In Case You Were Curious… About Cake!
May 19, 2017
The Bottom Line: Sweet facts about cake!
The Full Story:
- Some believe the word “cake” is probably a borrowing from the Old Norse word “kaka.” We’re glad it’s not still called that. “Triple Chocolate Kaka” would be a tough sell. The modern word ‘cake’ comes from Middle English kake, and is probably a borrowing from Old Norse (compare the modern Norwegian kake, as well as Icelandic and Swedish kaka). It is also related to the German word for cake, Kuchen.
- While the exact origin of cake is tough to pinpoint, it’s believed that ancient Egyptians were the first to add honey to bread to make it sweet. In Roman times, eggs and butter were often added to basic bread to give a consistency that we would recognize as cake-like, and honey was used as a sweetener.
- According to The Diner’s Dictionary, the proverb ‘you can’t have your cake and eat it’ first appeared as early as the 16th century.
- Despite its striking color, red velvet cake is most often chocolate in flavor. These days, the bright red color comes from food coloring, but in the past, beets were sometimes used.
- In ancient Greece, people brought cakes adorned with lit candles to the temple of Artemis, goddess of the hunt. The lit candles were intended to make the cake glow like the moon, which is a symbol associated with Artemis. Some believe this is also the origin of birthday candles.
- The Oxford Dictionary of Superstitions cites examples of cakes being made for superstitious reasons. A ‘soul cake,’ in various parts of England, is made on All Souls’ Day and kept for good luck, while a ‘burial cake’ was kept close to the head of a dead person, and one had to have a piece of the cake in one’s mouth when looking at the body.
- Cake, a bakery in Chester, England, made the world’s most expensive wedding cake, valued at $52.7-million. The cake had eight-tiers and was decorated with more than 4,000 diamonds. It was on display at the National Gay Wedding Show in Liverpool on March 3rd, 2013.
- Many food historians believe cheesecake originated in ancient Greece and was served to the athletes during the first Olympic Games held in 776 B.C.
- And by the way? The famous saying, ‘let them eat cake,’ which is often attributed to Marie Antoinette upon learning that her people had no bread, but the saying is much older. In his “Confessions,” the author Rousseau refers to a similar remark being a well-known saying, and another version ‘why don’t they eat pastry?’ the remark was actually made by Marie-Therese, the wife of Louis XIV," who lived more than a century before Marie Antoinette. Biographer Lady Antonia Fraser notes, "It was a callous and ignorant statement and she [Marie Antoinette] was neither.”
- On a related note, the attribution is doubly erroneous in English, because the word "cake" is a mistranslation. In the original French the alleged quote reads, "Qu'ils mangent de la brioche," which means, literally, "Let them eat rich, expensive, funny-shaped, yellow, eggy buns." Yeah…kind of rolls off the tongue, doesn’t it?