Brownies were invented in Chicago, and now you can whip up the original recipe at home

The iconic dessert traces its roots back to the Columbian Exposition World’s Fair in 1893.

Morgan Olsen
Written by
Morgan Olsen
Global Food & Drink Editor
brownies, walnut brownies, dessert, sweets, brownie, chocolate, shutterstock
Photograph: Shutterstock

Chicago is the birthplace of the skyscraper, TV remote control, car radio and—perhaps most deliciously—the brownie.

The story of the chocolatey dessert traces its roots back to 1893 at the historic Palmer House Hotel in the heart of the Loop. As the story goes, Bertha Palmer (wife of hotel owner Potter Palmer) asked the kitchen crew to whip up a portable dessert that could be served at the Columbian Exposition World's Fair.

The resulting creation—a walnut-studded, apricot-glazed brownie—was a runaway hit and has been served at the downtown hotel ever since. Lucky for us, the recipe is easier than you'd imagine. Here's how to whip up Palmer House's iconic fudgy brownies at home.

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Photograph: Courtesy Hilton

Here's what you’ll need:


  • 14 ounces semisweet chocolate
  • 1 pound butter
  • 1 ½ cups sugar
  • ½ cup flour
  • 8 eggs
  • 1 ½ cups crushed walnuts
  • Vanilla extract


  • 1 cup water
  • 1 cup apricot preserves
  • 1 teaspoon unflavored gelatin

Here's how to make it:

  1. Preheat the oven to 300°F.
  2. Melt chocolate and butter in a double boiler. Mix sugar and flour together in a bowl. Combine chocolate and flour mixtures and stir 4–5 minutes. Add eggs and continue mixing.
  3. Pour mixture into a 9x12 baking sheet. Sprinkle walnuts on top, pushing down slightly into batter with your hand. Bake 30–40 minutes.
  4. Brownies are done when the edges begin to crisp and the batter has risen about a quarter of an inch. (Note: When the brownie is properly baked, it will remain “gooey” with a toothpick in the middle due to the richness of the mixture.)
  5. For glaze, mix together water, apricot preserves and gelatin in a sauce pan. Bring to a boil for 2 minutes. Brush hot glaze on brownies while still warm.
hilton, brownies, fudge, dessert, palmer house
Photograph: Courtesy Hilton

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