.....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.