This may be unusual for some, but I would like to state, that, just as much as I love to get straight into what I do (often mindlessly), I enjoy doing a lot of research and reading about it as well.
I personally believe in finding the philosophy behind everything I do, so that what I do comes from, all of me: mentally, spiritually, mentally and physically. If I miss any of these in my handiwork, I do not believe that I have given it my perfect best.
Yes, I am not perfect at what I do, but I give perfectly, if that makes sense. My sister, once told me, “Sis, your creations are just like everyone else’s but I taste your soul only in yours.” Her words have helped me to stay true to myself and to this art.
Therefore, my post today, will be drawn from what I call my ‘mental’ or the intelligent side of my cake art. I will share some interesting facts about the history of cake artistry, for your knowledge as well.
Mentions of Cake in History
The mention of cakes can be found as early as the ancient Egyptian days. Food historians claim that Egypt was one of the first civilizations to have evidence of an advanced cake making technology.
The Roman period also, had their own version named after the “placenta”. Raisin cakes are mentioned in the bible, offered to people during their festivities. Raisin cakes were used as cult offerings by many other ancient civilizations. In fact just about every culture has a story behind how their cake recipes emerged.
How Cake Art Developed
Cake art or cake artistry is an elaborated extension of cake decorating. It goes beyond just the normal covering of icing or the additional cake writing and piping. It is an often ignored culinary art that according to many food historians emerged during the mid 16th – 17th Century, when a French chef created the first multilayered frosted cake.
Cake decorating quickly became popular among the aristocrats of that time; the more elaborate the decoration, the greater the status portrayed.
Cake pans emerged about the same time and added to the fancier designs and structures. Hence, cake art originally was purposed for display of wealth or status rather than to be eaten and oft took more than two people to decorate. Sometimes, I wonder if this European social perspective was adopted by the Tongans as well, when they were visited by them missionaries…hmm.
However, cake decorating only became what we know as cake art today, in the 19th Century, when the French included it and called it ‘dessert’ as a sweet course on its own at the end of a meal. In the 1840s, kitchen technology evolved the basic wood fire oven, into a temperature controlled oven.
Another important development that emerged at this time was the production of baking powder and baking soda. These ingredients made baking easier and to this day, are the two most used and essential ingredients for baking.
However, cake decoration was still very old-fashioned, in most Western societies. Cakes were covered in royal icing and piped tediously with elaborate and intricate designs.
At this time also, Queen Victoria designed the first multilayered white wedding cake, which, is the standard wedding cake design today. Just look at the modern royal’s wedding cakes nowadays – its a right royal fancy affair!
Different Cake Decorating Methods
The Wilton Method
The first cake artistry courses were formed in 1929, by Wilton Enterprises, aimed at enterprise pastry chefs and caterers, wanting to learn the art of cake decorating.
These courses became very popular and by the 1960s, their cake decorating techniques, became the well-known, ‘Wilton Method’ and the standard for cake art today.
Later in 1947, Wilton Enterprises created their own line of baking and decorating products, which were so successful, they are still the most popular and used brand in the cake making and decorating industry. I buy and use their products as well.
In 1983 Wilton Enterprises merged with the Copco Kitchen company and later with another company, Rowoco to what we currently know as Wilton Industries, in 1991.
The Lambeth Method
Joseph Lambeth published a cake decorating book in 1934, called ‘The Lambeth Method‘. This book became the classic bible of cake decorating techniques.
His piping methods were based on the historic English tradition of “overpiping”, creating rows and rows os piped details with intricate scrolls and garlands.
It is a lavish style of cake decorating and was only for very special occasions such as weddings and christenings.
The popularity of the book amongst budding cake artists, was due to how it was written and the icing methods he used. He used both royal icing and buttercream.
The pages were laid out with step by step instructions together with beautiful pictures for his own handiwork (some which his wife took), that his readers could easily follow and master.
However, the 1980s ushered in a new and fashionable smooth fondant cake look, which saw Lambeth piping fall out of favour and became an ignored art. Lambeth later started his own cake artistry school in Europe. He won numerous awards for his work.
His techniques are slowly emerging again with the new interest in retro cakes. Although it is old-fashioned and tedious, I am still a fan and this is probably one of my most favourite methods of cake decorating next to painting, which I aspire to excel at one day. Thank you, Joseph Lambeth.
International Cake Organisations
The first international cake organisation was formed in 1976, Monroe, Michigan, USA. It was founded by Betty Jo Steinman and called, The International Cake Exploration Societé (ICES), a non-profit organisation for the purpose of preserving and advancing the love and appreciation for cake art and sugar skills.
There have been numerous other organsiations formed since and some are free to join and others you pay a subscription fee to be allowed their shared techniques and courses.
You will find many online, through many social media platforms. I have joined CakeFlix and others that I have used to gain and develop my own cake artistry skills.
Knowing the background and history of cake artistry, allows me to have a better perspective of the philosophy behind my handiwork. It also adds an intelligent purpose to making my art a part of my soul.
The techniques and works that I use have been adapted to my style, but at the same time, I acknowledge and respect their starting foundations.
Nowadays with the development of technology historical techniques can be excelled much more promptly with online courses, without the travelling or time away from home. Despite this I still prefer my original books.
Therefore, I encourage you to find the background history to anything you do in life, because it will keep you humble and add intelligence to your work.
I hope that this will give you a little knowledge towards truly understanding and respecting cake artistry.
Please share your thoughts on my post. I would love to hear from you.
I will meet on my next post,