Who says you can’t have your cake and eat it too? The popular dessert has been around since the advent of time, making it a classic concoction to turn to for everything from celebrations to a bite of comfort. Whether you like your cake sweet and chocolatey or light and airy, there’s probably a story behind your gateau of choice.
Victoria Sponge Cake
The advent of the sponge cake in England came in the 1840s when baking powder also entered the country. The new, fluffy texture was an absolute delicacy at the time: Queen Victoria herself used to indulge to her heart’s content after being forbidden to eat any sweets as a child.
Just the name itself invokes the sense of an indulgent slice, doesn’t it? Chiffon cake was invented by an insurance salesman and home baker by the name of Harry Baker in 1927. He wasn’t quite the regular old home baker though: the man supposedly tested roughly 400 recipes before having the revelation to use vegetable oil in his batter instead of butter or shortening. When he sold that recipe to General Mills in 1948, it was touted as the first new cake in 100 years.
Red Velvet Cake
Today many bakers add red food colouring to achieve the pretty red hue of this popular cake, but in the 1940s when it was invented food colouring was not among the required ingredients. Although many claim to be the OG inventors of the cake itself, we do know that it seems to have originated in the south of America where people used Dutch cocoa and buttermilk or vinegar to turn the cake that iconic shade we still covet today.
Gelatin Mould Cake
We’re not sure who’s clamouring for a bite of jelly-laden cake these days, but these moulds have been around since the 1700s. They specifically shot to popularity in the 1950s when ice boxes were rare; being able to prepare and keep a gelatin cake was actually a display of wealth. How far we’ve come.
Pineapple Upside Down Cake
You can blame canning for the advent of this fruity cake that was invented around 1925 and which shot to popularity in the 1930s. Thanks to the preservation technique, even the most novice of home bakers could make perfectly pretty cakes with beautiful pineapple rings, earning this one a spot in many pre-Pinterest homemakers’ hearts.
This delicate, layered cake with its coffee- and almond-infused flavours was invented in 1955 by the French pastry chef Cyriaque Gavillon, whose wife thought it looked like the Paris Opera House (hence the name). Looks aside, this cake delivers what the chef always hoped to achieve: a whole taste of cake in one simple bite.
New York Cheesecake
When cream cheese was invented in New York in the early 1900s, somebody had the genius idea to mix it with vanilla and layer it on top of a delicate graham cracker crust. Today there are plenty of variations on the classic dessert, but we remain ever thankful to the person who brought this OG version into our lives.
Angel Food Cake
No one quite knows who invented the very first angel food cake, but one recipe in The Kentucky Housewife indicates it could have originated in 1839. Unlike most cakes, this one calls for extra eggs that are whipped into a foamy frenzy before being folded into what becomes a high-rise batter. The resulting, airy texture has been a favourite ever since, making it a popular one in bakeries and home kitchens alike.
The name of this versatile cake is actually quite literal: when it originated in 18th century Europe it initially weighed four pounds. How did they know? Because the super simple recipe called for a pound each of flour, butter, eggs and sugar. Now that’s math any home baker could certainly memorize. These days we use smaller portions to measure out the ingredients, but the science is mostly the same.
German Chocolate Cake
It’s easy to assume this cake hails from the European nation, but German cake gets its name because the man who invented the chocolate in it was named Samuel German. The American developed the chocolate for Baker’s in 1957, and the cake hails from a Texan who sent her recipe to a local newspaper. That recipe, with unique ingredients like coconuts and pecans, was reprinted across the country.
We’d be remiss to not include one of the oldest—not to mention longest-lasting—cakes in the world. Fruit cake can be traced all the way back to ancient Rome, but it’s had plenty of historical connections ever since. (It even used to be the traditional wedding cake in England.) Love or hate the dense cake, the alcohol within helps it to keep it for a long, long time, which is why it continues to be such a famous—if not everlasting—holiday treat.
Boston Cream Pie
Don’t let the name fool you—this pie is all cake. The name probably derives from the time when cake and pie pans were interchangeable, but the cake itself was invented at Boston’s Omi Parker House in 1856. There, a chef combined sponge cake with pastry cream and white and chocolate icings for a dessert that went on to win over plenty of hearts (and palates!) worldwide.
Black Forest Cake
Many think this chocolate-sponge cherry cake with its layers of whipped cream is named after the Black Forest in Germany where it originated. In reality though, the rumoured baker who created the cake in 1915 named it Schwarzwälder Kirschtorte, after the liquor used within and famous in that part of the country.