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