The History of Chocolate in America

While there is no officially recognised holiday for chocolate cake, there probably should be for something this popular. Here’s a short history of how chocolate and chocolate cake has evolved into becoming a popular staple in U.S culture.

Before 1930s and 40s America, chocolate was primarily consumed as a beverage. Cakes, as we know them in their present form, had yet to make their way over to the U.S. What was largely understood to be chocolate cake, in fact, was yellow or white cake to be eaten while enjoying a chocolate beverage. While chocolate was starting to be used as an ingredient in frostings and sauces, its main use as a beverage treat carried on into the start of the 20th century.

Food of the Gods

A picture of a chocolate beverage in a Bensdorp’s Cocoa advertisement instructed those who saw it to enjoy the cocoa, which they termed “the food of the Gods”, The advertisement made its first appearance in 1898 and came with an announcement that it had been recognised as a sponsor that year by the World’s Fair Columbian Exposition, which was held in Chicago. The organisers of the fair ordered thousands of pounds of the cocoa to be served to guests.

The original American chocolate cake recipe derives from a recipe book by Linda Larned called Hostess of To-Day, published in 1899. It doesn’t bear many similarities with today’s chocolate cake, however, as it’s simply a cake made with cocoa. The earliest chocolate had a much lighter colour as they used far less cocoa and sugar. They also often used more flour than what we’ve become accustomed to, which made it fluffier and similar to what we now know as breakfast bread.

Chocolate everything

By the time that the advertisement was featured in the recipe book, chocolate cakes had become a more common food choice. The standard cocoa usage, however, remained reserved for sauces, frostings, icings, and drinking chocolate. Advertising campaigns began to take advantage of changing consumer trends by promoting the idea of cocoa being used in baking, drinking, and decorating.

By the year 1940, Hershey Chocolate Company had grown to be so successful that using chocolate for baking was considered normal in the majority of American homes. By this time, recipes for chocolate cake were becoming more decadent and richer, thus requiring larger amounts of sugar and cocoa than they had previously. These recipes were gradually morphing into the kind of cake we consider to be “chocolate cake” day.

Chocolate today

Today, most Chocolate is mass-produced and highly-refined, although some chocolatiers still insist on maintaining the purity of their ingredients as much as possible and make their recipes by hand. While chocolate remains a popular beverage, it’s more commonly enjoyed in edible form, either in baked goods, desserts, or as a chocolate bar.

Though the typical chocolate bar may still not be regarded as the healthiest of foods, dark chocolate is now seen as an antioxidant-rich and heart-healthy treat.