Brown Butter Pumpkin Whoopie Pies with Salted Caramel Frosting

Fall is finally here!  After a weird week of 90 degree September weather earlier this month, temperatures have finally dropped to more fall-like temperatures and the leaves look like they are just about to start turning colors.  And with the temperature change comes a whole new season of produce: apples, squashes, and of course pumpkin!  In celebration of my favorite time of year, I decided to make a pumpkin dessert. 

In browsing online for recipes, the first that caught my eye was brown butter pumpkin cupcakes with salted caramel frosting.  However, given that I make a lot of cupcakes, I decided to switch things up a little and make a similar flavored whoopie pie.  I had made these pumpkin whoopie pies with maple cream cheese frosting in the past, but decided to substiture salted caramel frosting for the maple cream cheese frosting.  In addition, after the success of my brown butter nutella cookies last post, I substitured 1 cup of brown butter for the canola oil in the original recipe which I felt really made a difference. 

I will admit that these did not quite go as smoothly as I had planned.  Note to self: Do not attempt to take pictures while making caramel (regardless of how badly you want photos for your blog).  The caramel requires a lot of attention and may develop a slightly burnt flavor, as mine did, if you attempt this.  I was a little worried that I had ruined it but luckily the extra sugar added in making the frosting mellows out the burnt flavor.  I then almost ruined the whoopie pies again when I realized last second that I had bought canned pumpkin pie mix (with sugar and spices already mixed in) instead of regular canned pumpkin.  Luckily a speedy trip to my local Whole Foods to buy overly priced organic pumpkin puree (is it me of do they always seem to run out of the regular product but never the more expensive organic version?) remedied this.  Despite the near failure and the extra trip to Whole Foods, the end result was delicious!

Brown Butter Pumpkin Whoopie Pies with Salted Caramel Frosting

For the Pumpkin Cookies (adapated from Brown Eyed Baker):

3 cups all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground ginger
½ teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup dark brown sugar
1 cup brown butter (see Nutella Stuffed Brown Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies for instructions to make brown butter)
3 cups chilled pumpkin puree (canned pumpkin)
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

For the Salted Caramel Frosting (from two peas & their pod):

Salted Caramel Sauce:
2 cups granulated sugar
12 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature, cut into pieces
1 cup heavy cream, at room temperature
1 tablespoon fleur de sel or Maldon sea salt flakes

1 cup butter, at room temperature
2 2/3 cups powdered sugar
2/3 cup salted caramel sauce
1 tsp salt

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line baking sheets with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat.

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, cinnamon, baking powder, baking soda, salt, ginger and nutmeg. Set aside.

In a separate bowl, whisk the granulated sugar, the dark brown sugar, and the brown butter together. Add the pumpkin puree and whisk to combine thoroughly. Add the eggs and vanilla and whisk until combined.  Gradually add the flour mixture to the pumpkin mixture and whisk until completely combined.

Use a small cookie scoop or a large spoon to drop a rounded, heaping tablespoon of the dough onto the prepared baking sheets, about 1 inch apart.  Bake for 10 to 12 minutes, making sure that the cookies are just starting to crack on top and a toothpick inserted into the center of a cookie comes out clean. The cookies should be firm when touched. Remove from the oven and let the cookies cool completely on a cooling rack.

While the cookies are cooling, make the salted caramel frosting. First, make the salted caramel sauce. Make sure you have all of the ingredients ready. Once you start the caramel sauce you have to pay close attention so you don’t burn it. To begin, heat the sugar over medium high-heat in the bottom of a heavy 2-3 quart saucepan. When the sugar starts to melt, start whisking the sugar. The sugar will clump up, but keep whisking. It will continue to melt. When the sugar is melted, stop whisking. You can swirl the pan to move the sugar around.

Continue cooking the sugar until it reaches a deep amber color. Make sure you watch the pan very closely. This is where it is easy to burn the caramel. You want the caramel to reach 350 degrees F. If you are new to making caramel, I suggest using a thermometer.

 As soon as the sugar reaches the dark amber color, carefully add the butter. Whisk until butter is melted.  Remove the pan from the heat and carefully pour in the heavy cream. Whisk until cream is incorporated and caramel is smooth. Whisk in the fleur de sel or Maldon sea salt flakes.  Let the caramel sauce cool for about 10 minutes in the pan. Pour the caramel into a large mason jar and cool to room temperature.  Note: makes about 2 cups of caramel so you;ll have leftovers!

 To make the frosting: beat the butter in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment on medium-high speed until light in color and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Reduce speed to low, add powdered sugar and salt, and mix until completely incorporated. Turn off the mixer, and then add the salted caramel sauce. Beat frosting on low to combine, and then increase to medium-high and beat until airy and thoroughly mixed, about 2 minutes.

Once pumpkin cookies are cooled, turn half of the cookies upside down. Pipe or spoon the filling (about a tablespoon) onto that half. Place another cookie, flat side down, on top of the filling. Press down slightly so that the filling spread to the edges of the cookie. Repeat until all the cookies are used. Put the whoopie pies in the refrigerator for about 30 minutes to firm before serving.

Nutella Stuffed Brown Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies

I came across this recipe a few months ago and kept it in the back of my mind for a “rainy day” (or unusually hot September night as it turns out). After a rough start to the week, I figured my surgery team could use a mid-week pick-me-up in the form of sugar and these cookies immediately came to mind. As perviously confessed, I love all things nutella (see Chocolate Cake with Nutella Chocolate Ganache with Nutella Buttercream)): Nutella crepes, Nutella ice cream, Nutella cupcakes, Nutella by the spoonful… Needless to say, I was pretty eager to try out this cookie recipe.

While these cookies take a little more work than your average cookie, the payoff is worth every minute (even when you have to sacrifice sleep for those minutes!). The extra step of browning the butter creates a nutty, carmelized cookie that is then brought to a whole other level with the nutella filling. The cookie is finally finished with a touch of sea salt for the perfect salty/sweet combination. Luckily, my hospital colleagues helped me eat these or else I may have finished the whole batch myself!

Nutella Stuffed Brown Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies (Recipe originally from Ambitious Kitchen, adapted instructions from Annie’s Eats)

Chocolate hazelnut spread (such as Nutella), about ½ cup
1 cup (16 tbsp.) unsalted butter
2¼ cups all-purpose flour
1¼ tsp. baking soda
½ tsp. coarse sea salt, plus more sprinkling
1 cup light brown sugar
½ cup granulated sugar
1 large egg plus 1 egg yolk
2½ tsp. vanilla extract
1 tbsp. greek yogurt or sour cream
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips
¾ cup dark chocolate chips

Line a baking sheet with wax or parchment paper. Place chocolate hazelnut spread in a plastic bag toward one corner of the bag. Twist so that it does not squeeze out of the top. Snip one corner off the end of the bag. Pipe small dollops of the spread onto the wax paper, about 1-1½ teaspoons each. You will need about 2 dozen. Transfer the baking sheet to the freezer and let sit until firm, about 2 hours.

Place the butter in a medium to large skillet over medium heat. Melt the butter completely. Continue to cook, whisking frequently, until the butter foams, bubbles slightly, and begins to brown. Continue whisking until the butter is evenly browned, being careful not to burn. Remove from the heat, immediately pour into a bowl (to prevent burning) and let cool.


Line baking sheets with silicone baking mats or parchment paper. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda and salt. In the bowl of an electric mixer, combine the sugars and the brown butter. Mix on medium speed until well blended and smooth. Blend in the egg and egg yolk, scraping down the bowl as needed. Blend in the vanilla and greek yogurt. With the mixer on low speed, blend in the dry ingredients just until incorporated. Fold in the chocolate chips. Chill the dough, overnight (or at least 30 minutes).

Preheat the oven to 350˚ F. Use a medium dough scoop (about 2 tablespoons) to scoop a portion of cookie dough. Flatten the dough in the palm of your hand. Place a dollop of the frozen Nutella in the middle and roll the edges of the cookie dough over the top to completely seal it in the center.

Place the shaped cookies on the prepared baking sheets, 2-3 inches apart. Bake until the cookies are just golden brown at the edges, 10-12 minutes. When the cookies are finished baking, sprinkle lightly with additional sea salt. Let sit a few minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool. Repeat with the remaining dough as needed. Be sure to replace the remaining Nutella dollops in the freezer while waiting for cookies to bake. It softens fairly quickly otherwise.