Cake decorating is one of those oft-ignored culinary arts. Although the sight of a beautifully decorated cake delights almost everyone, most people are not aware of the long and intricate history of the art. It indeed has a long and colored history. Here is a brief overview of the history of cake decorating.
The Roots of Cake Decorating
What are the origins of cake decorating? Compared to other forms of food preparation, it is actually one of the newer culinary arts. Decorating cakes can be traced back to the mid-17th century. This is around the same time, probably not coincidentally, that cake pans made their first appearance in domestic kitchens across Northeastern Europe. Beginning in the mid-17th century, it gained widespread popularity as a way to create elaborate desserts that were used as displays during the feasts and banquets of the wealthiest aristocracy. However, these were mainly used as display pieces.
The Mid-19th Century Brings Cake Decorating to the Forefront
The history of the art, as we know it today truly got its start in the mid-19th century. This coincides with the period in which the French began to serve the dessert as a completely separate sweet course that was served at the very end of the meal. This is the time in which decorated desserts, namely cakes, began to appear on banquet tables with some kind of regularity.
The Development of Temperature-Controlled Ovens Changes Everything
In the 1840s, there was an important development in kitchen and cooking technology: the temperature controlled oven. This, of course, made baking much more pleasant and convenient. During this period, cake baking became easier and thus more popular. However, during this period, most cake decorating consisted of the elaborate and difficult old English method, which generally consisted of decorating with dimensional over piping. The cakes would generally be covered in rolled fondant, and the borders would be intricately over piped. Another important development during this same period is the introduction of baking powder and baking soda. This, of course, also makes baking cakes much easier.
The Wilton Method Arrives in the Early 20th Century
Around 1929, a business known as Wilton Enterprises began to advertise its own cake decorating classes. Their classes were advertised to enterprising chefs, caterers and other gourmands with an interest in baking and decorating cakes. The decorating classes took off and became a great success among bakers and chefs. In 1947, the Wilton's began to develop and promote their own line of baking and decorating products. Wilton enterprises made a great splash, and by the 1960s, the so-called Wilton Method became a stand-by method of cake decoration. In 1983, the Wilton Company merged with the Copco kitchenware company. Then, in 1991, the company merged again with Rowoco, who changed the name of the company to Wilton Industries.
The Lambeth Method Becomes Another Popular Decorating Method
A few years after the Wilton school came into existence, Joseph Lambeth published a book that would become a classic of cake decorating. The book was known as The Lambeth Method of Cake Decoration and Practical Pastries. The book became widely popular with budding cake decorators, bakers and other gourmands. The book contained real step-by-step instructions and clear, oversized drawings and photographs that showed readers how the Lambeth Method was constructed.
The International Cake Exploration Society Come Onto the Scene
In 1976, a new organization known as the International Cake Exploration Society in Michigan came into the decorating scene. The organization is still active, and meets each year during their annual conventions.
History Of Cake Decorating
Most people are simply not aware of the long and interesting history of cake decorating around the world. Cake decorating has a long and fascinating history as an edible art. Here is a brief overview of the evolution of cake decorating over the years. It is interesting to note how cake decorating, like most other things, is simply a reflection of the society and life of the people who developed it.
The Very Beginnings of Cake Decorating
Cake decorating has some very interesting roots. Cake decorating is actually one of the newer edible arts, especially when it is compared to other culinary arts. Cake decorating appears to have gotten its start back in the mid-17th century. It is probably no coincidence at all that this is the same time that cake pans first made their appearance in domestic kitchens across Northern Europe. At the beginning in the mid-17th century, cake decorating began to gain much popularity as a means to create elaborate desserts. These elaborate cake desserts were often used as displays during feasts and banquets. In most case, only the wealthiest aristocracy could afford to put on such confectionary displays. However, in most cases these were mainly used as decorative display pieces, and they were not eaten.
The 19th Century Brings Cake Decorating to the Masses
The history of cake decorating truly picked up steam at the start of the mid-19th century. During this period in history, the French began to serve the dessert as a separate sweet course and it began to be served at the very end of a complete meal. It was during this time that desserts, mostly in the form of confectionary treats and cakes, began to make their appearance on dessert and banquet tables across many parts of Europe.
The Advent of Temperature-Controlled Ovens Make Cake Decorating Possible
During the period of the 1840s, a new development in kitchen technology made cakes more popular and prominent than ever before. The temperature controlled oven emerged as an important piece of kitchen technology. This development made baking much more easy and convenient. It was during this period that cake baking became much more popular with those who had access to a temperature controlled oven.
The First Instances of Cake Decorating
During this early period in the history of widespread cake decorating, most cake decorating still consisted mainly of the old difficult English method. This method generally consisted of decorating with over piping. Cakes were most likely covered in rolled fondant. The borders would usually be very intricately over piped on the cake. There was another important development during this same period, and it had to do with the introduction of baking powder and baking soda. These, of course, are very important ingredients that revolutionized cooking and baking. These ingredients made it much easier to get the kind of dough consistency necessary in order to do widespread baking.
The 20th Century Brings the Wilton Method to Kitchens Everywhere
Around the year 1929, a new method began to be developed that would transform the way baking and cake decoration was accomplished. An American business known as Wilton Enterprises began to put on their own cake decorating classes. These classes were often advertised to chefs, caterers and other enterprising gourmands with a serious interest in cake decorating and baking. The Wilton's, in 1947, began to promote their own line of cake decorating products and baking utensils. These made a big splash and had a big influence on how thousands of people began to decorate their cakes and approach their own personal baking. Eventually, the Wilton Method became the most accepted method for approaching cake decoration. However, in the 1980s, the company merged with another company. Today, there is no one accepted way bake and decorate a cake.