Remember Little Debbie Oatmeal Creme Pies? I had totally forgotten about them until a few weeks ago. I had just finished a nine hour day nannying…a day when I had forgotten to eat. It doesn’t happen often, but when it does, it’s bad. I’ll eat anything that’s not nailed down. As I neared the subway, I realized that I was not going to make it home in one piece if I didn’t eat something immediately. I swung into the nearest bodega thinking I’d grab a Kind Bar, but they didn’t have any. I went for Cheez-Its, but they didn’t have those either. And that’s when I saw it: the familiar cellophane wrapper with two suuuuuper soft cookies sandwiched with marshmallow filling and a hefty dose of nostalgia. I gave the cashier a handful of change and promptly demolished that cookie. Once I had my brain functioning again, I got to thinking about Little Debbie Oatmeal Creme Pies. They are so soft that they can practically be rolled into a ball, there are no discernible oats, and they have an ingredient list that I would find horrifying on an occasion when I don’t feel like I’m about to pass out. I could do better. And as the weather was starting to turn cooler, I decided that I could make them pumpkin. And tiny. Little food just tastes better.
When writing and testing this recipe, I tried to stay true to the Little Debbie classic. I wanted them to feel and taste authentic…but better, and with pumpkin spice. I didn’t want to take two Quaker Oatmeal Cookies, sandwich them with vanilla buttercream, and call them Oatmeal Creme Pies. Nope. I wanted for these cookies to be soft, sweet, not too oatey, chock-full of marshmallow–I wanted them to be nostalgia-inducing. But also pumpkin, because pumpkin. So I got to work.
Texture is key. These cookies have to be extra soft and puffy. Enter dark brown sugar and a bit of cornstarch. Egg yolks for richness. Pumpkin purée in place of egg whites (if we added both, these cookies would be cakey, and you know how I feel about cakey cookies 😭). Cinnamon and a hefty amount of my trusty pumpkin pie spice round out the pumpkin flavor. Yum.
Let’s talk about oats. I’ve never noticed any in Little Debbie’s cookies, which is probably why they are so incredibly soft. I thought about using oat flour to match their version, but instead went with quick oats. You can buy them in the store, but I just blitzed two cups of old-fashioned oats in the food processor until there were no visible whole oats. This gives our version a tiny bit of chew, but still keeps them feeling authentic. It’s an update worth making.
The filling is made with marshmallow fluff, confectioner’s sugar, vanilla, and one very controversial ingredient. I’m kind of afraid to even talk about it because, well…it’s shortening. And it seems like today everybody hates shortening. And I understand! Hydrogenated oils are horrible for us! But if you want to keep the filling close to the original, shortening is a necessary evil. I use Spectrum brand, which I find at Whole Foods. I’m pretty sure an equal volume of room temperature butter would work in its place, but I haven’t actually attempted it. If you do, let me know in the comments! The filling is sticky (but not too sticky), and keeps these cookies soft and delicious for days. If you make a batch on Sunday, you’ll be able to tuck them in lunches all week long.
Now that I’ve mentioned shortening, is there anyone still reading this?! Maybe not, but if you are, make plans to make these this weekend and then send Little Debbie packing. These Pumpkin Oatmeal Creme Pies are so, so good. You’ll never go back.
Pumpkin Oatmeal Creme Pies
makes about five dozen sandwich cookies
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 Tablespoon cornstarch
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon Kosher or sea salt
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
1 cup dark brown sugar, packed
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice
4 tablespoons pure pumpkin purée
2 large egg yolks, room temperature
1 1/2 teaspoons real vanilla extract
1 1/4 cups quick oats*
7oz marshmallow fluff (about 1 1/2 cups)
1/2 cup shortening, room temperature*
1 cup confectioner’s sugar
1/2 teaspoon Kosher or sea salt
1 teaspoon real vanilla extract
2 teaspoons hot water (from the tap is fine)
In a small mixing bowl, whisk together flour, cornstarch, baking soda, and salt. Set aside.
In a large mixing bowl, cream butter with an electric mixer until light and fluffy, about one minute. Beat in cinnamon and pumpkin pie spice until evenly dispersed. Add in dark brown and granulated sugars, and mix to combine. Beat in pumpkin purée, followed by the egg yolks and vanilla extract. With the mixer on low, add the flour mixture in three installments, until completely combined. Mix in quick oats. Cover dough with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least one hour, or up to three days.
Preheat oven to 350F. Line two sheet pans with parchment paper.
Scoop cookie dough in one teaspoon increments. Roll into balls and set them two inches apart on prepared pans. Bake for 6-8 minutes, until the tops of the cookies no longer look wet. Let cool on the pans for five minutes before removing to a rack to cool completely. Repeat rolling and baking until you have used all the dough.
To make the filling, cream the marshmallow fluff and shortening with an electric mixer until light and fluffy. Beat in confectioner’s sugar and salt. Add in vanilla and hot water and mix on high until the filling is very fluffy. There are two options from here:
- To assemble a sandwich cookie by piping, apply filling by pipe a circle in the middle of the underside of one cookie, leaving about 1/4″ around the edge.
- Top with a second plain cookie, with the underside filling-side-in. Repeat until all cookies have been used. To assemble a sandwich cookie by spreading, use an offset frosting knife to spread 1/2-1 teaspoon on the underside of one cookie. Top with a second plain cookie, with the underside filling-side-in. Repeat until all cookies have been used.
Cookies will keep very well covered at room temperature for up to a week.
- If you don’t have quick oats, you may blitz two cups of old fashioned oats in the food processor until there are no whole oats visible. Steel cut oats will not work in this recipe.
- If you don’t want to use shortening, you may use 1/2 cup of room temperature butter.