Downeast Books, 2010

88 pages, $12.95

Frosting-Filled  Yumminess

If it’s possible for a book to be serious and cute at the same time, Making Whoopies: The Official Whoopie Pie Book is a great candidate for the honor.

Cute: that’s the whole idea of the whoopie pie, isn’t it? Tasty, funny name, fattening, probably bad for your teeth. Nothing in it that some nutrition snob would approve of. Still, we’ve eaten whoopie pies for generations. I think we do that because they and their mystique-of which this book will now become a part-always make us smile. If I’d been one of the several dozen candidates for governor this past spring, I’d have served whoopie pies at campaign stops-the press would have taken notice and I would have won.

Whoopie pies can be a serious subject, which is, I’m sure, why Nancy Griffin wrote this book. She’s a dogged researcher (you’ve read her stories in The Working Waterfront) who gets to the bottom of any subject she delves into. So if you doubt the seriousness of Making Whoopies, turn to page 13 and learn of the connection between these confections and the Pennsylvania Amish. Read the next page, where you’ll hear about Maine’s claim to whoopie pies’ origin. Go on-find out why Boston considers itself the capital of whoopies. This is all good New England (and Pennsylvania) lore, and Griffin gives all theories a fair hearing.

But Griffin’s a Maine girl (grew up in the Boston area, roots in Newfoundland), and the book’s publisher is Maine based, so it’s not surprising that a lot of her details are from within the state.

There are the whoopie pies originating at the East Wind Inn in Tenants Harbor, followed by a variation cooked up by Fort Kent native Jenny Jandreau, who took it to Arizona and began making them there. Griffin includes the recipe (as well as a modified version) from the Boston Globe’s cookbook, which started out as a column for women back in the 1880s. Amy Emberling, a Cape Breton, Nova Scotia native, has developed a recipe she uses at her bakehouse in Michigan, and it appears here. Another recipe is from Two Fat Cats bakery in Portland, Maine. In addition, Griffin checked in with other professional bakers in Pennsylvania and Maine including LaBree’s in Old Town, the Friar’s Bakehouse in Bangor, Portland Pies, Patty Mains of Five Islands, Farm Whoopies in Turner and Beep’s Bakery in Sumner.

Making Whoopies makes mention of all the flavors that have appeared, from chocolate and pumpkin shells to regular, peanut butter, vanilla and cream cheese, candy and chocolate fillings. She devotes a page here and there to differences of opinion over what’s a “real” whoopie pie vs. an imposter. (No sides taken.)

Griffin reports on the Maine Whoopie Pie Festival, held last year in Dover-Foxcroft. And she tells of the effort (by the Maine Whoopie Pie Association, Amos E. Orcutt, president) to establish Whoopie Pie Day and have the whoopie pie declared Maine’s official dessert.  “I envision a whoopie pie on every legislator’s desk,” says Orcutt.

So I was right-this is a serious book (cute too) about a topic that’s important to Maine. “Remember,” Griffin concludes, “that there is a whole whoopie pie-loving nation that shares your affection for the wonderful whoopie’s delectable, cakey, frosting-filled yumminess.”

Hard to argue with that!

David D. Platt is former editor of The Working Waterfront.