It’s a hobby, and I don’t know if you have noticed that I have a simple curiosity and passion for  *History of Food*.   I love, love, love to cook and I love to read, watch the news.  I like word games, gardening, wine and music.  {Oh wow, this…sounds like a dating profile, LoL. ~ Boy ‘o boy, didn’t I think  that out loud pretty confidently! },  So, getting back to what I enjoy about the food history “stuff”.  I revel in the symbolism, the evolution stories and growth, the nuts and bolts, and the vast wealth of  “Food Cultures” and “Cuisine”… So, does that make me a Food History Buff or a Food History Enthusiast?    Ahhh, Gee, I’m a foodie,  just most comfortable at discovering many new wonders.

One thing maybe you can help me with though.  I have not been able to scientifically satisfy my geekness,  even with books after books after books for what I find myself looking for:  an explanation or an answer to “What came first, the chicken or the egg?”  EEEEK!! {as I’m pulling my hair out}  Help!

I bring bread to the table again this week to discuss how cakes were developed in the ancient times. In the very beginning,  the original cakes were very different than what we are accustomed to today.  Originally called “KaKa”, an old Norse word, eventually completely interchangeable with variations of words from Anglo Saxon origin, “cake” was mostly used to describe bread.  Cakes were baked for special occasions because they were made with the finest and not cheap ingredients.  For example, in the 13th Century, baking was a luxury, where only the few privilege were able to enjoy cake.   Medieval bakers showed advanced baking skills, using wood burning stoves, and often made gingerbreads and fruitcakes because they lasted for many months. They used honey, and exotic spices such as saffron, ginger, treacle and many nuts and dried fruits.  The Romans liked currants, citrons and raisins, adding available eggs and butter to their basic bread dough, that gave it a cake like resemblance.  This is were the thin line between cake and bread originated.  Cakes were tied in with the agricultural annual cycles, most often used as offerings to the Gods. The Chinese served cakes made at harvest time to honor the moon goddess who played a crucial role in their seasonal cycles. The Russians, the Ancient Celts, celebrated the first day of spring for hope of sun, rain and healthy soil imperative to their food supply.

Cake-making really took off, as the Industrial Revolution changed the whole baking scene early on and well into mid-19th century.  From earlier times, crafty European chefs helped shape and develop molds made with paper, wood or metal, which the “round cake,” similar shape to bread, baked round or flat, then placed on trays for serving. In the 19th century, the discoveries of  extra fine white flour, butter, lard, yeast, sugars, leavening agents, baking soda and baking powder, were introduced for use instead of yeast.

As the economy evolved and became stronger, newer baking techniques, chefs’ growing baking skills, cooking literature, specially fashioned cookware, spectacular and innovative baking equipment, fresh and newly processed ingredients that were widely introduced publically became available.  Today, cake baking is no longer a complicated task.  Anybody using the simplified and perfected methods of baking, can bake a cake and do it well.

In my next review of the culture of cakes, we’ll dive into the hundreds and hundreds of types of cakes, the beginning of icing and flavor profiles, and how cakes soothe the soul in so many ways,  I’ll also feature 2 new cake recipes from Rangeley’s locals.  So with Valentine’s Day coming around the corner, I have these two wonderful cakes to share with you.

The Adam’s Extract Company featured an original version of this on the back of one their boxes in the late 1920’s, the cake, dated roughly from  the 1800’s,  gained its’ popularity in the late 50’s.   The Waldorf Astoria Hotel in NYC  staked its’ claim as the birthplace. It is known as The Red Velvet Cake.  It has been featured on the dessert menu at Forks in the Air, downtown Rangeley.  Karen Seaman tells me it is her mom’s recipe and agreed to share it with me.  It baked well and with it’s bold, red, luscious thick multistage sandwiched between layers of old fashioned cream cheese frosting, looked absolutely  divine,  showcasing a mysterious and romantic flair as well,  and the taste brought you directly in route to ecstasy.

Lurene McIntosh’s Red Velvet Cake

Bake at 350° for 30 minutes.

1/2 Cup Shortening                                1/2 Cup of Sugar

2 Eggs                                1/4 Cup of Red Food Coloring

2 Tbsp. of dark Cocoa                                        1 Tsp. Salt

1 Tsp. Vanilla                                      1 Cup of Buttermilk

2  1/2 Cup All Purpose Flour             1 Tsp. Baking Soda

                                                                         1 Tsp. Vinegar

Cream Shortening.  Add Sugar gradually. Add Salt then vanilla, eggs one at a time beating in well after each addition. Put the cocoa in a cup and add food coloring in and mix to a smooth paste.  Add to the creamed mixture.  Sift the flour three times. Add alternately to creamed mixture with 1 Cup of Buttermilk. Dissolve Baking Soda in vinegar and add to the cake batter.  Mix in well.    Bake in 350 ~ Preheated oven. Cool completely before frosting with a Cream Cheese Frosting.

Homemade Cream Cheese Frosting.  From the Oquossoc House Treasure Chest.

Tips for the perfect Cream Cheese Frosting=

⦁              Make sure you are using full-fat brick cream cheese, not low fat or spreadable.

⦁              Use Unsalted Butter, this way you can control the salt. If you’re using salted butter, omit the salt.

⦁              Allow cream cheese and butter to soften. This will eliminate the lumps.

⦁              If you’ll be pipping your frosting, sift the powdered sugar several times.

⦁              To frost a cake generously, (preferred), I would double the recipe or 1 1/2 times the ingredients.

Ingredients…..

⦁              1/2 Cup  (1 stick) Unsalted Butter, softened

⦁              8 Oz. Cream Cheese brick-style,  softened

⦁              1 Tsp. Vanilla

⦁              1/4 Tsp. salt  (depending on your taste. * See Tips)

⦁              4 Cups Powdered Sugar

Combine butter and cream in bowl and beat until creamy, well combined, and lump free.  Add Vanilla, and salt and stir well to combine.  With mixer on low, gradually  add powdered sugar gradually until combined.  Use to frost completely cooled cake or cupcakes.

Another cake, often requested by returning guests, from the infamous Oquossoc House Restaurant, which was a very popular arena for tourist and locals, located on the corner of  Rt. 16 and Rt. 4  in Oquossoc for many, many years. Resurrecting a little slice of French-American cake history, This very vintage,  {hundred year old cake, from 1912 in Britain}  delicately made pumpkin spice layer cake slathered with a caramel drizzle and Pecans and a Pumpkin Butter frosting, {oh way!!!, Finish your piece or hide it well!}.  You’ll awaken something meaningful the way the autumn spice aromas tug at your senses.  The recipe, tweaked to perfection with pecans and a slight hint of caramel, by Carmen Glidden, Master Chef and  now retired owner, was ever so popular with her diners in the fall season for many years.

~Recipe=  Pumpkin Spice Butter Frosting

⦁              8 oz. Cream Cheese, softened

⦁              8 Tbsp. unsalted butter, softened

⦁              1 Tsp vanilla

⦁              1 Tsp cinnamon

⦁              3/4 Tsp. Pumpkin spice

⦁              3 Cups powdered sugar

⦁              Dash milk or cream

⦁              1 Tub Cool Whip Topping Thawed

In large bowl,  cream butter and cream cheese until smooth add vanilla and cinnamon, pumpkin spice.  Add sugar slowly and fold slowly and beat until no lumps.  Add Milk or dash of cream if too thick.  fold cool whip topping in before spreading the cake.

The cake

1 Pkg. yellow cake mix                             1 Can Pumpkin, divided

1/2 Cup milk                                                   1 /3 cup Vegetable oil

4 Large eggs                            1  1/2 Tsp. Pumpkin Spice, divided

1 Jar of Caramel Sauce          1 Cup chopped Pecans or Walnuts

Preheat oven to 350°.   Grease and flour 2 (9 inch) round cake pans.  Beat cake mix, 1 cup of the pumpkin, milk, oil, eggs, and 1 tsp. of the pumpkin spice in a large bowl on medium speed until well blended..  Pour evenly into pans. Bake 20-22 minutes, or until toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean.  Cool completely on wire rack.  Meanwhile prepare frosting.  after cakes are cool, remove them from the pans, slice each layer horizontally in half with a serrated knife.  Stack layers on serving plate spreading cream cheese mixture between each layer.  Do not frost the top, for presentation Drizzle with caramel sauce,  sprinkle with pecans and store in refrigerator.  Serves 16.

~~Without disappointment, these cakes are worthy of a special occasion or just for your own enjoyment.  Let me know how your cakes turned out, send a picture to  share.

~I would love to spotlight your favorite cake creations as well.  If you are a fan of  baking and have that special cake. ~ If you know of a place who serves that                                  special cake, please let me know ~Meanwhile, Happy Fooding and to your baking adventure.

Chef Scrappy  at:   [email protected]

“There is no sincerer love than the love of food.” ~George Bernard Shaw


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