Valentine's Day doesn't have to be defined by gifts like cards and flowers. Whether you plan to celebrate with a special someone or you're a party of one, you can enjoy love's biggest day with the one thing that unites us: dessert.
Already a February 14 staple, the Whoopie Pie isn't actually a pie — technically it's a cake, stuffed with a whipped filling, similar in construction to an ice cream sandwich.
The color most associated with Valentine's Day is red, so when asked to come up with the ultimate Valentine's Day dessert, McGarry knew that red wine had to be included. And so her red wine mascarpone whoopie pies were born.
"We all love to order cheese or chocolate with a glass of wine for dessert," McGarry says of her inspiration. "Now you can layer all of those flavors into one bite."
McGarry stuffs mascarpone, an Italian cream cheese, between her chocolate pie halves. A common ingredient in tiramisu, mascarpone adds lushness and richness to this recipe.
But what ties the whole dessert together, both in color and flavor, is the addition of one secret ingredient: a red wine reduction. It sounds fancy, but all you have to do is measure out a cup of red wine and cook it over a low heat until it reduces in volume.
"A cabernet adds boldness to the flavor palette," McGarry says. "I chose one with fruity undertones to add a subtle sweetness to the filling."
The whoopie pies are great as is, but if you really want to take them to the next level, you can add three toppings: a chocolate ganache (add corn syrup for shine), freeze-dried raspberries which you can pick up at Trader Joe's or a metallic sprinkle mix.
"Freeze dried raspberries are great for a number of reasons," McGarry says. "First, they add another layer of flavor. Second, they once again pick up the fruity undertones of the cabernet. Finally, they add a beautiful pop of color."
When picking a sprinkle mix, follow one rule: If it makes you happy, buy it. While you can buy any sprinkle mix, McGarry purchased one called "high maintenance" as a fun nod to Valentine's Day.
"I loved the pink and the purple colors in this mix for Valentine's Day," she says. "It matches that red wine filling but also adds a little sparkle at the same time."
Another great option for dessert for you or a crowd is McGarry's one-bowl red wine chocolate cake with blackberry buttercream. The cake is accented by a buttercream frosting made from a fresh blackberry compote, which is far easier to make than it sounds. Simple cook down blackberries on your stove with a little bit of sugar before adding to the buttercream in your stand mixer.
So whether you're ready to celebrate Valentine's Day or to drown your sorrows, one of these spiked recipes will help you achieve your goals.
* * *
For the whoopie pies
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1/2 cup cocoa powder
- 1 1/4 tsp. baking soda
- 1 tsp. salt
- 4 ounces (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
- 1 cup light brown sugar
- 1 egg
- 1 1/2 tsp. vanilla bean paste or extract
- 1 cup buttermilk
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line 2 cookie sheets with parchment paper and set aside.
- In a medium bowl, whisk flour, cocoa powder, baking soda and salt together.
- In the bowl of an electric mixer, cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy.
- Add egg and vanilla, and mix on medium speed until combined.
- Alternate adding dry ingredients with buttermilk, starting and ending with dries, and mixing just until combined. Be careful not to over mix the batter.
- Using a 1-ounce scoop, scoop batter onto prepared pans and bake for about 8 minutes. Allow cakes to cool on cookie sheets for a few minutes and then transfer to a cooling rack.