History of the Lancaster, PA Whoopie Pie

(shown above) Traditional Whoopie Pies from The Bake Shoppe, which has been making them daily in the small town of Mount Joy, located in Lancaster, PA, since 1982

Don’t be fooled by its friendly appearance, the whoopie pie is quite a divisive afternoon treat. For years, there has been a national debate as to what a whoopie pie is, and where it came from. Regarding what it is, some folks consider a whoopie pie a type of cake, given that the recipe for its two mound-shaped halves closely emulates that of cake batter, and its filled with a cream that reminds some of icing. Others advocate that it’s a pie; it’s in the name, right? And then there’s the cookie camp. These folks argue that the whoopie pie’s resemblance to an Oreo and it’s small, handheld form factor makes it clearly distinct from a pie or a cake, both of which typically require some sort of utensil to consume. The top and bottom halves are also baked more like cookies, without the typical forming pans used by both cakes and pies. Our opinion? It’s a cake that has all the benefits of a cookie (pre-portioned, easy to hold, not messy).

As we mentioned earlier, this isn’t the only controversy surrounding the whoopie pie, there are also multiple regions that claim to be its birthplace. The contenders include, but are not limited to New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Virginia, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, and Maine, with most agreeing that it most likely originated in either Maine or Pennsylvania. Seeking to take the cake once and for all (pun intended), politicians in Maine have been working on stealing the title through legislation. In 2011, they declared it Maine’s official state treat, although it’s worth pointing out that it fell short of the coveted ‘state dessert’ title. Don’t be fooled. Food historians agree that the whoopie pie is PA Dutch (NYT), originating sometime after 1900 in Lancaster, PA from Amish ovens, intended for the lunchboxes of their hard-working farming husbands.

Regardless of where it’s from, what it is, or what you call it (e.g. gob, big fat Oreo, black-and-white), next time you find yourself in Lancaster, PA, Maine, or another place these delicious treats are made, be sure to pick one up. Don’t be surprised if you feel the urge to shout “Whoopie!”

Jessica Daly