How Bisquick got its start
It was late in the evening in 1930. The dining car was closed on the train to San Francisco and hard-working General Mills salesman Carl Smith was hungry.
He asked the train’s chef if he might make something quickly, nothing fancy and not too much trouble. What was on Smith’s plate became the inspiration for a product that is still deliciously convenient more than 80 years later.
The train’s chef served Smith a plate full of piping hot biscuits. When Carl asked how the chef produced them so quickly, the chef revealed his secret – a pre-mixed blend of lard, baking powder, flour and salt that he stored in an ice chest. From that batter, the chef could whip up delectable, homemade biscuits in a matter of minutes.
Smith recognized the potential of a mixed baking product. Remember, it was the 1930s and cake, muffin and biscuit mixes didn’t yet exist!
When he returned to General Mills, Smith took the idea to a food scientist who had to work through the challenges to get to a shelf-stable product that produced baked goods as good as (or better than) homemade.
It took awhile, but they did it and Bisquick was introduced in 1931.
It was a revolutionary product from the start and stars of the age – from Shirley Temple to Clark Gable – helped promote the miracle mix.
Early advertising was aimed squarely at women with messages telling them their Bisquick biscuits could even beat their mother-in-law’s homemade fare and their husbands would never know the difference.
The messaging worked and carried the product cleverly through the years. In 1969, Team Bisquick even won first place in the first annual Effie Awards to honor their marketing efforts.
It didn’t take long for America’s home cooks and bakers to find new and creative uses for Bisquick mix beyond biscuits and pancakes.
Cakes, cookies, breads, “Impossible” brunch and dinner bakes and even churros populated dedicated Bisquick cookbooks in the 1960s through the 1980s.
In 1981, the World’s Largest Peach Shortcake was created at the South Carolina Peach Festival. It was five layers and measured 25 1/2 feet in diameter. More than four tons of Bisquick and nine tons of peaches were used. That’s A LOT of Bisquick!
Today, Bisquick’s product line has grown to include flavored biscuit mixes, easy Shake ‘n Pour pancake mix and even gluten-free Bisquick!
My favorite Bisquick recipe is the Impossible Cheeseburger Pie (now called Impossibly Easy) my mom used to make on busy weeknights.
What’s your favorite Bisquick recipe? Let us know in the comments below!
Editor’s note: Look for more posts in our “Origin Stories” series in our History category.
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