For this week’s #ShopFranklin Spotlight, I interviewed Kerri Spencer of Making Whoopie!
Although Kerri doesn’t consider herself “really a baker at heart,” she’s been crafting whoopie pies for years. “Whoopie pies are the only things I make by hand,” Kerri says. “It was a recipe that my grandmother had, passed down to my mom, and once I was old enough my mom made me make them every holiday.” Kerri soon found that the homemade version of this classic New England treat was guaranteed to impress a crowd, and she’s been making them ever since. Kerri explains that a whoopie pie is unique because “the cake itself is not as fluffy as a cupcake cake, but not as dense as a brownie.” Unlike the whoopie pies sold in many other bakeries, which often have a buttercream or whipped cream filling, Kerri’s whoopie pies use the traditional marshmallow Fluff-based filling. This gives Kerri’s pies the true authentic New England taste, which Kerri’s customers appreciate. “When they try my whoopie pies, it reminds them of what their mother used to make or their grandmother used to make.”
Around Thanksgiving 2011, Kerri was making her usual holiday preparations when her now-husband came up with the idea of selling her whoopie pies. As a sous-chef, he saw a variety of desserts being served at the restaurant where he worked, and thought that Kerri’s whoopie pies could be a big seller. Kerri did some research within her networking group to find out what would be involved, and quickly secured a permit to bake in a nearby Knights of Columbus kitchen. Kerri started out by selling her whoopie pies at local farmers’ markets, and when that proved to be a success, the next step was to find some retail space for her very own bakery and storefront. Franklin was a natural part of her search, since Kerri’s husband is from Franklin and she was doing particularly well at the Franklin and Walpole farmers’ markets. She stumbled on her current space through a family member’s conversation with a Realtor, and it proved to be the perfect fit. “We actually signed the lease a week and a half before our wedding,” Kerri recalls. “[We said] ‘Are we going to take this chance? Are we going to risk it?’ and we just decided to go for it.”
At Making Whoopie, you can get Kerri’s whoopie pies in several forms. There’s the classic size, mini whoopie pies known as Whoopsies, and a 9-inch whoopie pie called The Big Whoop. If the Big Whoop isn’t enough for your party, Making Whoopie can provide you with a whoopie pie tower or even individual whoopie pie wedding favors. Catering and delivery for weddings and other large parties has always been available at Making Whoopie, but over the next year, Kerri plans to grow that aspect of her business by attending more wedding shows. She hasn’t forgotten her origins, though; you can still find Making Whoopie at the Franklin farmer’s market every Friday.
Kerri’s committed to tradition, but not a purist; she’s come up with several innovative twists on the classic whoopie pie, both in flavors and techniques. For example, thanks to their Fluff filling, Making Whoopie’s pies are shelf-stable and don’t need to be refrigerated. Most people are used to having cream cheese filling (which does need refrigeration) in a pumpkin or red velvet whoopie pie, but Kerri gets around this by adding cinnamon to her classic Fluff-vanilla filling for the pumpkin whoopie pies, and sour sugar for the red velvet pies. “Sour sugar gives it that tang that’s similar to cream cheese,” Kerri says, providing the flavor customers are looking for while avoiding the need for refrigeration. Kerri has also adapted her family’s recipe to create whoopie pies in flavors like coconut, chocolate chip cookie, eggnog, and Oreo by replacing the cocoa powder in the original recipe with dry pudding mix in the desired flavor. Although the cake flavors may vary, Kerri believes that “our filling is what makes our whoopie pie… our filling has such a potent flavor profile that when you put it with any cake it makes the cake just that much better.”
The whoopie pie’s versatility also makes it ideal for accommodating food allergies and sensitivities. Every Thursday is gluten-free day at Making Whoopie, and gluten-free whoopie pies can be preordered any other day of the week. Since the Fluff filling is naturally dairy-free, a dairy-free whoopie pie can easily be made by substituting soy milk for dairy milk in the cake batter. Most importantly, Making Whoopie is a completely nut-free bakery. “We don’t bring any nuts into the facility or anything manufactured in a facility with nuts,” Kerri says. “I’m allergic, so if I can’t try it, I’m not gonna make it.” Kerri reports that her young customers with food allergies “get so excited” that they can get safe treats at Making Whoopie to bring to birthday parties and other events, so they don’t have to gaze longingly at treats they can’t have. With that kind of word-of-mouth advertising, Making Whoopie can’t lose.