Valentine’s Day is about a month away. Yes a month.
While in college, I wrote a rather cynical article for the school newspaper about Valentine’s Day. The article went on and on about the commercially incited evils of sending cards and chocolate and how when it comes to the big day, we are all pretty much damned if we do and damned if we don’t. Sometimes I wish I could go back and tell my 21-year-old self to lighten up a little. Sheesh.
Yes, Valentine’s Day is ridiculous. But, it is also fun. If you take the serious out of it, Valentines Day can be a bright spot of pink and red glitter smack dab in the middle of what is often the dreariest month of the year.
It is with this spirit that I bring you a Valentine’s Day recipe that is a little off-beat. I’ll give you a hint. Its main ingredients include this.
Intrigued? Curious? Thoroughly disgusted? Stick with me.
When I began thinking about what kind of treats to post in preparation for Valentine’s Day, my mind went to ruby red grapefruit. I happen to think it is pretty sexy; sweet, slightly bitter and that gorgeous pinky-orangish color. Try saying it in French: pamplemousse rouge. See? Sexy!
So then I started thinking about what goes with grapefruit. Immediately, my mind went to a salad I often serve during the winter months composed of red grapefruit, avocado, cucumber and shallot. I happen to think the creamy nuttiness of avocado is an excellent counter for the sharp sweetness of grapefruit. But…could it be made into a dessert?
The final piece of the puzzle fell into place when I spied the whoopie pie pan my Aunt Jullie sent us for Christmas. Now before this, I’ve always done my whoopie pies freestyle like THIS. However, January’s Bon Appetit magazine has a whole spread on the whoopie pie versus the French macaroon [sic–alas, this is how they spelled it throughout the article], so I figured now was as good a time as any to get professional with my pies. And so, the Grapefruit Avocado Whoopie Pie was born.
Still not convinced? Let me win you over.
The cake was inspired by the Lemon Whoopie recipe from Whoopie Pies: Dozens of Mix’em, Match ’em, Eat ’em Up Recipes by Billingsley and Treadwell (the book came with the pan). My variation of the cake starts with a generous heap of grapefruit zest (I used Texas red grapefruit but use whatever toots your horn).
The zest gets incorporated into a buttermilk-based cake batter.
Even with the reddish zest, you can see the batter really wasn’t looking all that grapefruity. Once upon a time I would have left well enough alone. But then I started making French macarons which are, lets face it, the peacock of the petit fours. If there is one thing I learned from the French macaron, it is that food coloring is not only my friend, but an important visual cue for taste. So, I got out my hot pink food gel and colored half of my batter accordingly (note, I halved the recipe in these pictures).
While the batter tasted of grapefruit, the flavor was very subtle and I didn’t get that bitterness at the back of my tongue that I happen to like so much about grapefruit. So, while the cakes were in the oven, I made a simple syrup of the ruby grapefruit juice and sugar. As a side note, this syrup works well in cocktails with vodka and club soda. Just so you know.
One of the cool things about whoopie pies is that they bake as quickly as cookies. Twelve minutes and I had nearly a dozen ginormous pie halves.
Once out of the oven, I placed each still-hot cake on a cooling rack upside down. I then poked several holes 3/4 of the way through the cakes and spooned about a teaspoon of the grapefruit syrup over cake.
While the cakes were cooling, I got busy with some avocado. There are several recipes out there for avocado frosting/icing/filling. However, all roads really lead back to an Alton Brown recipe. A couple of avocados get beaten.
And then lemon juice, confectioner’s sugar and vanilla are creamed into the avocado. The recipe is very simple and despite the ridiculous amount of sugar in it, the frosting has a nice mellow flavor. After thinking about it for a couple of days, it struck me that at least to my taste buds, sweetened avocado tastes a little like banana. This frosting is rather elastic and ploppy. For this reason I let it rest in the fridge for an hour before loading it into a pastry bag to fill my cakes.
I realize that the color is interesting. It looks a lot like the Kid’s Choice (or You Can’t Do That On Television if you are old school like me) slime. But remember, we’re having fun with the day of love. What says fun more than green slime?
I know that for many, Valentine’s Day wouldn’t be Valentine’s Day without chocolate. And, I promise a chocolate recipe before the big day. But, if your honey/brother/sister/best friend/ stranger-who-looks-like-they-could-use-a- Valentine’s-treat likes things a little wild, this might just do the trick.
Grapefruit Whoopie Pies with Avocado Filling
Grapefruit Cake inspired by the Lemon Whoopie recipe from Whoopie Pies: Dozens of Mix’em, Match ’em, Eat ’em Up Recipes
Frosting adapted from Alton Brown
- 2.25 C all-purpose flour
- 1.5 t baking powder
- 1 t baking soda
- .5 t salt
- 4 T unsalted butter, room temp.
- 4 T vegetable shortening
- .5 C granulated sugar
- .5 C packed golden brown sugar
- 2 eggs
- .5 C buttermilk
- Grated zest of 1 grapefruit
- 2 T fresh grapefruit juice
- .5 t vanilla extract
- 1 C fresh grapefruit juice
- 1 C granulated sugar
- 8 oz ripe avocado (about 2)
- 2 t fresh lemon juice
- 1 LB confectioner’s sugar
- .5 t vanilla extract
To Make Cake
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
In a separate bowl, sift together flour, soda, powder and salt. Set aside. Using a standing mixer or electric mixer, cream butter, shortening and sugars until fluffy–2 or 3 minutes. Beat in eggs one-at-a-time. Mix in Zest, juice, vanilla and buttermilk. Fold in flour mixture. Spoon 2T of batter onto parchment-lined cookie sheets or oiled whoopie pie molds. Bake until cake springs back when touched–12-15 minutes.
While cakes are baking, combine 1 C each of grapefruit juice and sugar in a heavy saucepan. Bring to boil and reduce to summer until sugar dissolves (do not stir). Take off heat and set aside.
When cakes come out of the oven, let sit on pan for 5 minutes and then carefully flip and place each on a cooling rack, top-side-down. Poke each cake about 3/4 of the way through several times with a bamboo skewer or toothpick. Carefully spoon grapefruit syrup over each.
While cakes are cooling, mix-up filling.
Cream avocado until smooth (I mashed it with a fork guacamole style and then introduced the hand-mixer). Cream-in lemon juice and then confectioners sugar and vanilla. If the consistency is not to your liking, you can slowly add-in additional sugar until you get what you want. Spoon or pipe filling onto half of the pie-cakes. Top with remaining pie-cakes and WHOOOOPPPPIIEEEE!