Man, oh man, do I love strawberries! I love them fresh from the garden, or the farm stand. I love them in ice cream, milkshakes, dipped in chocolate. I love strawberry jam, strawberry milk, and those little strawberry candies with the syrup in the center. I'd eat them on a train, with a fox, in a box, here, there, everywhere. Okay, you get the picture. So when the call came out for a whoopie pie blogfest, berry whoopies were my first thought.
PJ had the chocolate angle covered, so the chocolate/strawberry angle was out for now. I thought about adapting a vanilla whoopie cake recipe to a strawberry cake recipe using a standard vanilla filling. Pretty good, but not the over-the-top whoopie I was dreaming of.
In chatting with Molly, another baker on King Arthur's baker's hotline, we brainstormed many different versions. Then I remembered a delicious treat from my childhood, and knew it was the nirvana I sought: the flaky puff. I haven't seen them for years, but when we were younger they were everywhere. A flaky puff pastry with layers of jam and cream, individually wrapped and sold in packs of 6. My brother Mark and I could polish off a package in a matter of hours, and then sit back to enjoy the sugar rush. That was the flavor and memory I wanted to capture—without the sugar rush this time.
While I'm here, let me tell you a bit about my brother Mark. He was born in November 1965; I was born in October 1967, so we were pretty close growing up. I thought Mark was the coolest guy on the planet. He drove a converted US Postal Service jeep; was the first person I ever knew who bought a CD (James Taylor); and he was the first person I really baked with. We'd make batches of cookie dough or brownies, eat half the batter, then bake the rest, feeling slightly ill. He nicknamed me "Bozo" ("Boz" for short), but it was a term of affection. (At least that's what I choose to believe!)
Mark and my husband, David, were also good friends growing up, and we all had great times together. Our family often visited David's family in New Hampshire on the 4th of July. The parents would stay home and we teens would play a round of mini golf at Twinkle Town, then climb Mt. Monadnock and watch the fireworks, looking down from the top of the mountain onto the surrounding towns. Getting back down in the dark was always an adventure!
One year Mark decided to carry a rock from the parking lot to the top of the mountain. We all thought he would leave the rock at the top; kind of "change the world." Nope, he carried the same rock back down the mountain and placed it back in the exact same spot. He felt the rock had never been anywhere in its life and now it had had a journey. I still think about that rock sometimes. How we pass something or someone, never knowing all the journeys they may have experienced in their lives, because we can't see inside of them.
We haven't gotten together in a few years, we lead pretty different lives, in different states. I catch up on Mark's family news when I see my folks, but I miss those special times growing up. So I'm dedicating these Berry Cream Whoopie Pies to Mark—with love, from Boz.
Let's start with the batter for the cakes.
Place the shortening and sugar in the bowl of the mixer.
Just a quick word on shortening vs. butter in this recipe. While butter does have terrific flavor in baked goods, it has a lower melting point and will cause the cakes to spread more. Shortening will remain solid longer, giving the cakes a chance to rise and begin to set before it melts, resulting in a puffier, higher cake.
Here is the batter with the shortening and sugar creamed, and the liquids added. Not very attractive, but perfectly normal. Don't worry, go ahead and add the eggs.
Still not very pretty, but beginning to look the right color. On to the dry ingredients. Please, trust me, it's going to be fine in a minute.
See, the batter is just fine after adding the dry ingredients. I think the Bakewell Cream really gives this batter extra loft, making for a nicely domed Whoopie.
Having chatted with another baker about Whoopies recently, she said her recipe called for a 10 minute rest to thicken the batter before baking. As you can see, the batter on the far left is straight after mixing, the middle batter is after a 5 minute rest and the far right is after 8 minutes. But, how will they bake up? Stay tuned.
Whoopie pies don't spread as much as they puff, so space them about 2" apart on your baking pan.
Umm, did I say they won't spread? Actually, this was an older test version, but I thought you would get a kick out of another test kitchen "whoops."
This is how the real recipe bakes up. Plump and domed, with a nice flat bottom. (We should all be so lucky!)
Setting aside the cakes to cool, let's work on the filling.
This filling is a classic whoopie pie filling with a Marshmallow Fluff base, much like PJ uses in her Chocolate Whoopies. Measuring marshmallow is always a pain in the rump roast, with sticky cups, fingers, counters. However, using a scale makes the process so much easier. Here's how:
After placing your bowl on your scale, hit the tare button (bottom right in the photo). This will zero out the weight of the bowl, leaving you at zero again.
Blob in the Marshmallow Fluff. We're shooting for 4 ounces, and Fluff is pretty light stuff, so you can start with a fairly large blob.
Hmm, just over half of what we need. Add a bit more Fluff at a time until you reach...
4 ounces exactly. No sticky fingers, no messy measures, only one spoon to clean. What a treat!
After the Fluff, the rest of the ingredients can be measured in the same way. Just be sure you hit tare between each ingredient. Whip the mixture on medium-high for 3-5 minutes, until light and fluffy. Be sure to scrape the bowl well every few minutes, to prevent the Fluff and shortening from sticking.
To assemble, spread a layer of berry jam (small surprise, I chose strawberry) on one half of a cooled cake. A cookie scoop makes a neat and easy way to portion filling on the other half.
I started with a muffin-sized scoop, but soon switched to a tablespoon size. Even for filling lovers, it was a bit excessive, as you can see.
If you really want to bump up the berries, you can add fresh blueberries or strawberries before adding the top cake. These berries are the last of summer '08 berries from my freezer. I love the red, white, and blue combo, perfect for the 4th of July.
I'm ready for my close up, Mr. DeMille.
Remember back at the beginning, when we looked at the three batters after 0, 5, and 8 minutes? Here's how they baked up. The cake on the left is straight after mixing, while the cake on the right is after the batter had sat for 5 minutes. Neither is wrong, but just know if you like your cakes a little puffier, bake right away, if you like a little spread with a bit of a crisper edge, then you can let the batter sit a bit.
Second to strawberries, I love raspberry. This pretty pink pie version has raspberry jam, and the filling has been tinted with a few drops of food coloring and a dash of raspberry flavor. Aren't you just dyin' to swipe up that drip of jam with your finger?!
Not to be punny, but enjoy the fruits of your labors, and make a few Berry Cream Whoopies today. Mark, if you read this give me a call. I think I still have your James Taylor CD.
Please (bake) rate and review this recipe Berry Whoopie Pies.