As I was sitting down to write this post I thought I’d make a joke about how it was the first dessert I’d posted in ages that isn’t cake. But then I realized that of course whoopie pies are cake. Just small cakes, shaped into a sandwich with their icing. So the cake parade continues ?
The cake base here is the same one I use for these chocolate peanut butter cupcakes and this dark chocolate pear cake, only with slightly less liquid. It’s pretty tried-and-true in my kitchen at this point, and I had a very fun time shaping it into this seasonal treat.
The filling of the whoopie pies is a vegan buttercream with pumpkin pie spice and a pinch of turmeric for a light orange color (you could use food coloring to make it even more orange and festive).
As I’ve been snacking on these goodies, I’ve realized that they’re in many ways a dream dessert, for me. They’re a perfect answer to cake cravings, but slightly less of a commitment than, say, a cupcake. They’ve got just enough buttercream to be decidedly sweet, but the cake to frosting ratio is skewed in favor of cake, which I like. They’re fun to make, and the piping is easy.
In fact, you don’t have to pipe the buttercream into them at all. But I found that piping was both neater and easier than trying to use a spoon or knife to fill the pies up. It’s up to you. If you pipe, you can use a homemade piping bag, and it doesn’t need to be very precise, since the pies will get sandwiched up in the end.
For the Chocolate Cakes
- 2 cups unbleached, all-purpose flour*
- 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
- 3/4 cup +2 tablespoons coconut or cane sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/3 cup neutral vegetable oil (such as safflower, grapeseed, canola, or refined avocado)
- 1 teaspoon apple cider or white vinegar
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 cup cold water (and a few extra tablespoons as needed)
For the Pumpkin Spice Buttercream
- 8 tablespoons vegan butter (1 stick)
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 2 1/2 cups confectioners sugar
- 1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice (or 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon, 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg, 1/2 teaspoon ginger powder, and a pinch of cloves)
- 1/2 teaspoon turmeric
- 1-3 tablespoons non-dairy milk of choice (as needed)
Preheat your oven to 350F. Line two baking sheets with parchment.
Whisk the flour, cocoa, sugar, salt, baking powder and baking soda together in a large mixing bowl. In a separate bowl, whisk together the water, vinegar, vanilla and oil. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and whisk until batter is glossy and smooth. If the mixture isn't yet glossy, add an extra few tablespoons of water as needed (up to 1/4 cup).
Use a 1.5-2 tablespoon cookie scoop (or a spoon) to drop the cake batter in rounds onto your cookie sheet. You can make larger or smaller whoopie pies by adjusting how big your mini-cakes are (mine were about 2 inches across before baking and a little wider after). Bake the mini-cakes for 8-10 minutes, or until set but not browning. Cool the cakes on a cooling rack for an hour or two, or until fully cooled.
To prepare the buttercream, place the butter and vanilla into the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Mix on low speed for 1-2 minutes, or until the butter is soft and fluffy. Mix the sugar, pumpkin pie spice, and turmeric, then add this mixture in 2-3 installments, beating on medium speed as you go. If the vegan butter you use isn't salted, add a pinch of salt, too.
Add 1-3 tablespoons of non-dairy milk to the buttercream and continue beating until it's still rich and firm, but soft enough to pipe. Add the milk slowly and use your judgment: you can add more milk if it's too firm or a little more sugar if it accidentally gets runny.
When the buttercream is ready, place it in a piping bag and pipe out two tablespoons onto the bottom of one of your mini-cakes in a circle pattern. Place another mini-cake on top and press gently to make the whoopie pie. Continue with the remaining buttercream and cakes; you should get about 18-24, depending on the size of your cakes! Enjoy.
These little pies are lovely for sharing, whether you give them to trick-or-treaters, offer some to classmates or coworkers, or just share with family and friends. I tried freezing a few, and that works, too: just be prepared for the fact that the buttercream edges may look a little less neat when you defrost. The pies will still taste wonderful, which is what matters most.
I don’t have big Halloween plans, but it’s a holiday that I love and always find a way to celebrate, even if that’s just watching a scary movie or smiling at kids dressed up and roaming the streets with their parents in my neighborhood. I’m happy to add a good homemade dessert to the celebration this year.
Happy Halloween, friends. I’ll see you for the weekend roundup.