What is the one consumable that is a part of our lives and a must-have at every memorable celebratory occasion? The cake! From birthdays to weddings and from christenings and anniversaries to all sorts of festive holidays (think Easter, Christmas, Diwali etc), cakes are almost always the centrepiece of the table. So it’s no wonder that this popular confectionary should have a day all to itself – and this year National Cake Day is celebrated around the world on Thursday, November 26.
The history of cake dates back to ancient times with the first cakes being very different from what we eat today. They were more bread-like and sweetened with honey and nuts and dried fruits were also often added. According to food historians, the precursors of modern cakes were first baked in Europe sometime in the mid-17th century but it was not until the middle of the 19th century that cake, as we know it today – made with refined white flour and baking powder instead of yeast and covered in icing – arrived on the scene.
“Qu’ils mangent de la brioche!” or “Let them eat cake!” Perhaps the most famous quote about cake ever, were the words of the 18th century French Queen Marie Antoinette, upon being informed that the peasants were so poor that they had no bread to eat during one of the famines that occurred in France during the reign of her husband, Louis XVI.
Needless to say, the ignorance and arrogance of that disdainful statement did not win either Marie Antoinette or her husband any respect or sympathy from their people, who then proceeded to behead both of them during the French Revolution.
However, none of this changes the fact that cake is arguably one of the most delicious things humans have ever made to eat, and its numerous varieties continue to astound and delight. Television shows like The Great British Bake Off and Cake Boss, are hugely popular and have given rise to celebrities such as Paul Hollywood, Mary Berry and Buddy Valastro.
The world’s largest wedding cake weighed 6,800kgs and was made by chefs at the Mohegan Sun Hotel and Casino in Connecticut, USA, while the most expensive wedding cake ever created was the R800 million worth of wedding cake that featured more than 4000 diamonds to decorate its eight-tiers of confection.
To celebrate, we asked two Capsicum Culinary Studio patisserie experts to share their favourite recipes. But we did ask them to keep it simple and less expensive!
PE Campus Chef Bernice Warner’s Moist Carrot Cake
(Yields one 23cm cake or two 15cm round cakes)
320g cake flour
10ml baking powder
7½ ml baking soda
5ml ground cinnamon
4 medium eggs, beaten
332g white sugar
310ml vegetable oil
280g grated carrots
For the Icing:
60ml softened butter
800ml icing sugar, sifted
150ml smooth cottage cheese
5ml vanilla essence
5ml lemon juice
125ml chopped walnuts (optional)
Preheat oven to 180°C
Sift all the dry ingredients together, twice.
Cream the eggs and sugar until pale light in colour. It should double in volume.
Add in the oil and mix really well.
Fold in the egg mixture with the grated carrots and the dry ingredients.
Place into a lined spring form 23cm round cake tin
Bake for 45min
Remove from the oven and cool in the tin for 10 minutes before turning out on a cooling rack to cool, before icing.
Cream the butter and then add the sifted icing sugar.
Add the cream cheese and flavourings and beat until silky smooth.
Place in a piping bag with a fitted nozzle of your choice and finish by icing the top and adding the chopped nuts.
Capsicum alumni Hendrik Pretorius’ Le Gâteau Marbré au Café
(A delicious French-style cake with coffee, almond and cocoa)
10g ground coffee
1 tbs cocoa powder
100g almond powder
10ml vanilla extract
1 tsp baking powder
Preheat oven to 175°C
In a standing mixer or with a hand mixer combine the sugar and eggs together with a whisk attachment for 5 minutes and add the vanilla extract and mix until light and fluffy.
Melt the butter and add it gradually to the mixer until well incorporated.
Sift the flour and add the almond powder and baking powder and gently fold the dry ingredients into the mixture until it is well combined.
Remove a small amount of the mixture and mix together with the cocoa powder. Fold the cocoa mixture gently back into the other batter to create a marble effect
Gently pour the mixture into a prepared 20cm x 10cm loaf pan and bake for 50-60 minutes.