November 26: National Cake  Day
A Brief History Of Cakes
The ancient Egyptians were the world’s first great bakers, with large-scale bakeries that produced unleavened breads and cakes, first baked on hot stones. They were the first to discover how to use wild (natural) yeast to make those flatbreads and cakes rise. Cakes are round because they descended from ancient breads—round loaves of dough placed on hearthstones to bake.
It took another few millennia, until the 18th century, to discover the technique of whipping eggs to make cakes rise. While it required many hours of beating, it heralded the dawn of modern baking. By the 1840s, baking soda had been invented, followed by baking powder in the 1860s. As ovens with regulated temperatures became available, and sugar became affordable to everyone, more people were able to bake, resulting in more creativity in recipe development; the modern cake as we know it began to take shape in the mid-19th century.
Even though sugar originated in Asia, cakes as we now know them—flour, eggs, butter and sugar baked to a sweet, fluffy deliciousness—are a Western evolution. There are thousands of different types of cakes in the world today; each culture has its specialties, most of which never reach our shores. Here, we present some of the more popular types one is likely to encounter—or at least hear about—in the U.S.
- If your favorite isn’t represented, tell us about it .
- After you’ve checked out the cakes, take a look at our many other food glossaries —an easy way to get up to speed on more than fifty different food categories.
- Most related to this Cake Glossary are our Chocolate Glossary , Custard Glossary , Dessert Sauce Glossary , Ice Cream & Frozen Desserts Glossary  and Sugar Glossary .
It is important to note that there is no one—or even 100—recipes for any of the cakes described here. Over the centuries, bakers have varied and refined the original recipes to their own preferences, and the challenge for everyone who loves to bake (or eat) good cake is to keep trying recipes until we find the versions that suit us to perfection.