A Brief History of Cake
Early Roman Brides carried a bunch of herbs like garlic and rosemary to ward off evil spirits and symbolize fertility and fidelity. This was the precursor to the modern bridal bouquet.
Cakes actually began in ancient Egypt as round, flat, unleavened breads that were cooked on a hot stone. The evolution from crude cakes to what we enjoy today happened over many centuries through the introduction of new ingredients and of course, technology.
Thanks to the Egyptian's discovery and subsequent skill at using natural yeast, the leavened and rising cake appeared. Next came the addition of butter and eggs into the cake dough, and that consistency became the precursor for today's cakes.
Cake making especially improved with the discovery and incorporation of new ingredients such as chocolate and vanilla. (Yum!) Eventually sugar that came to Europe with the discovery of the New World was also added into cakes. :D
By the 18th century cakes were beginning to be made without yeast. Some yeast risen cakes survived, such as the Alsatian Kugelhopf, but the new type of cakes got their lightness from beaten eggs.
At this time some recipes called for an astounding number of eggs (upwards of 30) but they required long hours of beating. Unfortunately, this went on until the invention of baking soda in the 1840s, and then baking powder in the 1860s. The quality of baked goods would continue to improve over time as ingredients became more and more refined and of consistent quality. Aren't we lucky to have the great array of cakes that are available today?!
A wedding cake is traditionally a symbol of good luck and fertility and has been a part of wedding celebrations since Roman times when a small bun, symbolizing fertility, was broken above the bride's head at the close of the ceremony. During the Middle Ages custom required the bride and groom to kiss over several small cakes.