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Got Whoopie?

Dessert Trend Hits SF

2010 was the year of the cupcake in San Francisco. While restaurant patrons buttoned up their wallets, they still seemed to save money for frosting and cake. With December around the corner, what will be the next big thing for 2011? Keep an eye on the Northeast treat known as the Whoopie Pie that is popping up in eateries throughout the City.

Whoopie pies may just be breaking out on the West Coast, but they have been dominating Northeastern gas stations, shops, seafood shacks, and restaurants for some time. A traditional whoopie pie packs marshmallow fluff between two mounds of chocolate cake. The humble, homemade appearance is simpler than the sprinkled cupcake cousin, but just as satisfying. The legend behind the popular treat’s catchy name is that Amish wives put whoopie pies in the lunchboxes of their farmer husbands. Upon discovery of the desserts, the men would yell “Whoopie!”

SF is not Amish country, but luckily there are a number of places where locals can satisfy cravings.

Lark Creek Steak
845 Market St., San Francisco; (415) 593-4100
Located in the Westfield mall and normally heralded for its tasty steak burgers and traditional American fare, Lark Creek Steak also delights diners with homemade mini whoopie pies. Resident pastry chef, Jodi Bourassa, is a Massachusetts native familiar with the regional treat.

In addition her traditional devil’s food cake whoopies, Bourassa pays tribute to the seasons. For the autumn months she mixes fresh pumpkin puree into the batter of her comforting amber maple whoopie to produce warm, spiced undertones. The house-made marshmallow filling, accented with a hint of maple syrup, is sandwiched between two bite-sized, moist mounds of cake. A drizzle of candied, roasted walnuts provides a balancing crunch to the soft, puffy cake. Valentine’s Day couples can end their Lark Creek dining experience with festive red velvet whoopie pies. After devouring the mini cakes with dollops of marshmallow goodness, there is a high chance the couple will want to make another type of whoopie.

2109 Chestnut St., San Francisco; 415-474-2253
Owner Susan Sarich started SusieCakes in 2006 in LA and quickly expanded to the Bay Area. Her six shops quietly suggest a layer cake and whoopie pie monopoly but Susan still manages to come off as humble, warm, and welcoming.

The treats from SusieCakes are just like your grandmother used to make; or in this case Susan’s two Midwest grandmothers. “The bakery is a tribute to them and all the great life lessons they taught me,” Susan says.

The retro feel of the Marina location and tempting smells of fresh-baked goods teleport customers back to nostalgic days of after-school sweets. There is something warm, enduring, and authentic about SusieCakes, and the whoopie pies are some of the best I’ve tasted. Purists may question SusieCakes’ untraditional whoopies, as Sarich substitutes butter cream frosting for the more common marshmallow fluff and uses chewy chocolate cookies in place of more cake-like mounds. Yet after tasting the luscious, thick butter cream sandwiched between two gooey cookies with almost a brownie consistency, skepticism will be replaced by sheer desire for seconds.

SusieCakes distinguishes itself by allowing customers to customize colors and order multiple sizes of whoopie. Minis are competitively priced at $3 each. For parties of 6-12, opt for the 6-inch round for $50, and for 20 people go big with the 9-inch round for $85.

Chestnut Bakery
2359 Chestnut St., San Francisco; 415-567-6777
Just down the street from SusieCakes sits another spot where SF locals can purchase whoopie pies. Enter Chestnut Bakery, the shop that has mades everything in-house since it opened in 2002. The mother-daughter team of is primarily focused on offering homemade cakes, cookies, pastries, pies and breads, but given the surge in popularity for whoopie pies, the Tang family jumped on the bandwagon in the last couple years.

Chestnut Bakery keeps it simple, offering a single type of whoopie: traditional chocolate with marshmallow filling. The chocolate mounds are moist, dark and fudgy, and the entire sandwich is a steal at $2.50. Before you run out the door to pick up a few, know that Chestnut Bakery typically only has whoopies in the latter half of the week, from Wednesday through Saturday. However, if you need to satisfy your craving early in the week you can always contact the Tang team to place a special order.

Twitter: @whoopieSF
What better sign that whoopie pies have become a phenomenon than the business going mobile? That’s right San Francisco; whoopie pies are available at select city events delivered right to your door. Use Twitter to contact the two-person team, Luke Bornheimer and Emily Glick, of WhoopieSF to see where they will be or to place a custom order.

Both Emily and Luke grew up in Boston, and they pull on this Northeast influence for a bit of whoopie pie quality control. WhoopieSF differentiates itself with its sole focus on whoopie pies. The flavor selection includes traditional chocolate fudgy cake served with butter cream frosting and pumpkin with cheesecake frosting. The duo opts for butter cream or cheesecake frostings instead of marshmallow fluff to stay committed to natural ingredients.

My favorite was the pumpkin whoopie. The cheesecake frosting had a depth to it that complemented the moist, spiced pumpkin cake. WhoopieSF is new to the scene and still figuring out the business, but be assured that if you need whoopie for a party or last-minute gathering, Luke and Emily will do everything in their power to meet your needs. The price of a single whoopie is $3, with a minimum order of 12. Mini whoopies are $2 each with a minimum order of 18.