Sunday, April 17, 2011

Sunday Baked: Red Velvet Whoopie Pies

Spring is in the air, my daffodils are blooming and Easter is just around the corner. What better way to get into the mood then with a little egg-shaped, red velvet, whoopie pie fun!

I am still making up for lost time in my Baked Sunday Morning baking club. As I was flipping through the recipes I have yet to complete, I came across Matt & Renato's Red Velvet Whoopie Pie recipe and thought "hey, these would be fun to make for Easter." So, get your aprons on, and let's get crackin' (no pun intended).

I feel as though I should confess that up until this point I was a total whoopie pie virgin. I had never eaten a whoopie pie let alone made one. However, I had on occasion imagined myself sitting at a quiet table in Two Fat Cats Bakery in Portland, Main sipping coffee, reading the paper and indulging in one of their famous whoopie pies. In that moment, I could imagine what a whoopie pie should taste like. Ahh.... (big sighs).

Aside from the fact that I had never consumed a whoopie pie, I feel as though I put a double whammy on this recipe before I even started. Why, you ask? Well, I am just not the biggest red velvet fan. It is sort of a confusing cake for me, and I am not talking about the whole cream cheese vs. Mary Kay frosting or pecans vs. walnuts debate. I am not even going to touch those. For me, it just sort of falls short. It's not quite chocolate, definitely not vanilla, and it has this subtle but unusual acidic kick to it. I know there are many devout fans out there with red velvet running through their veins, but for me, I am still not totally on board.

Now, I do offer red velvet cake at The Great Cake Company, and I think it is a pretty darn good recipe as far as red velvet goes. It has a little more cocoa powder than your traditional red velvet cakes, and I think using a really good quality cocoa powder can make or brake the recipe. I am fortunate to live about ten minutes from Penzys Spices, a wonderful shop full of some of the best herbs, spices and extracts available. They offer a cocoa powder that works perfectly in my recipe, and I think it worked well in Matt & Renato's too. If you don't have access to Penzys, which I am guessing most of you do not, then try Valrhona or even Ghirardelli.

In honor of Easter, I had wanted to make pink velvet whoopie pies, but of course I was almost out of pink food coloring. Instead, I used what electric pink gel paste I had left and fuchsia, which gave me an unappealing, purple-ish batter. Thankfully, it didn't matter in the end 'cause they still baked up red.

Matt & Renato instruct you to place tablespoon sized drops of batter onto a parchment lined cookie sheet. This method works perfectly well for traditionally shaped pies. However, to get these guys into an egg shape for Easter (and to make my life a little easier), I made a template to go under the parchment paper. It was simple. All you need to do is trace an oval shape (I used a cookie cutter) onto a piece of paper. My cookie sheet allowed for six evenly spaced ovals.

After the ovals are traced, place the parchment paper on top of the template. Fill a pastry bag or Ziploc bag with your batter, and fill the template. It is hard to tell from the photo, but I filled the batter a little thicker at the base of the egg then at the top. This way, if the batter spreads while baking, it will still maintain its egg shape. Make sure to refrigerate the cookie sheet for at least 10 minutes before baking to minimize spreading, and also be sure to remove your template from the cookie sheet before you stick it in the oven and burn the house down... :)

My pies baked up beautifully in 13 minutes. They were wonderfully moist, and I loved that they had an ever so slight crunch on the outside, but were soft and tender on the inside. They were perfectly executed, but freshly cooled, they seemed to fall into the usual red velvet trap for me. They tasted sort of bland...

Wait! Don't stone me yet!

For some reason, I wouldn't give up on these. I sampled the cake a few different times over the next hour, and each time I would mutter to myself, "What is it with red velvet cake? I just don't get it!" ... and then ten minutes later I was back again. By the 6th or 7th time I went back, I started to realize that maybe there was something to these puppies because I simply couldn't stop sampling them. They seemed to be tasting better and better as they sat and as I ate. Almost a quarter of the cakes were gone before I realized I hadn't even slathered any cream cheese on them yet. Hmmmm? What in the world was going on here? Out came some leftover cream cheese icing (my recipe is pretty darn close to theirs so it is not quite cheating), and whoopie was made...pies that is. 

Let's just conclude this rambling post with this... these were utterly delicious from top to bottom! The red velvet cakes were the perfect compliment (vessel) for the delectable cream cheese filling. I fell in like with red velvet cake today, but I fell in love with whoopie pies. They were a perfect combination and a wonderful Easter treat. I look forward to my next whoopie

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