Interview: Lucy Stuart

Lucy Stuart is co-owner and Pastry Chef of Whoopie – a Kiwi company that creates delicious hand-held sweet treats using natural, fresh ingredients and free-range eggs. Lucy used to be a Wiggles dancer, and is now creating happiness in kids and adults alike as a Pastry Chef. She was inspired to create a natural New Zealand range of the popular American treat – Whoopie Pies.

Lucy talks to Chelsey about opening New Zealand’s very first Whoopie store in Auckland’s Grey Lynn.

Why Whoopies? Why not cupcakes?

I first saw Whoopies when I was touring in the States. I loved the idea of them and thought they were an interesting alternative to cupcakes. Cupcakes are great, but I saw a lot of potential in the ‘Whoopie’ idea, as there is such a unique story behind the name. I also thought they would also appeal to a varied group of people, including men, as they are generally not as ‘frilly’ as a cupcake. They are also easier to eat, and the best thing about a Whoopie is that when you take a bite you are getting the delicious fillings and the cake at the same time, yum!

Where does the name come from?

We decided to call our business ‘Whoopie’ as we absolutely loved the name and it has so many great and hidden meanings. The name ‘Whoopie’ comes from the original version of this treat: in the 1920’s, Amish women would bake these treats for their husbands who would later shout ‘Whoopie’ when they found them in their lunch boxes. It’s just such an appropriate name! We have chosen to call ours ‘Whoopie Cakes’ as opposed to the traditional ‘Whoopie Pies’ as we have made our own gourmet Kiwi version which are much more cake-like than the traditional version.

Your co-owner is also your ‘better half’ as they say: how do you guys do managing the work/home relationship?

Not many people can say they get to ‘Make Whoopie’ with their partner at work! So although it has its challenges, it’s fun, and we work really well together J

What inspired you to become a pastry chef?

I’ve had quite a variety of careers ranging from a Wiggles Dancer, an activity officer on a tropical island, an events organsier and an engineering assistant! It wasn’t until I took some time out to really think about what I enjoyed doing that I decided on cakes. I have always loved baking and thought if I could make cakes for a living then that would make happy, as would watching people enjoy the things I make. I decided to go back to TAFE (similar to PolyTech) and study to become a pastry chef - best decision I’ve ever made in my life!

Is it hard to resist eating the goodies you make all the time? It’s easy to imagine that it’s a danger of the job!

Yes it is! People often ask if I am sick of eating cakes by now and unfortunately that’s just not the case. I absolutely love nuts and we make a really tasty Peanut Butter Whoopie, which I have to sample whenever I make it. I call it quality control – it’s a great excuse. I also like playing around with new and interesting flavour combinations, so taste testing is all part of a day’s work (if you can call it that) in the Whoopie kitchen!

Is this the first business you’ve ever owned? What have been the challenges?

Yes, this is the first business I have owned. There have been many challenges and equally as many solutions, you just sometimes need to be patient and things will work themselves out. The biggest challenge has been starting a ‘food related’ business, as there are a lot of rules and regulations in regards to food safety. It forces you to be extremely diligent and thorough, which is a good thing but leaves you with a lot of paperwork!

Where does your inspiration for flavours come from?

The great thing about our Whoopie Cakes is they are great vessels for all sorts of amazing flavor combinations. Initially we started with flavours I knew worked really well together and combinations I really liked, such as Banana & Salted Caramel, Chocolate & Hazelnut and Orange & Chocolate. Now that we have our own shop we can play around a lot more with flavours and that is what I am super excited about. I am looking into traditional dessert/cake flavours from a variety of countries and I’m learning a lot about spices and ‘super foods’ too, so can’t wait to incorporate more of these into our new Whoopie Cake flavours.

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