Geek Out on Dessert History & Amaze Your Family and Friends with Fun Factoids!

You don't have to be a geek (though it sure helps) to be fascinated by the history of desserts. It's full of believe-it-or-not factoids and crazy stories about our favorite recipes came to be.

1. Chocolate Chips Became a Thing After Chocolate Chip Cookies

It's true: The cookie came first.

Chocolate chip cookies were actually invented in error. Some time around 1938, Massachusetts baker Ruth Graves Wakefield added bits of chopped chocolate to cookie dough, trying to make quickie chocolate cookies. That obviously didn't happen — but the "mistake" became a hit. The cookies became so popular, in fact, that pre-made chocolate chips followed a few years later. 

2. Winemakers Can Take Credit for Snickerdoodles

Wine already does so much for human happiness, but it also deserves a "thank you" for producing the cream of tartar that makes meringues so lofty and snickerdoodles so tender. 

Cream of tartar comes from the sediment that collects in barrels during the winemaking process. In fact, there's evidence of this residue dating back 7,000 years. Mind blown, dessert nerds!

3. German Chocolate Cake isn't German 

The "German" behind the cake was an American named Samuel German who worked for an American chocolate company. He developed German's Sweet Chocolate baking bars nearly 100 years (!) before the cake came on the scene.

That cake was first dubbed "German's chocolate cake," a name eventually shortened to "German chocolate cake."

Samuel German died long before he got to taste the now-famous cake that bears his name. Let's take a bite in his honor every time.

4. Boston Cream Pie is Really Cake

If you've ever tasted Boston cream pie this isn't news to you. But why call it pie instead of cake? 

It may be a case of "lost in translation." The dessert, made famous at Boston's groundbreaking Parker House Hotel, was developed by an Armenian-French pastry chef in the late 1800s. At the time, pie tins were far more common in American households than cake pans. If the cake was originally baked in pie tins, it's easy to see how the chef, whose first language wasn't English, might use the terms "pie" and "cake" interchangeably.

But this isn't the only case of an incorrectly named "pie." Cookbooks from the 1850s offer recipes for several such confections, including Washington pie — a cake resembling Boston cream pie.

5. Blondies Came Before Brownies

If you delve into old cookbooks, you'll find that blondies were in rotation decades before brownies. Although not called blondies, some mid-19th-century recipes combined the flavors of butterscotch (a popular candy at the time) with flour and a leavening agent.

The first recipes for brownies didn't start cropping up in cookbooks until the early 1900s. 

Blondies FTW!

6. Baked Alaska is Actually From New York City

Baked Alaska got its name from the famous Delmonico's Restaurant in New York City, where it was presented to celebrate Alaska's annexation in 1876.

The restaurant didn't invent Baked Alaska, though. Credit goes to an eccentric fellow who went by Count Rumford (his real name was Benjamin Thompson), a physicist and rumored spy. As Count Rumford was experimenting with dessert techniques, he realized that while pastries could conduct heat and protect a cold core, a layer of meringue could do it even better.

Count Rumford dubbed his dessert "omelet surprise” or "omelet à la norvégienne," which translates to “Norwegian omelet” — a reference to its snowy appearance.

7. Croissants Aren't Technically French

There couldn't possibly be anything Frenchier than a croissant . But in fact, they were invented in Austria. The croissant is a descendant of a simple, slightly dowdy Austrian pastry called kipferl.

It's said that the concept was taken to France in the 19th century by a man named August Zang, who went on to found a Viennese bakery in Paris. He introduced yeast into the butter pastry, and the croissant as we know it was born.

You may not want to share this backstory with an actual French person.

8. Girl Scout Cookies Didn't Always Come From a Box

The Girl Scouts began selling homemade cookies at a fundraising bake sale in 1932. They soon realized they'd do better if if they spent more time selling than baking — thus the shift to boxed cookies.

Word spread fast. By 1937, more than 125 Girl Scout Councils were selling cookies in boxes. Today, it's hard to imagine a world without boxes of Girl Scout cookies.

February 20, 2019
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Geek Out on Dessert History & Amaze Your Family and Friends with Fun Factoids!