Eating the World

The Whoopie Shack: A Break From Cupcakes

No fair! Here we've spent weeks discussing options for an Arizona state food, and here comes the state of Maine with the coolest state food ever: the whoopie pie. Who knew?

These treats are kind of (at least in appearance) like oversized French macarons; two rounded chocolate cakes resembling buns, stuck together with a generous amount of marshmallow fluff filling.

"They're sort of a man's pastry," says Sharon Flaherty. "You eat them like a hamburger."

Shelby Moore
A fellow "Maine-iac," as Sharon Flaherty calls them, finally finds the Whoopie Shack pies she'd been hearing about.

​That's how Flaherty, who lives in Fountain Hills but hails from the little town of Gorham, Maine (where rumor has it is the place the pastry got its start), likes to make them, and she's been doing it since she was a young girl baking with her mother and nana back in her home state.

"We go back and forth with Pennsylvania over who invented the first whoopie pies," says Flaherty, though she also mentioned Maine made things official in 2011 by naming whoopie pies their official state treat.

Knowing she wanted to quit her day job, 22 years of dentistry,

Flaherty branded herself immediately as the Whoopie Shack (logo, banners and all), initially baking the classic flavor out of her home kitchen, selling them for the first time three months ago on a Saturday at the North Scottsdale Farmers Market (on 94th and Shea).

Since then the pies have been selling better than hotcakes - she's sold more than 2,700 to date (at three dollars apiece, do the math), selling out early multiple markets in a row. All of it with a just some help from her mother, Carolyn, the lady responsible from Flaherty's cooking bug.

Not long after the classic came the Pumpkin Whoopie Pie with cream cheese filling and candy cane pies with peppermint buttercream rolled in candy cane bits which made way for current offering like salted caramel, the Almond Joyish (almond and shredded coconut), and the black raspberry balsamic.

"I try to keep it simple in the kitchen but I can't help it," says Flaherty. "I get inspired by different flavors and textures all the time so I like to experiment. All the recipes are my own, and I have yet to use a cookbook."

It's safe to say, at least for a little while, that no single pastry will take away the crown from the $6 billion dollar cupcake industry, but Flaherty knows baking the whoopie pies she grew up with can't possibly hurt - not when she's gaining her own following of repeat customers, with plans to expand in a way that she won't lose "that home-made taste," with the possibility of vegan/gluten-free options in the works.

"I'm looking into commercial kitchens this week so I can expand production... I don't want to see outdoors when the heat hits us this Spring and Summer, so my next step will be finding the right resources to take it to the next level," says Flaherty. "Who knows, maybe by summer there will be The Whoopie Shack... on wheels!"

You can count on finding The Whoopie Shack at the North Scottsdale Farmers market every Saturday and the Fountain Hills Farmers Market every Thursday (from 11-5 on Avenue of the Fountains), though she can often be found at the City North and Norterra markets when time permits.

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Shelby Moore