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The most primitive people in the world began making cakes shortly after they discovered flour. In medieval England, their ‘cakes’ were flour-based sweet foods as opposed to ‘breads’, which referred more simply to flour-based foods without sweetening. With this slight difference, the terms bread and cake were somewhat interchangeable, and cake was sometimes used for smaller breads. The earliest examples were found among the remains of Neolithic villages where archaeologists discovered simple cakes made from crushed grains, moistened, compacted and probably cooked on a hot stone. Today's version of this early cake would be the oatcake, though now we tend to describe them as more of a biscuit or cookie.

Cakes were called ‘plakous’ by the Greeks, from the word for ‘flat’. These cakes were usually combinations of nuts and honey. They also had a cake called ‘satura’, which was a flat heavy cake. During the Roman period, the name for cake (derived from the Greek term) became ‘placenta’. They were also called ‘libum’ by the Romans, and were primarily used as an offering to their gods. Placenta was more like a cheesecake, baked on a pastry base, or sometimes inside a pastry case.

Cakes were usually baked for special occasions because they were made with the finest and most expensive ingredients available to the cook. The wealthier you were, you were likely to consume cakes more frequently. By the middle of the 18th century, yeast had fallen into disuse as a raising agent for cakes, in favour of beaten eggs. Once as much air as possible had been beaten in, the mixture would be poured into moulds – often very elaborate creations – but sometimes as simple as two tin hoops, set on parchment paper on a cookie sheet. It is from these cake hoops that our modern cake pans were born. Cakes were considered a symbol of wellbeing by early American cooks on the east coast, with each region of the country having their own specialities.

By the early 19th century, due to the Industrial Revolution, baking ingredients became more affordable and readily available because of the impact of mass production and railroads. Modern leavening agents, such as baking soda and baking powder were also invented.

Today, we are making delicious cakes of all sizes – from single serve vanilla slices and chocolate éclairs to chocolate mousses and cheesecakes to spectacular sponge cakes. Our great-grandfather baked his first cake in 1897 and our family has been at it ever since. For quality baking that brings back the tradition of cakes as they should be, visit Puckles.

Source: http://whatscookingamerica.net/
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