Here's a short interview with Sue Schubel and the creation of the iconic Hog Island dessert:
What year was the cream puffin conceived and implemented on Hog Island?
Long ago, in the dark ages… can’t quite remember but I think early 2000’s. The first Pies on Parade event was in 2004, and I believe we served them on Hog Island for a few years before that.
Where did you get this idea from?
My family and I like to be creative thinkers, and my Dad was brainstorming w/me about sea-themed foods at one point. Cream puffin was a natural for wordplay, and the challenge of course was finding a way to make a cream puffin that would look good, taste good, and was able to be produced in volume. This one is too complicated for larger venues requiring thousands of items, but is good for Hog Island, and occasionally a larger challenge such as Pies on Parade - an annual Rockland event where we have made up to 650 of them in one fell swoop. I follow Julia Childs pate a choux recipe for the body of course, as she is one of my culinary heroes.
How did you come up with the cookie head design?
We tried out several methods before settling on our current design. Cookies with frosted designs take too long, puffy heads are often weirdly shaped or hard to attach - this method where we can create rolls ahead of time, freeze, then slice and bake, is the best and best looking. We also worked through different types of chocolate for the back, with painting and dipping methods.
Why do you think this tradition continues to be one of the campers favorite things?
A cream puffin is cute. And a hundred cream puffins is tots adorbs. Plus they are tasty, and an excellent photo opp. I really love hearing the chorus of “aaawwwws!” when we bring them out en masse. And, since people often want to squeeze or eat up cute things, this is a good outlet for that “cute aggression”. Seriously, that’s a thing. Look it up!
Sue Schubel is the Assistant Sanctuary Manager, Outreach Educator, and Decoy Project Manager for the Seabird Restoration Program, National Audubon Society. Sue is a creative force within our ranks and has created numerous fun projects ranging from the ukulele Puffin Pluckers group to making festive holiday gifts straight from the decoy workshop! If you're interested in purchasing a decoy tree topper you can find them in our online store. Make your own Cream Puffins with this recipe.