Scholla: Shoofly Pie July 6, 1941
How did the Pennsylvania Dutch adopt the name Shoofly for one of the most delicious of their pastries? A number of readers have asked that question. It is easy to understand that house flies would cluster about the toothsome cake known as shoofly pie, and that milady of the house would shoo them away. But the term is not Pennsylvania Dutch. Neither shoo nor fly will occur in the dialect. The writer has studied many of the old colonial American baking recipes which were published in the German Almanac and nowhere is there any suggestion of the term shoofly.
The word shoofly came into the English at the time of our Civil War. A negro minstrel, named Cool Burgess, popularized a song entitled “Shoofly, Don’t Bother Me.” The author of the song was T. Brigham Bishop. The song was taught to the soldiers in the camps and after the war the words spread to all parts of the country as the soldiers returned to their homes. The Negro minstrels developed dance steps and Cool Burgess became the most distinguished “Shoofly” end man. The sense of the term as used in the song was “Shoes Fly” fast while dancing.
It would be interesting to determine with certainty just what the term does mean when applied to the crumb-covered molasses cake which has been marked as a Pennsylvania Dutch product.
Archival Notes: Our recommended resource on Shoofly Pie is by William Woys Weaver As American as Shoofly Pie: The Foodlore and Folklore of Pennsylvania Dutch Cuisine