Amazing Cake Facts
Did You Know?...
...That a cake is a form of sweet dessert
that is typically baked.
...That in its oldest forms, cakes are
modifications of breads but now cover a wide range of
preparations that can be simple or elaborate and share
features with other desserts such as pastries, meringues,
custards and pies.
...That typical cake ingredients are flour,
sugar, eggs, and butter or oil, with some recipes also
requiring additional liquid (for example milk or water) and
leavening agents (such as yeast or baking powder). Common
additional flavorings include dried, candied or fresh fruit,
nuts, cocoa or extracts, and numerous substitutions for the
primary ingredients are possible. Cakes can also be filled
with fruit preserves or dessert sauces (like pastry cream),
iced with butter cream or other icings, and decorated with
marzipan, piped borders, or candied fruit.
...That a cake is often served as a
celebratory dish on ceremonial occasions, for example
weddings, anniversaries, and birthdays.
...That there are countless cake recipes;
some are bread-like, some rich and elaborate, and many are
centuries old. Cake making is no longer a complicated
procedure; while at one time considerable labor went into cake
making (particularly the whisking of egg foams), baking
equipment and directions have been simplified so that even the
most amateur cook may bake a cake.
...That the term "cake" has a long history.
The word itself is of Viking origin, from the Old Norse word
...That although clear examples of the
difference between cake and bread are easy to find, the
precise classification has always been elusive. For example,
banana bread may be properly considered either a quick bread
or a cake.
...That the Greeks invent beer as a
leavener, frying fritters in olive oil, and cheesecakes using
...That in ancient Rome, basic bread dough
is sometimes enriched with butter, eggs, and honey, which
produces a sweet and cake-like baked good. Latin poet Ovid
refers to the birthday of him and his brother with party and
cake in his first book of exile, Tristia.
...That early cakes in England are also
essentially bread: the most obvious differences between a
"cake" and "bread" are the round, flat shape of the cakes, and
the cooking method, which turns cakes over once while cooking,
while bread is left upright throughout the baking process.
…That sponge cakes, leavened with beaten
eggs, originate during the Renaissance, possibly in Spain.
The advent of 'cake in a box'
…That during the Great Depression, there is
a surplus of molasses and the need to provide easily made food
to millions of economically depressed people in the US.
…That one company patents a cake-bread mix
in order to deal with this economic situation, and thereby
establishes the first line of cake in a box. In so doing, cake
as it is known today becomes a mass-produced good rather than
a home- or bakery-made specialty.
…That later, during the post-war boom,
other American companies (notably General Mills) develop this
idea further, marketing cake mix on the principle of
convenience, especially to housewives.
…That when sales drops heavily in the
1950s, marketers discover that the cake in a box render the
cake-making function of housewives relatively dispiriting.
This is a time when women, retire from the war-time labor
force, and in a critical ideological period in American
history, are confined to the domestic sphere and oriented
towards the freshly blossoming consumerism in the US. In order
to compensate for this situation, the marketing psychologist
Ernest Dichter ushers in the solution to the cake mix problem:
…That deprived of the creativity involved
in making their own cake, within consumerist culture,
housewives and other in-home cake makers can compensate by
cake decoration inspired by, among other things, photographs
in magazines of elaborately decorated cakes.
…That ever since, cake in a box has become
a staple of supermarkets, and is complemented with frosting in
…That cakes are broadly divided into
several categories, based primarily on ingredients and cooking
…That yeast cakes are the oldest and are
very similar to yeast breads. Such cakes are often very
traditional in form, and include such pastries as babka and
…That Cheesecakes, despite their name,
aren't really cakes at all. Cheesecakes are in fact custard
pies, with a filling made mostly of some form of cheese (often
cream cheese, mascarpone, ricotta, or the like), and have very
little flour added, although a flour-based or graham cracker
crust may be used. Cheesecakes are also very old, with
evidence of honey-sweetened cakes dating back to ancient
…That sponge cakes are thought to be the
first of the non-yeast-based cakes and rely primarily on
trapped air in a protein matrix (generally of beaten eggs) to
provide leavening, sometimes with a bit of baking powder or
other chemical leaven added as insurance. Such cakes include
the Italian/Jewish pan di Spagna and the French Génoise.
Highly decorated sponge cakes with lavish toppings are
sometimes called gateau; the French word for cake.
…That butter cakes, including the pound
cake and devil's food cake, rely on the combination of butter,
eggs, and sometimes baking powder or bicarbonate of soda to
provide both lift and a moist texture.
…That beyond these classifications, cakes
can be classified based on their appropriate accompaniment
(such as coffee cake) and contents (e.g. fruitcake or
flourless chocolate cake).
…That some varieties of cake are widely
available in the form of cake mixes, wherein some of the
ingredients (usually flour, sugar, flavoring, baking powder,
and sometimes some form of fat) are premixed, and the cook
needs to add only a few extra ingredients, usually eggs,
water, and sometimes vegetable oil or butter. While the
diversity of represented styles is limited, cake mixes do
provide an easy and readily available homemade option for
cooks who are not accomplished bakers.
…That cakes may be classified according to
the occasion for which they are intended. For example, wedding
cakes, birthday cakes, cakes for first communion, Christmas
cakes, Halloween cakes, and Passover plava (a type of sponge
cake sometimes made with matzo meal) are all identified
primarily according to the celebration they are intended to
accompany. The cutting of a wedding cake constitutes a social
ceremony in some cultures. The Ancient Roman marriage ritual
of confarreatio originated in the sharing of a cake.
…That particular types of cake may be
associated with particular festivals, such as stollen or
chocolate log (at Christmas), babka and simnel cake (at
Easter), or mooncake. There has been a long tradition of
decorating an iced cake at Christmas time; other cakes
associated with Christmas include chocolate log and mince
…That cakes are frequently described
according to their physical form. Cakes may be small and
intended for individual consumption. Larger cakes may be made
with the intention of being sliced and served as part of a
meal or social function.
…That common shapes include: Bundt cakes;
Cake balls; Conical, such as the Kransekake; Cupcakes and
madeleines, which are both sized for a single person; Layer
cakes, frequently baked in a springform pan and decorated;
Sheet cakes, simple, flat, rectangular cakes baked in sheet
pans; and, Swiss rolls.
…That special cake flour with a high
starch-to-gluten ratio is made from fine-textured, soft,
low-protein wheat. It is strongly bleached, and compared to
all-purpose flour, cake flour tends to result in cakes with a
lighter, less dense texture. Therefore, it is frequently
specified or preferred in cakes meant to be soft, light,
and/or bright white, such as angel food cake.
…That if cake flour is called for, a
substitute can be made by replacing a small percentage of
all-purpose flour with cornstarch or removing two tablespoons
from each cup of all-purpose flour. Some recipes explicitly
specify or permit all-purpose flour, notably where a firmer or
denser cake texture is desired.
…That a finished cake is often enhanced by
covering it with icing, or frosting, and toppings such as
sprinkles, which are also known as "jimmies" in certain parts
of the United States and "hundreds and thousands" in the
…That frosting is usually made from
powdered (icing) sugar, sometimes a fat of some sort, milk or
cream, and often flavorings such as vanilla extract or cocoa
…That some decorators use a rolled fondant
…That 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.
…That home bakers either use lard, butter,
margarine, or some combination thereof. Sprinkles are small
firm pieces of sugar and oils that are colored with food
…That in the late 20th century, new cake
decorating products became available to the public. These
include several specialized sprinkles and even methods to
print pictures and transfer the image onto a cake.
…That special tools are needed for more
complex cake decorating, such as piping bags or syringes, and
various piping tips. To use a piping bag or syringe, a piping
tip is attached to the bag or syringe using a coupler. The bag
or syringe is partially filled with icing which is sometimes
colored. Using different piping tips and various techniques, a
cake decorator can make many different designs. Basic
decorating tips include open star, closed star, basketweave,
round, drop flower, leaf, multi, petal, and specialty tips.
…That royal icing, marzipan (or a less
sweet version, known as almond paste), fondant icing (also
known as sugarpaste), and buttercream are used as covering
icings and to create decorations. Floral sugarcraft or wired
sugar flowers are an important part of cake decoration.
…That cakes for special occasions, such as
wedding cakes, are traditionally rich fruit cakes or
occasionally Madeira cakes, that are covered with marzipan and
iced using royal icing or sugar-paste. 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.
Did You Know?…
- …that West
known for a wide range of outdoor recreational opportunities,
including skiing, whitewater rafting, fishing, hiking, mountain
biking and hunting?
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