History of Cake

Our books are all about tea, coffee and cake. But we are fairly flexible in our definition of what constitutes a 'cake'.

It can be the classic Victoria Sponge, carrot cake or chocolate sponge; it can be banana bread or fruit tart; we certainly like a good scone (though, definitions of scone can vary from place to place too); and we have been known to include biscuits (UK) or cookies (US). In Bakewell, Derbyshire, we even included Bakewell Pudding, even though puddings are not strictly speaking our thing here...

We follow the principle that what people perceive as cake has changed dramatically over the centuries and from country to country.

Early definitions of cakes in Ancient Greece sound more like pancakes, and the Romans apparently simply added butter, eggs and honey to their bread dough.

In English history, King Alfred is supposed to have burnt the cakes as he hid from invading Vikings. But does anybody know what kind of cakes these were?

In Shakespeare's Twelfth Night, there's a famous reference to "cakes and ale", and if these were to be consumed together, it is hard to imagine the cakes being the kind of things we eat today...

In French history, Marie-Antoinette is alleged to have said of the starving masses: "Let them eat cake", showing that she was out of touch with the poverty around her. The French translation of this, though, is 'brioche', which is really a white, sweet bread.

In the US, we found scones that looked more like rock cake in the UK and were almost invariably sweet; what they call biscuits looked more like what we would call scones, but they ate them for breakfast with sausage or bacon; and of course what we in the UK call biscuits most closely resemble what Americans call cookies!

You can't have your cake and eat it, they say. But we give it a good try... That takes the biscuit...

And just for the record, taking Wikipedia's list of cakes as a starting point http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_cakes, here are the cakes we have managed to sample so far on our travels:

Apple cake
Bakewell Tart
Banana bread
Bara Brith
Black Forest Cake
Bundt Cake
Butterfly Cake
Carrot Cake
Chocolate Cake
Coffee Cake
Cup Cake
Eccles Cake
Fat Rascal
Fruit Cake
Gingerbread
Whoopie Pies
Marble Cake
Muffin
Parkin
Pound Cake
Pumpkin Bread
Tea Cake

But there are several others not listed, including:

Andes mint pillows
Chess Squares
Cinnamon Ugh
Humble Pie
Hummingbird Cake
Key Lime Tart
Oeey Gooey
Russian tea cakes
Snickerdoodles
Swedish tea cakes
Sweet Potato Pie
Texas Brownies
Thumbprint cookies

Attributed to the Painter of the Bari Orestes

King Alfred and the Cakes

Brioche

Web Design - Sparticle