What were you doing on December 25, 1996? Here at King Arthur, we were launching our first website … and holding our breath. Would the site crash? Would it be hacked? (Did we even know what those terms meant?) These concerns are what inspired us to launch the site on Christmas Day — we figured that, if anything went wrong, no one would be watching!
Perhaps our biggest fear, though, was this: would people want to desert their beloved cookbooks and look at our “online recipes”?
Thankfully, the answer to that was a resounding YES. And now, 25 years and many millions of visitors later, we’d like to celebrate our recipe site by revealing the top recipe(s) in each of seven main baking genres.
Welcome to our 25th anniversary Recipe Hall of Fame
The following recipes have attracted the most visits from readers and, in the majority of cases, the highest number of 5-star reviews. I’ve made (and can highly recommend) all of them.
Sourdough: An enormous number of you have jumped into baking for the first time during the pandemic. And what do you all apparently want to bake? Sourdough. Sourdough Starter is now the #1 recipe on our site.
Yeast bread and rolls: This wide-ranging category includes crusty artisan breads, soft sandwich loaves, pizza, cinnamon buns, and hundreds of other entries. But Beautiful Burger Buns, a year-in, year-out top 10 recipe, is the clear winner.
Cake: Currently the #2 recipe on our site (and the pre-pandemic perennial #1), Easy Cheesecake is our top cake. But wait — it doesn’t use flour (aside from its graham cracker crust). What’s the next cake in line? Flourless Chocolate Cake. Wait! Somewhere there’s a top-ranked cake that actually uses King Arthur flour … Oh, here it is: Classic Birthday Cake (pictured above), our 2019 Recipe of the Year.
Cookies and bars: The most-visited cookie recipe on our site? No, not chocolate chip, sugar, or oatmeal. Surprisingly, it’s Gingerbread Cookies. Happy holidays — apparently year-round! Fudge Brownies, not surprisingly, are our top bar.
Pie: With over 200 pie recipes (including 20 variations on apple alone), this is a hotly contested category. And the winner is … Apple Pie. Classic.
Pancakes, biscuits, and scones: The results here couldn’t be simpler. Because when it comes to breakfast, who needs complicated? Simply Perfect Pancakes, Baking Powder Biscuits, and Scones are our category winners.
The "famous department store" that gave these muffins their name is Boston's Jordan Marsh Company. Jordan's closed and its brand was "retired" in 1996 — the same year King Arthur launched its website.
Muffins and quick breads: Who doesn’t love blueberry muffins? Apparently no one! Blueberry is the clear winner in this category, with a New England classic, Famous Department Store Blueberry Muffins, taking the top spot. In the quick bread category I was convinced banana bread would reign supreme: but no, Easy Pumpkin Bread grabs the top spot.
Takeaways from the past 25 years
In addition to showcasing our most popular recipes, I’d like to wrap up with a look back at 25 years of online recipe data and a few of the surprising takeaways it reveals. Based on the information we’re able to gather, here are some fun facts about our recipe site and its 100 all-time most-visited recipes.
Still the ones: Of the original 12 recipes on our site, three survive today (all with different names): The Easiest Loaf of Bread You’ll Ever Bake (formerly Basic Hearth Bread); Strawberry Cream Shortbread (Strawberry Mousse in a Shortbread Crust); and Brandied Apple Honey Muffins (Brandied Honey-Apple Muffins with Crumb Topping).
The everyone hates fruitcake myth, debunked: Everyone’s Favorite Fruitcake (#44) actually gets more visits than the site’s #1 pie, Apple Pie (#47).
Deus ex machine: Bread machines have been around for just about 30 years now and, despite the eye-rolling of many passionate bread bakers, our readers must love their machine-made breads: Witness Bread Machine Bread — Easy As Can Be, which rises toward the top as the #22 overall recipe.
It’s the yeast we can do: A whopping 54% of our top 100 online recipes involve yeast (including sourdough) — making it by far the most popular baking genre.
So we all stayed home and baked: During the first year of the pandemic the number of visits to our online recipe pages more than doubled, increasing by an astonishing 122% (to nearly 130 million).
Potentially most mystifying entry in King Arthur’s all-time top 20: Homemade Pierogi. If you’ve enjoyed homemade pierogi, then this makes total sense. But still, more people check out our recipe for pierogi than our recipes for Chocolate Chip Cookies, Classic Sandwich Bread, Simply Perfect Pancakes, Pumpkin Pie, or Sugar Cookies — to say nothing of a host of other more well-known treats? I’m (happily) surprised.
And the flavor of the month(s) and years(s) is: Chocolate, with 13% of the recipe site’s top 100 involving that ingredient. Flavor #2? Cinnamon. And oh, poor vanilla — despite vanilla extract being an ingredient in countless sweet recipes, not a single recipe with “vanilla” in its title makes it into the top 100!
A final thought
I was here for the King Arthur recipe site’s birth, and I still help lovingly tend it today, along with fellow blogger and recipe editor Kye Ameden and a crackerjack team of colleagues who really care about your baking success. Of the thousands of recipes on the site, each of us has a favorite — maybe not because it’s the best-tasting or most impressive, but for our own special reasons.
My favorite is Beautiful Burger Buns, pictured above (and at the top of this article).
Why? I love how recipes connect us; this one originally came from "Moomie" (Ellen), a kind and generous woman and venerated member of our one-time online community forum (The Baking Circle). Thanks, Ellen — The Circle may be gone, but your recipe lives on.
In addition, these buns are our #1 yeast recipe, and for good reason: with their soft, buttery crust, golden interior, and fine-grained texture, they’re — well, beautiful. Give them a try next time you’re grilling. And as always, happy baking!
Speaking of online communities, would you be interested in a future recipe-based community hosted by King Arthur — a place you could connect with fellow bakers around your shared passion, baking? If so, please answer “yes” in comments, below.
Cover photo by Rick Holbrook.