Over the weekend Shane and I spent some time with friends we don’t see nearly as often as I’d like.  A few of the girls were standing around chatting and, though I don’t remember why, at one point the conversation turned to carrot cake.  I learned it was a favorite of many people, and we all agreed it absolutely had to be paired with cream cheese frosting rather than vanilla.  I left the party that afternoon with carrot cake on my brain, and since I’m always looking for an excuse to make cream cheese frosting (it’s far and away my favorite!), I decided I’d bake one. 

The plan changed quickly from cake to whoopie pies when I found a recipe I wanted to try in one of my cookbooks, but I’m pretty sure you can’t go wrong with either.  These little cookies were just like mini cakes – light and fluffy, and studded with orange specks from the carrots.  I made my go-to cream cheese frosting then popped it in the fridge for about 15 minutes to firm up so it would pipe perfectly between the cookies.  The combination was beyond delicious!  I think these whoopie pies would be a great option if you’re looking for an Easter dessert, especially since they can be transported so easily.        

Carrot Cake

A few things worth noting: I used a small cookie scoop to portion the batter and despite starting with perfect little mounds, the cookies didn’t all bake into circles of exactly the same size (some were more oval-shaped).  It wasn’t a big deal to me, just be aware you might have to spend a few minutes matching the shapes to make the sandwiches depending on the way your cookies bake.  Also, I left mine plain, but if you prefer you could definitely add nuts or raisins to your cookie dough along with the carrots.  Speaking of the carrots, I grated mine by hand with a box grater.  I generally let my food processor do the work of shredding carrots, but I think the resulting pieces of carrot would have been too large in these small cookies. 

Carrot Cake Whoopie Pies
adapted from Whoopie Pies by Sarah Billingsley and Amy Treadwell

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon salt
8 tablespoons (1/2 cup) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups grated carrots

Preheat oven to 350 F.  Line two baking sheets with parchment.

In a medium bowl, whisk the flour, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg and salt together.  In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter and both sugars on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 4-5 minutes.  Scrape down the sides of the bowl then add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.  Mix in the vanilla.  Add the dry ingredients and beat just until combined.  Finally, add the grated carrots, beating to distribute evenly.

Chill the batter in the refrigerator for at least one hour.

Using a small cookie scoop (mine measures about 1 1/2 inches across – you’ll need to adjust the baking time accordingly if yours is larger), portion the batter onto one of the prepared baking sheets, spacing the cookies about 2 inches apart.  Bake (one sheet at a time) for about 12 minutes, or until the cookies spring back when gently pressed.  Transfer the baking sheet to a wire rack and let the cookies cool for 5 minutes then remove the cookies to the wire rack to cool completely.  Repeat with all of the dough, alternating baking sheets.

Makes about 20 sandwiches

Cream Cheese Filling
from Martha Stewart’s Cupcakes

8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
6 oz cream cheese, softened
2 cups confectioners’ sugar, sifted
1/4 plus 1/8 teaspoon vanilla extract

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter and cream cheese on medium speed until fluffy, about 3 minutes.  Add the confectioners’ sugar 1/2 cup at a time, scraping the sides of the bowl in between additions.  Beat in the vanilla extract.  With mixer on medium, beat for another minute or so, until the frosting is smooth and fluffy.

Match the cookies in pairs by size.  Transfer the filling to a piping bag and pipe a small amount onto the flat side of one cookie of each pair.  Sandwich the cookies together, and press the filling to the edges.   

Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator.

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