Pumpkin Cream Pies

ImageWhat is it about the holidays that make everyone feel like baking? Is it the change in seasons that triggers a Pavlovian response to stock up on delicious dishes in order to endure the long winter ahead? Or is it simply that because of the temperature change people wear more clothing and can afford to eat a bit more of the foods they love without worrying about exposed midriffs or cellulite?

This past weekend, dreaming of Pumpkin Crème Pies from the “Tasty Kitchen” section of Ree Drummond’s Pioneer Woman website, I waded with the recipes through the throngs of humanity out shopping, for what I foolishly thought would be a quick trip to the store. What seemed a simple task at hand turned into a nearly day-long ordeal in which I wandered from store to store, leaving each one empty-handed and downtrodden. But motivated by a yearning for the old-fashioned whoopie pies I envisioned, my “food mood” quickly accelerated from a status of moderately hungry and cranky – to completely starving and angry. The problem: the recipe called for a few ingredients that for some reason proved challenging to find with the chief culprits being canned pumpkin (versus pumpkin pie filling),ground ginger and ground cloves.

Stumbling onward, on my third attempt, I entered a pricey gourmet grocery that I felt assured would have exactly what I was looking for. Quickly scanning the aisles, I found the one marked “baking” and rounded the corner just in time to see a greedy shopper snatch the last can of Libby’s pureed pumpkin off the shelf. With a gleam of self-satisfaction in her eye, she raised the can over her head in a sure sign of victory, and gave me a knowing smirk, proof that I was not the only person on this same quest.

ImageAs I turned to leave, feeling annoyed but bolstered by the competition and the almost empty shelf of McCormick’s spices in front of me, I encountered a pretty blond woman standing next to me with a quizzical look on her face. (Was she in search of the same ingredients as me?) Without skipping a beat, she asked me if I thought she could substitute the lone container of pumpkin pie spice for the same aforementioned missing ingredients. I told her I doubted it and scanned the label to see whether ground cloves or ginger were even on the list of contents. After a quick assessment, I broke the news to her that I thought her substitution would be a recipe for disaster.

Sharing a moment of resignation that also provided me a chance to rethink my strategy, we agreed to press on in our mutual searches. But before leaving, the blonde turned to me, shrugged her shoulders and said, “I guess pumpkins are hot…” Stifling the urge to bust out cackling, as visions of Paris Hilton came immediately to mind, I nodded in agreement, ran into the parking lot, and once out of ear shot started convulsing with laughter over the absurdity of her comment and my overall situation.

Refusing to give up, I became a man on a mission. Pulling out my Blackberry, I mapped my way across town to an A&P that I vaguely remembered. Going into full commando mode, I sped to the address as if my life depended on it. I raced inside, zooming to the back of the store where I hit pay dirt. Like an assassin, I moved in fast, located the coveted items, quickly gathered them up and literally ran to the register slamming down cash I meant business. Startled, the clerk took my money and bagged the goods, and I left stealthily sneaking out the back entrance before any other intrepid holiday cooks arrived. In the end, I felt vindicated for my efforts: the pies were delicious and definitely worth the time, and trouble, to make them.



1 cup Brown Sugar
1 cup Sugar
1 cup Vegetable Oil
1 can Pumpkin (15 Oz.)
2 whole Eggs
1 teaspoon Vanilla Extract
3 cups All-purpose Flour
1 teaspoon Baking Soda
1 teaspoon Baking Powder
1 Tablespoon Cinnamon
1 teaspoon Ground Ginger
½ teaspoons Salt
½ teaspoons Ground Nutmeg
¼ teaspoons Ground Cloves


1 package Cream Cheese Softened (8 Oz.)
1 stick Unsalted Butter, Room Temperature
1 package Powdered Sugar (16 Oz.)
3 drops Vanilla Extract
2 dashes Cinnamon


Preheat oven to 350°F.

Pumpkin Creme Pies: Beat together brown sugar, sugar, oil and pumpkin. Add eggs one at time, mixing well after each addition, followed by the vanilla.

In a separate bowl, mix together the dry ingredients.

Slowly incorporate the dry ingredients into the wet until just combined.

Cut 3 inch squares of parchment paper, about 24. Using a pastry bag with a round tip, or a big zip top plastic bag with one corner snipped, squeeze out concentric circles of batter, starting from the middle and working outward until the circles are about 2 inches in diameter. (Note that the squares allow the baker to move the square while keeping the bag in the same spot. Just squeeze for easy circle making!)

Transfer each square to a baking sheet. Bake for 11 minutes, or until firm, and cool on a rack.

Cream Cheese Filling: Beat together cream cheese and butter. Add powdered sugar, vanilla and cinnamon. Frost flat side of half the pies and top with another piece.

Enjoy right away, or chill overnight. These keep very nicely in the fridge for at least a few days.


Seale "Brother" Ballenger is a twenty-two year veteran of the book publishing industry and currently works as Vice President and Group Publicity Director for the William Morrow Division at Harper Collins Publishers. He is the author of HELL'S BELLES: A Tribute to the Spitfires, Bad Seeds, and Steel Magnolias of the New & Old South. Seale, his partner Chris, and their two French bulldogs, Maddie and Petey, live in New York City.