The Invention of the Chocolate Chip Cookie

May 20, 2021

Chocolate chip cookies on a rack.

It’s one of the most popular desserts of all time, but where did the chocolate chip cookie come from? The chocolate chip cookie was invented by Ruth Graves Wakefield at her Toll House Inn restaurant in Whitman, Massachusetts, in 1938.

The Toll House Inn restaurant that Wakefield ran with her husband was very popular and known for its desserts. She had a college degree in home economics and ran her restaurant carefully with an attention to detail. But there have been many myths surrounding the invention of the chocolate chip cookie by Wakefield that portray it as an accident. That doesn’t seem to be the case.

One myth behind the invention of chocolate chip cookies said that Wakefield ran out of nuts and substituted chopped up pieces of chocolate. But this is likely not the case since Wakefield was known for diligently running her restaurant. There is also a myth that chocolate accidentally fell into a mixer and that Wakefield decided to use the dough instead of throwing it out.

The real truth behind the invention comes from an interview with Wakefield in 1974 in the Boston Herald-American. Wakefield said she had already been serving a butterscotch nut cookie with ice cream and decided to serve something different to her customers even though the butterscotch cookie was already popular. It appears she was trying to come up with something new to increase business at her restaurant, and the new cookies did just that.

Wakefield wrote a cookbook in 1938 that included her new recipe for chocolate chip cookies, and in 1939, her restaurant was featured on the popular Betty Crocker radio show (which was hosted by Marjorie Husted, a General Mills home economist). Nestlé took note of the popularity, and because Wakefield’s recipe called for Nestlé chocolate, they bought the rights to the Toll House name and recipe in the same year. Wakefield sold the rights to Nestlé for $1.

Nestlé first started selling chocolate bars that were cut so they could be added to the dough in pieces, and they introduced the chocolate chip version in 1940. The original recipe was printed on the package, and Nestlé began a heavy advertising campaign to market the cookies. These things increased their popularity nationwide. Toll House cookies became even more popular after World War II since they were given to soldiers during the war. They came home wanting more of the cookies.

Wakefield’s recipe stayed the same until 1979, when her contract with Nestlé expired. The new recipe made the cookie larger and thicker and changed some of the ingredients, but by this time, the chocolate chip cookie was already one of the most popular desserts of all time.

Sources: The Toast, Slate, The New York Times, My Recipes

About the author 

Daniel Ganninger - The writer, editor, and chief lackey of Knowledge Stew, the author of the Knowledge Stew line of great trivia books, and editor of Fact World and the Knowledge Stew sister site on Medium. I hope you find things here to annoy those around you with your new found knowledge.

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