Oreo cookie history

Oreo Cookies. The American dream and global wonder, what’s behind the name?

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Someone once promised to make me an Oreo cake for my birthday. They never did. Maybe they didn’t have the right equipment, like a cake mould, or maybe they just didn’t care. Either way, it introduced me to the Oreo cookie. Or as us Brits say, biscuit.

Oreo cookies - one of the world's favourites
Oreo cookies – a world favourite

So where do Oreo cookies come from and how do they rank in the world of tea and cake?

Actually they’re pretty much number one. Over 40bn Oreos are produced globally each year so someone likes them.

History of Oreo Cookies

Oreo cookies are American, and were launched to the public in 1912. In some respects they’re similar to the custard cream, which is a favourite in the UK. Both Oreo cookies and custard creams feature two layers of biscuits sandwiching a cream filling. Obviously being round and dark, Oreo cookies are completely different to custard creams or even jammie dodgers, but their history is more murky.

To be clear, there’s no claim the Oreo copied the custard cream. However there is a claim that the Oreo is a copy (rip-off?) of a cookie produced by Sunshine Biscuits in 1908 (the same year the custard cream was launched. Coincidence?). Both the Sunshine Biscuit (called the Hydrox) and the Nabisco (Oreo) were two chocolate discs with white cream in the middle. How lucky was that?

Anyway in the long run it was the Oreo that turned out to be the winner in this VHS vs Betamax battle, and was finally trademarked in 1913.

Oreo cookies – naming as complicated as British royal family

Although it’s widely known as the Oreo, the Oreo was born as the Oreo Biscuit. It’s full title from 1974 has been Oreo Chocolate Sandwich Cookie. However no one uses full titles nowadays, not even the British royal family, who quite happily ditch theirs when they want to live someplace else.

Oreo cookies - two O biscuit discs sandwiching cream
Oreo cookies – two O‘s sandwiching cREam

Oreo is a strange name though, and no one is sure where it comes from. The early packaging was gold, so there’s a suggestion is came from the French word “or” for gold. More interesting is the idea they took the “re” from the word cream, and sandwiched it between the two ‘O’s representing the biscuit discs. Most likely a group of marketeers sat in a room for weeks discussing names, before getting bored and going back to the first one they came up with. Did they have flip charts and PowerPoint back then?

In the end Oreos got so famous that New York renamed West 15th Street between 9th & 10th Avenue ‘Oreo Way’ after the first cookie that was made at the Nabisco bakery.

Eating Oreos proves tea and biscuits as addictive as cocaine

Eating Oreo cookies poses the same issues as eating custard creams. For some, it’s a simple down in one motion. However more educated people either split them in half to go cream then no cream, or dunk and eat. Apparently women are more predisposed to splitting, but that might be an old wives’ tale or a reflection on middle-aged marriages.

In 2013, research from the US Connecticut College suggested that Oreos might be just as addictive as cocaine. Faculty and students were studying the effect of high-sugar/high-fat diets on lab rats, and they found that certain foods — specifically Oreos — stimulated the pleasure centres of the rats’ brains more so than cocaine or morphine. One student also observed that the rats “would break [the Oreos] open and eat the middle first.” They must have been female rats.

Just goes to prove, once you’ve had the highest quality tea and biscuits you just can’t give it up.

Making an Oreo cookie (or biscuit)

Oreo biscuits are fairly simple to make. They were made with lard until the mid-1990s, when Nabisco swapped the animal fat with partially hydrogenated vegetable oil due to growing health concerns. In 1997, Nabisco also earned kosher certification — a process that took over three years. 

Basic ingredients include sugar, flour, oil, cocoa, vanilla, high fructose corn syrup, cornstarch, salt, and chocolate. The lack of any animal products could make them vegan, if you like that sort of thing and ignore the cross-contamination potential that the company mentions on it’s website.

The ultimate – a giant Oreo cookie cake

Finally, the ultimate in Oreo cookies fans is as I said at the beginning, an Oreo cake.

Luckily, Moldyfun have a a giant Oreo Cookie Mould to make your life easier.

Oreo cookie cake can be made with a silicone cake mould
Oreo cookie cake – needs a mould?

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