The Prayers Of Agnes Sparrow
Joyce Magnin

Joyce Magnin is the author of the popular and quirky Bright’s Pond novels. She is a frequent conference speaker and writing instructor. When she’s not writing or reading Joyce enjoys baseball, needle arts, video games and cream soda but not elevators—especially glass ones. She listens to many kinds of music, shamelessly confesses to enjoying American Idol, has never eaten a scallop or sky dived. Joyce has three children, Rebekah, Emily and Adam and three grandsons, Lemuel, Cedar and Soren and one son-in-law, Joshua. Joyce lives in Havertown, Pennsylvania with her son, Adam and their crazy cat, Mango, where she cares for an eighty-year-old onion plant. You can also visit her blog at:

Whooping It Up in Pennsylvania

You might not know this, but a battle over the whoopie pie is brewing between Pennsylvania and Maine. You see, Pennsylvanians like me have always believed that the Amish in Lancaster County originated the whoopie pie. And as we all know, Lancaster County is home to many pies: apple pie, shoo fly pie, peach pie, mince pie, and of course cow pie.

For the uninitiated, a whoopie pie can be found just about anywhere in Amish country. They’re sold at roadside stands, in stores, hotels, B&Bs, and even furniture stores. It’s essentially two little cakes with a big gob of sugary, sweet, creamy filling. Just imagine a large, soft Oreo cookie and there you go. As a matter of fact, it is occasionally referred to as a BFO—big fat Oreo. Sometimes it’s referred to as a gob. I suppose because of the gob of filling.

Anyhoo, it seems that the great state of Maine also believes that this little dessert delight was first produced by them. The Maine legislature is attempting to designate the whoopie pie as their state’s official dessert. I say we need to stop this madness! The whoopie pie is without a doubt a Lancaster County creation.

Unfortunately, the problem is that the whoopie pie is a bit of a confectionary conundrum, a dessert dilemma, a sweat treat mystery. No one can find proof as to exactly where the pie originated. Truthfully, it’s not really a pie. It’s more like a cookie—a soft cookie. But that’s not so accurate either. And that’s not the issue. Pie is in the eye of the beholder. The problem is Maine. Everyone knows that the Amish traveled to Maine long ago and brought the treats with them. I guess the Amish won’t be sharing their recipes with them anymore.

Although its origins are disputed, most dessert historians believe that Amish housewives used leftover cake batter to bake these little treats, also known as hucklebucks at the time. Legend has it that the wives put the delights in the farmers’ lunch tins, and when the farmers found them, they were so excited they shouted, “Whoopie!” Hence the name. Alternate explanations include shouts of joy, “Whoopie!” could be heard coming from schoolrooms as children opened their lunch buckets and discovered they too had a whoopie pie for dessert. Although we could be missing the obvious here. Perhaps the farmers did not shout, “Whoopie,” but, “Whoo . . . pie.” Just a thought.

Now you decide. Would you not shout whoopie if you found one in your lunch tin after working in the hot, scorching sun, pushing a plow behind two large mules? Sure you would. What do the Mainers have? Lobsters. I’m sorry, but I just don’t think you would shout whoopie on a lobster boat. Just my opinion.

Whoopie pies, although usually chocolate, come in many varieties, including pumpkin cake and banana cake. Fillings range from the traditional white to peanut butter, chocolate, mint, chocolate chip, and well, whatever you can think of. But the traditional white is the best.

Also, and here’s the best part, Lancaster County holds an annual Whoopie Pie Festival. Don’t hear about Maine holding an annual Whoopie Pie Festival. Festival highlights include:

• The Whoopie Pie Treasure Hunt—kind of an Easter egg hunt.
• The Whoopie Pie Long Launch, in which fierce pie gladiators hurl whoopie pies at various targets.
• Whoopie Pie Checkers—that’s right, whoopee pies, chocolate and red velvet, are used for the checkers.
• The Whoopie Yell-Off—Kind of like a pig-call contest only contestants shout . . . well, you can figure that out.
• The Amateur Whoopie Pie Eating Contest. Can you eat a dozen whoopies in one sitting. Ugh.
• And then the best event of all is the World’s Largest Whoopie Pie. This year whoopie enthusiasts will attempt once again to enter the Guinness Book of World Records. Last year they made a pie that weighed an astounding 250 pounds.

It seems to me that this kind of whoopie devotion is unmatched in the state of Maine. Please Mainers, find your own dessert and leave whoopie where it belongs—in Pennsylvania. I mean, what’s next? Gonna take credit for funnel cake? Sheesh.

Here’s a recipe for whoopie pie. They really are good and fun to eat.

Chocolate Whoopie Pie

You need:

4 cups flour
2 tsp. baking soda
1 cup cocoa
tiny bit of salt
2 cups sugar
1 cup shortening
2 eggs
1 cup milk
1 cup warm water
2 tsp. vanilla


In a mixing bowl, combine the flour, baking soda, cocoa, and salt; mix well and set aside. In a separate bowl, combine the sugar, shortening, and eggs. Beat for about 2 minutes. Mix the dry ingredients with the egg mixture. Add the milk and warm water and beat at medium speed for 2 to 3 minutes. Add the vanilla and beat again until the ingredients are thoroughly blended. This batter is for a cakelike cookie. Bake as drop cookies. Drop by rounded tablespoons full onto ungreased, nonstick cookie sheets. Bake in a preheated oven at 375° for 10 to 12 minutes or until the center of the cookies spring back when lightly pressed. Remove from the cookie sheets and cool a wire rack or white paper towels.


2 egg whites
2 tsp. vanilla
4 T. flour
4 T. milk
4 cups confectioners sugar
1 ½ cups vegetable shortening


Beat the egg whites until stiff; set aside. Combine the other ingredients and beat very hard for several minutes at high speed. Fold in the beaten egg whites. To make the whoopie pies: Spread a generous amount of filling on a completely cooled cookie. Top with another cookie. Wrap each whoopie pie individually in plastic wrap.

I snagged this recipe from But the recipe is pretty basic and universal. I think the key is to use shortening, not butter.

And there you have it—Pennsylvania’s main treat.


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