Whoever Thought of That?

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sDNMa-oWGxM[/youtube]

If you have read some of my reviews then you already know I really like books that incorporate cooking or baking.  Now I am not a foodie. I don’t watch cooking shows or spend my free time whipping something up in the kitchen even though I can bake some excellent cookies. I’m more apt to have my face in a book and eat cereal than cook a meal. Still I am fascinated by the creativity of cooking.

Lately every time I eat something, especially a baked item I find myself wondering how did someone come up with this? How did they know what ingredients to combine. How did they figure out how to bake? Way back then it wasn’t just a simple process – baking powders weren’t  invented until the late 1890’s so bakers had to rely on sour milk, or vinegar or lemon juice  for the chemical reactions. When did our ancestors eat cake?  

I did a little research and Wikipedia states:

“The term “cake” has a long history. The word itself is of Viking origin, from the Old Norse word “kaka”.

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.

The Greeks invented beer as a leavener, frying fritters in olive oil, and cheesecakes using goat’s milk. In ancient Rome, basic bread dough was sometimes enriched with butter, eggs, and honey, which produced 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.

Early cakes in England were also essentially bread: the most obvious differences between a “cake” and “bread” were the round, flat shape of the cakes, and the cooking method, which turned cakes over once while cooking, while bread was left upright throughout the baking process.

Sponge cakes, leavened with beaten eggs, originated during the Renaissance, possibly in Spain.”

So that is the beginning but then I wonder who came up with Angel Food Cake, or Devil Food cake or who invented the Bundt cake?

Again going to Wikipedia:

Angel food cakes are a traditional African-American favorite for post-funeral meals.

In Mrs. Porter’s New Southern Cookery Book, and Companion for Frugal and Economical, published in 1871 by M. E. Porter, has a recipe for Snow-drift Cake. A similar recipe appears in 1881 in a book by Abby Fisher, the first Black American woman and a former slave from Mobile, Alabama, who recorded her recipes in a cookbook called What Mrs. Fisher Knows About Old Southern Cooking, Soups, Pickles, Preserves, Etc. In her book, the cake is named “Silver Cake”.

The Original Boston Cooking School Cook Book by Mrs.D.A. Lincoln, published in 1884, had a recipe for “Angel Cake” mentioning the name for the first time. In Fannie Merritt Farmer’s 1896 updated version of the Boston Cooking School Cook Book, she uses the same recipe and calls the cake “Angel Food

Devil Food Cake is all American.  Per Internet Archive Way Back Machine

“If you open any baking books from Europe you will not find a reference to this cake. I can find references dating back as early as 1920’s in my dusty American collection; any earlier than this and my guess is the very proper Victorians would have never named a cake after such an improper fellow. ‘The Dessert Bible’ (Christopher Kimble,2000) refers to:

Heavenly Devils Food – The latter part of the nineteenth century, which saw the development of a lot of imaginative cakes with fancy names also gave birth to one cake whose popularity hasn’t waned from that period to ours, the Devil’s Food Cake.

The Victorian Book of Cakes’ published in 1897 has a formula for Angel Cake but there is no mention of the Devil.

We should discuss the colors that make up many variations of this cake. The name comes from the reddish tint left by the natural cocoa color. Today, we have Dutch-processed (more alkaline) cocoa available to us that improves the chocolate taste as well as a deeper dark almost black color. This processed cocoa and regular cocoa (like Hershey) caused the branching off of this famous cake with names such as:

Demon Cake (Hershey) – 1934
Devil’s Delight Cake (Hershey)- 1934
Real Red Devils Food – 1945
Black Midnight Devils Food – 1945
Elegant Devils Food – 1958
Satan Cake – 1930’s
Mahogany Cake (no date)
Red Velvet Cake (no date) and
Oxblood Cake (no date)”

I was trying to find the history of Orange Slice Cake but didn’t find much information. Still I did find this recipe book -Southern Cakes and it says that it has the history of the cakes.  And you know I just might have to buy it and satisfy my curiosity.

Have you ever started to eat a favorite dish and wondered whoever thought of this?

– – Leigh AAR

7 thoughts on “Whoever Thought of That?

  1. LeeB.

    I remember watching “The Tudors” and so enjoying the blackbird pie that was baked for Henry VIII in France. Someone cut the pie and those birds flew out. How could they not have been cooked while the pie was baking?

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  2. Victoria S

    You know what I always wonder about?? Who was the person who looked at a lobster, crab or shrimp and thought; “Yum, I bet with butter and garlic these things would be delicious! And oh, by the way, unlike almost every other food known to mankind we’re gonna cook ‘em while they’re still alive!”

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  3. AARPat

    Okay, so who decided artichoke would be a good thing to eat? Or how about rhubarb? Or other foods that can kill if not prepared properly? How many chefs died before someone realized what needed to be done to make the ingredient edible? Yup, I wonder about these things as well as what everyone else has said.

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  4. maggie b.

    Like Pat and Victoria S. what I question are how they figured out which foods were safe. Especially tricky foods like Lobster – which can be poisonous if not cooked correctly Or rhubarb? I have often wondered who looked at that first grain of wheat and decided it could be cooked into a bread.

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  5. Leigh

    I can understand basic food because like the idiom neccessity is the mother of invention I figure if people are hungry enough they will try eating anything. But discovering the combinations is what amazes me.

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