Bev Kauffman can’t resist making her famous soft chocolate sandwich cookies for her family. Each cookie is filled with a layer of fluffy white icing and flavored with their secret ingredient.
The 59-year-old Kauffmann has been making her famous biscuits for years. These cookies are considered by some to be cakes, sandwiches, or even pies. Commonly referred to as “whoopie pies” to many in the Juniata Valley, they celebrate a century of deliciousness.
“My secret ingredient is love,” said Kauffman, who ran a catering business in Juniata County for nearly 20 years while living in McAlisterville. “I love to bake. I like sharing as much as baking itself.”
Of course, these tasty treats don’t last long at her Lewistown home with her husband Joe, three children and two grandchildren.
“My husband gets a lot of treats in his cooler,” she said. “He’s a truck driver on the road. I pack groceries for several days. It saves money eating on the street.”
As for her famous whoopie pies? “I do them several times a year,” Kauffman said. “Or when my kids give hints for some.
“I got a prescription from Joe’s aunt in Lancaster County,” she explained. “I’ve been looking for the perfect recipe for almost 30 years and this is it!”
The Pennsylvania Dutch Convention & Visitors Bureau in Lancaster claims that the whoopie pie recipe stems from Amish and Pennsylvania German heritage. Immigrants brought precursors to whoopie pie to communities throughout the Northeast in the early 1920s. These origins probably have no official paper trail – and the baking traditions have been passed down through generations.
Historians believe that the first whoopie pies were made from leftover pie batter, and Amish legend has it that children and even farmers would yell “Whoopie!” when they found the delicious treat in their food buckets. – therefore the name.
Whoopie pie recipes were created by the German Amish and Pennsylvania communities and have been passed down from generation to generation in home kitchens and small bakeries for years.
Kauffman grew up in a large family — the fifth oldest child, aged eight — and never had any formal training in the kitchen. “I taught myself to cook and bake,” she says. “I’m not good at following directions, so I just beat them out of my imagination.”
Today, whoopie pies are sold across the country. At least five states, including Pennsylvania, still boast of being the birthplace of whoopie pie. Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and Virginia have similar historical accounts.
The one undeniable fact is that whoopie pies have become one of the most popular comfort foods over the past century, particularly in the Juniata Valley.
Traditional whoopie pies — sometimes called gobs in western Pennsylvania, where a Johnstown bakery trademarked the name — are made from two round, mound-shaped pieces of usually chocolate cake, or sometimes pumpkin, gingerbread, or other flavored cake, with a sweet, creamy filling or icing in between.
“I have a few different fillings,” says Kauffman, who likes to experiment with her frosting flavors. “You have whipped egg whites and sometimes a cream cheese filling. I’ve also made peanut butter filling and Nutella filling.”
While the white-filled chocolate cake is the traditional whoopie pie, bakers, including Kauffman, have used a wide variety of flavors, including pumpkin, peanut butter, chocolate chip, vanilla, oatmeal, coconut, red velvet, gingerbread, banana, and spice cake.
And just as family recipes vary, so do whoopie pie recipes.
No baker? Whoopie pies can be found at many family-owned markets, delis, food stands, and grocery stores that stock local produce.
Would you like to try something unusual? Head to Mifflin’s Juniata Valley Winery on August 13, where they’ll be celebrating their 10th anniversary with a whoopie pie and wine pairing event (must be 21 or older, tickets required).
You can also indulge your sweet tooth at the annual Whoopie Pie Festival in Ronks, Lancaster County on September 10th. The Greatest Whoopie Pie Contest is a tradition at the State Farm Show each January. And in Snyder County, Weaver’s Farm Market and Bakery occasionally hosts whoopie pie weekends.
Bev Kauffman’s best whoopie pie ever
(enough for 120 cakes or 60 ready-made whoopie pies)
1 c half and half
1 cup buttermilk
2 tbsp baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons cream of tartar
2 cl sugar
2 liters of oil
2 c brown sugar
8 grams of flour
2 c cocoa
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
Mix all ingredients together in order. Bake at 400 degrees for 7 to 9 minutes.
1 c butter, softened
6 to 8 c powdered sugar
4 tsp vanilla
Mix all ingredients together. Use an ice cream scoop to distribute the filling evenly among the cakes. Spread the scoop to cover one of the cakes with filling. When done, place another cake on top to form a sandwich.