Chocolate Pillow Pies (gluten-free option!)
The weather is warming up! And that means sweets are showing up everywhere. Colorful cookies and cake pops are on display in bakery windows. Birthday parties are being announced every weekend with promises of cupcakes and goodie bags. Ice cream shops are keeping their doors open later. There’s something about longer days and clear, warm evenings that get our sweet teeth working overtime. I, too, am a victim of this sugary springtime magic.
Of course the warmer months also bring with them an abundance of fresh fruits and veggies, legumes and herbs. As long as we remember to make those kinds of items our main bread and vegan butter, then it’s okay to indulge in a decadent treat every now and then, wouldn’t you say?
My husband grew up spending summers at a family home in the quaint town of Eagles Mere, Pennsylvania. This lake town was first introduced to me almost twenty years ago, when we were high school sweethearts. I instantly fell in love with taking the canoe out from the dock to the lily pond, walking the laurel path around the circumference of Eagles Mere Lake, kissing under the gazebo in the park, spending chilly, cozy nights on the “sleeping porch” of his family home, and last but certainly not least, visiting the Eagles Mere Sweet Shop on the corner of the main intersection in town.
An exact replica of the Eagles Mere Sweet Shop (with all vegan treats, of course!) will be waiting for us beyond the pearly gates of heaven. It really is that kind of place. Penny candy, every flavor of ice cream known to humanity, toppings galore, baked goodies, arcade games, comfy booths inside and a cozy patio outside where the crickets seem to chirp louder than anywhere else on the planet.
It was in this spirit that I dreamt up my Chocolate Pillow Pies. I wanted to create a decadent treat worthy of an old-fashioned sweet shop like the one in Eagles Mere… a treat that after a long, adventurous day on the lake, with the humid air still clinging to your skin, you’d hold in your hands while giggling with your friends in the last light of the day. Chocolate would be dripping off your fingers and smearing across your lips with each bite. You’d get halfway through and consider stopping, but then think, ‘what the heck? I’m without a care in the world,’ and down the entire delicious thing. That’s the stuff of childhood summer memories. That’s happiness.
I hope I’ve come close to meeting such expectations with these Chocolate Pillow Pies. From the looks on the faces of my children when they took their first bite, I’d say I’m pretty close. ; )
These Pillow Pies feature two layers of moist chocolate cake sandwiching a layer of vegan marshmallow creme, and all enrobed in crisp chocolate. Biting into one is like sinking your teeth into a soft pillow of deliciously sweet goodness. Most “sandwich cakes” you can get your hands on are overly processed and filled with unnecessary sweeteners, preservatives and artificial coloring. How much better it is to make this kind of treat in your own kitchen! And because of the process it takes to cut your cake into rounds for this recipe, you also get a second dessert out of it… cake balls! Two recipes in one. It doesn’t get better than that.
These measurements yield 12 Chocolate Pillow Pies and about 25 cake balls. Both can be refrigerated in air tight containers for up to a week.
For the cake:
- 2 cups all-purpose flour (or gluten-free option)
- 1 cup whole wheat flour (or gluten-free option)
- 1 and 1/3 cups sugar
- 6 tbsp unsweetened cocoa
- 2 tsp baking soda
- 1.5 tsp salt
- 2/3 cup melted coconut oil
- 2 cups water
- 2 tbsp white or apple cider vinegar
- 2 tbsp vanilla
For the marshmallow creme (you could also purchase Suzanne’s Ricemellow Creme if you don’t want to make your own):
- 3 tbsp agar agar flakes or powder
- 1 cup water
- 5 ounces (or 10 tbsp) brown rice syrup
- 1/2 cup agave syrup
- 1 tbsp pure vanilla
- pinch of salt
For the chocolate covering:
- 3, 12-oz bags of vegan chocolate chips (I use Enjoy Life brand)
First, make your chocolate cake layers. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees and lightly grease a 9×13″ cake pan.
Combine the dry ingredients in a large mixing bowl.
In a separate bowl, mix together your wet ingredients. Pour the wet into the dry and mix together until well blended. Be sure not to over-mix. Pour the batter into the pan and bake at 350 for 30-35 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean from the center of the cake.
As your cake is baking, prepare your marshmallow creme.
Combine the agar agar and water in a small saucepan and heat until boiling. Allow to boil for 5 minutes, whisking gently from time to time.
Transfer the agar agar mixture to a stand mixer and beat for 2-3 minutes.
In a separate saucepan over medium heat, combine the brown rice syrup and agave. Continue to heat until small bubbles appear. Once this happens, remove the mixture from heat and gently whisk in the vanilla and salt.
Slowly pour the brown rice syrup mixture into the stand mixer with the agar. Beat this combined mixture at high speed (I used speed 6 on my Kitchen Aid until thickened and then upped it to 8) for 25 minutes or until fluffy.
Cover your creme with plastic wrap and place it in the refrigerator.
When your cake has finished cooling, carefully pop it out of the pan onto a cutting board.
Using a large serrated bread knife, slice the cake in half, cross-wise.
Slice it in half again, this time length-wise.
Place all four cake layers on a cutting surface and using a 2-1/2 inch round cutter (or something approximate to that), cut circles out of the cake. With this size cutter, you should get 24 circles. Line baking sheets with parchment paper and place your circles in single layers on the baking sheets. Place the sheets into the refrigerator for about an hour. Chilling the cake layers will help keep your marshmallow creme from soaking into the cake too much.
While your cake rounds are chilling, take what’s left of the cake (you’ll have lots of scraps from cutting all those circles) and using your hands, roll them into 1-inch balls. Place these on a baking sheet or large platter.
A few minutes before you take your cake rounds out of the fridge, prepare your chocolate coating by melting your chocolate chips in a double boiler or over low heat in a saucepan, while stirring continuously.
Now your Pillow Pies are ready to be assembled!
Scoop a generous spoonful of marshmallow creme between two cake rounds. Repeat until all 12 pies have been assembled in this way. Don’t worry about them looking perfect; remember, they’re going to be drenched in chocolate!
Once you have all these beauties prepared, use a spoon to pour the melted chocolate over each one, making sure they’re fully coated. You may need to dab some chocolate onto the sides to make sure the sides are covered.
Place your baking sheet of finished Pillow Pies into the refrigerator for about 15-30 minutes or until the chocolate has completely hardened.
Use the leftover melted chocolate for your cake balls. Simply scoop a little chocolate atop each one. These do not need to be refrigerated. The chocolate can remain at room temperature and act more like a ganache or frosting.
When your Pillow Pies are ready to be eaten, simply remove them from the fridge and serve. Keep all unserved Pies in the fridge until you’re ready to eat them.
Happy eating, from our Sweet Shop to yours.