Hound tastes whoopie pie at Evanston bakery

June 3, 2009 (EVANSTON, Ill.) After a brief mention in the New York Times food section recently, our Hungry Hound went up to see for himself how these unique treats are made...

The whoopie pie has been around for awhile. It's really a kind of cookie-cake-sandwich. They come in several flavors, and I was curious to see how they're made, so I spent a recent morning back in the kitchen, where they get a lot of use out of their mixers.

Like many bakeries of its kind, Fraiche Bakery and Cafe in Evanston is not that different. It attracts neighbors and Northwestern students, and it prides itself on freshly made everything. But one of its star items of late has been the whoopie pie, a treat with origins in Amish Pennsylvania.

"When the wives would put them in their husbands' lunch and they would take them out to the fields to eat, they would open up their lunch box and they would see these in there and they would shout 'whoopie!'" said Susan Davis Friedman, owner of Fraiche Bakery and Café.

"It's sort of a cross between a cake and a cookie. It's sort of a moist, dense cake with buttercream in the middle," she said.

To make the cake, they first blend up brown sugar and butter in a stand mixer. Once those two ingredients have combined, it's time to add eggs, and while the mixer continues churning, they have to scrape down the sides of the bowl. Despite the season, pumpkin continues to be a big seller. They'll add pumpkin puree to the bowl at this point, but they could just as well add chocolate or other flavors.

"There are a lot of people now that make them in different flavors. We make pumpkin, I've seen brown sugar, I've seen maple, I've seen lemon, I've seen red velvet," said Davis Friedman.

Then it's time for dry ingredients: not just baking powder, baking soda and flour, but cloves, cinnamon and ginger as well. Once all is incorporated, the dough is scooped out onto a baking tray. They go into a hot oven for about 20 minutes. Meantime, the filling is made with powdered sugar and butter, once again in a stand mixer. A little vanilla is added, just to give it some depth. Once the cake halves are baked, they're filled with the buttercream, kind of like a sandwich. Unless you have a huge sweet tooth, Friedman says they're best shared.

"They're sharable. They're kind of a fun, sharable dessert," Davis Friedman said.

A reminder, the standard whoopie pie is too large for one person. They occasionally make minis, which would be a more appropriate solo snack.

Fraiche Bakery and Café
815 Noyes St., Evanston

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