Baking is as old as the hills. And so are its legends. Just for fun, here are some of the more interesting.
Cookies are so much a part of our culture that it’s difficult to imagine being without them. Around the world, cookies are the perfect snack. But cookies have not always been in every kitchen. In fact, cookies only became popular in the 1920s and 30s. Cookie recipes were not published in cookbooks until then either. A quick look through the original Fanny Farmer cookbook turns up nothing for a cookie. You can find a flat bread biscuit, which was the cookie’s predecessor. It wasn’t until granulated sugar became cheap and readily available that our kitchen included the sweet aroma of baking cookies.
At Jules, the classic chocolate chip is our second most popular cookie, just behind the chocolate crinkled cookie and followed immediately by snickerdoodles. Our male customers tend to buy oatmeal cookies, while women buy anything with chocolate. Kids love M&Ms. We love them all and can’t choose a favorite.
Chocolate Chip Cookie
Just how did the chocolate chip cookie become a classic? The first chocolate chip cookies was invented in 1930 by Ruth Wakefield of Whitman, MA, who ran the Toll House Restaurant (get it? Toll House?). One day she was experimenting with the recipe of a colonial cookie called the "butter drop-do." Having a bar of semisweet chocolate on hand, she chopped it into pieces and stirred the chunks of chocolate into the cookie dough, thinking the chocolate would melt and she would have a chocolate cookie. Instead the chocolate bits held their shape and created a sensation. She called her new creation the Toll House Crunch Cookies.
Word of the cookie spread and it became so popular that the Nestle Company, seeing the potential, developed a scored semisweet chocolate bar with a small cutting implement so that making the chocolate chunks would be easier. Mr. Wakefield's cookie recipe was printed on the wrapper of each bar. The recipe became a household tradition after being featured by Betty Crocker’s radio series on Famous Foods From Famous Eating Places in 1939.
The $250 Cookie Urban Legend
Contrary to popular legend, there is no so such thing as a $250 cookie or its recipe for that matter. The story is often told and retold and has surfaced again with the Internet. A woman (or man, depending on the version) supposedly asked/wrote Neiman-Marcus for a copy of its chocolate chip cookie recipe. Much to her surprise, she received a bill for $250 for the cost of the recipe. This recipe is sent around the world as “The original Neiman-Marcus $250 Cookie” Stick to the recipe on the back of the chip bag – it’s the same one we use AND Famous Andy!
The annual celebration of your day of birth has been tradition for thousands of years. To ensure happiness and fortune, people have made the birth day a feast day. The merriment and being surrounded by close family and friends is believed to help keep evil spirits away, especially on days that marked a milestone in the life of the person – the birth day.
While every culture has its own tradition, the birthday cake is customary around the world. One of the oldest cake legends comes from Greece, where it is said people placed small round cakes at the temple of Artemis – round for a full moon, lit with candle to signify the luminary affects of the full moon.
The sponge cake we associate with birthdays today is very different from its grandparent, which more resembled a cracker (biscuit). Think of it very much like a fruit cake. Tradition often called for the placement of small objects in the cake to bring happiness (a coin) or sorrow (the thimble).
Candles were a way to light the heavens and keep evil spirits away on the celebration of your birth. Today we believe we must blow out all the candles in one breath for our wishes to come true. Whoever started our tradition did not have the luxury of reaching 90 or have smoke alarms!
This is an old southern tradition that has its root in sugar beets. When you cook the sugar out of beets, the water turns red – hence the deep red nature of this cocoa-based sponge cake. Today, we use red food coloring to get the deep hue. Red Velvet Cake is often referred to as Waldorf Astoria cake. But according to legend, the Waldorf Astorian archives can’t produce any evidence or records of this. It doesn’t stop them from taking credit though.
Red Velvet cake is another that invites recipe legends. In the 1940s people loved to spin the story of a woman who asked for the recipe and was charged $100. Hmmm, sounds slightly familiar but a much better bargain than the Chocolate Chip Cookie!
Sam German is responsible, and it has nothing to do with the country. Sam was an employee for Baker’s Chocolate Company and invented a sweet dark baking chocolate. The company had the foresight to give Sam naming rights. In 1957, a recipe for cake using this new chocolate was published in a Dallas, Texas newspaper from a homemaker. Thus began the extraordinary love affair Americans have with German Chocolate Cake.
Fruitcake? Does anyone really eat this? Yes! Fruitcake has long roots too, originally made from flour and water, sweetened with pine nuts and fruit. It was actually a way of preserving newly harvested sweet fruits. Put into tins or casks along with the cake-base, kept fruits for eating during the long winter months. Fruits tended to ferment in the cakes, giving a biting flavor that today we imitate with rum. But, what good is a fruitcake without being soaked in rum? For that matter, why not skip the fruitcake and go straight for the rum cake that is so much more inviting?
Don't Eat The Raw Dough
Mom probably told you not to eat the raw cookie dough, as did all good moms. Our mom said it gave you worms. She was right about not eating it but wrong about why. It's not worms, but salmonella poisoning from raw eggs that appears in raw dough. The act of baking the dough kills the bacteria and makes it safe for us to eat -- but only after it's baked. If you insist on eating the dough, make sure it's one that contains no eggs.
Did you know that recipes cannot be copyrighted? The context in which they appear can be, but not the recipe itself. This is why so many people protect their “secret recipes” to the extreme. The same is true at Jules Bakery. We like to share some recipes and welcome new ideas, but won’t give you the recipes for our signature goodies. All we can say is the secret is in the blend of ingredients… and magic!
Images CAN be copyrighted and this is why we do not do the more popular cartoon characters on cakes. Names CAN be copyrighted too – Turtles® , Death By Chocolate® are popular names of candy or dessert but the names are copyrighted. We call them pecan clusters and Chocolate Ecstasy Cake.
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