It is a lesser known fact that November 26 is celebrated world over as World Cake Day. This unofficial holiday whose origins are unknown is shared by those of us with an affinity for sweets. Cakes have been everyone’s favourite dessert since their inception. From Marie Antoinette’s infamous “let them eat cake” proclamation during the French Revolution when informed of peasant’s having no bread to eat, to the elaborate and crazy ones we see today, the history of cake has seen a lot. So this Cake Day, let’s settle down with a slice (or three) of our favourite cake and learn a bit more about the best thing invented since sliced bread.
The first cakes
The word cake can be traced back to the Vikings and was derived from the Norse word ‘kaka’. However, the first culture to try their hand at baking was the Egyptians. The earliest cakes were round and flat, made similar to bread and sweetened with honey, mostly used for religious ceremonies. The ancient Greeks developed the first form of cheesecake, while the Romans added dry fruits and nuts to theirs and possibly came up with the world’s first fruitcake.
Fast forward to the 17th century in Europe where thanks to advancement in technology, cakes were being baked on the regular. In fact, like most things, Europe is credited with creating the modern cake – round in shape with icing and toppings. The first icing was a mixture of egg whites, sugar and some natural flavouring like berries or fruit that was boiled together. During this time, cakes still contained dry fruits and nuts, mainly raisins and almonds.
It wasn’t until the 19th century that cakes, as we know them today, gained popularity. However, our favourite treat was considered a luxury due to ingredients like chocolate and sugar being expensive. During this period, cakes were baked with baking powder instead of yeast and extra refined white flour. The traditional boiled icing was quickly replaced by buttercream icing. Bakers and patissiers didn’t have to keep a watchful eye on their cakes anymore and wait for them to finish baking. The Industrial Revolution brought downs the costs of a number of ingredients, making them more readily available. Soon, cakes were commonplace in homes across the continent. People could now bake them at home or buy them at their local store.
The birthday cake
Everyone’s earliest memory of cake is, of course, their birthday cake. Today, cakes are used to celebrate birthdays, anniversaries, weddings and other celebratory events. But have you ever wondered about the origin of this custom? Historically it can be traced back to Ancient Greece, particularly the followers of Artemis, Goddess of the Moon. Devotees would bake a round cake to resemble the moon in honour of her birthday. They would like candles to resemble the moon’s glow.
In 13th century Germany, children celebrated their birthdays with cake, and it was termed ‘kinderfest’. These cakes were also lit with candles. There was one candle for each year with an additional one to represent continued life. However, unlike today, it was tradition to remove the candles and allow to burn the whole day, often replaced when the flames were dying down. Finally, at the end of the day, the children were allowed to blow out the candles while making a wish. The belief was that the smoke would carry their wish to the heavens.
Sample some cakes at Feathers
If reading all that history of cake has got you craving a slice, don’t hold yourself back. Get out your oven mitts and get started on baking your own cake. If you think that’s too much of a hassle, make a trip to Truffles Tea Lounge at Feathers Hotel for pastries that will make you forget your diet! To make things a little sweeter, all of our cakes will be available at a 50% discount from 7 pm to 10 pm every day! So sit back and relax with a hot cuppa while munching on your favourite dessert. While you’re at it, take a look at some of the fun places in and around Feathers that make it the go-to place.