If ever there was a food fit for the Gods, it would have to be cake. The word itself is of Viking origin from the Old Norse word, 'Kaka'.
The earliest cakes from Europe were essentially bread, the most obvious differences between a 'cake' and 'bread' were the round, flat shape of the cakes, and the cooking method, which turned cakes over once while cooking, while the bread was left upright throughout the baking process.
Sponge cakes, leavened with beaten eggs, originated during the Renaissance. Since then they've come a long way, and are a ubiquitous aspect of every single celebration. Different cultures have contributed their very own recipes, owning the baked dessert in its unique fashion.
Black Forest Cherry Cake, Germany
Said to have originated from the South of Germany, the cake, unlike popular perception, is not named after the Black Forest mountain range, but rather from the specialty liquor of the region which is distilled from cherries. It is this ingredient with its individualistic cherry flavor and alcohol content that gives the dessert its flavour. So yes, there are several black forest cakes especially for kiddie parties sans alcohol, but a true blue fan wants only the original. Traditionally, kirschwasser, a clear spirit made from sour cherries, is added to the cake. In fact, to be called Black Forest cake, the mixture has to have this spirit. Why the very law insists on it!
Dundee Cake, Scotland
There's no missing the concentric circles of almonds dotting the surface. The story goes that Mary, Queen of Scots, did not much care for the glace cherries that were in vogue then, so her cooks came up with a rich fruit cake with a very light texture using currants, almonds, and sultanas. There has been no looking back since then, and the Dundee cake has travelled with the British to different parts of the globe.
Oh, and incidentally, the present Queen of England loves it too.
Mawa Cake, IndiaThis is Parsi India's contribution to the cake kitty. Said to have originated as part of the Irani cafe culture of Mumbai, this buttery, soft cardamom infused cake gets its name from the 'mawa' or (khoya, evaporated milk). No two ways about it: it can hold its own amongst the best in the world.
This is a Japanese cake made of rice paste: cute round buns made of soft and chewy rice. The rice is steamed, pounded and mashed. Since it easily moulded, it can be combined with any number of ingredients for endless variety. But it is the rice that sets it apart.
Galette Des Rois, France
Typically sold in the post-X'mas period, the Galette becomes so famous that several bakeries make it through the year. This cake features layers of buttery puff pastry topped with powdered sugar, infused with almond cream. It is then baked till the outer layer acquires a toasted look.
Red Velvet Cake, USA
During the food shortages of World War II, bakers used boiled beet juices to enhance the colour of the cakes. Adams Extract, a Texas Company, is said to have made it popular in the 1920s; however, the Waldorf Astoria Hotel of New York City also claims to be the birthplace of Red Velvet Cake. Others say it is a Southern Recipe…whatever the case, it is an iconic American contribution, made even more so by Carrie Bradshaw from Sex and the City sorting out her boyfriend issues over the cake. With its cream cheese/butter roux icing, the cake is a refreshing departure from other flavours.
The Panettone, Italy
This is a traditional Italian sweet bread loaf from the North of Italy but is considered a dessert cake thanks to its assortment of candied fruits and raisins. Teamed with sweet liqueurs or hot chocolate, it is an experience you won't forget anytime soon.
A moist cake made with semolina and a dash of lemon, it is the perfect taste of the Mediterranean. A dash of orange syrup gives the cake much-needed moistness. Fresh, tangy and refreshing, this just like Mochi, tastes completely different due to the difference in grain.
With inputs from Chef Navtej Sawhney
Images courtesy: Shutterstock.com
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