Who Invented the Chocolate Chip Cookie?

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While there are conflicting origin stories for the chocolate chip cookie, the inventor, Ruth Graves Wakefield, has never been in doubt. In the 1930s, she created her recipe while running a tourist lodge with her husband in Whitman, Massachusetts. The lodge was called the Toll House Inn, and Nestle would eventually buy the recipe from Wakefield for a quite a deal: $1 and an unlimited supply of bittersweet chocolate.

In the early 1930s, Wakefield and her husband, Kenneth Donald, bought the Toll House Inn and turned it into a lodge and restaurant. Over several years, Wakefield became famous for her cooking, especially her desserts.

Sometime during 1938, she invented the chocolate chip cookie. There are several origin myths, and all of them suggest her creation was an mistake. One story claims that she ran out of nuts for her original recipe. Another says she had forgotten to get baker’s chocolate and had to replace it with bittersweet. Perhaps the strangest legend is that a vibrating mixer made bittersweet chocolate fall from the kitchen shelf into her cookie batter.

The likely story is that the chocolate chip cookie came from hard work, determination and experimentation – carried out by an experienced, perfectionist cook. The results speak for themselves. Shortly after debuting her new dessert at the lodge, the chocolate chip cookie grew in popularity.

Wakefield published her recipe in the 1938 edition of her cookbook, “Toll House Tried and True Recipes” and it exploded in popularity thanks to being featured on Marjorie Husted’s (a.k.a. Betty Crocker) radio show. Sales of Nestle bittersweet chocolate soared, and that’s when Andrew Nestle took notice.

In 1939, Nestle bought the rights to print the Toll House Chocolate Crunch Cookie recipe on its packaging – in exchange for $1 (which Wakefield claims she never received) and an unlimited supply of chocolate.

Soon after, the Toll House brand cookie was sent in care packages for WWII soldiers. By the end of the war, what was once a small New England treat rivaled apple pie for America’s most popular dessert. It hasn’t waned in popularity since.

Wakefield’s contract with Nestle expired in 1979. Nestle modernized and simplified the traditional Toll House recipe, making the cookie softer, thicker and chewier than its crunchy “ancestor.”