Does Jerry Seinfeld still do stand up? If so, I imagine he starts his routine thusly: “So, what’s the deal with whoopie pies? They’re not pies and they don’t make whoopie.” Ba dum duh. Semantics aside, whoopie pies are everywhere these days, from the vegan versions at my local coffee shop-shout out to Grindcore!-to being a special Edy’s ice cream flavor. In fact, Ferran Adria was working on a whoopie pie before El Bulli closed. It was going to be chocolate air surrounded by a solid block of flash-frozen cream made with the stamen of Madagascar vanilla flowers. Ba dum duh.
Like a postmodern superhero, whoopie pies have varying origin stories. Some claim they were created in Maine, which has named them the official “state treat” (not to be confused with the “state dessert,” blueberry pie). Others suggest that they are a Pennsylvania Amish tradition. The story goes that these easily portable snacks would be tucked by loving bonneted women into lunch pails. When the husbands opened them up they would shout “whoopee” in joy, which is somewhat hard to picture, considering the beards and straw hats involved.
Reading Terminal Market is home several Amish eateries, including Beiler’s Bakery, which sells whoopie pies in various flavors. But there’s a new kid in town vying for the whoopie pie crown. Flying Monkey Patisserie is probably best known for the Pumpple, a monstrosity of sweetness, in which apple and pumpkin pies are baked inside chocolate and vanilla layer cakes. Truly an architectural feat (and perhaps a culinary one, though I haven’t tasted one) the Pumpple also shows Flying Monkey’s penchant for playing with old standbys. To which end, whoopie pies are available there in at least four or more flavors at any time.
Time for a showdown–Amish whoopie pie v. hipster whoopie pie. Whose whoopie will reign supreme?
In a show of scientific objectivity, I decided that a control was necessary: one classic whoopie pie from each, chocolate with vanilla cream. Our test differed from each. From Beiler’s a red velvet whoopie, facing off a Guinness whoopie pie, with chocolate layers surrounding a Guinness stout cream cheese filling, from Flying Monkey.
While each whoopie pie cost the same, $2.50, the bang-for-your-buck prize goes to Beiler’s, whose whoopies are about the size of a baby’s head. They taste much better, though. The chocolate layers are crisp around the edges, giving it a bit of texture. The filling is what a Twinkie dreams about–which I mean as a compliment. It was airy, light, sweet and tinged with vanilla, collapsing perfectly beneath the chocolate cake. In comparison, Flying Monkey’s classic was denser, not a virtue in this battle, especially with the filling. Cream cheese frosting is delicious, don’t get me wrong, but while it’s easy to flavor and make in mass quantities, sometimes its tang and mouth feel are not the best match. My companion, however, preferred Flying Monkey, so maybe I’m the outlier.
Beiler’s red velvet was not quite as delectable. I realized after biting into it, that I probably should have chosen a whoopie pie that was more different from the classic, given that red velvet is simply a less chocolatey chocolate cake. The first bite of Flying Monkey’s Guinness whoopie tasted sour to me, but the flavor mellowed into something unidentifiable as beer, but tasty nonetheless. Again, though, Beiler’s beat Flying Monkey on texture and moistness.
Recommended: whoopie pies from Beiler’s, especially the classic. They also make adorable mini pies and other baked treats, which you can read about on Messy and Picky’s blog.