The History of Cake Making

Topics: Flour, Baking, Cake Pages: 13 (3365 words) Published: January 7, 2012
Sharon Cassidy


The History of Cake Making
Lecturer: Mary Kavanagh

The purpose of this essay is to give a brief history of cake. Firstly this essay will begin with the manifestations of the first ‘cakes’ in Egyptian times and it’s evolvement throughout emerging civilisations and their contribution to the notion of cakes as we know them today. Influences such as colonisations, global trading and immigration will also be discussed to illustrate how the movement of ingredients and methods contributed to the fusion of culinary knowledge. This report will also acknowledge advancements in technology to aid both the domestic and commercial baker, and how consumer trends have changed dramatically throughout history.

According to Humble(2010) evidence from archaeological digs from our Neolithic ancestors have shown that cakes in some form or other were being made then, although these early endeavours are a far cry from our perception of what a cake is today. These ancient cakes would have been would have been made from little more than crushed grains , mixed with water and made into rounds and baked on a hot stone. They would have been very crude and flat as leavening agents had not yet been discovered; in fact the word cake is also used to describe something that is flat and compacted such as a cake of soap. Humble (2010) also writes that these so called cakes would have been the precursor to the oatcakes we have today but are now categorised as a biscuit. Castella(2010) writes that very little is known about the culinary experiences of these times as there are not much written about food prior to the eighteenth century, however some records exist in the form of tomb drawings, tax records, Greek plays and shipping and military records. It is thought that around 5,000 B.C. the Egyptians accidentally discovered how to make leavened bread. There are some theories surrounding this discovery such as a mixture of flour and water were left outside for some time and “caught” natural yeast from the air causing bubbles of gas to appear in the mixture which was then used in the making of some bread , or some liquid that was being used to make beer was also used in the making of bread, either scenarios would have resulted in a risen or leavened bread that must have been a huge improvement on the hard and tough bread that had been previously eaten. The Egyptians are credited with sweetening these breads with honey commencing the evolvement of the cake( .The cakes began to be associated with religious ceremonies of which there are tomb paintings showing such scenes involving breads/cakes of various shapes such as rings, fish, crescents and birds being offered to the Gods. The Greeks were very creative with their ‘cakes’ by advancing on the Egyptians innovations by adding fruits like dates and figs and nuts such as pistachio and pine nuts . The Greeks are also being attributed with the invention of cheesecakes which were made with goat’s milk. The Greeks were great innovators when it came to cake making and in fact baking became a trained profession with the emergence of a strict baker’s guild (Castella, 2010) which lasted for several centuries. During the rise of the Roman Empire the Roman’s took what the Greeks had started with baking and improved it further bringing their new techniques with them on military campaigns and thus spreading new methods across Europe, they in turn also collected new ideas, ingredients and tools with which they combined to invent new recipes and formulas.

Medieval to Modern Cake Making
The beginning of the Medieval period saw an increase in population and the emergence of cities and towns. There was now a greater demand for food and crops were now grown in surplus to supply workers in the towns. Flandrin and Montanari(1999) write that this gave way to markets being set up in the main thoroughfare of towns and crafts such as bread making were...

References: Adamson,M. (2004) Food in Medieval Times Greenwood Press, London
Brears, P. (1985) Food and Cooking in 17th Century Britain History and Recipes Peter Brears and English Heritage, London
Castella,K, (2010) A World of Cake, Storey Publishing, M.A.
Flandrin, J,L, and Montanari,M (1999) Food a Culinary History, Columbia University Press, New York
Kenedy, J.(2011) Bocca Cookbook Bloomsbury, London
How Baking works (n.d.) [online} Available: [Accessed 5th October, 2011]
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