Batter & Cream's Elizabeth Fife Explains the Whoopie Pie
It was during her time in an investment banking role helping startup companies launch when Batter & Cream (86 West 12th Street, 917-496-4947) founder Elizabeth Fife realized her own entrepreneurial ambitions. "I think that kind of planted the seed," she says. "I quit my job and I started baking, purely because I love to eat -- desserts in particular."
The idea for whoopie pies came in later, when Fife realized the pastry's potential for novelty in an already sugar-saturated city. "Cupcakes and cake pops were stalling," she recalls. "I thought, why not the whoopie pie? It's such a better version of the cupcake." After incessant experimentation and a successful trial run of a pumpkin spice and cream cheese combination at her boyfriend's birthday party, Fife opened up shop in the West Village last September. She sells 15 whoopies in regular and mini offerings, including a monthly rotating flavor (April's was Earl Grey Whiskey). Here, we chat with the banker-turned-baker about why old is new again, her minimalistic approach in the kitchen, and why cupcake enthusiasts should consider this throwback treat.
Why whoopie pies?
I don't know that I had ever had a whoopie pie before a year ago. I was flipping through cookbooks and making brownies and pies and everything. I came across the whoopie pie, tried it, and I thought it was a very good base for being able to do lots of fun flavors. It's a cake with a filling, so there's a double opportunity to create a new combination with each one you make. It evolved from there.
How would you describe your offerings for folks unfamiliar with whoopie pies?
We use a lot of different flavors than what you might find in a cupcake, but we really try hard to make our "cookie cake" really fluffy and light, just like how a cupcake would be. It's basically a cupcake sandwich.
What should we know about the history of the whoopie pie?
It's a big discussion between people in Maine and Lancaster, Pennsylvania about who started the whoopie pie craze. But the story goes that when the Amish women would make these whoopie pies, they would put them in the men's lunchboxes. When the men would go off to work and open their box at lunchtime, they would see this treat and yell, "Whoopie!" That's how it got its name -- that's the story that I've heard most often.
How do you develop your flavors?
I have tons and tons of cookbooks, and I look through them and say, "Oh -- that's a good idea, but wouldn't it be even better if we added this or that to it." I do a lot of research and see if I can take ideas one step further. Selfishly, the flavors revolve around what I like -- and it seems to work for others as well.