Thursday, 10 October 2013

Pumpkin Sandwich Cakes with Cinnamon Cream Cheese Filling

It's the second Thursday of the month so it's time for the Lady Behind the Curtain Dessert Challenge.  This month's ingredients were pumpkin and cream cheese.

Well, I was seriously considering not taking part this month.  I had no experience with either of the ingredients and had no idea what I would make and who would be willing to eat it.  Pumpkin seems to be a very American thing to bake with and is not very common over here in the UK (from what I've experienced anyway).  You can't get it in canned form in the supermarket, only in fruit form, and I really didn't feel like trying to scrape out the filling from one of those.  However, leave it to Pinterest to start giving me inspiration.  Just opening up the Food and Drink section started yielding several different pumpkin recipes as early as the start of September.  Clearly the stuff is even more popular over in the states than I initially thought.  But with so many options just staring me in the face I decided I would have to give something a go.  As to who would eat it, I figured if I could get them made before the autumn half term started, I could give whatever I made to the lovely ladies at Markinch Primary School via the fiancĂ©'s mum.

I originally planned to make pumpkin fudge because it sounded really interesting to do.   Plus I want to try making more confectionery. However, I attempted it three times and all three times I failed.  The first batch burnt; the second seemed to be working until I added the final ingredient and it turned into this crumbly powder; and the final batch, whilst better than the other two, just didn't have the texture of fudge.  It was rather disappointing and I ended up with saucepans with burnt, failed fudge adhered to their bases.  It took several days to clean them all completely, which made dinner tricky since we only own 3 large-ish pots.  Really I've been needing a proper, heavy based pot for confectionery making.  Good thing I got to go to Ikea at the weekend and acquire a lovely cast iron casserole pan for half the cost one that size would usually cost then.  I cannot wait to test it out.

Sorry, I got a little sidetracked there.  So I scrapped the fudge idea and went looking for something else I could do.  I liked the idea of biscuits but I like to make crunchy biscuits and adding wet pumpkin to it would likely not yield such a thing.  Then it hit me: whoopie pies!  They seem to get classed as biscuits (or a 'cakey cookie') but I'm leaning more on the side that they are cakes.  Cookies are not cakey.  Cake is cakey!  Hence why I've called these sandwich cakes, despite the recipe I was using referring to them as cookies.

After the fudge disasters, this recipe ended up being really simple.  I ended up getting canned pumpkin from a seller on Amazon (who provide excellent service by the way).  The batter turned out nicely though it was a bit of a pain to get onto the trays.  I went to the trouble of smoothing them all over to make sure they came out nice and even on top, since reviews in the original recipe had complained of lumpiness.  I also made a decision to try and make them look pumpkin-like.  It was a complete experiment and I did not know if it would work.  I tested one by drawing the lines into the uncooked mixture first, putting in a clove stalk and then baking.  That worked okay but making the lines was quite fiddly.  So then I tried drawing them in after by running the sharp end of a skewer through the top just after they came out the oven.  It also worked but looked quite messy.  Finally I realised that since they were still quite soft when they came out the oven, I could just press the skewer into the top to make the pattern.  It worked really well and with the little clove stalks they made quite adorable pumpkins.
As for the filling, cream cheese was very easy to work with and pipes really nicely.  I ended up with double the amount I needed though.  Maybe the baker of the original recipe is just really generous with their filling?  Ah well, I saved the leftovers and used it in another batch later in the week since I needed to use up the remaining pumpkin too.

These went down really well with everyone who tried them.  I admit I was surprised since it is a bit of an out-there flavour combination but I guess the fact that it is so unbelievably popular in America should have tipped me off. 

Recipe - adapted from Land O' Lakes
Makes about 18

  • 280g/10oz plain flour
  • 1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp ground ginger
  • 1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
  • Whole cloves
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 200g/7oz light brown sugar
  • 170g/6oz canned pumpkin
  • 60ml/2fl.oz milk
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • Orange food gel (optional)
  1. Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F/Gas Mark 4 and line 2-3 baking trays with greaseproof paper.
  2. Remove the buds from the whole cloves, setting the stalks aside, and then crush the buds.  You want make about 1/8 teaspoon of crushed cloves.
  3. Mix the flour, bicarbonate of soda, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, crushed cloves, baking powder and salt together in a bowl.
  4. In a large bowl, beat together the butter and sugar until smooth and creamy.
  5. Add in the pumpkin, milk, egg and vanilla extract and beat together until well mixed.
  6. Add the flour mixture, and food gel if using, and beat until smooth.
  7. Drop level tablespoonfuls of the mixture onto the trays, spaced well apart.  Try and have an even number on each tray.  Use a spoon to make sure the dough is shaped into a neat circular mound.  Use a wet finger to smooth over the tops of each mound.
  8. Bake for 9-10 minutes until set (a skewer inserted into the centre should come out clean).  I would recommend baking them one tray at a time since you have to do the 'decoration' straight from the oven and if they cool too much it won't work.
  9. Immediately after removing a tray from the oven, use the side of a bamboo skewer to press eight lines that point towards the centre into the top of each of the cakes.  Place a clove stalk into the centre top of half of them.
  10. Transfer to a wire rack to cool.
  • 200g/7oz cream cheese (I used Philadelphia)
  • 30g/1oz butter
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/2 tbsp milk
  • 600g/21oz icing sugar, plus extra for dusting
  1. Combine the cream cheese, butter, cinnamon, vanilla extract and milk in a bowl and beat until the mixture is well combined and smooth.
  2. Add a the icing sugar in four parts, beating well after each addition until it is nice and creamy.
  3. Spoon the filling into a piping bag fitted with a large star nozzle and pipe generous swirl on the underside of the cakes that do not have stalks in.
  4. Top each one with a stalked top piece.
  5. Dust with icing sugar.


  1. Great Recipe! I added you to the party. If this happens again just send me an email and I can add you. Thanks for participating in the Dessert Challenge. ~Sheryl~

    1. Aaahhh! Thank you so much Sheryl. I didn't think I could join after the window closed.

  2. These are adorable! Such a cute idea to make them into pumpkins. I'm impressed that you went to so much trouble to find canned pumpkin. Glad you were able to participate!

    1. Thank you! I was quite pleased with their final look. I really didn't think it would work. And thank goodness for the internet and being able to buy canned pumpkin via it!

  3. these look adorable. soaking up great ideas from this round of BtCDch.

  4. Aren't these just the cutest desserts ever. EVER!

  5. Beautiful, and they sound fantastic!

  6. They look beautiful, and what a hassle you went to! This was an awesome month for me to do my first month with the dessert challenge, since I love pumpkin recipes and make them often, every Fall. Thanks so much for participating, I'm glad you decided to give it a go!

  7. Your little cake sandwiches are so cute! I love that they even look like little pumpkins :) Sometimes we just have fails with recipes but this one looks amazing, I'm glad it worked for you!