14.9.2023 • History
Our recipes are an integral part of the company's DNA. Since 1891, Dr. Oetker has been publishing baking and cooking instructions, usually free of charge in the form of recipe booklets. Since the early 20th century, recipe ideas have been created in the test kitchen that inspire customers and have shaped generations. There are now thousands of printed publications, and not just in German. There is hardly a household in Germany in which a Dr. Oetker recipe booklet or cookbook and baking book cannot be found.
The very first Dr. Oetker recipe collection was a small booklet, published in 1891, the year of the purchase of the pharmacy by Dr. August Oetker. The acquisition also marks the founding of the company. But before classics such as baking powder or pudding dominated the range, typical pharmacy products could be bought from Dr. August Oetker.
The shop of the pharmacy in 1937. The state of the interior in the photo is the same as in the
days of Dr. August Oetker.
The first recipe booklet was therefore a medical guide in which was written what to administer for certain ailments and diseases. For example, there were instructions for porridge beats, the correct use of leeches or the production of "health wines". Baking a cake or cooking a dish was not yet a thing. But that was about to change.
The first recipe booklet from 1891, a medical guide.
Dr. August Oetker made his breakthrough with the baking powder Backin. Even though baking soda had been known for decades and was mainly sold through pharmacies, Backin was something revolutionary for home users in 1893. The amount was exactly enough for 500 grams of flour, was tasteless and hygienically flawless. The rising of the cake was guaranteed. On the back of the practical bag there was a suitable recipe also. The standardized packaging facilitated distribution enormously, which made it possible to spread the product quickly. From 1895 onwards, recipe booklets and leaflets with selected recipes were to promote sales – with success. Between 1895 and 1900, production increased from 600,000 to over 2 million units.
A Dr. Oetker recipe booklet published in 1898.
The easy-to-use recipes were very well received by customers. Often they were out of print. Over time, quite a few customers built up large collections and passed them on within the family and to subsequent generations.
But cookbooks should also be part of the offer soon. In 1895, Dr. August Oetker published the booklet "Basic Teachings of the Art of Cooking as well as Award-Winning Recepts for Home and Kitchen". It was designed like a guidebook, but there was hardly any substantial recipe information. Rather, the digestibility of food groups was reported in general and basic information was written about the preparation of broths, baked goods or fish. It is still a far cry from what is understood today as a modern cookbook.
This booklet was the first printed book by Dr. Oetker and was published in 1895. It was still a long way from what we think of as a cookbook today.
Around 1907, the Fortuna cookbook was published, which by today's standards can be described as the first real cookbook by Dr. Oetker. The main topic was healthy eating, at least what was considered to be the case at the time. On the book cover of certain editions, therefore, there is also a remarkable note: "For the waiting room." The book should be displayed in doctors' offices for advertising purposes. Interested customers could purchase the book for 40 pfennigs. It was 200 pages long and was written by home economics teacher Emilie Henneking.
The bright red Fortuna cookbook was probably the first real cookbook by Dr. Oetker and was published around 1907. It was produced in several variants. This edition was intended, for example, for the waiting rooms of medical doctors.
Around 1910, Dr. Oetker published the School Cookbook, one of the great classics of German cookbook literature. Hardly any other cookbook has been printed so often and in so many editions. One of the sources for the recipes was the company's own test kitchen. It was established as an independent department when the company moved to a new factory building. Previously, it was the wife of the company founder, Caroline Oetker, who tested the products and put together new recipes. The author of the school cookbook was also the home economics teacher Henneking. On 88 pages, basic teachings of cooking were taught in a condensed form. In addition, table manners and correct dressing were also discussed. The book quickly became a bestseller. In 1927 a completely revised new edition was published. By 1937, the school cookbook in German had already sold over 5 million copies!
In 1930, another classic was published for the first time: "Baking is fun!". This work was also to sell millions of copies. In this book, the focus was entirely on baking. Even the first edition was interspersed with colorful sample pictures of the pastries, which were intended to whet the appetite for baking.
From the 1950s onwards, the range of Dr. Oetker cookbooks and baking books was expanded quickly. Soon there was a suitable book for almost every food category. As early as the 1960s, there were vegetarian cookbooks and, for meat lovers, cookbooks for elaborate roasts or the correct preparation of game meat. Of course, fish cookbooks were part of the range too.
A 1971 fish and seafood cookbook.
Modern nutritional trends have repeatedly attracted attention in Dr. Oetker's publications. In 1960, the company entered the frozen food business and published a suitable cookbook including instructions for proper freezing. In the 1970s, party food was the order of the day, and in the 1980s, the microwave became affordable. New recipes have been developed for new nutritional trends as well as for technical innovations in the kitchen and a separate Dr. Oetker cookbook has been dedicated to them.
In 1960, Dr. Oetker entered the frozen food business. In 1965, the matching cookbook followed. Tips for home freezing were also found in the cookbook, after all, frozen food was something completely new for most people.
Early on, Dr. Oetker expanded into foreign markets. As early as the 1900s, the company supplied neighbouring countries, followed by the first foreign production facility in Austria in 1908. It was obvious that recipe booklets and cookbooks were also produced for foreign countries, for example in Hungarian or Dutch. Soon, many more countries followed. English-language recipe books are understandable for a worldwide audience, such as the popular German Home Baking and German Home Cooking series. In the second half of the 20th century, books specific to the international markets were produced, which took into account the respective national cuisines and typical tastes.
In 1996, thanks to the Internet, completely new possibilities for addressing customers opened up. Dr. Oetker's first website went online this year, which was completely new territory at the time. In addition to product presentations and all sorts of gimmicks, the popular recipes were not to be missed, which were charmingly presented by a digital version of the famous Dr. Oetker testimonial "Mrs. Renate". Since 1999, there has been an e-mail newsletter, the "Recipe Subscription", where customers receive new recipes free of charge every Friday.
All of a sudden, it was that easy! Customers were able to visit Dr. Oetker on the Internet from 1996 and register for the recipe subscription since 1999. To this day, there is a newsletter every Friday with great recipe ideas. Subscribe here!
Today's diet is more diverse and international than ever. Dishes, ingredients, and spices from distant countries are no longer considered exotic for most people and have often found their way into everyday food preparation. Criteria such as animal welfare, sustainability, and intolerances play an important role in the choice of food and dishes, and both vegetarian and vegan diets have become indispensable.
A vegan baking book from 2015.
Dr. Oetker had and still has the right recipes for all these diets in its range and will continue to stand for modern and contemporary enjoyment!