Whoop(s)ie! This blog needs a new name!

My quest to start a whoopie pie stand of my very own in a Chicago farmers market.

The History of the Whoopie Pie

I was somewhat mistaken in my assumption that everyone knew what I whoopie pie was. I thought they were a classic American dessert currently enjoying a revival, but maybe they’re more regional than I thought. I’m basing this on the fact that neither of my parents knew what they were, so this could also just be a generational thing. Either way, I present to you a brief history of the whoopie pie compiled from sources of variable reliability. But that’s ok because this is just a little baking blog, and I’m fairly certain no one will be hurt if I get this wrong.

My favorite definition is from Wikipedia, the most holy of all internet resources:

The whoopie pie (alternatively called a gob, black-and-white, bob, or “BFO” for Big Fat Oreo) is an American baked good that may be considered either a cookie, pie, or cake.

Photograph: kingarthurflour.com

Now if that doesn’t clear things up…ha!  Just kidding. I really think of them as two circular globs of cake (basically the kind of thing that would happen if instead of putting cake in a cupcake tin, you spoon it directly onto a baking sheet) sandwiched together with some filling. By far the most popular and classic flavor combo is chocolate cake with vanilla filling. Kind of like an Oreo, if the chocolate cookies in the Oreo were cakes 4-5 times the size of an Oreo cookie, and the icing were more whipped and airy like a pie filling instead of icing. Although I have heard reports of (bad) whoopie pies where the filling really is just a lot of icing, but that sounds terrible to me as a frosting-hater (yes, it’s true, I am perpetually making my frosting loving friends and family happy when I eat only the cake at birthday parties and shove my gigantic frosting flowers off onto them), so I would actively try to stay away from those kinds of whoopie pies.

I have mostly seen whoopie pies credited to Pennsylvania Amish women, who supposedly used to bake these with leftover cake batter and put them in their husband or children’s lunch boxes.  Legend goes the men would later find them and yell, “Sweet Jesus!”

Just kidding.  Making sure you’re paying attention.  Obviously they would yell “whoopie!” and thus a humble star of the baking world was born.  (sources here, here, and here)  Maine also has a contentious claim for their invention.  In fact Maine and Lancaster County, PA had a well-publicized media fight about the origination of whoopie pies just last year.  Even Boston pipes up once in a while claiming to be the location of creation, though it’s more likely some PA Amish made their way up to Maine and Boston at some point and showed those northerners what was up.

Whatever you believe, it appears that whoopie pies first started appearing around the time of The Great Depression.  So if we’re currently in the closest thing to The Great Depression right now, what better time than to help bring back the whoopie pie?

The whoopie pie is American, usually rustic (molds exist, but they’re most often just baked on a regular ol’ baking sheet), and most definitely not fancy…so kind of the opposite of a macaron.  BUT they do share the important concept of two cookies sandwiched together with an endless potential for flavor combinations.  Since I was going to make American flavors anyway, the switch just makes so much sense.  Although if I were really doing a switch, I would try to make “French”-flavored whoopie pies…which I suppose would mean pistachio, almond, passion fruit, rose, and raspberry.  But I personally think my “American” flavors in my last post are more exciting.

As for whoopie pies in Chicago, it seems like there may be even less places selling them than macarons.  I had found about 14 places selling macarons without searching too hard.  This is what I have for whoopie pies:

  1. As I mentioned in my last post, I’ve seen some monstrous whoopie pies at Bleeding Heart Bakery…this might just be my first whoopie pie review
  2. It appears that WannaHavaCookie is a mail-order whoopie pie business that has just moved to Chicago from NYC (like me!) in the past few months.
  3. Diana’s Whoopie Pies is another mail-order business based out of Sauganash, which is apparently technically in Chicago but looks waaay out there…
  4. Sweet Mandy B’s in Lincoln Park reportedly has a rotating selection
  5. Angel Food Bakery in Ravenswood offers a dark chocolate-dipped version
  6. It appears Bake in Wicker Park may at one point have had whoopie pies, although I can’t find them listed on their website
  7. Sweet Ride Truck offers three different flavors
  8. Goddess and the Grocer in the Gold Coast offers a classic version
  9. The recent NY-transplant, Magnolia Bakery, may have a maple brown sugar version
  10. According to this 2-year-old Yelp review, there’s a place called Rise N Roll Amish Market at 233 N Michigan downtown, but they’re website doesn’t list that location…internet, you’re so confusing!

So not all that many, really.

I now have the unexpected problem of blog name.  “Macmaker” doesn’t quite make sense anymore, but I’m planning on soon coming up with a name for the whoopie pie business, so when that happens, I’ll just switch the website to whatever that name is.  Suggestions welcome!

Next up for this (3-day) weekend: whoopie pie experiments!

Also, that video I posted is narrated by Ira Glass, the inimitable host of This American Life, the best radio show that has become a podcast in the history of podcasts, which you should go listen to right now.

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2 comments on “The History of the Whoopie Pie

  1. rumpydog
    February 16, 2012

    I first learned about Whoopie Pies from a Mennonite bakery here in Tennessee. I’m like you- I don’t care for frosting in the middle. Yuck!

  2. Amy
    February 17, 2012

    Thanks for the history lesson, I had no idea I had been taking the whoopie pie for granted all this time. Can’t wait to see what starts coming out of the your brilliant mind, and kitchen.

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This entry was posted on February 16, 2012 by in baking, Stand name and tagged , , , , , .

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