**WARNING – contains images of extreme kitchen horror. Not suitable for readers of a sensitive nature**
***SECOND WARNING – contains the words ‘poo’ and ‘pee’. I’m sorry***
Another charity on TV, another cake sale at work. It’s an established event now, the cake stall, and people are starting to get quite competitive about the whole thing, if the spread last Friday is anything to go by. There were scores of beautiful cakes, bakes and other assorted treats, and scores of people ready to put their money in the bucket and buy more cake than is sensible. Since it was for Comic Relief, I liked the idea of making a cake that looked like a red nose – I’d seen the phrase ‘red velvet whoopie pies’ knocking around the internet, and thought they’d be perfect.
The first thing I did was order some quality red food dye from the internet; I bought it on eBay from a rather wonderful seller, Party Animal. If you want cake decorating things, check them out. The food colouring you get in the tiny bottles never gets past pink, and if you push it you just end up with food that tastes like additives or crushed beetles, depending what you’ve been using. As you can see, the thicker food colouring gave a much more vibrant result, a true red. Unfortunately it also gave the result of turning my kitchen into a scene from Carrie, CSI, Hellraiser or Dexter, depending on which reference means most to you. Luckily for you, if your imagination is running on low today, I have evidence. I found myself looking around the kitchen and feeling both horror and hilarity, and had to try to capture the moment to share. I had to wash my hands first, though, since they looked like I’d been involved in some kind of goat sacrifice.
The inherent mess in working with food colouring so vibrant was not aided by the fact that I had only an hour and a half to make the whoopie pies before I was going out again, the fact that I’ve only made whoopie pies once before and didn’t have the technique quite down yet and the fact that my kitchen is, as previously pointed out, very small… Without further excuse making, I present to you my Hammer Horror Kitchen:
These photos don’t convey the feeling of standing in your kitchen, surrounded by mess of a red variety and thinking to yourself ‘I have to clean this up again and no matter how much red food dye I slash around, Dexter is never going to show up here with his weirdly attractive face’.
As you can tell, I found the recipe slightly challenging to make, but absolutely worth it. I made up my own filling for the pies, which I’ll share shortly, but the sponges were made following this recipe from Annie’s Eats. Hers look so beautiful and perfect, like butter wouldn’t melt in their mouths, if they had mouths. Mine were much more mischievous than that, and less cute as they were round and not heart-shaped; I wanted them to look like red noses for Comic Relief, you see. The part of the recipe I had most trouble with was piping the mix out on to the baking sheet; the batter was extremely stiff and my piping bag actually gave its life for this recipe, since I was putting so much effort into pushing the batter through the nozzle that it tore. Let that be a lesson to us all. I’m not sure if I did something wrong with the cake mix; it certainly tasted great, it was just such a pest to get onto the baking sheet. I found myself piping little piles of batter that looked (I’m sorry to say it) like cartoon poo, then flattening them into circles with a teaspoon, initially, then my fingers as I grew increasingly frustrated with my inability to form perfect circles. This is why I had goat sacrificer’s hands. Next time I would still use a piping bag but I’d slightly thin the batter before using, and I’d probably just leave them in the shape they came out; alright, maybe not exactly like little poos but I’d just flatten them a little and have nice plump, round whoopie pies instead of flat, wide ones. I wish I’d taken a photo of the rows of poo, they were pretty comical.
Once I’d wrestled the cake mix into approximate circles on baking trays, and then baked them and let cool for the recommended ten minutes, it was time to sandwich them together. It’s important to let them cool because if you don’t, the still-soft middle will come apart and you’ll be extremely upset. I know this because the first time I made whoopie pies I did not observe the cooling off time. Luckily I was only foolish enough to try to lift two cookies off the sheet before leaving them alone for a while. Learn from my mistakes, people. To fill the whoopie pies, I made a marshmallow cream cheese frosting, as follows:
- about 50g Marshmallow Fluff – a quarter of a jar
- 3tbsp cream cheese
- 4.5 – 5oz icing sugar – enough to form stiff peaks
You know the drill by now; get out the hand mixer, whizz up the marshmallow fluff and cream cheese then gradually add the sugar until it’s thick and holds its shape, and tastes like it might turn you diabetic. This recipe will set when left overnight, too, because of the fluff, so it’s ideal for whoopie pies that don’t slide apart and cover you with icing when you bite into them.
I paired up the cake halves as you can see in the photo – once again, nowhere near as neat and pretty as Annie’s, even though I posed them for the photo. You can see the red circles where the cakes baked on the parchment. The more I look at the havoc this food dye wreaked the more glad I am that I only ate one of these cakes. I can imagine it might have been like eating too much beetroot and I’d have got a big fright an hour or so later on when I thought I was dying because my pee was bright red… The one I ate was the smallest one, I didn’t want it to get bullied by the other cakes on the stall. Plus, I had to test them, obviously.
I used a teaspoon rather than get out another piping bag to fill the whoopie pies, and about a teaspoon of filling was sufficient for each one. I wanted them to have a kind of rough and ready finish, with some filling peeking out from between the cakes and some hiding away, so using a spoon and then squishing the two cakes together was a good approach. Piping the filling in and gently sticking the top cake on would give a neater finish, undoubtedly. I made twice as much icing as I’ve detailed amounts for, so it’s in the freezer. Will it freeze and defrost alright? We’ll find out when I next want to make something with marshmallow icing.
I let the whoopie pies sit on a rack to cool while I tidied round the kitchen and put a lot of things in the washing machine, by which time the frosting had set a little and I could stack them up in a tupperware, ready to take to work. This process took exactly an hour and a half, which sounds like quite a lot but went by extraordinarily fast.