Saturday June 26 is the first official Maine Whoopie Pie Day. Recently whoopie pies have joined the mainstream; as the cupcake craze faded, these portable frosting sandwiches were last summer's trendiest dessert. Ten years ago, the term whoopie pie was still largely unknown outside of Maine; I went away to college in Massachusetts and was shocked to find my that classmates, even those from New England, called them "moon pies" or "black-and-whites," and snickered at my use of the term whoopie. My husband, who is from the west coast, had never heard of the dessert, and had to be informed that it is sort of like a puffy, hamburger-sized oreo.
The "bread" of the true Maine whoopie is the darkest possible devil's food, lighter than a cookie but denser than cake. The frosting is a simple blend of vegetable shortening and confectioner's sugar that melts on the tongue, immediately washing the brain in dopamine. Some people (heathens) prefer a frosting made with Marshmallow Fluff. You'll find whoopie pies served in nearly every bakery and diner throughout Maine, and sold, wrapped in plastic, beside every gas station cash register. The trouble is that none of them are vegan or gluten-free (the cake portion of the whoopie pie is usually made with eggs). I parted ways with the whoopie pie years ago, but I held on to the memories.
Earlier this week I stopped by Frank's Bakery on State Street in Bangor. They recently added a selection of gluten-free products, and though I was prepared for disappointment, I hoped I would find something that didn't contain eggs. Incredibly, Frank's offers more than a dozen gluten-free items, including breads, rolls, pizza crust, cookies, cakes, and pie. They're all made on site and frozen. Most of them are made with eggs or dairy, but I was able to walk away with a loaf of millet bread and, incredibly, a couple of whoopie pies. My excitement and disbelief were such that if they hadn't been frozen, I probably would have eaten both whoopie pies right there in my car.
Now get this: They taste like the real thing. No weirdness. No grit. They taste so much like the whoopie pies of my youth that only today, after not getting sick, do I really believe they are gluten-free. Frank's Bakery, you have given this pregnant woman back her whoopie pies, just in time for picnic season, and for that I will never be able to thank you enough. (Incidentally, the millet bread is better than anything I've found at the grocery store. It's light and airy and makes great toast. Frank's serves lunch, and I can't wait to stop in for a hummus and avocado sandwich on millet.)So along with the rest of the world, I'll be able to celebrate Maine Whoopie Pie Day this Saturday. Dover-Foxcroft will host its annual Whoopie Pie Festival, but as it's emceed by the Marden's Lady, I plan to stay well away. If you'd like to bake up some vegan whoopies of your own this weekend, try these recipes from two of my favorite bloggers, Hannah Kaminsky and Allyson of Manifest Vegan. Eat outside, get frosting on your face, and celebrate summer like a real Mainer.