Get ready to feast your eyes (and taste buds) over some of the WORLD’S MOST TREASURED CAKES
Let’s get one thing straight, shall we. A birthday celebration is not “officially” a birthday celebration without a fancy, dolled-up cake, complete with candles – in a merrily decorated balloon-filled space with loved ones on hand to party it up with you on that special day. And no wedding is complete without a multiple-tier wedding cake – ranging from understated elegance and extravagant to works of art and downright crazy (think baking shows on TV such as ‘Cake Boss’, ‘Extreme Cake Makers’ and ‘Crazy Cakes’).
Whether it’s sponge, butter, cheese, fruit or chocolate, we all have a favourite – unless of course, you avoid sugary treats like the plague, or just born sans sweet tooth. While the origin of cakes is a little sketchy – there is evidence that suggests ancient Egyptians as the pioneers of ‘real baking’ – the Oxford English Dictionary traces the word ‘cake’ back to the 13th century – and it’s believed that the word ‘cake’ is Viking in nature, from the Old Norse word ‘kaka’. Ancient Greeks used the word ‘plakous’, derived from the word for ‘flat’, while Romans referred to cake as ‘placenta’, which is Latin for describing a circular, flat form.
These days, baking has become a much less complicated process, thanks to modern baking equipment (back in the day cakes were “baked” on hot stones and substantial labour went into whisking egg foams). And thanks to effortless access to recipes and tutorial videos online, just about anyone can bravely attempt to make their favourite brand of indulgence!
Join us on a delicious little ‘cake-walk’ this National Cake Day (November 26) as we take a bite through some of the world’s most treasured cakes.
TIRAMISU ● Italy
Just like its name suggests (tiramisu means ‘pick me up’ or ‘cheer me up’), this Italian dessert menu staple lives to please palates – especially those of coffee lovers. Believed to have been created in the 1960s by a confectioner named Roberto Linguanotto in the region of Veneto, Italy, the luxurious and elegant tiramisu is easily identifiable by its layers of coffee-soaked lady fingers (traditionally the lady fingers are also soaked with rum) between mascarpone cheese, which is a naturally sweet Italian cheese, whisked with eggs and sugar.
DEVIL’S FOOD CAKE ● United States
Chocolate lover unite! There’s nothing like rich, super moist Devil’s Food Cake – topped with a sinful chocolate ganache – to satiate that obsessive chocolate craving. Invented in the United States in the early 20th century, Devil’s Food Cake’s dark, almost black colour and intense chocolatey flavour comes from the use of unsweetened cocoa powder that is used. Some recipes require added ingredients such as strong brewed coffee or even water as a substitute for milk to enhance the flavour.
CHEESECAKE ● Greece
Seriously? Greece? That can’t be right, you say. Though it’s easy to assume that the cheesecake originated from the States, its history goes back centuries – all the way to ancient Greece! (Supposedly cheesecakes were even served to athletes at the first Olympic Games.) One of the most loved cheesecake we enjoy today are New York-style cheesecakes – full-bodied, sinful concoctions of cream cheese and egg yolks – and those only came about in the 1900s after New York dairyman William Lawrence invented cream cheese completely by accident in 1872.
BOLO DE MEL ● Madeira Islands
Reigning from the Madeira Islands in Portugal, this ‘loafy’ cake – created by nuns in the Convent of Santa Clara in Funchal – is traditionally made using molasses or ‘mel de cana’, which means ‘cane honey’ in Portuguese (these days, however, honey is often used as a substitute for molasses). Usually associated with Christmas, this dark-hued heavily-spiced cake of spongy sticky texture also contains walnuts and almonds. Fun fact: When the loafy cake is served in its birthplace, it’s customary to tear the pieces off with your hands, instead of cutting it with a knife!
HUMMINGBIRD CAKE ● Jamaica
Bananas, pineapple, pecan, cream cheese frosting …. ooh what’s NOT to love? Although touted as a quintessential southern American dessert, the Hummingbird Cake was created in Jamaica, named after the island’s national bird. Its popularity skyrocketed when Southern Living magazine printed the recipe in 1978. This delightfully refreshing tropical cake usually has at least two layers with of crushed pineapple, mashed bananas, roasted pecans and cream cheese frosting.
BLACK FOREST CAKE ● Germany
Did you know that the Black Forest Cake was not named after the famed Black Forest (Schwarzwald) mountain range in Germany? Its name stems from a specialty liquor from the region known as Schwarzwälder Kirschwasser, distilled from black, fully ripened cherries of the Black Forest. Invented by Josef Keller in 1915, it comprises layers of chocolate cake, with whipped cream and Kirsch-infused cherries between each layer – topped with whipped cream.
SPEKKOEK/LAPIS LEGIT ● Indonesia
To Malaysians, it’s known as Kek Lapis – with Sarawak being famous for its highly colourful versions – but this labour-intensive delight is actually of Dutch-Indonesian origin. In the Netherlands, it’s known as Spekkoek, which literally means ‘bacon cake’ (such named due to its resemblance to bacon), while Indonesians call it Lapis Legit. The richly spiced cake is believed to have been first made by the wives of Dutch administrators during the colonial period in Batavia (now known as Jakarta). A respectable Spekkoek should consist of not less than 18 layers, baked in the oven one layer at a time!
LAMINGTON ● Australia
Possibly one of the most iconic of Aussie desserts, the Lamington is believed to have been named after Lord Lamington, the eighth governor of Queensland from 1896 to 1901. These pretty treats are made from squares of butter cake or sponge cake that’s dipped in chocolate, and then rolled in desiccated coconut. Sometimes it comes with layers of raspberry jam or even cream for added oomph. This true blue Aussie is so synonymous with Australia that it’s even honoured with its own National Lamington Day, which is on July 21.
TRES LECHES CAKE ● Mexico
A dessert of Mexican descent, Tres Leches Cake essentially consists of a super light sponge cake (similar to Angel Food Cake) soaked in three types of milk – true to its name, which literally means ‘three milks’. Once baked, a sweet mixture of condensed milk, evaporated milk and whole milk is poured over the sponge cake, before being coated – either fully or partially – in whipped cream. No Cinco de Mayo would be complete without this sweet, creamy, luscious treat, an excellent choice for milk lovers!
DUNDEE CAKE ● Scotland
Dundee Cake originates from Scotland, and remains one of the most loved specialties in the land of epic mountain wildernesses and castles. Believed to have been originally made for Mary Queen of Scots back in the 16th century, Dundee Cake has a light texture and rich flavour, and is loaded with raisins and currants, along with bits of tart orange peel and dashes of nutmeg – decorated with circles of toasted almonds. Scottish whiskey is usually added to the cake for elevated depth and flavour.
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