Jillian Karlsson has a lifelong love of baking, a degree in business management and an apartment in Somerville. When Karlsson got laid off from her job, it became clear to her that it was time to turn her baking hobby into something more. So with the help of her boyfriend, who was laid off around the same time, Karlsson launched Boston Whoopie in March 2013. She’s been cooking up a storm ever since.
“We did it to keep ourselves busy, but it turned into something more,” Karlsson said. “When I got laid off, it was the thing that made me realize this is what I want to do.”
Now she’s using her passion for the kitchen and her degree to grow her own small business making one of New England’s most classic desserts. Though there is some debate about where the whoopie pie originated, in Maine or Pennsylvania, Karlsson says hers are closest to the Maine version.
“I was playing with different cake flavors,” Karlsson said. But with the cupcake market saturated, she settled on whoopie pies as the basis for her business. “I wanted to do something different. I like to create different and fun flavors.”
Boston Whoopie currently sells 13 different flavors of the dessert on its website, everything from the original, featuring chocolate cakes, marshmallow filling and topped with a cherry, to creative concoctions like strawberry cheesecake, featuring graham cracker cakes, vanilla cheesecake frosting, homemade strawberry jam and a cinnamon and brown sugar topping.
“There’s an endless combination of what you can do,” Karlsson said.
Karlsson first baked the whoopie pies out of Mass Ave Diner in Cambridge, but she outgrew the space after a year and now operates out of the shared Crop Circle Kitchen in Jamaica Plain. She’s found working in a space with other food start-ups to be invaluable to her business.
“Being in a shared space is great,” Karlsson said. “You’re around other entrepreneurs that have the same passion as you do.”
Karlsson started selling her whoopie pies at The Davis Flea (now The Somerville Flea) last year and brought some to the Fluff Festival, where she will vend again this fall. “It’s a perfect pairing for us. It’s a prime ingredient in most of our flavors,” Karlsson said of Fluff, which was invented in Somerville.
Instead of selling at a lot of markets this year, Boston Whoopie pies are available online and for events, like weddings, barbecues or baby showers. Karlsson doesn’t use preservatives in her baked goods, so she requires 48 hours notice to make a batch that will then be delivered to the customer’s door. Delivery is currently available in the Boston area and the pies are available in two sizes in sets of six and 12 (large pies) or 12 and 24 (small pies).
“We want to stay local,” said Karlsson, who has lived in Somerville for about two years. “I absolutely love Somerville. It’s a great community.”
What’s been the sweetest part of her new venture so far?
“It’s nice to meet people who are really excited to try your product,” Karlsson said. “When they take a bite and come back for seconds.”