The 20 most fascinating accidental inventions

5. Chocolate chip cookies

Jacob Turcotte

If your favorite cookie is chocolate chip, then you should praise Ruth Graves Wakefield for her mistakes in the kitchen.

Wakefield and her husband, Kenneth, owned Toll House Inn in Whitman, Mass. Wakefield prepared the recipes and cooked for the inn’s guests.

One day in 1930, Wakefield had a problem. She was out of baker’s chocolate for her scrumptious Butter Drop Do cookies. Surely, her guests would be upset. Wakefield had to quickly come up with a chocolate substitute and broke up a bar of Nestle’s semisweet chocolate into tiny chunks and mixed them into the batter. She assumed that the chocolate would melt, spread into the dough as it baked, and create a chocolate-flavored cookie.

That, of course, didn’t happen. When Wakefield took the cookies out of the oven, she noticed that the chocolate chunks only melted slightly, holding their shape and forming a creamy texture. The guests loved them.

Wakefield’s chocolate chip cookies began attracting people from all over New England. After her recipe appeared in a Boston newspaper, Nestle gained a huge spike in sales. Everyone wanted Nestle’s semisweet chocolate bars to make Wakefield’s cookies.

And so a marketing deal was struck. Andrew Nestle agreed to give Wakefield a lifetime supply of the chocolate in return for her recipe printed on every Nestle semisweet chocolate bar. 

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