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Berger Cookies are a kind of cookie made and distributed by DeBaufre Bakeries. They are topped with a thick layer of chocolate fudge that derives from a German recipe, and are a cultural icon of Baltimore.
The Berger Cookie recipe was brought to America from Germany by George and Henry Berger in 1835. Henry owned a bakery in East Baltimore which was later run by his son Henry. While the younger Henry took over his father's bakery, his two brothers, George and Otto, opened their own bakeries. Around 1900 Otto died, then George and Henry combined the bakeries to create 'Bergers'. As technology grew so did the bakery. Eventually Henry died, leaving George as the sole proprietor of the bakery.
When George retired he sold the bakery and the recipe to Charles E. Russell. Charles' son, Charles Jr., took control upon his father's retirement. Charles Jr. and his sons, Charles III and Dennis, ran the business through the Depression. They employed two brothers, Charles and Benjamin DeBaufre. When Charles Jr. retired, he left the bakery to Charles III and Dennis. Meanwhile the DeBaufre brothers left the business to start DeBaufre Bakeries Inc.
The Berger cookie is well-known for its thick chocolate frosting layered on top of a shortbread cookie. The recipe has won several awards around the Baltimore area including the 2011 "Best of Baltimore Award" and the "Best Cookie" award in 2011. The product has also been featured in The Baltimore Sun, The View, and on Rachael Ray and The Best Thing I Ever Ate on the Food Network.
DeBaufre Bakeries was able to earn enough of a profit to purchase Berger's from the Russell family in 1969. Charles' son, Charles DeBaufre Jr., purchased part of the business in 1978. Charles Sr. died in 1988 leaving ownership to Benjamin, Charles Jr., and John Koehler. Charles Jr. became the sole proprietor of Berger Cookies in 1994 when Benjamin retired.
Production and sales
Berger Cookies are handmade in a small factory in the Cherry Hill neighborhood of Baltimore. As of early 2012, the annual sales of DeBaufre Bakeries were about $2.5 million, with Berger Cookies making up 98% of that. Other than sales on its website, the company sells Berger Cookies only in the Baltimore and Washington D.C. areas.
In February 2012, the company began a limited run of three flavors, strawberry, lemon and rum, that it had last made in 1972, in response to slower sales in January.
The Health Department closed the bakery in January 2013 because it was operating without the proper license. The bakery does have a federal food license, according to the FDA, and officials there have an ongoing investigation stemming from a routine inspection in January. A spokesman declined to comment on what the investigators have found. Records show the FDA, which does not communicate about its findings with the city, inspected the bakery at least once before, in 2011, and found no serious violations. The bakery has since obtained the proper licenses needed and resumed production March 5, 2013.
- Frederick N. Rasmussen (June 2, 1999). "Benjamin F. DeBaufre, 68, supervised production of famed Berger's cookies". Baltimore Sun.
- Andrew Reiner (April 19, 2012). "Baltimore’s storied Berger cookies have come to Washington". Washington Post.
- Jack Lambert (February 3, 2012). "Berger Cookies to roll out limited edition flavors". Baltimore Business Journal.