From Moses to mailbox: the journey of the cake

As a species, we are a curious bunch. There is not a single moment when we stop thinking about making the everyday a wee bit extraordinary. Our whole history is a testimony of our quest for the unusual, the special. And what we eat is a glorious chapter of that history.

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Cake, believe it or not, has its origin dating back to the antiquity. Of course then, the cakes were not as sophisticated as they are today, but what they lacked in glamour, they made up with celebratory charm. And why not? During the times of extreme hardship, specially-made bread with fruits and honey must have helped to enliven the moments.

  • A bread and something extra

When Moses decreed that no Jew shall have Chametz or leavened bread for the Passover, he forbade the community to have cakes along with other breads. With a history so long, is it very difficult to see what an important role the cake has played in our food habit.

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In the ancient times (think Norse-Viking era and of course the Pre-Mosaic times), the cake was a bread made with fruit chunks, honey and milk. This basic recipe has remained almost unchanged in the history. The addition of egg and other liquids like beer and wine has come much later.

  • A food for hard times

As much a cake was a celebratory food, it was also a source of energy and sustenance during hard times. The baked mass of special flour and dried fruits, sweetened with honey was a perfect source to go through the winter. No wonder, we still have the tradition of celebrating winter holidays with special recipes. The food has been a life saver during many arduous trips through water and sand for Vikings, Nordic explorers, Jews and even Egyptian soldiers.

17_A food for hard times

  • A mixture of civilizations

When we think of cake, we generally do not think of a mix of many ideas, civilizations and trade communities. Yet, how we evolved as a species can be traced with the study of a slice of cake. The archaeological evidences found in many sites in Egypt have revealed many advanced baking structures and ovens especially designed for baking breads and cakes. The Romans’ trading expeditions with the Far East led them to the world of dried fruits and honey. These special items all ended up in the mixture making the cake a perfect amalgamation of human skill and innovation.

  • The modern journey

The industrial revolution made many ingredients easy to procure on a mass scale. The availability of fine sugar for icing and making candied fruit was one of the most significant factors in making the cake a must have for any special occasions.

17_The modern journey

If there was any positive effect of the great wars, it has to be the fact that they made the cake an everyday delicacy. Between and after the wars, many firms came up with ‘cake in the box’ mixture for an easy and time-saving delight on the table. This changed our habit of enjoying cake only on special occasions.

As life became faster by the day, we no more have to bake a cake to enjoy it. And for those very special occasions, having or sending a designer delicacy is made available with the cake by post facilities. Now have a surprising delight anytime, anywhere.

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