When I last visited my sister in Washington, one of the highlights of my stay was taking my 6 year old nephew to a bakery after school on a rainy afternoon. He knew what he wanted as soon as he saw it: a whoopie pie. It was a traditional one: jumbo hamburger-sized and constructed with two round, spongy chocolate cakes surrounding a white cream filling. He enjoyed each bite of it with shameless enthusiasm, growing stickier and gigglier with every nibble.
When I got home and found myself missing my nephews, I did something I knew would lift my spirits: baking therapy. A creative, colorful process and the magnificent aroma of sweet spice were sure to soothe my soul. And they did. But aside from being sandwich-style, the cookies I made were very little like whoopie pies at all – not cakey or huge or chocolate. Instead, they were chewy, spicy, small, and full of texture. Allow me to introduce them.
Chewy carrot spice cookies (Makes about 18-20 little cookie sandwiches)
- 1/3 cup sugar, preferably brown
- 1 tablespoon melted butter
- 1 medium egg white (1/8 cup)
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 1 cup flour
- 1.5 teaspoon baking powder
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 2 teaspoons ground ginger*
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- ½ teaspoon ground cloves
- 2 cups grated raw carrots, packed (about 10.5 ounces in weight)
Preheat oven to 350 F. Line 2 large cookie sheets with parchment paper. In a large bowl, whisk together the sugar, butter, egg white, and vanilla until blended and smooth. Using a sifter or sieve over the sugar mixture, add flour, baking powder, salt, and spices. The dough will be dry; mix until ingredients are evenly distributed. Add carrots (I find it best to use bare hands), mixing them in until fully incorporated. Drop dough by the heaping teaspoonful onto lined parchment to make 38 cookies or so. Gently push down the center of each dollop of batter with the back of a spoon.
Bake for about 20 minutes, until edges and bottoms are beginning to brown. Remove from oven and let cool completely on cookie sheets. (At this point, the cookies might seem boring, and maybe even a little rubbery – but have faith. They need this structure to contain a rich filling, which will add a delightful, creamy texture contrast.)
Filling: Whip together 6 ounces cream cheese and 2 tablespoons butter (both at room temperature). Beat in 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract. Sift or sieve over it: 1/3 cup powdered sugar and 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon and mix. Place a heaping teaspoonful of the filling onto half of the cooled cookies. Top each of these with another cookie to make a little sandwich.
Soft and chewy, spicy and sweet, these carrot cookies are delicious at room temperature or, better yet, chilled. While I don’t think my enthusiasm could ever surpass my nephew’s feelings for a traditional whoopie pie, I certainly ate these cookies with outward satisfaction, as did the others who tried them. Store them in them in fridge, eat them within a day or two, and give a salute to a child who could teach you a thing or two about how to enjoy a rainy afternoon.
Maybe next time… *I was in the mood for a lot of ginger when I made these. If you’d rather reduce the ginger or use cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg or allspice instead, feel free! Also, I think a half-cup of toasted, chopped nuts or any kind of raisins would be a wonderful addition to these cookies, or – naturally – a handful of finely chopped candied ginger. If you want to make them healthier, you could make a filling out of Greek yogurt instead of cream cheese (just be sure they stay refrigerated at all times). Enjoy!