Ah, the end of August, when thoughts turn to fireflies, the last of the cucumbers and “Um, when the hell are you all going back to school, anyway?”
Here in DC kids are already back -- obscene, I know -- but in the waning days of the month, when everyone is tired of camp, swimming, DEET, and rain, I find myself randomly walking around the house, picking up stubbornly-dirty beach towels, and yelling at no one in particular, “Get off that iPad and do something productive.”
In my house kids know that means one of two things: putting something away or baking. The Incipient is no fool, and immediately turned her attention to Whoopie Pies with Raspberries and Lemon-Scented Cream. Why this recipe, I asked? “I like whoopie pies.” Works for me.
She and her friend put them together with a bit of supervision from me, which largely amounted to pulling out parchment paper (which Beautiful, Memorable Food does not tell you to use, but I do) and saying, “You really ought to beat that butter for longer” before going back to the newspaper.
I really avoid whoopie pies because they always seemed a tad difficult with a lot of room for error, but these guys are incredibly moist, divinely chocolatey and surprisingly simple. You will note that these have to be constructed as you go because of course you’ve got fresh cream here. This would be a really fun dessert for a last minute Friday night dinner when your neighbors or whomever else shows up looking for some chow. Not so much for a bake sale.
It seems, from my observation, that there are a few keys to making this recipe successfully: Do use good Dutch-processed cocoa as these cakes are pretty chocolatey; do make sure you have uniform measure when you blob the batter out on the pan (they used their hands and not the quarter cup); do turn them as instructed while baking and watch your oven like a hawk.
About the cream: some people raised a skeptical flag about lemon with chocolate. This is reasonable. But I have to tell you it is very subtle (they zested a small lemon so probably less than a teaspoon) and gives a nice gentle push to the cream. It helps make the recipe easy as well because you’re not really messing with frosting.
We did not use the raspberries, because none we saw looked good. That’s August for you, baby.
For the chocolate cakes:
- 2 cups all purpose flour
- 2/3 cups Dutch-process cocoa
- 1 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 cup well-shaken buttermilk
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 stick unsalted butter
- 1 cup dark brown sugar
- 1 large egg
For the filling:
- 12 ounces whipping cream
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 4 teaspoons confectioner's sugar
- 1 teaspoon lemon zest (from one lemon)
- 6 ounces fresh red raspberries (about 30)
- First, prepare the cakes. Preheat oven to 350.
- Whisk together flour, cocoa, baking soda, and salt.
- In another bowl, cream together butter and sugar. When light and fluffy, add in egg.
- Mix in 1/2 of the flour mixture into the butter mixture.
- Add vanilla and buttermilk.
- Combine in the rest of the flour mixture with the batter.
- Measure out 1/4 cupfuls of batter onto two baking sheets, leaving about 2 inches around each cake. Bake for about 12 minutes, switching pan position after 6 minutes. Cakes are done when they spring back to touch. Be careful not to overbake or they'll dry out. Cool completely on baking sheets before assembling into whoopie pies.
- While cakes are baking, prepare the filling. First, whip cream into soft peaks, then gently stir in sugar, lemon zest, and vanilla. Refrigerate until ready to assemble whoopie pies.
- Assemble whoopie pies just before serving. Mound about 2 tablespoons of prepared cream filling onto the bottom half of a cake. Then place about 5 raspberries onto cream, and top with another cake, bottom down. There will be extra cream-- feel free to serve with another dollop on the side, if eating on a plate.
Want to join Jenny in the Kitchen? Check out last week's summer side -- Simple Succotash.
Photo by James Ransom
By day, Jennifer Steinhauer, aka Jenny, covers Congress for The New York Times. By night, she is an obsessive cook.