The Original Palmer House Brownies Recipe

Palmer House Brownies
The Palmer House Hotel in Chicago, home of the world’s first chocolate brownies

Brownies became popular around the turn of the last century, when Bertha Palmer asked the chef at the the Palmer House Hotel in Chicago to create a cake-like dessert to be served in box lunches for ladies attending the 1893 Columbian Exposition. It had to be easier to eat than a slice of pie, but smaller than a piece of cake. The originals featured walnuts and an apricot glaze.

Here is the original Palmer House Brownies recipe:


1 pound semi-sweet chocolate
1 pound butter (4 sticks)
1 pound sugar (3 1/2 cups)
8 ounces cake flour (2 cups)
1 tablespoon baking powder
4 eggs
1 pound crushed walnuts (3 1/2 cups)


1/2 cup water
1/2 cup apricot preserves
1/2 teaspoon unflavored gelatin


Preheat oven to 300 degrees F.

Melt the chocolate and the butter together in a double boiler.  (If you don’t have a double boiler, use a stainless steel bowl over a pot of simmering water.)

Mix in the sugar, flour, and baking powder until well mixed.  Now add the eggs and mix until well mixed.

Pour mixture into greased 9 x 13 pan.

Sprinkle with walnuts and bake for 40 minutes.  (Edges will become slightly crispy, and a toothpick in the center may not come out clean; it should be slightly gooey.)

Let cool 30 minutes.

Mix glaze ingredients in a saucepan.  Bring to a boil for two minutes.  While hot, spread a thin layer of glaze onto the brownies with a pastry brush.

At this point, you may wish to refrigerate or freeze them; it makes them easier to cut.

Makes approximately 24 Original Palmer House Brownies.

4 thoughts on “The Original Palmer House Brownies Recipe”

  1. I have been using this exact recipe, in the UK for decades! Handed down from someone who knew someone who had lived in the States. Only researching now, for a label, that is going to go on the box, for a 4th July party, I discover its origin! Happy 4th July x

  2. In the picture above the recipe it looks like a chocolate icing spread on top, not the apricot glaze. It’s that correct?

    • Correct, Dan. Though we’ve known people to alter the original apricot glaze and turn it into a chocolate apricot glaze. Mmmm…


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