Friday, April 8, 2011


.....My last class is over and today I am planning to begin my summer quest in search of the perfect Red Velvet Cupcake recipe today. I have a 'to read' list but that is another post. Baking is not just food preparation, it is also chemistry. I am an alchemist who is seeking not to turn base metals into gold but base food stuffs into red velvet.
.....Cake as we know it is a fairly recent invention. The ancients and people of the Middle Ages had cakes of a sort but not often. There were no cake pans. The main leavening agents would be egg or yeast since baking soda and especially baking powder are modern inventions. Although egg on its own is effective, I have a high gluten wheat flour available to me which probably helps. Most people in Europe had rye or barley flour and would have probably needed yeast to rise. I do not really know. I have not tried to make really old recipes.
.....Sugar was not readily available so honey or must (boiled down grape juice) would be a sweetener. Considering that wood ovens have no temperature controls, you can appreciate that making cake was a challenge. Still, people did make it, mostly with fruit and nuts, and it was probably closer to sweet bread than cake. Forget about icing.
......There are a few cookbooks, such as the Roman book ascribed to Apicius but, considering that most people who would do the cooking were illiterate, recipes were handed down by word of mouth. The Romans did have birthday and wedding cake, look up placenta, libum, and mustaceus. I think fruit cake has been with us forever but not chocolate since cocoa is from a New World plant and I could not tell you when vanilla made it's way into Europe, without which cake loses its luster.
.....When I achieve success, that is, a chocolate cupcake with a reddish colour which has been achieved without food coloring, I shall share my recipe with you. It is not as easy as it seems and it starts with non Dutch processed cocoa.


Tracy said...

You're making me feel very hungry!

Of course, legend has it that King Alfred burned the cakes, but which kind of cakes we never really find out.

Anachronist said...

I agree that ancient cakes were really more like sweetened bread with fruit and nuts. I would even say not bread but a flat pancake. I can't imagine a world without chocolate, though. I am curious about your recipe!

The Red Witch said...

Everyone loved the cupcakes but I don't think Red Velvet is just Devils Food with old style cocoa. Although Buttercream is the best choice for icing. I am going to refine that as well. Next week I try again.
I forgot to mention, we get the word 'cake' from Old Norse 'kaka'. The Vikings gave us cake. Gives that line 'Eat kaka and die!' a whole other flavour.