The History of Cake Decorating
Cake as we know it today has only been around for a couple hundred years. Cake is thousands of years old but the cake that originated in Ancient Egypt was not like the cake we know today. Cake in ancient times and until about the 1700’s was more like what we consider bread; it was spongy and had a bread-like consistency. Cakes in North Africa and the Mediterranean often were more like pastries or cheesecake.
The first cakes were yeast based, like bread, which is why they had the same type of consistency. The first non yeast cake was sponge cake, which is still enjoyed today, although not usually in the same way that dairy based cakes like we have today are enjoyed. Dairy based cakes, cakes that are made with butter, eggs and baking powder, are the cakes most often used in modern cake decorating.
In the 1700’s, women in Europe started using special cake pans to create that kind of flour based cake that we’re more familiar with today. It became very popular for royalty and aristocracy in Europe to compete with each other to see who could serve the most ornate and unique cakes and pastries.
Great chefs and cooks who could produce fine pastry and exceptionally decorated cakes were given places of high esteem in the household and could become quite rich for their art. The French were the first people to serve dessert as a separate course and not as part of a larger meal.
In the mid 1800’s, the temperature controlled oven, the style we have today, was invented and it revolutionized the art of baking. Cakes become even more like the cakes we know today and cake decorating became almost a sport. Having the most elaborately decorated or unique cake at a social function was crucial to anyone who wanted to acquire social standing so once again Sugarcrafters were in high demand.
Most people today who are not professional cake decorators and even some who are rely on pre-mixed cake mixes to make sure that their cakes turn out light, moist, and fluffy. There is a renewed interest in Sugarcrafting today brought on by a desire to glorify the past and the retro days of the 1950’s and 1960’s when women spent their days creating gorgeous edible works of art for coffee dates and holidays.
The Food Network and shows like The Ace of Cakes and Top Chef have brought cake decorating and Sugarcrafting back into the spotlight and men and woman are discovering the artistry involved in Sugarcrafting.