Is There Any Snack More Mysterious Than the Whoopie Pie?

Is There Any Snack More Mysterious Than the Whoopie Pie?

Crystal Ponti
Oct 18, 2016

It's debate season! And because we try to stay out of politics, we bring you instead the great debate surrounding the origin of the whoopie pie.

Did it begin with the Amish in the heart of Pennsylvania's Dutch Country? Does Maine earn the bragging rights for this decadent treat? Or does the credit go to Massachusetts, where Nancy Griffin, author of Making Whoopies: The Official Whoopie Pie Book, was led by a 1931 ad touting a five-cent "Berwick whoopee pie" made at the now-defunct Berwick Cake Co. in Roxbury, Massachusetts.

And what about the catchy name? Was it derived from the excited yelps of Amish children as their mothers handed out these gooey treats (whoopee!)? Or did the sexy show tune 'Makin' Whoopee' lend the inspiration?

Food historians may never find the answers, but food enthusiasts know it doesn't matter. This delightful American dessert, born at some point around the Roaring Twenties, has become one of our country's most treasured treats.

A Short History of Whoopee Pies: From Victorian Cream Cakes to the 21st-Century Whoopie Wars

According to the Food Timeline, whoopie pies descended from cream-filled sandwich cakes popular in Europe during the Victorian era. Since then, they've crossed diets and oceans. Today, they can be found from Pennsylvania to Maine, at farmers markets and roadside stands, and across the United States on shelves of Whole Foods markets.

But, nowhere are they more loved than in the northeastern United States, where whoopies have rock-star status — although how exactly that came to be is a little fuzzy. Some believe the dessert rose to popularity in New England after a recipe for whoopie pies appeared in Yummy Book, a 1930s cookbook by the maker of Marshmallow Fluff.

Regardless, in 2011, the Maine State Legislature voted to make the whoopie pie its official state treat. This move did not go down with Pennsylvania; the state cried foul, launching an online petition "objecting to any other state, county, or town claiming the whoopie pie as its own." It failed. And the whoopie wars continue to this day.

What Makes a Proper Whoopie Pie?

To complicate matters further, origin and bragging rights are not the only debates related to the whoopie pie. There's also the matter of taste and how a proper whoopie pie is made. Not surprisingly, there are differences between the Maine and Pennsylvania whoopies.

If you travel to Lancaster, Pennsylvania, the diehards will tell you there is no way to make a whoopie pie other than how their ancestors made them. Their cake-like whoopies were originally made from leftover batter and shortening.

Deviating from traditional ingredients (i.e., using butter or marshmallow fluff) is grounds for kitchen expulsion, and for the love of all things considered good, never make them from a boxed cake mix or use canned frosting. Also, never (ever!) compare the Keystone State's whoopies to a Moon Pie or devil dog.

Up north, however, whoopie pies are a proud cousin of Moon Pies and a sibling to the fluffernutter sandwich, invented by Emma Curtis, Paul Revere's great-great-great-granddaughter.

Maine whoopie pies are also cake-like and, as in Pennsylvania, cake mixes are taboo, but New England-style whoopies are less dense and somewhat larger than those found in the rival state. And, in Maine, marshmallow crème is often used in the filling, although whoopie pie has evolved well beyond its chocolate-and-cream beginnings.

There are now hundreds of flavors with countless types of fillings. Some of the most popular varieties have fall notes with pumpkin, gingerbread, apple spice, zucchini, maple, and candy corn (yes, candy corn!) topping the list. Yes, these new flavors might be a bit controversial, but as long as they're enjoyed, that's the most important thing. And that's coming from a resident of Maine!

What do you think? Who gets bragging rights — Maine or Pennsylvania?

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