Friday, 17 September 2010

Carrot Cake

Carrot cake is something of a favourite in this country but I wonder if you know how it came about, you know throwing veg into a cake?

Although a relatively simple cake made individual by the type of oil and spices used, the history of cake dates back to ancient times. The first cakes were very different from what we eat today. They were more bread-like and sweetened with honey. Nuts and dried fruits were often added. According to the food historians, the ancient Egyptians were the first culture to show evidence of advanced baking skills. The Oxford English Dictionary traces the English word cake back to the 13th century. It is a derivation of 'kaka', an Old Norse word. Medieval European bakers used vegetables regularly in their puddings, often making fruitcakes and gingerbread. These foods could last for many months.

According to the food historians, the precursors of modern cakes (round ones with icing) were first baked in Europe sometime in the mid-17th century. This is due to primarily to advances in technology (more reliable ovens, manufacture/availability of food molds) and ingredient availability (refined sugar). At that time cake hoops (round molds for shaping cakes) that were placed on flat baking trays, were popular. They could be made of metal, wood or paper. Some were adjustable. The first icing was usually a boiled composition of the finest available sugar, egg whites and, sometimes, flavorings. The icing was poured on the cake and returned to the oven for a while. When removed the icing cooled quickly to form a hard, glossy covering. Many cakes made at this time still contained dried fruits (raisins, currants, citrons) and are the predecessor of our rich fruit cake.

It was not until the middle of the 19th century that cake as we know it today (made with extra refined white flour and baking powder) arrived on the scene. Butter-cream frostings (using butter, cream, icing sugar and flavourings) began replacing traditional boiled icings in first few decades 20th century.

However, it was the second world war and rationing that saw a true revival of this cake as again sugar was scarce. And it wasn't until the 1960s that it became popular in America, possibly reaching its peak in the 1970s but still a true tea room favourite today!

If all this has made you hungry, help yourself to a slice! My weekly club will be receiving this today themselves so look out for reviews on twitter!