Cakes are one of the most popular desserts to be eaten today. It is found everywhere; in birthdays, weddings, and sweet endings to one’s meal. Cakes have been appreciated and criticized, throughout the years, and people have designed recipes, studied the art, and even opened bakeries. Others have bought and consumed cake without ever contemplating or considering the history of these baked goods. Who were the first people to have discovered the art of baking?The art of baking dates back to ancient times. No one knows the exact year or date, but evidence has shown that baking started around 1200 BC by the ancient Egyptians. It first started with bread baking. Cakes were an evolution of bread and the Egyptians would add honey, fruits or nuts to make their breads more cake-like and sweet, but for quite some time there wasn’t any distinction between those two desserts. Both resembled cookies or biscottis like you would see today. These early cakes were flat and dense, and are very different from the cakes we are used to today. The Egyptians had also invented many useful baking techniques and tools including grinding materials for wheat and open-top clay ovens for baking bread, which were the first oven to be invented. Many of these discoveries were identified from pictures that were carved into walls and stones. The Greeks and Romans took on the Egyptians’ baking techniques and further expanded them. They called their cakes “plakous,” meaning “flat”. Plakous resembled cheesecakes and only the wealthy were able to afford them. Many of the Romans practiced the art of baking, like using just enough yeast to conjure up a light and fluffy cake. They quickly became experts, and highly respected the profession and the art. Cake baking flourished, and many cakes were baked for banquets and celebrations, and many people demanded. In later years, Italians invented a baking method by adding whipped egg whites into their cake batter to make it even more moist and airy. Both methods made a great change on baking and many bakers today still use the same concepts.Cakes also played many parts in religious rituals. The Romans and Greeks used cakes as offerings to their gods and spirits around the world. At weddings, they would shower the bride with pieces of cake over her head so that their gods would give her prosperity and bless her with many children. This tradition was known as “crowning the bride.” After the wedding, each guest would take a slice of cake home with them, and unmarried woman were to place their slice under their pillow as they slept so that it might bring them dreams about their future husband. These traditions were brought to the British in 56 BC, but only the rich were able to afford such luxury, whereas the poor would use wheat or corn for “crowning the bride.” The first decorated cake was presented in England during the reign of Queen Elizabeth I. The cake wasn’t to be eaten though. Its purpose was only to amaze and delight the guests as a beautiful centerpiece, and each guest would get their own piece of another cake. Those cakes were small and resembled a sticky bun, with sweet nectar or honey drizzled over it. Most guests would eat it. Others would crumble it over the bride or throw their piece at the poor commoners who were not a part of the ceremony. The leftover pieces of cake were built into a pile and the bride and groom were expected to kiss over it.Cakes were also involved in Chinese culture. The Chinese would hold celebrations once a year called “The Harvest Moon Festivals” where they would eat mooncakes in honor of their moon goddess and think about their family who were far away. These cakes were small and the filling inside was sweet and dense, with a completely different taste and texture to the typical cakes today. The filling of these unique cakes’ flavors ranged from green tea, to ice cream, and to even seafood. The outside of them were decorated with floral designs and the Chinese characters for strength and unity. The roundness of the cake symbolizes family reunions, to be together and whole. People would present mooncakes as gifts to friends and families to wish them a long and happy life. In some Russian cultures, there was a holiday called “Maslenitsa,” which were celebrated with snowball fights, sleigh rides, and organized fistfights. However, one of their most important tradition were eating a special kind of cake called “blinis”. Blinis was a popular dessert during the holidays and people would go crazy over them. Maslenitsa got its name from a Russian word, “maslo”, meaning butter or oil. These, like mooncakes, were also entirely different from modern cakes too. Blinis were flat and thin, and were used to celebrate the welcoming of spring and a farewell to winter. The round, golden, warm look and feel of the blinis were to represent the sun, warming up the cold earth. Sometimes called “sun cakes” or just Maslenitsa pancakes, it is topped with sour cream, caviar, jam, and always drenched in butter. Many of these traditions were crucial to some celebrations and are still carried on in the modern world.During the 19th century, baking soda and baking powder were introduced to the world. These made a tremendous impact on many baking aspects. This made a baker’s life so much more convenient. Baking industries lowered prices for their products, which had made things cheaper and more affordable. Temperature controlling ovens were also invented, and people could leave their cakes baking without having to constantly check on them. The development of railroads allowed items to get to places quickly, and this had made baking materials and merchandise more available to bakers. These movements encouraged more people to start baking and increased the number of bakers all around the world. Modern cakes now come in many different shapes and size. Some have layers upon layer of cake smothered in frosting while others are sculpted to look like a cartoon character or an animal. New different flavors are discovered every so often, delectable cakes are made and are bought even more frequently than before. Sculpted cakes are often covered in sugar paste, which is an edible sugar dough made from mainly sucrose and glucose. It is sometimes referred to as sugar gum or gum paste. The sugar paste is rolled over a floured surface into a thin flat piece and transferred onto the cake. It gives it a smooth and clean finish and allows the bakers to paint over it. Cake has expanded its branches into numerous different kinds of different baked goods and pastries inspired by it, including brownies, cupcakes, cake pops, bundt cakes and many more. Most cakes consist of two components, the frosting and the actual cake layer. Frostings have always been involved with cakes and are a huge part of what makes it delicious. In fact, some consider the frosting to be the best part of cakes. Most bakers are particularly picky when it came to the outwards appearance of the cake, so they use frostings to make it appealing, including buttercream, cream cheese, ganache, or glaze. Buttercream frosting has been an all-American favorite. It has a base of butter which is then combined with powdered or confectioners sugar and a dash of vanilla extract. Cream cheese frosting has a similar base to buttercream frosting, though is added with cream cheese. It pairs wonderfully with carrot and red velvet cake and really compliment each other. Frostings are always used on modern wedding cakes because those cakes are all about what pleases the eye. Wedding cakes are usually covered in frosting, which is also piped onto the cakes to make patterns and elegant designs. They have completely changed throughout the decades. Many years ago, wedding cakes had a simple layer of cakes with fruits and nuts mixed inside, and were dressed with honey, but now, they come in stacked layers with multiple tiers all decorated with an abundance of flowers, and topped with the classic bride and groom figurine. Some even have jewelry and gold flakes scattered around them to bring out the glamour. Cake flavors are countless, ranging from lemon, to red velvet, to lavender. The most popular cakes are chocolate and vanilla. Forms of chocolate and vanilla are also referred to as “devil’s food cake” and “angel food cake”, respectively. Devil’s food cake is very similar to chocolate cake, but has a stronger taste. It got its name from the delicious taste of the rich chocolate; it’s almost to sinful to eat. It’s sometimes nicknamed as “death by chocolate”. Vanilla cake’s taste from angel food cake is almost indistinguishable, though the angel food cake are made with whipped egg whites, which gives it a light and fluffy texture. The name angel food cakes came from the thought of people thinking that it belonged with the angels and eating it was like tasting a slice of heaven. Television shows have been launched featuring professional bakers around the world competing for a title, money, or to run in someone’s business. Competitors go through multiple challenges having to bake their most mouthwatering desserts, and showing their leadership and teamworking skills. The most popular shows include Cake Boss, The American Baking Competition, and The Great British Bake Off. All have been huge hits and success and are continued to be watched till this day. Baking is a science as well as an art. Forgetting or just ignoring a simple ingredient i nyour recipe can completely change the outcome and can ruin the chemical reaction. Following the exact steps and measuring your ingredients also matter. Some people may think, “What’s the difference if you just add half a teaspoon of baking soda then one?” It’s a small adjustment but the result would not be. Other ingredients like eggs, milk, butter and oil all have the same concept, so accuracy is a must. It’s amazing how just adding a few ingredients into a bowl can give you a perfectly baked dessert. The chemical reaction almost works like magic and every ingredient plays a part.Flour is one of the main components in cake recipes. When it is mixed with liquids, the protein in it, which was tightly tangled, loosens and links together to create a structure called a “gluten network”. These proteins hold together the cake, giving it structure. Though it may seem easy, over-mixing your batter could be a problem. It will result in a stronger gluten network, and will make the outcome of your supposedly delicious cake tough and flat. Undermixing can also be a problem. The gluten network would be too weak and unable to sustain the structure. It would still rise with the heat of the oven, but it won’t stay risen, causing it to collapse into a flat and dense cake. Eggs have a similar reaction. They help incorporate all the ingredients by holding them together as they bake. Most people know that trying to mix water with oil doesn’t normally work. The ingredients just keep separating. That is why eggs, specifically egg yolk, are often added to the mixture to create an reaction called “emulsion”, which means to bring together liquids that are usually immiscible. The egg whites are popular for their ability to make cakes airy and fluffy. They are usually beaten up with a whisk to create many air bubbles and can expand up to eight times the original size. When beaten-up egg whites are added to the batter and baked, the air bubbles trapped inside the foam start to expand. They work well as a leavening agent, though adding too much egg white to batter can make the final product crumbly and dry.All recipes need some kind of fat. Whether it’s butter, shortening, or oil, one is always used. Fat has many attributes when it come to baking. It can be used as a tool to moisten and tenderize baked goods, by shortening and weakening the gluten strands. Shorter gluten strands give a more tender outcome, whereas longer ones give you an elastic, chewy, and tough texture, so shorter gluten strands work well with cakes, and, given the texture of longer gluten strands, they are use in bread and pastries. Fats can withstand high heat, and when heated, they coat the flour making it hydrophobic, to repel away water. It help keeps the heat flowing through the cake, making it bake evenly and giving it a nice golden look.Everyone knows that sugar is the ingredient used as a sweetener, but it does more than just adding flavor. It helps with the chemical reaction of the baking process. It improves the leavening process. When sugar mixed with fats, eggs, or most types of liquid, the tiny sugar crystals cut through the substance producing millions of little air bubbles which lighten the batter. Those air bubbles would expand the batter during baking, causing it to rise. Without sugar in a recipe, its texture would be flat and dry, because sugar plays a major role in keeping cakes moist. Water usually evaporates at high heat, but when sugar is mixed into it, the sugar and water molecules are attracted together, easily creating a bond that helps the water stay trapped inside the cake rather than escaping. That results in the desired mouth-watering cake.Baking soda and baking powder are used as leavening agents in cake baking. They both have the same powdery white look, but when accidently using one instead of the other that is required in a recipe, the result can be disastrous. When baking soda, or sometimes also referred to as “sodium bicarbonate”, meets with high heat, it releases a type of gas called carbon dioxide, which rises giving cakes height and volume, but when baking soda is heated, it releases a chemical called sodium carbonate, that has a metallic taste. That is why a type of acid like vinegar, yogurt, buttermilk or unsweetened cocoa powder is added to neutralize the taste of sodium carbonate, making it more appetizing. Baking powder, however, is a mixture of both baking soda and acid, and the two balance each other out, so it is usually paired with non-acidic ingredients. Most people think that baking is easy, that all you need to do is toss some ingredients together, throw it in the oven and it’ll give you a perfect result, but baking is a delicate art that requires patience, precision, and practice. It is important to understand the science of it, as well as the history. How cakes evolved from a flat and tasteless loaf of bread-like cake to a intricate and exquisite piece of art. Knowing how it was a big part of many rituals, religions, and cultures. Even today cakes have a huge effect on society. The evolution of cakes has gone so far, and will still continue to grow.