We are all jumping on the “back-to-basics” bandwagon, which seems to be a good direction to be heading. So when I saw this recipe in the New York Times, it had my name on it. The story goes that when kids discovered this chocolate treat in their lunch boxes, they would yell in delight, “whoopie”. The distant related southern cousin, I suppose, is the moon pie which come to think of it, should be a future recipe from Bret’s Table.
There was another reason I decided to make this yummy dessert. I had 2 quarts of chocolate-mocha buttercream frosting in the freezer from my Bûche de Noël marathon. It was begging to be eaten; plus I needed make room for a few pounds of Pastureland butter and the chicken stock I had made recently.
Here are a few things I learned from recreating this recipe.
Buttercream holds up just fine in the freezer for 3 ½ months. Just bring it to room temperature; then whip it in the bowl of a stand mixer with the whisk attachment until light and fluffy again.
A one tablespoon ice cream scoop is plenty big for scooping out the batter. Due to the smaller scoop, one can get as many as 12 pies from one recipe.
If one doesn’t have buttermilk in their refrigerator, adding one tablespoon of fresh lemon juice to a scant cup of whole milk, really does produce buttermilk.
Thinking the batter might spread too much, I placed it in the refrigerator for approximately one hour before scooping it out. As the first pan baked, I left the remaining batter out of the fridge. I determined that it didn’t really matter whether the batter was cold or at room temperature. Both batches puffed up equally in height.
This recipe is adapted from the recipe in the New York Times which was adapted from Zingerman’s Bakehouse, Ann Arbor, Michigan.
For the Cakes:
¼ pound (1 stick) butter, at room temperature
1 cup light brown sugar
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 ¼ teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon sea salt
2 cups all-purpose flour (I used unbleached)
½ cup cocoa
1 cup buttermilk (or 1 scant cup whole milk and 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice)
For the cakes: Preheat oven to 350ºF. In a mixing bowl, using the paddle attachment of stand mixer, cream together the butter and brown sugar. Add the egg and vanilla extract and beat until light and creamy. In a separate bowl, whisk together the baking soda, salt, flour and cocoa. Add dry ingredients to butter mixture in three parts, alternating with buttermilk, and combining well after each addition.
Using a one tablespoon ice cream scoop or a spoon, scoop out 24 mounds of batter and place about 6 inches apart on a parchment or silpat-lined baking sheet. Bake until tops are puffed and cakes spring back when touched, 12 to 14 minutes. Remove from oven and cool completely before filling.
For the Chocolate Mocha Buttercream:
1 pound unsalted butter, softened
7 ounces granulated sugar
2 ½ tablespoons water
½ tablespoon light corn syrup
1 egg white
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
3 ounces sweet dark chocolate, melted with 2 tablespoons water
1 tablespoon instant espresso powder
1 tablespoon rum or brandy
Cream the butter until light and fluffy. Set aside. Dissolve the instant coffee in the liquor, cover and reserve.
Combine the sugar, water, and corn syrup in a saucepan. Boil to 240ºF, brushing down the sides of the pan with water. Do not stir.
While the syrup is boiling, in a clean bowl of a stand mixer using a wire whisk, whip the eggs, egg whites, salt, and vanilla on low speed, just to combine. Remove the syrup from the heat, wait about 10 seconds, and then gradually pour the hot syrup into the egg mixture, adding it in a steady stream between the whip and the side of the bowl, with the mixer at medium speed. Increase to high speed and whip until just barely warm.
Reduce to low speed and gradually mix in the reserved butter. Quickly beat in the cooled chocolate and the instant coffee/liquor mixture. Use immediately or place in an airtight container and chill for up to 3 days or freeze in an airtight container.
For assembly: Using an ice cream scoop, spoon or pastry bag, place 1/4 cup buttercream on flat side of each of 12 cakes, spreading it to edges. Top filled half with another cake to sandwich the buttercream. Store in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 3 days, or wrap individually and freeze for up to 3 months.
Yield: 12 pies.