We all enjoy eating those delicious, yummy cakes. Don’t we? The mere sight of that scrumptious, chocolate-draped cake (with that vanilla icing and cherry on top 😉 ) on a friend’s birthday party makes us yearn for a better, a ‘fit-for-gods” kind of a cake for our own birthday party!! When I was five, I wished for a super delicious yummy cheesecake for my birthday when my mom took me to my little cousin’s party who had got a strawberry cake for him.
Oh yes, CAKES. Who doesn’t love them? Whether it is a birthday or a wedding or even for those small little surprise parties at home, there is a cake for every occasion and for everyone. For that ‘sweet tooth fanatic’, for that ‘size- zero loving’ woman, for that ‘diabetic and still a sweet tooth fanatic’, and for the one who just loves anything sweet. But do any of us know anything about how cakes came into being? No, right? So, here is a small insight into the history of our favourite food. “Cakes”.
The history of cake is rich with rituals and symbolisms from different cultures and countries, all coming together to shape the cakes we know today. According to food historians, the Egyptians were the first tribe who showed evidence of possessing the skills of baking. Maybe they were fed up with the usual meat and hence started to try their hands at baking something new. However the cakes were sweetened with honey instead of sugar and were bread-like. The great poet Ovid mentions enjoying a cake during his brother’s birthday party in Tristia. History also claims that cake became a thing in ancient Greece. Some say that cakes came up only after the Middle Ages, and people enjoyed cakes only while celebrating festivals or on a birthday celebration. The tradition of adding small figurines to the cake and blowing the candles and singing a birthday song before the cake cutting began in England.
And why are the cakes usually round? Ever wondered? Here’s the answer. Although these days, we have a variety of shapes from heart-shaped to cartoon characters, animals, castles, and even photo cakes (where you have the picture of the person you are giving the cake to). But cakes were traditionally round, symbolizing the cyclical nature of life, the sun and the moon, which is probably why we have cakes during important events in our lives, highlighting that we are embarking on a new journey. The angel and the demon cakes! Yes there are cakes with those names. Angel food cakes were named as such due to their white and fluffy exterior, which came from egg whites supposedly symbolizing angels. However, if angels were there, could demons be far? Devil cakes started becoming popular in the 20th century. They were named so because the rich chocolate taste was so blissfully delicious that they were considered sinful. Even today, some people still think of eating chocolate as sinful due to the effects it has on their waistline. Today, cakes are served during holidays, weddings, baptisms, etc. Basically cakes have always been a part of all the significant moments in our lives. Ancient rituals have the tradition of eating cake at during ceremonial occasions. Cakes were offered to the spirits and Gods who showcased their special powers at particular times of the year. In China, cakes were made in honor of the moon goddess, Heng O at the time of harvest. Pancakes are made in Russia to pay respect to the Goddess of Spring called Maslenitsa. At the time of their traditional festival, the Beltans rolled cakes downhill to depict some solar movement. They hoped that rolling the cake would ensure the continuous movement of Sun. Strange as it sounds, but the Celts believed that if the cake broke while moving downhill, it was indicative of the person’s death within a year. Across the globe, people made cake offerings to deities and Gods during the time of harvest and the cakes were prepared from fruits and grains that were born out of the soil.
Times passed, and technology took center stage. In the 19th century, lives of the bakers became easier. Baking powder was born from sodium bicarbonate and baking became a faster process. Soon, ovens were invented and accurate temperatures could be used to bake the cake for just the optimum amount of time. With technological advancements, new techniques for levelling and sweetening developed. What was initially regarded as a form of sweet bread now has a category of its own and comes in various varieties and colors. Today you have them all. The cakes, the pancakes, the cupcakes, pop cakes and what not!
So there you have it. Historical and insightful things to know about the cakes we eat to treat our taste buds. Like everything else, cakes have had their moments in history too. So the next time you savor your taste buds with that tasty cake think of all the human inventions needed over time, to allow you to this little luxury.