it up a notch by adding chai spices to the filling and making the pumpkin cookie with browned butter.
Why Pair Chai Flavors with Pumpkin?
It is tiring, given that these days whenever the leaves begin to change and the days begin to get shorter, big box retailers throw pumpkin pie spice into every product under the sun. Not only can you get edible items like macaroni and cheese, hamburgers, or potato chips with pumpkin pie spicing, no, it gets crazier.
You can get dog shampoo, underarm deodorant, and beard oil with autumn’s most pervasive scent. I mean, underarm deodorant? I think that’s taking things a little far, don’t you?
Now, please don’t misunderstand me. I LOVE pumpkin. And cooking with pumpkin really does signal crisp fall days ahead and snuggling up by a firepit on a chilly autumn evening while chatting with a loved one.
So, let’s get into the autumnal spirit! Rather that forcing pumpkin ”flavoring” into bizarre product combinations, let me share a scrumptious recipe that uses real pumpkin and real whole spices typical to chai tea.
Pumpkin and chai spice flavors are a match made in heaven. This recipe uses that flavor pairing to make a popular and fun treat….Whoopie Pies!
Where Does the Name “Whoopie Pies“ Come From?
Whoopie pies are a distinctly American treat. Oddly, even though the recipe appears to be originally Amish, this little treasure is a quintessentially Maine treat. It appears they were first sold in Lewiston, Maine at Labadie’s Bakery; however, their popularity spread and soon they were produced at other bakeries throughout New England.
These delights are beloved by children. The folklore is that when children are about to be served the pies they holler, “Whoopie!” Hence the name Whoopie Pies.
But it’s not just children who want to bolt these down, adults find them to be irresistible too. In fact, in western Pennsylvania another name for this dessert is “Gobs,” possibly because everyone can’t wait to gobble them up.
What Exactly is a Whoopie Pie?
A whoopie pie is not really a pie at all, actually it’s the furthest thing from it. Whoopie pies are more like a sandwich cookie. Typically, there are two sizable dome-shaped cookies that have a generous amount of stuffing sandwiched between them.
When true to the “original” version, these cookies are chocolate, domed, soft, and rather cakelike in texture.
When they were first produced, whoopie pies were unusually large, possibly accounting for the “pie” portion of their name. It would not have been uncommon to have a whoopie pie be so large that it would require both hands to pick up or to be so colossal it could easily be cut in half and still have portions large enough for two.
What About the Filling?
The original whoopie pies had a tasty marshmallow-like filling and that is what many traditional recipes still call for today. Making a fluffy marshmallow filling from scratch is always a choice, but in New England many cooks opt to go a different route.
In the 1930s a retail version of marshmallow filling called Marshmallow Fluff became widely available. This allowed cooks to skip the step of making the stuffing for Whoopie Pies and just scoop it directly from a can. Marshmallow Fluff is still widely available throughout New England to this day and is one of the first choices for those making the traditional chocolate version of Whoopie Pies and who want to save themselves a little extra labor.
Over time, however, other types of stuffing have become acceptable for this dessert, including different variations of buttercream, swiss meringue buttercream, and cream cheese frostings.
The most commonly used, next to the marshmallow filling, is a plain cream cheese frosting. I like the cream cheese filling the best, so I used that filling as the base and added the chai spices to enhance it even further.
TIP: A hot cup of coffee, or your favorite variety of tea are all perfect accompaniments to these fall fancies. If you are a diehard fan of chai, try this Turmeric Tea with chai spices.
What’s So Special About Pumpkin Whoopie Pies?
As noted above, traditional whoopie pies are chocolate flavored. While that’s lovely, in the fall you want your nose and palate to be in sync with the colorful visual cues of the season. Enter the Pumpkin Whoopie Pie.
This dessert’s color, its look, its textures and flavors all scream AUTUMN. It is enhanced with traditional chai spices, including cardamom, vanilla, cinnamon, cloves and ginger. These spices add a little warmth and tease your nose with aromas that beg you to nibble on these treats.
The browned butter in this recipe is a simple step that elevates your at-home cooking to that of the most elegant restaurants.
It really enhances the flavor of the cookie by giving it a slightly nutty flavor. (And I’ll let you in on a little secret, even though pumpkin and chai are most often consumed in the fall, I bake these spiced pumpkin treats all year round. I’ve never had anyone turn them down, no matter the season.)
I make the cookie itself (actually it’s more like a cake than a cookie), with a baking soda-vinegar-milk mixture. This makes the cookie lighter, as pumpkin can be fairly dense. The acid brings out the pumpkin flavor a bit more.
Whether you intend these whoopie pies for family, friends, or to eat yourself, I think they are the perfect decadent treat for any palate!
Pumpkin Brown Butter Whoopie Pies with Chai Spice Filling
Ingredients for Cookie:
- 2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
- 1-2 tsp chai spice mix spice mix = 1Tbsp Ginger, 1 1/2 tsp cinnamon, 1 tsp cloves, 1 tsp white pepper, 1 Tbsp cardamom, 1 tsp nutmeg.
- 1 tsp. baking soda
- 1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
- 1/2 tsp. salt
- 3/4 c. unsalted butter
- 3/4 cup brown sugar
- 3/4 cup granulated sugar
- 2 medium size eggs
- 1 cup pureed pumpkin
- 1/3 cup buttermilk
- 1 tsp vanilla
- 2 Tbsp milk I used 2%
- 1 tsp baking soda
- 1 tsp white vinegar
- 1 cup toasted pecans or walnuts Optional
Ingredients for Cream Cheese-Chai Spice Filling:
- 1/2 c. 1 stick butter, softened
- 8 oz package cream cheese softened
- 3 cups powdered sugar
- 1/2 tsp cinnamon
- 1/2 tsp ground cardamom
- 1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
- 1/2 tsp ground cloves
- 1/2 tsp ground ginger
- 1/2 tsp ground white pepper
- 1 tsp vanilla
Chai Spice Mix
- For the chai spice mix, mix together the following: 1Tbsp Ginger, 1 1/2 tsp cinnamon, 1 tsp cloves, 1 tsp white pepper, 1 Tbsp cardamom, 1 tsp nutmeg. You will use 2 tsp of this mix for the cookie recipe.
Directions for the cookies:
- Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Line 2 cookie sheets with parchment paper.
- In a large bowl, whisk together flour, 1-2 tsp chai spice, baking soda, baking powder and salt. (*note: chai spices will be used in filling also, so adapt amount in cookie to your preference of chai flavor)
- In a small saucepan, add the unsalted butter and let simmer over med-low heat 5-8 minutes, stirring occasionally. Use sensory clues to tell when it is done. It should be amber brown in color and give off a nutty scent. It will foam, but should not be boiling hard. Take off the heat and let cool.
- In mixer, beat sugars and eggs together to combine. Slowly add brown butter and beat together briefly to combine. Add pumpkin and buttermilk and beat all together until light and creamy.
- In small bowl combine milk, baking soda and vinegar and stir thoroughly.
- Add half of the flour mixture to the pumpkin mixture still in the mixer, then add the milk-vinegar mixture, and then add the rest of the flour mixture. Beat all of it together slowly, only until combined. Do not over mix.
- Drop about 1-2 Tbsp of batter onto the baking sheets. Use 2"-diameter ice cream scoop for large whoopies (flatten them with back of the scoop). Cookies will spread, so give them ample room on the cookie sheet. If desired, add chopped nuts to 1/2 of the cookies (these will be the tops)
- Bake 8-10 minutes or until cookies just start to brown. Slide parchment and cookies onto cooling rack, and let them cool completely before putting them together with filling.
Directions for Cream Cheese-Chai Spice Filling:
- Beat butter on high for 1-2 minutes until smooth and fluffy.
- Add cream cheese and beat until smooth.
- Add powdered sugar, chai spices and vanilla and beat until combined.
To assemble Whoopie Pies:
- To assemble whoopie pies, pair the cookies to be similar sizes (partner them up) and scoop or spread or pipe filling (see below for filling recipe) onto one of the cookie pair. Top each pie with the remaining cookie pair and press down slightly so that filling spreads to the edge. Serve immediately or refrigerate in airtight container.
TIP: These are a wonderful treat for any holiday dinner. Make the cookies in advance, but do not stuff them. Let them cool sufficiently and then freeze them. When you are ready to use them, thaw them and add the stuffing.
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