My Mom’s Gluten-Free Pumpkin Whoopie Pies and Expat Thanksgiving

My Mom’s Gluten-Free Pumpkin Whoopie Pies and Expat Thanksgiving

The holidays, particularly a uniquely American and family-focused holiday like Thanksgiving, can be difficult for an expat thousands of miles away from their family on any given day. From our very first Thanksgiving here, it was very important to me that I make my family’s classic gluten-free pumpkin whoopie pie recipe for the occasion. By making this dish, I could bring bit of family tradition to the holiday no matter where I found myself.

Our Thanskgivings have looked a lot different over here — our first spent in Norway eating reindeer under the Northern Lights; our second at work, which left me feeling grateful I could sneak into the boardroom to take the FaceTime call from my family; and our last, spent with Andrew’s siblings at Winter Wonderland. Each has been special, especially thanks to our annual Friendsgiving. we’ve had the wonderful luck to gather with friends around beautifully adorned tables (thanks, Michelle!) for a Friendsgiving feast on the Saturday after Thanskgiving. For this meal, everyone pitches in pot-luck style and, of course, my contributions include my gluten-free pumpkin whoopie pies.

Bringing the recipe across the pond was first inspired by finding canned pumpkin in our local Whole Foods around the time of Canadian Thanksgiving. Once that key ingredient was discovered here in the UK, it was on. However, finding all of the ingredients was nothing short of an adventure, as I endeavored to track down the specialized gluten-free flours and determine whether or not shortening was possible to find here (and how much I’d be willing to pay for it). And then there’s the whole other task of contending with a UK oven!

Despite the challenges, this is my third year running making these favorite treats. My friends here have come to request them at Thanksgiving and Christmas time, which brings me great joy. This year, I even had the chance to introduce my in-laws to my gluten-free pumpkin whoopie pies, during their visit over Thanksgiving.

It is a joy to share this special family recipe with my friends here and I am happy to share it widely here on the blog! I hope you enjoy them, no matter the time of year.

Laura's Gluten-Free Pumpkin Whoopie Pies
Prep Time
15 mins
Cook Time
12 mins
Total Time
27 mins

The perfect post-Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner dessert, that even the celiacs in your family can enjoy!

Course: Dessert
Cuisine: American
For the pies:
  • 2 cups brown sugar
  • 1 cup vegetable (I've used olive oil and sunflower oil in the past.)
  • 1 can pumpkin puree (You can find canned pumpkin the UK at Whole Foods!)
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 cups rice flour (You can find rice flour at most retails in the UK - I use Dove's Farm brand.)
  • 1/2 cup tapioca flour (You can find this at Whole Foods in the UK.)
  • 1/2 cup potato starch (I ordered this from
  • 3 tsp xantham gum (Much easier to find and cheaper in the UK than US!)
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 1/2 tbsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tbsp ground ginger
  • 1/2 tbsp ground cloves
For the American filling:
  • 1 egg white (beaten)
  • 2 tbsp milk
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 2 cups confectioner's sugar
  • 3/4 cup shortening
For the UK filling, from Betty Crocker's Vanilla Buttercream Frosting recipe:
  • 3 cups icing sugar
  • 1/3 cup softened butter
  • 1 1/2 tsp vanilla
  • 1-3 tbsp milk
For the pies:
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a cookie sheet.

  2. In a mixer or food processor, mix the sugar and oil. Add the pumpkin and eggs. Mix well.

  3. In a separate bowl, mix the remaining pie ingredients. Add the flour mixture to the egg mixture, and mix well. 

  4. Drop the dough by heaping tablespoons onto the cookie sheet.

  5. Bake 10 to 12 minutes. Let cool completely before adding filling.

For the American filling:
  1. Mix the egg white, milk, vanilla and 1 cup of the sugar in a food processor or mixer. 

  2. Add the second cup of sugar and the shortening. Mix well.

  3. To assemble the pies, spread a dab of filling on the flat side of one cookie. Top with another cookie to form a sandwich.

For the UK filling, from Betty Crocker:
  1. In medium bowl, mix powdered sugar and butter with spoon or electric mixer on low speed. Stir in vanilla and 1 tablespoon of the milk.

  2. Gradually beat in just enough remaining milk to make frosting smooth and spreadable. If frosting is too thick, beat in more milk, a few drops at a time. If frosting becomes too thin, beat in a small amount of powdered sugar.

Recipe Notes

You can find the original Betty Crocker Vanilla Buttercream Frosting recipe here.

Expat Thanksgiving

As this was our last Thanksgiving/Friendsgiving in London, I can’t help but reflect on the experience. Having only ever celebrated Thanksgiving in the Boston area with my own family and Andrew, it’s been special finding our own new ways of celebrating. Despite being away from our families, we’ve had so much to be grateful for each year, not the least of which being the friends with whom we’ve shared a turkey feast.

Our expat friends come from all over the US, and it’s been so much fun discovering everyone’s different Thanksgiving traditions at Friendsgiving. This year I learned Southerners call stuffing “dressing” (I thought it meant gravy at first, ha!). Our Friendsgivings were started by our friends who have lived all over the world, who were willing to graciously host so many of us. They understood the importance of keeping home traditions while making all of us feel welcome that first autumn in London.

Attending these potluck style meals has meant I’ve had some cooking to do! My favorite Thanksgiving recipes I’ve discovered during our expat experience are this Honey Roasted Butternut Squash with Cranberries and Feta and Martha Stewart’s Classic Mashed Potatoes. Both are so good and will definitely continue to be staples at our Thanksgiving table. (I should note ­– if you are making Martha’s potatoes in the UK, sub the heavy cream for double cream J).

Gratitude is the attitude this time of year and as our expat experience comes to an end, I can’t help but feel immensely grateful for the friendships we’ve made in London. I hope you enjoy this pumpkin whoopie pies recipe. Please let me know if you make them!


Jenn is an American expat living in London, spending her time freelancing, traveling and writing on this here blog. Thank you for reading. Are you planning a trip here? Tell me your plans in the comments!

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