“Cake is happiness in a tangiable and edible form”
From one of the simplest form of bread to becoming the most satiable piece of food, and even becoming an incredible piece of culinary arts has been the journey of cakes over the last few decades.
Feeding in a little thought into how it evolved – like most of the present day cultures that we have accustomed from the British, even the process of baking a cake, right from constituting to its ingredients to the range of equipment that we use today seems to be an inheritance from the ancient Rome.
Well, it looks like a simple mix of basic ingredients like flour, sugar, oil, honey, butter and eggs to make an extract of soft dough that resulted in a sweet flavoured bread, to distinguish its nature and composition from the original bread, it was then named as ‘Kaka’ (In Greek, refers to Cake). In the earlier days, the only difference between a bread and cake was to do with the shape – Cakes being round and layered with Bread having a hollow appearance.
If you have a craving for sweet and are keen to dive deep into history of origins and advancements then you’ll have an idea about the Egyptian culture, which formed the precursor to show cakes and bring into light their advancement in baking skills. The first cakes were very different from what we eat today; it is just a piece of dough that looked bread-like and sweetened with honey. To add more jazz to the pep, fruits, nuts, dried raisins, currants, citrons etc., were often added to improve the taste and flavour of cakes.
A lot of the advancement came into life only after the 19th Century. Before that, what existed in the early 17th century was only the sweetened dough enriched with nuts, dry fruits and other flavours to spruce up the quality of cakes. From there on, it has never been a time to look back but led to a lot of advancement in both technology – paving way to tons of manufacturing equipment such as mixer, oven, sifter, cake moulds, food moulds, beater, paper moulds, cake pans and much more that produced a new dimension to make it look a lot more interesting. The first icing were usually a boiled composition of the finest available sugar, egg whites and [sometimes] flavourings. This icing was poured on the cake. The cake was then returned to the oven for a while. When removed the icing cooled quickly to form a hard, glossy [ice-like] covering. Many cakes made at this time still contained dried fruits (raisins, currants, citrons). In “olden times” when refined sugar, spices, nuts, and dried fruit were expensive, it was an honour to be honoured with cake. Today cake isn’t super expensive and we have many choices (store bought, box mix, scratch, bakery special order) but the message remains constant.
Cake says: “you’re important and we love you”.
All throughout the history people have consumed cakes of all kinds and at all sorts of ceremonial occasions. In today’s world, people traditionally serve cakes at holidays, birthdays, weddings, funerals, and baptisms–in short, at all significant times in the cycle of life. The tradition of eating cake on ceremonial occasions has its basis in ancient ritual. Cakes, in the ancient world, had ties with the annual cycle, and people used them as offerings to the gods and spirits who exercised their powers at particular times of the year.
For the Chinese it was mainly during the harvest time and the festival is about lunar appreciation and Moon watching, and mooncakes are regarded as an indispensable delicacy and for the Russians it was a form of offering to their deity and the sentiment continued in other regions in various formats and it had definitive links to the myths people embraced.
In India Cake – Cutting was neither easy nor a quick adaptation of tradition until the early 1900’s. It slowly started over in the family of royals as a status-quo and eventually got in to the door-step of every house step-by-step. It was all out of excitement from kids that the cakes became so famous and a must-need factor on their birthday. Ever since then it has been a gradual rise in the number of people switching into having cakes as part of celebration. It became a sign of happiness to blow out the candles on the cake before cutting-into it and even considered as way to hope or wish that you make on your birthday. Kids loved getting on to a party and the cake was the show-stopper. Bigger the birthday party means bigger the birthday cake. In fact, kids circling around the cake table and pepping up the party was the trend and created all the buzz. The much loved event of a
Happy Birthday – A Cake!
From the traditional realm of using butter cream frosting to be covering or icing a cake to the modern architecture of using whip cream frosting loaded with real fruits, berries, dry fruits and even covered with toppings such as sprinkles, Choco-chips, Choco-lash, chocolate shavings and the list is endless. You can simply use your flair for taste to blend anything that you want onto a cake. The frosting is usually made from icing (powdered) sugar, sometimes a fat of some sort, milk or cream, and often flavourings such as a vanilla extract or cocoa powder. Commercial bakeries tend to use lard for the fat, and often whip the lard to introduce air bubbles. This makes the icing light and spreadable. Home bakers either use lard, butter, margarine, or some combination thereof. Special tools are being used for more complex cake decorating, such as piping bags and various piping tips, nozzles and embossing mats. Using different piping tips and various techniques, a cake decorator can make many different designs. Basic decorating tips include open star, closed star, basket weave, round, drop flower, leaf, multi, petal, shell and specialty tips. With so many new patterns and technical advances that have come into picture there is an embossing mat that is used mainly for creating embossed effects. A cake turntable that cakes are spun upon is being used in cake decoration.
With time, cakes became the soul of every birthday party, it paved more room for creativity and innovation such that it slowly transformed into edible photo cakes or picturesque cakes, fresh cream pastry in the shapes of cartoon that kids love – be it a Tom & Jerry cake, Peppa Pig, Mickey, Minnie or you name it and it was available.
The latest in the industry trend is the use of fondant finishing of cakes or what is called a gum paste icing to customize cakes into anything that you visualize. With use of fondant or gum paste it has led to make cakes real and life-like. Bakers can almost incorporate any design that you envision onto a cake and make the celebrations much merrier. Fondant icing (also known as sugar paste), and buttercream are used as covering icings and to create decorations. There is a spike in the market trend and increasing demand amongst many people opting in to study culinary science and specialising in the field of patisserie.
It’s not only a game of the bakers or chefs but, an ardent passion amongst home-bakers too.
Earlier, ladies picked up the choice of baking as a pastime, for fun and even to cater to cakes amongst close knitted friends or family with only limited use of stocks or ingredients. But, today the stretch it has enfolded is lot more than you can imagine. It has become a rewarding line of business to women at the comfort of their homes. As much as would a professional baker or qualified chef would master the art of pastry, there is a home-baker evolving almost every other day and producing a wide range of sweet treats and arrays including muffins, cake-pops, macarons, meringues, marshmallows, chocolates, desserts and everything to décor the venue and organize the cake table. Its simply Voila!
And, technically there is a lot of advancement with bakery wares such as Floral sugar-craft or wired sugar flowers are an important part of cake decoration. Cakes for special occasions, such as wedding cakes, are traditionally rich flavoured cakes with décor of your choice. It has become a status-quo to follow a traditional cake-cutting ritual for events such as wedding, birthday, baby-shower, work anniversary and almost anything and everything. They are finished with piped borders (made with royal icing) and adorned with a piped message, wired sugar flowers, hand-formed fondant flowers, marzipan fruit, piped flowers, or crystallized fruits or flowers such as grapes or violets. It would be an endless streak on how the process of baking cakes and icing have evolved and transformed into a satiable piece of food that everyone loves and dive down with fork into it to binge.
That’s not all! A cake is a sign of Celebration in the new-age!
Be it a birthday of a dear one, the wedding bells of your kit or kin, a baby shower or your want to congratulate someone, or even bid adieu to a long relationship, a little cake is always a great idea. You just need to show up when people need you and share a tad bit of sweetness which can make their day.
It is a Happy Birthday, if done with a cake J!