Winter chills have seeped into town. Bright sun bears down false sustenance, leaving barren trees to tremble in the icy air. Absent of snow though the days may be (for now), the frosty turn of foggy breath and arctic shivers leave no room for doubt that warmth is the number-one desired commodity now. Warmth and comfort. Warmth and comfort and languid bliss. In my short triple-decade stint of existence, I’ve learned that this is best achieved through that most dangerously seductive of avenues: the tummy. And nothing sings joyful choruses like a soft ‘n sweet treat, bite sized to match your tiny indulgences (we shall forget the ease with which infinite bites can be had in one sitting for now).
Of late I’ve dabbled in a few sugary endeavors, and will hopefully blog about more of them later. But I’d be remiss not to start with the first triumph of this past holiday season: Pumpkin Ginger Cakelets. I actually had wanted to make something like this for Thanksgiving, but having fallen ill that week, it was enough that I at least made dinner; fancy and arduous desserts would have to wait. But so you know, I originally wanted to remaster the Pumpkin Ginger Roulade (or rather, the Disaster Roulade). As the weeks dwindled by, I began to realize a roulade just didn’t hang in the balance for me. While it would be delightful for a fall celebration with friends, I couldn’t possibly make a whole pumpkin cake for just the husband and me (pumpkin not his ideal flavor, whereas I would likely eat the entire thing). And I personally don’t enjoy taking partly eaten pastries to work (i.e. half eaten cakes) so better to bake something that comes in multiple servings—like little cookie sandwiches!
I prefer softer cookies in such a circumstance to crispier or crunchier ones, and all the recipes I studied seemed to offer pumpkin cookies that held the texture of cake, so I prefer to call these cakelets than cookies. Anyhoo, may they bring as much happiness to your cold and frosty winter days as they did to me, my husband, my sister in law, my friends at work and pretty much anyone else I could offer them too in hopes that I wouldn’t indulge… too much.
For the cakelets:
- 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 tsp baking powder
- 1 tsp baking soda
- 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon *
- 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg *
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 cups granulated white sugar
- 1/2 cup brown sugar
- 1/2 cup butter (1 stick), softened
- 1 egg
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 1 cup of pumpkin puree
*You may also substitute with pumpkin pie spice if you have that on hand.
For the Filling:
- 8 oz cream cheese
- 1 tsp vanilla
- 2 Tbsp heavy cream
- 2 cups powdered sugar
- 1/4 cup crystallized ginger (candied ginger, with sugar crystal coating), chopped finely/minced
As always, first step is to preheat oven to 350F. Prepare a cookie sheet with parchment or lightly greased foil.
Have ready two bowls, one for wet and one for dry ingredients. In the first bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt. Mix and set aside.
In your second bowl (or in an exquisite Kitchen Aid stand mixer) beat the granulated sugar, brown sugar and softened butter until combined and blended, like a velvety mist of early morning sun (y’know, pale yellow and all…). Add the egg, vanilla extract, pumpkin and beat until smooth.
Grab a spatula (or spoon) and ever so gently gradually mix in the flour mixture until thoroughly combined. Resist any urges to sample your batter from the spoon… or just go ahead. I won’t judge.
Now I used a simple ice cream scooper, but however you see fit to get equal sized portions of dough on the cookie sheet, just use that method. Place evenly spaced rounded scoops of dough on your baking sheet, and bake for about 15 minutes. The edges should be browned ever so slightly and the cookies sooooooooooft and fluffy. Remove them to a wire rack and let them cool completely.
In the meantime, make your filling. Combine the cream cheese, vanilla extract, cream and 1 cup of the sugar. Blend on low speed until completely mixed. Gradually add the rest of the sugar and the crystallized ginger and blend until smooth. I use a bit less sugar than some because I like the slight tartness of the cream cheese against the sweetness (plus the ginger is sweetened too), but you add more as you feel. A note about crystallized ginger: it’s a bit dense and chewy, so I recommend chopping it up into small pieces and then blending it for a few seconds to get it more finely minced. Don’t blend it too long, else you’ll just end up with powdered ginger. Another note: If you can’t find it, you can just use a small dash of powdered ginger, but account to add a bit more sugar if necessary.
Fold over the sides of a piping bag or a ziplock bag and dollop the filling into the bottom (or one of the corners if using a ziplock bag. When ready to pipe on the filling, just snip the corner and squeeze away.
Once the cookies have cooled, pair them up so like-sized matches exist, and flip one over and begin to pipe the filling on the flat side. Top off with the matched cookie and voila! Pumpkin Ginger Cakelet is born!
These “cookies” are so deliciously soft and moist, it will definitely be hard to resist having more than one. In such a case, you might as well use some of the batter to make a cupcake or two or three… instant classic there as well.
Tell me what you think!