You might think the Vikings series have very little to do with your favourite chocolate cake. But as it turns out, the word ‘cake’ originates from its Old Norse name, ‘kaka’. In England back then there was very little difference between cakes and bread either. Going to a baker back then was a far cry from the intricate cakes you see at top Gibraltar confectioneries. The only way to tell them apart was that cakes were round and were turned over during the baking process. Bread, as you know if from Gibraltar bakeries, was left to rise upwards.
The first evidence of advanced baking techniques we have, however, are from the Egyptians. In fact, fruitcakes were buried with the Pharaohs as food for the afterlife. Honey and nuts were also added, much like some of the Moroccan cakes we find today. Large bakeries using yeast were common at the time, with hot stones used for the cooking process. The Romans continued that tradition, although their cakes were more like bread mixed with butter, eggs and honey.
The types of cakes we see today at the best Gibraltar bakeries with icing only came about thanks to 17th Century technology. Sugar was more widely available for the first time, ovens became more reliable and cake hoops made of metal, paper or wood were in use for the first time. The first icing was created from sugar, egg whites and flavouring, before being poured on cakes. Sponges were invented in Spain during the Renaissance.
Finally, in the 19th century refined white flour was combined with baking powder – that replaced yeast – to take cake-making to the next level. The first cake chef, Antonin Careme, pushed the cake along its path, with his ‘gateaux’, much richer cakes which were more intricate in style and taste. Indeed, butter-cream frosting, (that used cream with butter and finer sugar) started to become the norm in the early 1900s. Cake mixes became more common in United States during the Great Depression of the 1930s. Pastry was moving towards being a mass-produced product and after the two world wars, cake decorating became fashionable.
Before there was catering for corporate events, birthday parties and special events, cakes were used to commemorate religious festivals and ceremonies. Circles were used to signify the sun and moon, as well as the cyclical nature of life. It could be why the same styles are used for birthday parties in Gibraltar and event cakes. They were often shaped like animals too or contained ingredients which were seasonal to the time, helping them celebrate their affinity to the period.