Although we're technically past our Girl Scout cookie-selling years, we can still home-bake a batch and dish them out to neighbors and friends. Sure there are always copycat cookies, but did you know the very first Girl Scout cookie recipe is available online? The original recipe debuted over 100 years ago, when troops first starting selling the now iconic sweets.
According to the Girl Scout website, a local troop director detailed the association's chosen recipe in a 1922 article that was published in The American Girl magazine. Why? Because back in the day, Girl Scouts weren't hawking pre-packaged inventory to be shipped at a later date; they were baking, wrapping, and door-to-door delivering the goods themselves. So, for consistency's sake, the recipe was released — and for curiosity's sake, we decided to bake it over 100 years later. In present day Thin Mints practically have their own devoted fan club and everything from cereal to lip gloss has taken on the Girl Scout Cookie name, but the original recipe is just about as plain as a cookie can get. There are no clever flavor mash-ups, coconut flakes, or chocolate drizzles. Instead, the original Girl Scout Cookies are plain old vanilla. And by plain, we mean as simple as it can possibly get.
The Original Cookie
I picked up the recipe's seven ingredients: butter, sugar, milk, eggs, vanilla, flour, and baking powder — which essentially (to my non-professional baking knowledge) sounded like the makings for a simple shortbread (sans milk). The instructions consisted of three sentences, "Cream butter and sugar; add well-beaten eggs, then milk, flavoring, flour, and baking powder. Roll thin and bake in quick oven. (Sprinkle sugar on top.)" So I put on some forest green, got into the mindset of a business-hungry 1920s Girl Scout, and got to baking.
After completing the fast and easy first sentence of mixing all seven of the ingredients together, I realized something was off: My dough was a tacky-wet blob and the following instruction was telling me to "roll thin and bake quick in oven." Since that was impossible, I rescanned the recipe writeup and landed on a "modern-day tips" section. It directed me to "Refrigerate batter for at least one hour before rolling and cutting cookies. Bake in a quick oven (375°) for approximately 8 to 10 minutes or until the edges begin to brown." and also specified that this was "(not part of the original recipe)". So I brought myself back to 2018, preheated the oven, popped the dough in the fridge, and flipped on Netflix to wait. Even after an hour in the fridge, the dough was still fairly tacky and tough to "roll thin" as instructed — but I did my best, got the them on a sheet pan, and shoved them into the oven to brown. They baked up within ten minutes and smelled heavenly. I resisted the urge to eat one hot off the sheet pan and instead let them cool before packaging with care — because the most important part of this time-traveling journey had yet to come.
After I successfully made the cookies, I held a blind taste-test with my coworkers. And although I'd been ripped out of my 1920s kitchen mindset, I did get back into the cookie-selling spirit while skipping through the office, fresh-baked goods in hand (okay, I didn't actually skip). I offered the cookies to various different departments, first without disclosing their historic identity. After initial judgement, I filled the testers in on their origin story. Here's how it went down:
Tell me what you think about this cookie:
“Tastes like a cornbread cookie!”
“There’s a nostalgic flavor factor to it.”
“It’s like eating a little thin piece of cake!”
“It’s sweet, but not too sweet.”
“I’d buy this if I saw it packaged at the store's bakery section, for sure.”
“Tastes great dipped in my coffee!”
"Super light, fluffy, and soft — I love it."
“It’s pretty bland, to be honest."
“I’m eating this because you've given it to me for free, but I wouldn’t pay for it.”
What if I told you this was the Original Girl Scout cookie recipe:
“They’ve really improved since then.”
"What! No way, really?"
"Is this supposed to be a Trefoil? If so, I like this so much better!"
“Why would they change this?”
“They should go back to making them this way!”
“These are way better — but, I can understand why it changed in order to be more mass-producible and shelf-stable.”
The original Girl Scout cookie recipe was mostly a hit with our taste-testers. If it has in fact transitioned into what we now know as the hard shortbread Trefoils, then we're holding out hope for the GSOA to bring back its softer more cake-like ancestor. Have you tried the original recipe? Let us know your Girl Scout Cookie stance in the comments below!