It rained that entire morning in Portland two years ago, but I just had to visit the farmers market. The stalls along Congress artfully stacked with greens, beets, radishes, sunflowers — colors intensified by a grey sky. It was lovely, though numb fingers and wet feet threatened the enjoyment of our last Maine morning.

Clutching coffees we ducked into Two Fat Cats Bakery. Our second visit in two days.

Two Fat Cats is a baker’s bakery, where mixing, assembling and from-scratch baking happens right before your eyes. Part of its cozy charm is that the one-room establishment is tucked down a flight of well-worn stairs in a quaint, old building.

The array of delicious wonders and wafts of warm air and intoxicating aromas enough to blow your mind. We had eyes for whoopie pies. Again. Both times traditional chocolate with marshmallow creme.

Flash forward to now, when the cool, wet weather has given me the perfect excuse to stay home and cook. Inspired by the holiday and the usual autumn flavor combinations, I thought back to Maine and quickly began dreaming up my own seasonal whoopie pie.

Coconut-scented chestnut cream cheese swirled between subtly spiced pumpkin sponge cakes.

Have you ever felt compelled to recreate (or revamp) something you ate?

I roasted fresh chestnuts bought at the farmers market, simmered the nut meats in a bit of milk, and then pureed until creamy. This goes into the filling along with cream cheese, coconut butter and powdered sugar. I couldn’t stop licking the spatula.

I wait patiently all year for winter squash season, so you would think I made the sponge with fresh pumpkin. As it was I only had canned, which is just as good in a pinch. Now that I know the recipe is a keeper, it’s an easy swap next time.

For some reason whoopie pies were something I expected would turn out badly for home bakers. These proved me wrong. I was pleasantly surprised by melt-in-your-mouth (pumpkin-shaped) pies, worthy of a whoop on a chilly rain-swept day.

Pumpkin Whoopie Pies with Coconut-Chestnut Cream [makes 8 to 10 whoopie pies]

Printable recipe

squirrel bread notes: To make your own pumpkin puree, quarter a small to medium-sized baking pumpkin, remove seeds and fibers, roast in a 400° F oven until soft, and then process the pumpkin meat in a blender or food processor until smooth.

For the sponge:

1/2 c sunflower (or other neutral-flavored) oil

3/4 c light brown sugar

1/2 t vanilla extract

1 large egg, at room temperature

1/4 c + 1 1/2 T pumpkin puree, not pie filling if using canned

2 c all-purpose flour — I actually used a combination of AP, whole wheat pastry and rice flour

1/2 t baking powder

1/2 t baking soda

1/2 t salt

1 t ground cinnamon

1 t ground ginger

For the filling:

1/4 c chestnut puree, homemade (see recipe below) or store-bought

6 oz cream cheese, at room temperature

3/4 c coconut butter, homemade or store-bought, or an equal amount unsweetened coconut flakes + a splash of water or milk, if needed to thin

1 c powdered sugar, slightly more or less as desired

Preheat the oven to 325° F and line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

Using a hand-held whisk or stand mixer with paddle attachment, mix together the oil, sugar and vanilla until combined and light in color. Add the egg and pumpkin puree, and mix until ingredients are incorporated.

Sift together the remaining ingredients and add to the liquid mixture in two batches, mixing together thoroughly on a medium speed until batter is smooth.

Transfer batter into a piping bag or a zipper-top bag with the corner snipped off. Pipe batter onto prepared sheets in the shape of pumpkins (aim for a fat heart shape) about 2″ in diameter. The sponge will spread during cooking, so keep them 1 1/2 to 2″ apart. Place in the oven and bake 10-13 minutes, or until golden and the sponge bounces back when lightly touched. Cool 1 minute on the sheets and then transfer to a rack. Allow to cool completely before filling.

Using the hand-held whisk or stand mixer with paddle attachment, mix together the chestnut puree, cream cheese and coconut butter on a low speed until smooth. Add the powdered sugar and continue mixing on a low speed. Once all the ingredients are well-combined, increase the speed to high and beat until light and fluffy. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator 30 to 40 minutes to set slightly.

To assemble the whoopie pies, take one sponge and spread roughly 1 tablespoon filling on to the flat side, adding a little more if needed. Place another sponge on top (flat side down) to create a sandwich. Repeat with the remaining ingredients. Serve.

Adapted from The Guardian

+ + +

Chestnut Puree

1/2 pound fresh chestnuts

1 c milk, preferably whole or 2% but whatever you have is fine

water, as needed

Preheat oven to 450° F. Cut a small X on the top of each chestnut with a very sharp knife. Roast chestnuts on a baking sheet 20 to 30 minutes, until a darker shade of brown and the X peels back to reveal the inner nut.

Cool nuts on the tray and then peel, discarding shells. Coarsely chop and measure out 1/2 cup. Combine chestnuts, milk and salt in a saucepan. Bring to a simmer, and cook, partially covered, until chestnuts are soft, about 10 minutes. If milk cooks down, add a splash or two of water.

Transfer contents of the saucepan to the bowl of a food processor. Process until an even puree forms, scraping down the sides of the bowl as necessary.

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