Whoopie Pie History and Recipes

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Whoopie pies are considered a New England phenomenon and a Pennsylvania Amish tradition.  They have also been known as a “gobs” in Western Pennsylvania (see Gob History below).

They are one of Maine’s best known and most loved comfort foods.  People from Maine even claim that they were weaned on whoopie pies.  In Maine, these treats are more like a cake than a pie or a cookie, as they are very generously sized (about hamburger size).  They are so huge that you will want to share one with a friend.  Also, a big glass of milk is almost mandatory when eating a Whoopie Pie.

 

Whoopie Pie
Photos from Labadies Bakery

 

New England Whoopie Pies – Amish Whoopie Pies – Gob History:

A whoopie pie is like a sandwich, but made with two soft cookies with a fluffy white filling.  Traditional ones are made with vegetable shortening, not butter.  The original and most commonly made whoopie pie is chocolate. but cooks like to experiment, and today pumpkin whoopie pies are a favorite seasonal variation.

The recipe for whoopie pies has its origins with the Amish, and in Lancaster county, Pennsylvania, it is not uncommon to find roadside farm stands offering these desserts.  Amish cooking is about old recipes that have fed families for generations, with no trendy or cross-cultural fusions or mixtures.  These cake-like whoopie pies were considered a special treat because they were originally made from leftover batter.  According to Amish legend, when children would find these treats in their lunch bags, they would shout “Whoopie!”

Main’s earliest claim is from the Labadie’s Bakery in Lewiston, Massachusetts.  They first started selling Whoopie Pies in 1925 with the opening of their bakery.  The Labadie’s Bakery remains in the same location today.

The Berwick Cake Company of Roxbury, Massachusetts, also manufactured “Whoopee pies” since at least 1931.  Some think that Berwick’s pies actually date to 1927.  Berwick closed its Roxbury plant in 1977.

The question of how the Amish dessert got to be so popular in New England probably is addressed in a 1930s cookbook called Yummy Book by the Durkee Mower Company, the manufacturer of Marshmallow Fluff.  In this New England cookbook, a recipe for Amish Whoopie Pie was featured using Marshmallow Fluff in the filling.


According to the Marshmallow Fluff website:

The origins of Marshmallow Fluff actually go back to 1917.  Before WWI, a Sommerville MA man named Archibald Query had been making it in his kitchen and selling it door to door, but wartime shortages had forced him to close down.  By the time the war was over, Mr Query had other work and was uninterested in restarting his business, but he was willing to sell the formula. Durkee and Mower pooled their saving and bought it for five hundred dollars . Having just returned from France, they punningly renamed their product “Toot Sweet Marshmallow Fluff” but “Toot Sweet” didn’t stay on the label for long.  The situation of “no customers, but plenty of prospects” didn’t last long either.

An early receipt still in the company’s scrap books records the sale in April, 1920 of three one-gallon cans to a  vacation lodge in New Hampshire.  The price at the time was $1.00 a gallon!  The door to door trade gained a reputation among local housewives that eventually placed Fluff onto local grocers shelves.  Retail trade spread from there to the point where in 1927 they were advertising prominently in Boston newspapers.

Durkee-Mower became a pioneer in radio advertising when in 1930 they began to sponsor the weekly “Flufferettes” radio show on the Yankee radio network, which included twenty-one stations broadcasting to all of New England.  The fifteen minute show, aired on Sunday evenings just before Jack Benny, included live music and comedy skits, and served as a stepping stone to national recognition for a number of talented performers.  The show continued through the late forties.

Each episode ended with a narrator reporting that Boswell had disappeared to continue work on his mysterious book, which was assumed to be a historical text of monumental importance.  On the last episode the Book-of-the-Moment was revealed.  It was a collection of recipes for cakes, pies, candies, frostings, and other confections that could be made with Marshmallow Fluff, appropriately entitled the Yummy Book.  The book has been updated many times since then, and the most recent version is thirty-two pages long.

 

Gob History:

It seems that only in western Pennsylvania, mainly the Johnstown area, they are know as “gobs.”  The bakers at the now closed Harris & Boyar Bakery in Morrellville, PA, claimed to have invented the treat sometime in the 1920s.  Probably they adapted what was already a regional favorite inspired by the cream-filled whoopie pies of Pennsylvania Dutch country, in the eastern part of the state.
According to an article in the Johnstown Tribune-Democrat newspaper, Johnstown’s Gob – A mealtime tradition, March 12, 2009:

Susan Kalcik, a folklorist and archivist with the Southwestern Pennsylvania Heritage Preservation Commission in Johnstown, said her research shows that the Gob’s origin can be traced back to medieval Germany.  “They were making a cake-like pastry with a filling. It probably was brought to America by various German groups like the Amish or German Brethren.”

But Kalcik said the Gob is not a Johnstown invention.  The Amish in Lancaster make them and she’s seen them as far south as Virginia.  “They don’t call them Gobs, they’re called Whoopee Pies, ” she said.  “I’ve also found Whoopee Pies in New England and as far away as Hawaii.”

Kalcik believes that the Gob became popular because it was easy to carry in a lunch bucket.  “Men went into the coal mines or steel mills and the little cake with the icing on the inside instead of on the outside served their purpose,” she said.  “I’m convinced that the name Gob is related to the coal mines.  Lumps of coal refuse were called gob piles.  These working people adapted the name to the dessert.”

But technically, not just anyone can use the name “Gob” for the familiar icing filled treats.  The name-along with all the rights to market “Gobs”- belongs to Tim Cost, owner of Dutch Maid Bakery.  Cost, who bought the rights from Harris & Boyar Bakery in Morrellville, said he’s always had a passion for the cake.  At the Hershey Farm and Inn in Strasburg, PA, an annual Whoopie Festival is held featuring a whoopie pie eating contest and the coronation of the Whoopie Pie Queen.

In 2011, The Maine State Legislature considered making the Whoopie Pie the official state’s dessert.

 


 

Whoopie Pie Recipes – How To Make Whoopie Pies

The main difference between recipes for New England Whoopie Pie and Amish Whoopie Pie, seems to be the use of commercial Marshmallow Fluff/Creme in the New England version.  Otherwise, most recipes are basically the same.  I have also include a recipe using cake mix.


New England Whoopie Pie Recipe:

1/2 cup solid vegetable shortening
1 cup firmly-packed brown sugar
1 egg
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 cup milk
Whoopie Pie Filling (see recipe below)

 

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Lightly grease baking sheets.  In a large bowl, cream together shortening, sugar, and egg.

In another bowl, combine cocoa, flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.

In a small bowl, stir the vanilla extract into the milk.  Add the dry ingredients to the shortening mixture, alternating with the milk mixture; beating until smooth.

Drop batter by the 1/4 cup (to make 18 cakes) onto prepared baking sheets.  With the back of a spoon spread batter into 4-inch circles, leaving approximately 2 inches between each cake.

Bake 15 minutes or until they are firm to the touch.  Remove from oven and let cool completely on a wire rack.

Make Whoopie Pie Filling (see recipes below).

When the cakes are completely cool, spread the flat side (bottom) of one chocolate cake with a generous amount of filling.  Top with another cake, pressing down gently to distribute the filling evenly.  Repeat with all cookies to make 9 pies.  Let finished Whoopie Pies completely cool before wrapping.  Wrap Whoopie Pies individually in plastic wrap, or place them in a single layer on a platter (do not stack them, as they tend to stick).

To freeze, wrap each Whoopie Pie in plastic wrap.  Loosely pack them in a plastic freezer container and cover.  To serve, defrost the wrapped whoopie pies in the refrigerator.

Makes 9 large Whoopie Pies.

 

 

Final Marshmallow FluffWhoopie Pie Filling 1:

Some people prefer just using the Marshmallow Fluff right out of the jar and not making the below filling. Your choice.

1 cup solid vegetable shortening*
1 1/2 cups powdered (confectioner’s) sugar
2 cups Marshmallow Fluff**
1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

* Butter may be substituted for all or part of the vegetable shortening, although traditional Whoopie Pies are made with vegetable shortening only

** Marshmallow Creme may be substituted.
In a medium bowl, beat together shortening, sugar, and Marshmallow fluff; stir in vanilla extract until well blended.


 

Amish Whoopie Pie Recipe:

1/2 cup solid vegetable shortening
1 cup firmly-packed brown sugar
1 egg
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 cup milk
Whoopie Pie Filling

 

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Lightly grease baking sheets.  In a large bowl, cream together shortening, sugar, and egg.  In another bowl, combine cocoa, flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.

In a small bowl, stir the vanilla extract into the milk.  Add the dry ingredients to the shortening mixture, alternating with the milk mixture; beating until smooth.

Drop batter by the 1/4 cup (to make 18 cakes) onto prepared baking sheets.  With the back of a spoon spread batter into 4-inch circles, leaving approximately 2 inches between each cake.

Bake 15 minutes or until they are firm to the touch.  Remove from oven and let cool completely on a wire rack.

Make Whoopie Pie Filling.

When the cakes are completely cool, spread the flat side (bottom) of one chocolate cake with a generous amount of filling.  Top with another cake, pressing down gently to distribute the filling evenly.  Repeat with all cookies to make 9 pies.  Let finished whoopie pies completely cool before wrapping.

Wrap whoopie pies individually in plastic wrap, or place them in a single layer on a platter (do not stack them, as they tend to stick).

To freeze, wrap each whoopie pie in plastic wrap. Loosely pack them in a plastic freezer container and cover.  To serve, defrost the wrapped whoopie pies in the refrigerator.

Makes 9 large whoopie pies.

 

 

Whoopie Pie Filling 2 – Homemade Marshmallow Fluff/Creme:
Marshmallow Fluff

3 egg whites, room temperature
2 cups light corn syrup
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 cups sifted powdered (confectioner’s) sugar
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract

 

In large bowl of an electric mixer, add egg whites, corn syrup, and salt.  Using your electric mixer on high speed, mix for approximately 5 minutes or until the mixture is thick and volume has almost doubled.
On low speed, add powdered sugar and mix until well blended.  Add vanilla extract just until well blended.

Your homemade marshmallow fluff/cream is now ready to use on your Whoopie Pies or other recipes.  Use immediately, or refrigerate in a covered container for up to 2 weeks.

Makes a large quantity.

 

 

Sources:
Johnstown Tribune-Democrat newspaper, Johnstown’s Gob – A mealtime tradition, March 12, 2009.
Saveur Magazine, Issue 122, Hometown Hero, by Beth Kracklauer.
What’s Cooking America, I’ll Have What They’re Having, Legendary Local Cuisine, by Linda Stradley, 2002.

 

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