My grandmother was 100% goodness. There is really no other way to describe her. She was beautiful – no stunning; she was quiet yet always had something to say; she was very strong, although she didn’t have a lot of will power when it came to sweets – which always cracked me up. I spent a lot of time with my grandmother, and I always enjoyed it – in fact, I longed to be at her house with her. She offered me advice from time to time, but like a good grandmother, mostly she just loved and supported me unconditionally. In my life, she was a strong force of stability.
I have so many good memories over the years – her calming voice, her endless love of flowers (which I did not inherit), watching her play bridge with her friends or having a glass of Scotch before dinner, spending endless days at the beach then having her get the aloe plant for my very red body – it goes on and on. She was a great traveler – and was very adventurous. When most of her friends were spending their winters in Florida, she and my grandfather would go to Portugal. About 12 years ago she wanted to go to Alaska, so I told her I would go with her. We had a great week together and even went on some fun excursions – she was over 80 at the time, but that didn’t stop her. She was incredibly active most of her life – and it inspired me. I remember that my goal when I was younger was just to be able to keep up with her. I remember the day when I started walking faster than her, and it made me sad. When my daughters were born, she came out to Seattle to help – again, she was over 80 at the time. The girls loved her – and she loved them. I can still see her smile as she stared at them – even just watching them eat made her happy.
Sweets were just about her only vice that I knew of – my grandfather died when I was in high school – and he was diabetic. She hid just about anything with sugar from him – and after he passed away, she was free to eat what she wanted. I never saw her go nuts, but she would tell me stories about how she couldn’t keep ice-cream in the freezer because she would eat it all. She always kept baked goods in the freezer just in case she happened to entertain – and she would wrap them tightly and in multiple layers – just another way to make it difficult for her to indulge. She was never overweight – so I had a hard time believing she really had a problem – which made it somewhat funny to think about.
This year for my younger daughter’s birthday (which was on Thanksgiving), she had a very specific request – Red Velvet Whoopie Pies. She loves her cream cheese frosting – and she wanted to make it clear that this dessert was all birthday and not about Thanksgiving. She loved helping me find a good recipe on Annie’s Eats. I remember telling my grandmother on the phone what I was going to make for her birthday, and she wasn’t quite sure what I was talking about – once I explained them to her – she told me they sounded delicious. I know she would have loved them – but what she would have loved more was watching my daughter devour hers.
When I saw my grandmother this summer, I remember I gave her an extra big hug when I said goodbye. For some reason I knew it might be the last time. Unfortunately I was right, but she was ready to go. All I could think of when I hugged her frail body is that she will always be 100% goodness.
For the cookies:
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 2 tbsp. cocoa powder
- ½ tsp. baking powder
- ¼ tsp. salt
- 8 tbsp. unsalted butter, at room temperature
- 1 cup light brown sugar, packed
- 1 large egg
- 1 tsp. vanilla extract
- ½ cup buttermilk, at room temperature
- 1 oz. red food coloring
For the frosting:
- 8 oz. cream cheese
- 5 tbsp. unsalted butter, at room temperature
- 2 tsp. vanilla extract
- 2½ cups confectioners’ sugar, sifted
Preheat the oven to 375˚ F. Using a circular template (biscuit cutter), trace evenly spaced circles onto pieces of parchment paper sized to fit two cookie sheets. Place the parchment on the cookie sheets so that the side you have drawn on is facing down; set aside.
In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder and salt. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream together the butter and brown sugar on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Beat in the egg until incorporated, scraping down the sides of the bowl as necessary. Blend in the vanilla. With the mixer on low speed, beat in about a third of the dry ingredients, followed by half of the buttermilk, beating each addition just until incorporated. Repeat so that all the buttermilk has been added and then mix in the final third of dry ingredients. Do not overbeat. Blend in the food coloring.
Transfer the batter to a pastry bag fitted with a large plain round tip. Pipe the batter onto the parchment paper using the heart tracings as a guide. Bake 7-9 minutes or until the tops are set, rotating the baking sheets halfway through. Allow the cookies to cool on the baking sheets at least 10 minutes, until they can be easily transferred to a cooling rack. Repeat with any remaining batter. Allow cookies to cool completely before proceeding.
To make the cream cheese frosting, in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment beat the cream cheese and butter on medium-high speed until well combined and smooth, about 2-3 minutes. Mix in the vanilla extract. Gradually beat in the confectioners’ sugar until totally incorporated, increase the speed and then beat until smooth.
Transfer the frosting to a clean pastry bag fitted with a plain, round tip. Pair the cookies up by shape and size. Flip one cookie of each pair over so that the flat side is facing up. Pipe frosting onto the flat-sided cookie of each pair, leaving the edges clear. Sandwich the cookies together so the flat sides are facing each other and press gently to help the filling reach the edges. To store, refrigerate in an airtight container.
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