Monday, 20 June 2011

Vanilla Whoopie Pies with Rhubarb Compote and White Chocolate Buttercream Icing

I know that "whoopie pies" is a ludicrous name and almost reason enough to be prejudiced against these. But I promise that they were really yummy and even though the target audience was all pretty stuffed from a big Father's Day lunch, these slipped down surprisingly easily and secured big thumbs up from all present. As my mum so wisely said, the real test is to ask "would I make these again?". And we unanimously thought that we would. All we need is a slightly less annoying name (sponge drops? cakewich?).

The inspiration was, as so often, the compulsion to use things up. Specifically a pack of rhubarb going brown and slimy in the fridge (mmm, appetising), and STILL some of that excess white chocolate icing from our wedding cake. I had a hunch that rhubarb and white chocolate would go nicely together and I was planning to make a normal sponge cake as the vehicle for this meeting of minds, when my mum pointed out a recipe she'd saved from a Waitrose mag for Whoopie Pies. Metaphorical light bulbs went "ding", the batter was speedily whipped up and in no time at all, we were feasting.

One of the most gratifying elements of these cakes was that they were really quick and easy to throw together. It's basically a thick sponge batter, baked in little circles (or as near as you can get to circles). Because they're so small, they cook and cool in no time at all, meaning you can concentrate on the important bit. Namely, what you use to squodge them together. 

The original Waitrose recipe suggested clotted cream and raspberry jam - which would be absolutely delicious - but I can think of lots of options. Little blueberries and raspberries wodged into buttercream? Lemon curd? Whipped cream? Chocolate ganache? Nutella? Caramel sauce? SALTED caramel sauce?? 

You could also adulterate the basic sponge mix ad infinitum. These just had some vanilla extract but you could add lemon or orange zest, chocolate chips, coffee, almond extract (blurgh), cocoa, coconut, other nuts..anything you put into a normal cake, you could put into a mini cakewich.

Yep, I think I'm going with cakewich. It just has the best ring to it. 

This filling combination was delicious though, and I urge you to try it. To make the compote, I just chopped up the bits of the rhubarb that were still ok and chucked them in a pan with some sugar and a splash of water, then cooked until soft. 

Because it's not forced rhubarb, it didn't come out that pretty Barbie pink - more of a brown, to be honest. I couldn't pretend that this was attractive. But we squished it between two layers of cake so never mind that, just embrace the brown slop and move on.

The white chocolate buttercream icing was the same stuff left over from the wedding cake - icing sugar, butter, melted white chocolate. Still delicious, still my favourite "neutral" icing (better than plain vanilla, I swear).

And as you can see, once dusted with icing sugar and adorned with a very few, very small, home grown strawberries, they looked quite cute. Not very manly but otherwise, wholly appropriate for Father's Day. And any other day of the year. Cakewiches! I'm converted.

Vanilla Whoopie Pies, aka Cakewiches
Makes 12 complete sandwiches

- 50g butter
- 50g caster sugar
- 1 egg
- Half a teaspoon of vanilla extract
- 125g self-raising flour
- 50 ml milk

Preheat the oven to 180C and line a couple of trays with baking parchment. 

Cream the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy, then add the egg and vanilla and beat well. Fold in half the flour, then half the milk, then the rest of the flour, then the rest of the milk - you should be left with a fairly stiff batter. 

Plop 24 teaspoonfuls of the mix onto the baking sheets and try to shape them into flattish circles. It'll be difficult but have a go. Bake them for 12-15 minutes or until risen and firm to the touch, then transfer to a wire tray to cool.

Once they're cooled, you can do the fun bit and sandwich them! NB: a dusting of icing sugar will cover up any clumsiness in squishing them together. We went for rhubarb compote and white chocolate icing, but the recipe suggests clotted cream and raspberry jam (yum). Let your greed guide you. 

Rhubarb Compote

- a few sticks of rhubarb, sliced into chunks of about 2cm
- 1/4 of the weight of rhubarb in grams of caster sugar (ie: if you have 400g of prepared rhubarb, add 100g of sugar)
- splash of water

Simply chuck it all in a pan and leave to do its thing until it's mushy and soft. When you stir, it'll all collapse into an inchoate mess, but it'll still taste good so I don't mind that. 

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