2018 Whoopie Pie Festival!

Here’s the short story:  So. Many. Whoopie pies!

And here’s the long of it . . .

My dear pal, Janel — a self-professed sweet tooth always on the lookout for tasty treats — has a well-earned reputation for ooo-ing and aah-ing over food. So when I suggested we make our way across the river into Lancaster County for the 14th annual Whoopie Pie Festival in Strasburg, she heartily agreed.

20180908_092704.jpgLeaving York early in the morning, we made our way to the land of designer outlets and Amish farm stands, pulling into the first parking lot we came upon that indicated it was a satellite lot for the festival. The big yellow school bus and it’s equally sunny driver had already loaded up a couple people from the other two cars in the lot and after adding us and another woman with her little grandson, we were off. It was a very short drive to the entrance of Hershey Farms (actually would’ve been an easy walk), where we were safely deposited at the Info Tent.  We picked up a $25 VIP pass which allows early entrance for two people into the circus-size whoopie pie retail tent, an insulated tote (complete with a cold freezer pac), and some coupons for festival activities.

Our timing was perfect, as we had no sooner queued up than it was 9:30 and the line began to move. (Now, you can get into the festival free of charge but that is a longer line and access to the tent doesn’t begin until 10:00. ) We reached the edge of the parking lot and cautiously stepped across the rain-soaked, straw-covered ground into the sales tent.

Okay, remember when I mentioned Janel’s exclamations over food?  Well, this place left her momentarily speechless.  Go ahead . . . take a look at what we saw . . .

 

Whoopies, Whoopies, Everywhere!!

People moved along the rows pointing out interesting flavours to one another and filling their totes and other bags with their favourites from more than 100 choices. By the time we made our way up and down the rows, I had collected an even dozen “regular” whoopies (in 12 different mixed and matched cakes and fillings) plus three “adult” versions (which had liqueurs in the cream). My total bill was around $40. Janel picked up a couple singles as well as a mix pack as a gift for her brother-in-law who, with his Southern drawl, refers to them as whooperwills.

We chatted with other people in the checkout line. The woman in front of us had come, spreadsheet in hand (it wasn’t her first time to this rodeo), from Princeton, NJ; the family behind us left home in Tyrone, PA, at 6:30 a.m. to get to the Fest for the VIP opening. They were going to make a day of it in the area before heading back home.

When we emerged from the exit end of the tent, it wasn’t yet 10 o’clock; the line on the entrance side had grown substantially and there were still lots of people inside gently stuffing their bags. I read later, from someone who worked the festival, that they sold out, leaving behind not one of the 45,000 whoopies pies made for the event.

After the big tent, we did a quick walk by the craft tents set up along the lane, got a bite to eat from the concession tent, and then wondered down the hill to check out the “World’s Largest Whoopie Pie,” the “Make Your Own Whoopie Pie” booth, and the Whoopie Pie “Checkers” booth. Across the bridge near the picturesque pond, we used our two coupons to try our luck at the Whoopie Pie Launch station… using the heavy-duty sling shot contraptions to fling duct tape-wrapped whoopie pies across a field.  We also made a quick visit to the gift shop, stopping along the way to see the goats and alpacas, and snap a photo in a buggy (sans horse).

Having our fill of the sweet festivities, we hopped back on the shuttle bus to the now-overflowing parking lot, and made our way onto the highway heading home, passing a long line of cars waiting to get in.

To be honest, I was a little disappointed not to find whoopie pie-themed items for sale at the craft stands. I totally would’ve bought a pair of whoopie pie earrings and maybe a whimsical whoopie cushion (and by that I mean accent pillow). I also expected there to be music. All-in-all, though, it was a fun way to spend the morning and I’m really glad we went.

I offered up my stash of whoopies at a party I attend later in the day, cut into quarters so people could try the different flavours. Of what remained, The Professor sampled one and I took the rest to the office on Monday where they were quickly “appreciated.”

In the post-sugar-high light of the next day, I’ve realized that my desire to make savory whoopie pies is going to come to the forefront of this blog. I have a bunch of ideas already and can’t wait to get started on them, so stay tuned and thanks for following.

– Shug

 

Batch Two: Lemon Blueberry (again) AND Batch Three: Devil’s Food

 

Lemon Blueberry Notes: The idea was to try to make the cakes more lemony and the filling more sturdy. It worked, but the cakes were still pretty flat and the filling a little too sweet for my taste.  Going to keep trying until I get this right.

Devil’s Food  Notes: Well, what I was thinking about initially was Black Forest. Picked up some tart dried cherries, which I chopped in the mini-chopper and added to the batter bowl after the first batch went into the oven.  Somehow, I forgot about the cherries when I started looking for filling options and landed on Tiramisu. Since I didn’t have Kahlua, I used the Saint Brendan’s Irish Creme liqueur instead. Also blended some marscapone cheese into the buttercream filling. This was an absolutely delicious filling. Light and mellow.

Despite the fact that I wouldn’t have planned on the cherries with this filling, it worked well. I probably won’t do this combo again intentionally but both the cakes and the filling are worth making again individually.

Took the Devil’s Food Irish Creme whoopies to a friend’s 60th birthday party, where the host added a “21+ only” note. They were a hit.

Whoopie!

-Shug

Batch Four: Wait for it . . . Lemon Blueberry

The Professor walked into the kitchen last night wondering aloud, “Did I hear the mixer running?”   Yep,  beaters and batter were merrily dancing as I readied the baking sheets with parchment.  I’d arrived home after my Rotary Club meeting and set about whipping up my fourth batch of whoopie pies in two weeks before event thinking about dinner.  (He thinks I’m obsessed.)

After two batches of Lemon Blueberry that weren’t quite what I wanted, I was set on getting it right this time. I stopped at the store on my way home and picked up a yellow cake mix and a container of marscapone cheese. The former to make quicker work of assembling ingredients, the latter to cut the sweetness of the sugary filling remaining from  batch number two.

To the dry ingredients was added the requisite oil and 3 eggs. I substituted 1/2 cup kefir for the 1/2 cup water and then added the zest of one lemon and half of its juice, plus about 3/4 cup all-purpose flour and a half-pint of fresh blueberries (washed and drained).

The results were fruit-full two inch, well-risen cakes.

About 3/4 cup of the marscapone and juice from the other half of lemon was added to the filling from the previous day’s batch, yielding a perfect amount of not-so-sweet and lighter purple filling.

Ta-Da!

These were a great hit in the office, the whole batch disappeared by the end of the day. Thankfully, I enjoyed a couple myself after I finally ate dinner last night. They paired beautifully with the white wine I’d picked up over the weekend, a California from JaM Cellars called Butter Chardonnay.

Now that Lemon Blueberry is under my belt, I can move on to try other flavours. And the Whoopie Pie Festival in Strasburg, PA, is only a few days away! Will give the mixer a little break and report back from the Festival.

-Shug

Batch One: Lemon Blueberry

I was going to wait until September.  Ha. I couldn’t wait!!

Late last night, when I should’ve been thinking about going to bed, I pulled out the stand mixer, assembled ingredients, and made the first batch of  whoopie pies to be featured here on the blog. And . . . I messed up the filling. 😦

The cakes turned out fine, although I would’ve liked them to be a bit fluffier and definitely more lemony.  (I’ll be sure my coconut oil is at the correct temperature next time and add twice as much lemon zest.).

The filling was another story.

Lessons Learned:

#1: Whoopie pie cakes can be stored in the freezer until ready to be filled.

I allowed the cakes to sit on the baking sheets for about five minutes once they came out of the oven, then transferred them to cooling racks. Once they were cool, I slid the racks into the freezer. This helps to keep the cakes from sticking to one another.  I say this because it’s important to . . .

#2: Make the filling when you’re ready to fill the cakes, not before!

I whipped up a traditional buttercream frosting while I was baking the cakes. I also made fresh blueberry preserve, which I was intending to use as  surprise center filling with a ring of buttercream around the edge of the cake. (see below) Since I was up late and needed to get to bed, I didn’t fill the cakes, but rather (after making a couple samples), covered the filling and put it in the fridge overnight.

blueberry surprise on lemon whoopie pie

which leads me to

#3: Frosting can get droopy sitting in the fridge overnight. And,

#4 Don’t try to fill whoopie pies in the last few minutes before you’ve got to head off to work.

So my bright idea in the light of day was to go ahead and mix the blueberry preserve into the filling. It will be pretty, I thought. (which it was, but…) Yes, I know, I know.  Way too much liquid, which meant I needed to add more confectioner’s sugar and now it’s too sweet for my taste so added a little cornstarch, too. It didn’t really help. And,  I let it mix in the stand mixer while I was getting ready for work, and it over whipped.

I filled the whoopies and snapped some photos anyway to show you so you can hopefully learn from my flubs. Plus, don’t they look like their sticking their tongues out at me to say, “Don’t take it too seriously, kid. You can try again another day.”

And I will give it another go. Soon.

I’ll post the recipe once I have it fine tuned.

This batch I took in to share with my coworkers and there were only three left when I left the office so I guess they weren’t too bad.

Special note: The sweet bluebird plate in the photo was a gift to my grandparents from my grandpa’s mother (or maybe his grandmother) when Nanny and Papa were married in 1936.  It’s a lovely little plate that makes me a bit sentimental, thinking about how they both loved bluebirds. He built a lot of bluebird houses to attract them within viewing distance of the porch of their farmhouse.

And stay tuned . . . my friend Janel and I are heading to the Whoopie Pie Festival in Strasburg,  PA on September 8. It’s bound to be yummy!

Here we go!

Today I was sitting on the beach, reading Artful Blogging magazine and revisiting thoughts of keeping a blog. Listening to crashing waves and screeching seagulls I let my mind consider some options.

The first of several ideas I wrote down was makin’ whoopie. Twelve months,  I thought.  Twelve recipes. And another dozen or so related posts about whoopie pies. That might work.

A little while later we (my significant other, Mark, who I’ll refer to moving forward as The Professor) walked up town for a cold drink and while we enjoyed the air conditioning I started searching online to see who else out there was writing about whoopie pies. As I typed in makin’ whoopie, I was excited to discover there was a shop called Makin Whoopie Pies . . . and it was about a block and a half away from where I was sitting right there in Rehoboth. Who knew?

Well, you know where I’m heading now,  right? Directly to find out more!

Even before I walked through the door of the shop I started snapping photos. Once inside I couldn’t contain my enthusiasm and immediately blurted out the story I just told you to the guy (Jason) behind the counter.

As we talked whoopie pies, I knew there couldn’t be a clearer sign; Makin’ Whoopie blog was born.

    

Turns out, Jason (pictured above) and his wife both grew up around York, PA, which is where The Professor and I currently live. Jason told me about how Makin’ Whoopie Pies got started in Strasburg, PA and opened its first shop at Hershey Park in 2015. The Rehoboth Beach store opened in 2017 (which explains why I hadn’t seen it in previous trips). The company also provides catering and fundraising, and offers franchising opportunities.

Excited by my serendipitous whoopilicious encounter, I purchased a “Share the Sweetness” tee shirt which came with a FREE WHOOPIE PIE!  Of course, that was the easy part. The challenge came when I had to choose a flavour.  There were quite a few cookie options: strawberry, blueberry, red velvet, chocolate chip, pumpkin, vanilla, confetti, carrot cake, and the original chocolate, with more filling offerings than you can shake a whip at.

Really, the decision wasn’t as difficult as all that, because I knew the best way to get things started was to go with the original.

The generously-sized cookie cake was moist and chocolate-y; the perfectly adequate buttercream filling smooth and just-right sweet without shortening greasiness because, Jason told me, they use real butter.

After posing for a photo under their sign, I thanked Jason and stepped back out into the hot summer day. I took one more bite of the whoopie pie before tucking it into our beach cooler and then later into the fridge back at the motel. It took me two more evenings to finish it off; a couple bites with that extra coolness made it a nice after-dinner treat.

So here we go. I hope you’ll join me on this journey. I plan to be testing recipes, particularly savory varieties, talking with you all about your favorites, and getting together frequently with friends to do some drink pairings. There will also be travel posts, starting with the Whoopie Pie Festival coming up in September in Strasburg.  Maybe I’ll see you there.

And I hope you’ll share your favorite whoopie pie recipes and stories as this blog rolls merrily along.

-Averie aka Shug