Rocky Road rocked the world of ice cream. Before imaginative mix-ins were regular features at ice cream parlors, there wasn’t much excitement on the menu. Thanks to Rocky Road, ice cream lovers were inspired to add flavors and textures to basic ice cream flavors.
Unsurprisingly, the history of Rocky Road is a little bumpy and has its share of controversy.
What is Rocky Road Ice Cream?
Rocky Road is a chocolate-based ice cream flavor mixed with chopped almonds and marshmallow pieces. While most Americans are familiar with Rocky Road ice cream, many are unaware that it was originally inspired by a brownie-like dessert also called Rocky Road.
The milk chocolate, cake-like treat can be traced back to Australia. Unsure of what to do with confectionary treats that had gone bad during shipment from Britain, savvy confectioners got creative. The soft candy confections were mixed with chocolate and locally grown nuts. The chocolate flavor covered up the spoiled flavor of the candy while nuts provided a wonderfully crunchy texture. The popular dessert spread back to Britain and eventually the United States.
According to a Mental Floss article that investigates Rocky Road’s origins, the earliest American recipe for Rocky Road is a candy cookbook published in Kansas in 1920. That version includes the rather unusual addition of honey crème whip.
Ice cream is arguably the most popular form of Rocky Road, but it’s inspired dozens of other recipes like Rocky Road brownies, cakes, dessert bars, and much more.
Who Invented Rocky Road Ice Cream?
Rocky Road ice cream has a tie to the most financially dire time in United States history. William Dreyer, of Dreyer’s Ice Cream, is thought to be the original concoctor of Rocky Road. Dreyer, who first began creating ice cream during the Great Depression, thought people could use some cheering up during this difficult time. Partnering with candy maker Joseph Edy, he debuted the first incarnation of the now famous flavor in Oakland, California in 1929.
Dreyer didn’t have state of the art equipment at his fingertips, so he used his wife’s sewing shears to cut marshmallows into small pieces. He also originally used walnuts in place of the almonds now more widely used in Rocky Road recipes.
There are contradictory claims that the recipe came from creamery owner George Fenton. Fenton’s Creamery claims that Dreyer and Edy used Fenton’s idea and served Rocky Road at their own shop. The mystery remains up for debate.
When Did Rocky Road Ice Cream Become Popular?
Rocky Road ice cream was revolutionary because it was one of the first ice cream flavors to be offered other than the three Neapolitan classics: vanilla, chocolate, and strawberry. Shortly after its debut, the flavor spread to other ice cream shops and dairies around the nation.
Since it was the first flavor to incorporate different textures and flavors, it opened a world of possibilities for future ice cream flavors. Singer Weird Al Yankovich famously shared his love of Rocky Road with his parody song “I Love Rocky Road” in 1983.
This golden oldie is still cherished by ice cream fans and widely popular at modern-day ice cream shops.
What Does Rocky Road Taste Like?
The ice cream flavor features a base of smooth, chocolate ice cream. The soft chewiness of sweet marshmallows is contrasted with nutty, crunchy almonds to create a complex texture.
There are variations of Rocky Road ice cream. Some recipes will use marshmallow swirls or different nuts like pecans or peanuts in place of almonds, but traditionalists tend to favor the classic marshmallow pieces and almonds.
Rocky Road Ice Cream at Braum’s Dairy and Ice Cream Store
Braum’s stocks Premium Rocky Road all year long. Find it in our ice cream freezers in the Fresh Market or get a scoop (or two) to go at the counter. Our take on Rocky Road features sweet, miniature marshmallows and chopped, roasted almonds folded into chocolaty goodness. Unlike other brand’s versions, we stuff our Rocky Road Ice Cream with loads of mix-ins.
Find the (rocky) road to your neighborhood Braum’s and pick up your favorite ice cream flavors today!
Want more ice cream history? Check out our post on Butter Brickle!