I’m venturing into dangerous waters here, I realize that. I’ve already received a few, shall we say insistent emails from Mainers since Friday. Since then I’ve been searching doggedly for historical material on whoopee pies…and have mostly come up empty. Which is not to say I haven’t found plenty of audacious (read: made up) stories about them.
Pennsylvanians claim whoopee pies are the invention of the Pennsylvania Dutch, i.e. Amish, i.e. German-speaking (“Deutsch”) housewives whose husbands shouted “whoopee” on discovering them in their lunch pails. Mainers claim whoopies were invented in a commercial bakery there — probably Labadie’s in Lewsiton — as a result of a kitchen accident/improvisation when a baker recycled some leftover cake batter and frosting. Bostonians are divided into two camps: one the one hand are those who say whoopies were first made by the Berwick Cake Company in Roxbury. On the other, those who claim they first appeared in the Durkee-Mower Yummy Book cookbook, which was used to promote their product Marshmallow Fluff back in the day.
Everyone who has a side in this debate seems equally emphatic. The problem is there’s no written documentation to back up any of these stories. According to Nancy B. over at Kitchen Lane, the first whoopee pies didn’t appear in print in Pennsylvania until the 1960’s. A fire destroyed the original Labadie’s — and all their written records — around 1970. The Berwick Cake Company’s claim can’t be corroborated and the Durkee-Mower company flatly denies ever publishing a whoopie pie recipe until the 70’s.
So it seems there really is no definitive proof anywhere. I have no authority to judge the dispute. However I will say, just from looking at the whoopie pie, that I believe it to be of German/Polish origin. Northern Europeans are dairying peoples, and they have a well-known love of cream-filled buns and cakes of this very type. So me, I’m inclined to give the honor to Deutsch of Pennsylvania. Not that there aren’t Germans in Maine or Boston, but Labadie is a French surname and Berwick is British. Call my theory a best guess.
All that’s known for certain is that whoopie pies have been popular in the Pennsylvania and around New England since the 30’s. I dunno, maybe that’s all anyone really needs to know, ya know?