How The Whoopie Pie Got Its Iconic Name

Whoopie pies are so good that you can't help but yell "Whoopie!" when you eat them. Who wouldn't love eating a dessert sandwich made of two mounds of chocolate cake with a fluffy marshmallow or vanilla frosting in between?  It's commonly believed that this tasty treat, also known as gobs, moon pies, and black-and-whites, developed out of an Amish recipe. 

The story goes that Amish cooks in colonial America would use leftover batter from making cakes to make these small handheld cake sandwiches. They would pack the "pies" in lunches for their children and spouses who would reportedly shout, "Whoopie!" upon finding them. While more legend than proven fact, this fun anecdote appears to be rooted in the true origins of the Whoopie Pie as a yummy dessert with a long history on the Northeast Coast. 

The origin of Whoopie Pies sold in bakeries dates back to the 1920s. Some food historians trace the first made pies to Labadie's Bakery in Lewiston, Maine (which still exists today), while others cite the Berwick Cake Company in Roxbury, Massachusetts as the first Whoopie Pie seller. One historical account says the handheld dessert was named after the musical "Whoopee!" which came out in 1928, but that the spelling was changed to Whoopie to avoid copyright infringement. No matter the debated origin of the name, one thing is for sure, these delicious, portable cake sandwiches are truly a timeless American dessert. 

The debated history of the frosting-filled treat

While the origin of the Whoopie Pie is uncertain and contested, so is its history. Several New England states claim its origin, including Maine, Pennsylvania, and Massachusetts. One of the first written references to Whoopie Pies is in the 1988 cookbook inspired by Amish community members in the Lancaster area, "The Best of Amish Cooking" by Phyllis Pellman Good — who wrote that the cake sandwiches date back 30 to 35 years. However, some historians date the recipe back even further to the early 1900s in Pennsylvania Dutch Country. 

While most New Englanders trace the origins of the recipe for Whoopie Pies to the Amish in Colonial America, the origin of the name and who first sold them is more debatable due to a lack of written records. In her book "Making Whoopies: The Official Whoopie Pie Book", Whoopie Pie aficionado Nancy Griffin displays a 1931 advertisement that was published in a Syracuse, NY newspaper for "Berwick Whoopee Pie," courtesy of Berwick Cake Company in Massachusetts. 

Labadie's Bakery, meanwhile, claims to have sold the first Whoopie Pie in Maine in 1925 (which has remained the same recipe since then). Maine is so adamant about claiming Whoopie Pies as their own that they were designated as the official state treat in 2011. Since 2009, the state has also been hosting the Maine Whoopie Pie Festival for New Englanders to celebrate the historical treat and compete for who can make the tastiest version.

How they're made today

Traditional Whoopie Pies resemble a large sandwich cookie but are made of soft chocolate cake filled with a generous amount of sweet and creamy marshmallow or vanilla frosting. Classic, original recipes use shortening in the frosting instead of butter, giving it a super light, fluffy texture that sticks well to the cakes.  

A 1930s cookbook called "Yummy Book," by the Durkee Mower Company — the makers of Marshmallow Fluff — featured a recipe for Amish Whoopie Pie that used Marshmallow Fluff for the filling. However, most Whoopie Pie recipes with a marshmallow creme filling combine Marshmallow Fluff or melted marshmallows with shortening or butter and confectioner's sugar to make it less runny. The ideal filling should be thick and stable when you bite into it, not dripping down onto your hands.

Today, bakers have found ways to switch up the traditional Whoopie Pie by using a variety of flavors for the cake and filling besides chocolate and vanilla. If you like sweet and salty, don't pass on salted caramel Whoopie Pies made with salted caramel sour cream frosting. For a fresh and citrusy take on the Whoopie Pie, you'll love a Funfetti lemon buttercream Whoopie Pie. When Halloween rolls around, Candy Corn Pebbles Whoopie Pies will put you in the spooky spirit. Red velvet or black velvet Whoopie Pies are also popular and can be filled with a variety of flavored fillings like cream cheese, lemon, orange, or raspberry frosting.