“You know how interesting the purchase of a sponge-cake is to me.” Jane Austen to Cassandra Godmersham: Wednesday, June 15, 1808 During the renaissance, Italian cooks became famous for their baking skills and were hired by households in both England and France. The new items that they introduced were called “biscuits,” though they were the forerunner of what we now consider to be sponge cake. The earliest sponge cake recipe in English was recorded by Gervase Markham in 1615. These sponge cakes weren’t exactly your Betty Crocker behemoths, though – they were most likely thin, crisp cakes, more like modern cookies. Macaroons were developed during this period, as were spiced buns such as the Easter staple, hot cross buns. Recette pour la Madeleine, by MairieSY, September 19, 2003 By the middle of the 18th century, yeast had fallen into disuse as a raising agent for cakes in favor of beaten eggs. The cooks of the day must have had arm muscles like Schwarzenegger – it takes an awful lot of beating by hand to do what we can accomplish in a few minutes with an electric mixer! Once as much air as possible had been beaten in, the mixture would be poured into molds, often elaborate creations, but sometimes as simple as two tin hoops, set on parchment paper on a cookie sheet. It is from these cake hoops that our modern cake pans developed. Amazingly, it seems that the idea of cake as a dessert was particularly late in (more…)
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