Spiced Pumpkin Sandwich Cookies Re-Imagined
If I asked you to think back to your childhood and come up with foods that populate the quintessential brown bag lunch what would it be? Now hold that list in your mind and consider, would one of those foods not quite hold up to the nostalgia if you were to eat it today?
Perhaps a certain prepackaged confection comes to mind? One that evokes thoughts of grandma’s house, fresh baked chewy goodness and a delightful cream center?
Did I take you there, did you recall the beauty of Little Debbie’s Oatmeal Creme Pies? These sweet treats have been a hallmark of student lunches since the early 1960’s. According to the company website, these confections were first made in the middle of the Great Depression when O.D. McKee tweaked his recipe for hard oatmeal biscuit cookies into the iconic soft sandwiched cookies with a fluffy creme filling. He sold these new “creme pies” for a nickel a piece. After its initial introduction, more than 14 million cakes were sold within 10 months! To date the company sells over 200 million Oatmeal Creme Pies, Swiss Cake Rolls and Nutty Buddy Wafer Bars per year. With stats like that, I’m not sure how you could have dodged eating one of those at least once in your childhood.
Okay, well I have one final question for you. Now that you’re an adult, have you indulged in the cookie from your childhood and felt it has come up short? I know I sure have! I scoured the internet trying to find if at some point in 2000’s the company changed the recipe, thus justifying the disconnect between the flavor of nostalgia and what I now taste as an adult. To the best of my knowledge, nothing has changed, yet the internet seems to be full of tasters like myself who find it just doesn’t quite add up.
Well, enter the following recipe. While it is not an oatmeal cookie, but rather a pumpkin sandwich cookie filled with a brown butter cream cheese frosting, it satisfies the nostalgia of the cookies of yesteryear as an adult. Everything is just a bit more mature, nuanced, and full of ingredients you most likely already have at home. Also, you won’t even need an electric mixer or stand mixer to make this recipe!Print
Spiced Pumpkin Sandwich Cookies
Spiced Pumpkin Cookies
- 1 stick (8 Tbsp.) butter
- 1 ⅔ c. flour – sifted
- 5 tsp. cinnamon
- 3 tsp. ground ginger
- ¾ tsp. clove
- ½ tsp. allspice
- ½ tsp. nutmeg
- ½ – ¾ tsp. kosher salt
- ¾ tsp. baking soda
- ¾ tsp. baking powder
- ¾ c. brown sugar – packed
- 1 c. white sugar divided in two
- ½ c. canned pumpkin puree – not pumpkin pie filling
- 2 Tbsp. molasses
- 1 Tbsp. vanilla extract
Brown Butter Cream Cheese Frosting
- 4 oz. cream cheese – cold and cut into large chunks
- ½ stick (4 Tbsp.) butter
- 2 tsp. vanilla extract
- Heavy pinch of salt
- 2 c. confectioners’ sugar – sifted to remove clumps
- Preheat the oven to 375 with the racks set in the upper-middle and lower-middle positions. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper. This recipe will have you bake all 18 cookies at the same time, and rotate the two trays halfway through. Note, if you do not have 2 baking sheets that are the same, bake the cookies one set at a time. Otherwise, you could end with two sets of cookies that bake very differently because of the difference in the baking sheets.
- Melt the butter in a saucepan over medium heat, stirring often until the butter begins to brown. The butter is ready when it begins to foam, the color begins to turn darker, and the scent of brown butter-toffee fills the kitchen.
- Pour the browned butter into a large heatproof bowl. Add the sugars, molasses, and pumpkin puree. Whisk until smooth
- In a medium size bowl, combine all dry ingredients and sift through sieve to break up any clumps. This will ensure your dough is uniform, as the dry and wet ingredients will be incorporated with ease.
- Add the flour mixture into the butter, sugar, and pumpkin. Mix together, gently folding in the dry ingredients until a soft dough forms, lacking any dry pockets.
- Place the remaining ½ c. of white sugar into a wide, shallow bowl. Note if you have any turbinado sugar or coarse sugar add some in if you like larger sugar crystals in the cookie. You may also want to add a bit of ginger or cinnamon to the sugar mixture, but that is optional. Use a medium cookie scoop, or 2 Tbsp portion, to scoop the dough. Roll each dough ball in the sugar and place on the parchment lined baking sheet.
- Bake both sheets at the same time, switching them halfway through. The cookies will puff and deflate a bit, forming the beautifully cracked surface in about 13-15 minutes.
- To make the frosting, place the cream cheese in a heat safe bowl. Again, melt the butter in a small sauce pan and brown it. Add the hot butter directly to the cream cheese and let it sit for 7-10 minutes.
- Add in the vanilla extract and salt and stir the butter and cream cheese with a spatula, trying to get the cream cheese as broken down as possible in the bowl, it may even look like it curdled, but this is fine. Add confectioners sugar into the bowl, ⅓ cup at a time. Stirring vigorously until each ⅓ cup is fully incorporated. Stir in the confectioners’ sugar until completely smooth.
- Pipe or dollop the brown butter cream cheese filling on the underside of nine of the cookies, gently spreading out into an even layer. Top each with the remaining 9 cookies and place in the refrigerator for 15-30 minutes to set. Leftovers should be stored in an airtight container in the fridge.