Short History of the Cake

November 13, 2020

The discovery of flour is where it probably all began. Historians credit the Ancient Egyptians with being the first group to have shown evidence of advanced baking skill. Cakes were called “plakous” by the Greeks, from the word for “flat.”  These cakes were usually combinations of nuts, honey, and dried fruits.  

During the Roman era, the name for cake became “placenta.”  They were principally used as an offering to their gods.  Placenta was more like a cheesecake, baked on a pastry base, or sometimes inside a pastry case.

The word “cake” is a derivation of 'kaka', an Old Norse word. Europe is credited with the invention of modern cakes, which were round and topped with icing. This advance is due primarily to more reliable ovens and the manufacture of cake moulds that were placed on baking trays. The availability refined sugar was also a game changer.

The first icing was often a boiled mixture of sugar, egg whites, and some flavourings. During this time, many cakes still contained dried fruits, like currants and citrons.

During the middle of the 19th century the cake as we know it today made with extra refined white flour and baking powder instead of yeast arrived on the scene. Thanks to the advancements in temperature-controlled ovens, a baker’s life also became easier. No longer did the bakers have to continually watch and wait for the cake to finish baking. The Industrial Revolution made ingredients more readily available, which made them cheaper, so more people could bake them or even buy them at the store.

Cakes were considered a symbol of well being during this period and many parts of the world and many regions throughout the world and even within countries began do develop their own specific recipes and favourite or speciality type of cake.