Many people have adapted their Saturday nights from dinner on the town to family fire pits and backyard grillouts. Hand in hand with the firepit comes making a batch of OGD (ooey gooey delicious) s’mores, the dessert of summer. Although its invention is credited in 1927 by Girl Scout Troop leader Loretta Scott Crew in her book Tramping and Trailing with the Girl Scouts, it is part of an ancient family tree of marshmallow cake treats that goes back centuries or more, and started in Germanic Europe. Oddly enough, it was only this year that the Girl Scouts released a S’mores cookie in their annual Fattening Up America evil scheme.
The S’more or “Some More”, as Ms. Crew called them in her cookbook, are part of a family of desserts that follow a three part rule. They must be a chocolate covered cream – be it meringue, marshmallow, or something even more gooey – over a cake, cookie, or biscuit. The s’more takes this formula to another level with the roasted marshmallow which then creates a melty chocolate goo when taken off the roasting stick and smashed between two Graham Crackers. The American roasted marshmallow as a treat came about in the 1890s when resort towns of the Northeast, like Asbury Park, New Jersey, hosted marshmallow roasts, designed as a way for singles to meat each other. They were advertised as “excellent opportunities for flirtation because you could nibble off of someone else’s stick.”
American variations of the marshmallow treat come in many forms that were adopted by local candy makers. Our Aglamesis makes a very old one around Christmastime called the Charlie Chaplin -The Comic Master’s favorite confection, milk chocolate, home made marshmallow, roasted cashews, and chips of toasted coconut. And then Louisville went bonkers inventing the Modjeska, a caramel-coated marshmallow, named after a visiting opera diva. Try melting either of them and making them into a s’more – HEAVEN!!!
Even the fluffer nutter sandwich, and the Elvis Presley inspired ‘nana fluffer nutter sandwiches of our childhoods are s’mores inspired.
And around the interwar and mid century period, this chocolate covered marshmallow formula spawned a worldwide marshmallow snack cake industry, that was born out of the American South. Many food historians believe that Ms. Crew’s recipe was created as a homemade version of the commercially made Mallomar and Moon Pie. The Mallomar was the first commercial American marshmallow pie and was introduced to the public in 1913, now made by Nabisco. The even more popular Moon Pie came to the market in 1917, from the Chattanooga Bakery of Chattanooga, Tennessee, named by a Kentucky coal miner. Both are forms of a chocolate marshmallow pie, which differ from the European version, in that they are sandwiched top and bottom with a cookie, before being robed in chocolate, as opposed to just a bottom cookie. The Scooter Pie came along, which is now most popular in the Northeastern United States, and then Little Debbie came out with the least creative, which they call the Chocolate Marshmallow Pie – meh!
Now the Germans have had the chocolate covered marshmallow with a bottom cake or cookie since at least the 1820s. They were commercially available in 1920 and then industrially in the 1950s. Most recently they have been renamed Schaumkuss, (Foam Kiss) or Shokoladenkuss (chocolate kiss) to be more culturally appropriate from their older names of the same treat Mohrenkopf (Moor’s Head) and Negerkuss (Negro Kiss). Approximatley 1 billion Schaumkuss are made in Germanic Europe annually, enough for a dozen a person. They’re available at supermarkets, bakeries at local fairs. Variations include white chocolate covered, coconut and nut covered, and a variety of different flavored marshmallow creams.
Belgium has a commercial brand made by Milka called Melo-cakes, and one of the most popular brands in Germany is Super Dickmann’s. In Flanders, the treat still carries an non-politically correct name negerinnentetten, which translates into Negress’s tits.
The German Matschbrötchen, the grandfather of the American S’more.
Of the 1 billion Schaumküsse Germans eat every year, the average child eats around 100 of them. German children eat them squashed between 2 halves of a Brötchen ( a small bread roll or bun) which they call “Matschbrötchen”, “Klatschbrötchen”, “Datsch” or “Schokokussbrötchen”. In Swabia in southeast Germany, they’re called “Morenkopf auf ein weckle” – Moor’s head in a weck (the regional small bun – also the third “w” in chicken wing chain BW3) This is the formula of the s’more and the American chocolate covered cookie-pie. So are the Germans responsible for two of our most American treats – the s’more and Moon Pies too? Well, yes.
In the UK such a treat is called the teacake, and in a lot of cases include a layer of fruit jam nestled between the bottom biscuit and the marshmallow cream. These were created much later in the 1950s. Heck British afternoon tea was invented only the in 1840s, about two decades after the Schaumkuss was found in Germanic Europe.
Not to be outdone in snack cake innovation, Hostess didn’t want to make another ‘me-too’ mallow snack cake. So when sugar rationing lifted after WWII, in 1947 they introduced my favorite snack cake, the Sno Ball, a marshmallow coated chocolate snack cake – the inverse of the marshmallow cake treat – brilliant! Sno Balls were originally just chocolate cakes covered in marshmallow and coconut. The gooey orbs didn’t receive creme filling or their signature pink tint until 1950. And Hostess didn’t stop there. The squishy cakes are not only limited to pink or white. They turn special colors for the holidays – green for St. Patrick’s Day, orange for Halloween, and lavender for Easter.
The American chocolate covered marshmallow pie spread across the world. Australia, capitalizing on the popularity of spaghetti western movies, introduced the Wagon Wheel in 1948. Inventor Gary Weston placed two Marie biscuits (a vanilla flavored rich tea biscuit invented for the wedding of Grand duchess Maria Alexandronova of Russia and the Duke of Marlborough in 1874) around a marshmallow filling and covered them in chocolate. Japan introduced the Angel Pie in 1961. Korea and later Russia introduced the Choco Pie – which is now all over southeast Asia.
So this summer try mixing up your s’more game with a Charlie Chaplin or a Modjeska s’more – heck maybe even a Sno Ball s’more.