Cakes are one of the world's most favourite desserts and have a rich history behind them. The earliest evidence of cakes and baking comes from the Egyptians, who were excellent bakers. They were the first persons to use natural yeast to make cakes rise. According to food historians, the word cake is a derivation of 'kaka', an Old Norse word and denoted a baked flour confection sweetened with sugar or honey. Medieval European bakers often made fruit cakes and gingerbread, and these could last for many months. By the 18th century, the invention of baking soda and the use of eggs in cakes greatly accelerated baking and cake making, and led to the development of new varieties of cakes. Gradually, the differences between cake and bread, biscuit and bun became indistinct.
Today, a cake can be considered to be a form of bread like food and can even be considered as a sweet baked dessert. The modern cake, usually a combination of flour, eggs and butter or oil, is a western evolution. Numerous substitutes are available for the primary ingredients and a wide variety of secondary ingredients and decorations can be used.
Today, there are thousands of varieties of cakes in the world and each culture has its own distinctions and specialities. The major types of cakes, based mainly on the ingredients that go into making them and the cooking techniques adopted are discussed below.
Yeast cakes are the oldest variety and they are very similar to yeast breads. They trace their roots to Egyptian times. Cheesecakes have a filling of cheese and cannot be called as cakes in the strict sense of the term. They have very little flour added and can trace their origins to the time of the ancient Greeks. Sponge cakes are the ones that rise because of the trapped air. Leaving agents are used to achieve this and they are usually light and soft in nature. Butter cakes have the main ingredient as butter and can be considered as a special variety of sponge cake. It finds its origins in the English pound cake. A large variety of decorations and topping choices are available.
Nowadays, cakes find an important place, particularly in weddings, anniversaries and birthdays. There is heavy competition amongst bakers in trying to outdo each other and many offer services like midnight cake delivery in the case of birthdays to expand their customer base. With the advent of modern technology and readymade cake mixes, cake making and baking have evolved to higher spheres, within the reach of even novices!
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