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Posts Tagged ‘Cake history’

Why Do We Celebrate Birthdays With Cake?

Wednesday, September 2nd, 2015

And what’s with the candles?

Birthday cake with glowing candles

Cultures all over the world have been celebrating special occasions with cake for thousands of years.

But many believe the tradition of birthday cakes started in Germany in the 1400s. Before that, they were primarily used to celebrate weddings or to honor the gods.

In the 17th century, people started decorating their birthday cakes with frosting, icing, flowers, and multiple layers.

But due to the cost, birthday cakes were mostly reserved for the wealthy until the industrial revolution, which made them cheaper and easier to produce.

What About the Candles?

In Ancient Greece, people brought cakes to the temple of Artemis, the goddess of the hunt.

These cakes were said to be decorated with candles that made them glow like the moon, a popular symbol associated with Artemis.

Many believe this is where the tradition of putting candles on a cake originated, but it’s tough to say for sure.

Others believe it started with the Germans.

Many point to Count Ludwig Von Zinzindorf’s birthday celebration in 1746 as proof. “There was a Cake as large as any Oven could be found to bake it, and Holes made in the Cake according to the Years of the Person’s Age, every on having a Candle stuck into it, and one in the Middle.”

In the 1700s, Germans also celebrated with birthday candles during Kinderfest, a birthday celebration for children. During these occasions, a single candle symbolizing the “light of life” was placed on the cake.

As you can see, the origins of birthday cakes and the candles that adorn them is pretty murky. But we’re sure glad the tradition stuck. Who doesn’t love a decadent cake on their birthday?

Photo Credit: CC Image Courtesy of Will Clayton

Is German Chocolate Cake Really German?

Wednesday, April 16th, 2014

German Chocolate CakeNo. But the real reason for its name may surprise you.

There’s no getting around it — German Chocolate Cake did not originate in Germany. This is a common misconception. But the real story is actually pretty interesting.

Here’s what happened…

In 1852, an American named Sam German developed a sweet baking chocolate for Baker’s Chocolate Company. Neither Sam nor Baker’s were German. The company went on to name the product Baker’s German’s Sweet Chocolate, after its creator.

It wasn’t until over a hundred years later that the next part of the story developed.

On June 3, 1957, the Dallas Morning Star printed a “Recipe of the Day,” created by a homemaker named Mrs. George Clay, called “German’s Chocolate Cake.” The recipe called for the chocolate Sam German developed 105 years prior, and it became a huge hit.

The making of a national staple

The recipe for German’s Chocolate Cake was so popular that General Foods, which owned the Baker’s brand at the time, took notice. The company distributed the recipe to other newspapers in the US and sales for the chocolate skyrocketed!

Over the years, the cake became a national staple and today even has its own national holiday on June 11.

Eventually the possessive form (German’s) was dropped, making it “German Chocolate Cake.”

And there you have it — German Chocolate Cake isn’t German at all. It’s just named after the guy who developed the chocolate that was later used in a popular recipe.

Now, to complete your research, might we suggest ordering a German Chocolate Cake? You should always check your sources ;)

Who Made the First Cake?

Wednesday, March 26th, 2014

It’s no secret that we LOVE cake! But we were pretty surprised when we found out where cake actually came from.

The truth is, nobody really knows who invented the first cake. Bummer, right? It would be nice to know exactly who to thank for humankind’s tastiest achievement.

But that’s history for you. Most foods weren’t invented spontaneously but grew out of need, desire, the availability of resources, cultural attitudes, and other countless factors.

What we do know is that cake, as we know it today, probably evolved from bread. The two share a lot of overlapping history, which makes it tough to pinpoint any specific origin.

Bake Like an Egyptian

As far as food historians know, the Egyptians were likely one of the first cultures to sweeten bread with honey. These honey-sweetened loaves were flat and dense and were most likely served as a treat. But really it was still just bread.

The modern cake is light and airy thanks to leavening agents, which the Egyptians still didn’t have.

Not until the Romans did we start adding yeast to sweetened bread to make it more tender and soft.

Roman Colosseum Whip It Good

We can thank the Italians in the 16th century for ditching the yeast for whipped eggs and butter as a leavening agent — now we’re talking cake!

The problem was, while whipped eggs and butter made for a lighter cake, it was an extremely time-consuming process.

The introduction of bicarbonate soda and baking powder in the 1800s is what really pushed cake production into full gear.

And the Winner Is…

As much as we’d like to crown a hero for the invention of cake, we can see that cake has a complicated past. We know it started as bread and evolved out of hundreds of years of trial and error. And, as far as we can tell, the Egyptians, Romans, and Italians played significant roles in its creation.

But, ultimately, there is no one person or culture to thank for that scrumptious treat we call cake.

And, you know what? That’s okay. We’re just glad we have it!

Photo Credit: CC Images Courtesy of upyernoz and Ton Nolleos