Have you ever wondered why do we eat cake? One could argue that we eat cake simply because it is downright delicious. However, there is a history as to why we do. But first, what even is cake? Well, according to Merriam-Webster:
\ ˈkāk \
Definition of cake (Entry 1 of 2)
- a breadlike food made from a dough or batter that is usually fried or baked in small flat shapes and is often unleavened
- sweet baked food made from a dough or thick batter usually containing flour and sugar and often shortening, eggs, and a raising agent (such as baking powder)
The Base Ingredients: Couldn’t Have Done It Batter Myself
As also found in the all-knowing Merriam-Webster dictionary, flour, sugar, eggs, shortening, and a leaving agent are the base ingredients. You have the sugar for sweetness, the butter creates lightness, the flour is for structure, the eggs to hold everything together, and the leavening agent for fluffiness! We could go into more molecular detail of course, but that blog is for the real baking geeks.
The Invention of Cake: Do You Know The Muffin Man?
Who invented cake? Honestly, like a lot of things to do with history, we’re not sure! There are definitely records of areas this delicacy popped up in, but, no one knows who was actually the very first person to create cake. Considering what we know are the requirements to make a cake, it could quite literally be anybody! Some kids could have accidentally knocked some sugar and butter into their parent’s cooking for fun and unknowingly created cake.
I mean, considering how my first time baking experience went? Anything is possible when you’re home alone and want to surprise your parents with a lovely green cake (it definitely didn’t just taste like sweet eggs, I know my truth). But, theories aside, here’s what we do know about the almighty cake:
Cake has a long history dating back to ancient times. However, they were nothing like the ones we order for our birthday parties today! Nowadays, we would liken them more to bread. They were sweetened with honey and dried fruits and nuts were frequently used as garnishes. The ancient Egyptians, according to culinary historians, were the first civilization to demonstrate excellent baking abilities.
The English term ‘cake’ dates back to the 13th century, according to the Oxford English Dictionary, and derives from the Old Norse word ‘kaka.’
Why Do We Eat Cake Now: You Want a Piece of Me?
Why Do We Eat Cake: Typical celebrations
We usually think of birthdays as being the perfect time for cake, but there are tons more! The majority of these observances and occasions are less well-known, but what a perfect excuse! You can impress your friends by planning for these occasions in advance and surprising them with cake. And, it doesn’t hurt that you’ll probably get a slice too! On that note, here are a few celebrations and cake suggestions to match them with:
Valentine’s Day : Red Velvet Cake
Why not? It’s red, romantic, and offers that perfect balance between sweetness and creamy cheese. It basically tastes like love!
Christmas: Fruit Cake
Simple because it’s a classic holiday cake, the oldies can’t get enough of it, and practically has a cult following.
Wedding: Angel Food Cake
When love is in the air, there’s nothing like the sweet and soft texture of angel food cake to complete the celebration.
New Year: Black Forest Cake
Before we start a new journey, we often long for the things that feel familiar. And, what feels more like home than a classic black forest cake?
Traditional Cakes Around The World : (not tied to any specific celebration)
So, we’re more or less caught up on the cake’s humble beginnings. But like most inventions, cake is ever-changing. And, today, it takes many different shapes, forms, and flavors. So, let’s go cake tasting as I share with you different cakes from around the world:
France: Galette des Rois
This cake has layers of buttery puff pastry covered with powdered sugar wrapped around a luscious almond cream.
Germany: Black Forest Cherry Cake
This cake has multiple layers of chocolate divided by cherries and topped with whipped cream, chocolate shavings, and more cherries for adornment.
Turkey/ Greece: Revani
Flavors of semolina and lemon zest make up the oh so delicious Revani Cake. Orange syrup is commonly is the main ingredient that transforms this dry cake into a moister, less crumbly delight. Because of the cultural similarities between Greece and Turkey, you can find this type of cake in both countries!
India: Mawa Cake
This is a milk-based cake with hints of cardamom and nuts such as cashews or almonds. Mawa is hardened milk made by gradually boiling milk until all of the liquid has evaporated, thus creating a denser cake.
New Zealand & Australia: Pavlova
Pavlova is a meringue-based delicacy with a crunchy crust and a soft center. Fruit and whipped cream are classic toppings for this delicious dessert.
Mexico: Tres Leches Cake
To make this butter sponge cake, you must soak it in three types of milk: condensed, evaporated, and plain. It’s most common toppings are whipped cream or meringue. The result is a moist, rich cake with a distinct flavor that sets it apart from traditional sponge cakes.
South Africa: Vetkoek “Fat Cake”
Although technically more like a donut, this dessert can have savory or sweet fillings. The dough takes the shape of a little ball and one must cook it in oil before coating it with syrup, sugar, or honey. So, we can certainly see why this dessert passes as a donut!
Scotland: Dundee Cake
Created way back in the 1700s, this cake has been a Scottish classic ever since. The Dundee cake is traditionally filled with Seville Marmalade, orange zest, almonds, and raisins, and other variations include incorporating glace cherries, brandy, gingerbread, nuts, and dried fruits.
Traditionally served at Christmas and New Year’s for dessert, despite its likeness in texture to bread, this delight is a sweet loaf that when cut open reveals various candied fruits and raisins.
Spain: Tarta de Santiago
The Tarta de Santiago is a lovely, naturally-gluten free almond cake that features orange and lemon zest and is topped with powdered sugar.
Italy: Ciambella Allo Yogurt (Italian Breakfast Cake)
An airy sponge cake that holds the delicate flavors of yogurt and lemon zest. This perfect balance of tang and sweetness tastes even better with a hot cappuccino.
Morrocco: Citrus, Date and Almond M’hencha with Orange Blossom Honey Syrup
This cake is sometimes more commonly referred to as “almond snake” or “snake cake” because of it’s unique shape. This is achieved by a decadent almond paste wrapped in filo, and then coiled around itself to create a round shape. Topped with confectioners sugar, cinnamon and crushed pistachios or almond slices.
Russia: Paskha Russian Cheesecake
Traditionally served for Easter, this cake holds a lot of religious connoations. A no-bake dessert made from tvorog (quark), sour cream, vanilla, raisins, and occasionally dried fruits and nuts.
Sri Lanka: Breudher Cake
Also exclusive to Easter, this cakes intense butter flavor lends itself quite similarly to brioche. It is infused with blood oranges and filled with brandy-soaked raisins, then it is either glazed, powered in sugar, or left plain.
We can see that not all countries use Merrium-Webster’s recommendation for cake ingredients! Remember my sweet egg cake incident from before? We definitely don’t think the dictionary accounted for that monstrosity in their definition of cake. But hey, my mom said it was delicious, (after she spit it out of course but we’ll ignore that.)
Just like my terror of a dessert, cake truly has no boundaries when it comes to texture, flavors, and toppings. We hope you’ve learned a bit more about a dessert that holds a special place in many people’s hearts. The way it has evolved throughout the years is fascinating. No matter where in the world, everybody loves a good cake! Take some time to browse through our selection of cakes.
Now You Know Why Do We Eat Cake. What’s Next?
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Lizzie is a full-time content creator with Gift Baskets Overseas. Before that, she worked at an International Department in a Canadian College for 3 years and moved to Belarus from Canada at 21. Lizzie is an enthusiastic explorer who travelled through Belarus, France, USA, Canada, Poland, Austria, and South Korea.