A Cake By Any Other Name would Still Be Cake
The other day, four of us met at a friend’s house for tea. We had a whale of a time, remembering old adventures, planning new ventures, and of course, wolfing down the hi-tea spread.
The highlight of the hi-tea was a lovely cake. It had a base of almond flour topped with a thick layer made with low fat cream cheese and artificial sweetener and the top decorated with gold dust ferns. Three of us being on perpetual diets, this cake was a guilt free and yummy treat. Guilt free cheese cake, a good cup of tea and good friends: what more could one want?
New York Cheese cake
Cheese cake, as we know it today, is more dessert than cake. This type of cheesecake distinguished by the name “New York Cheese cake” was popularized by Junior’s restaurant on Flatbush Avenue, New York in the 1950’s. It is still made the same way using Philadelphia cream cheese. The base is made of a thin layer of sponge cake or crushed digestive biscuits. The cream cheese filling is lightly flavoured with lemon. Then the top can be left plain or a layer of fruit preserve can be added. It is the perfect dessert to round off a good meal.
Death by Chocolate Cake
As exotic cake names go, you can’t get more exotic than “Death by Chocolate Cake”. This is a layered cake that also originated in New York (what’s with New York and exotic cake names anyway?) where it was introduced by Benning’s restaurants. Indulgent, decadent, sinful; these are only a few of the words used to describe this cake. It is no small wonder that it is called Death by Chocolate: it is truly to die for.
This cake consist of layers of chocolate sponge alternating with layers of chocolate buttercream or chocolate mousse. Although closely related to the Devil’s Food Cake [link], Death by Chocolate goes one step further.It is even richer and has even more chocolate.
Several versions of this cake exist. One involves a mocha flavoured sponge made with freshly brewed coffee and lavishly covered with a chocolate ganache frosting. In another version, two of the layers consist of dark chocolate mousse and white chocolate mousse/pudding.
Agatha Christie fans are sure to have come across the exotic cake name “Delicious Death”. This cake stars in the Miss Marple mystery A Murder is Announced. The Central European cook who bakes this cake with oodles of chocolate, butter and raisins, herself describes it as “…..rich, rich; of a melting richness….”
Red Velvet Cake
The Red Velvet Cake is another rich, dense and moist cake. It began life as a chocolate cake. Vinegar and milk were added to keep the cake moist. The chocolate available at that time would react with the acidic conditions produced by vinegar, turning the mixture a deep red colour. Hence a cake with a beautiful colour and exotic name was born. Chocolate made by modern methods does not turn red when exposed to acidic conditions. Red Velvet Cake is now made using cooked beetroot, beet juice or red food colour.
New York’s Waldorf-Astoria Hotel adopted this cake and gave it the name of Waldorf-Astoria Cake. So we have yet another rich cake with an exotic name originating in New York.
In Canada, the Red Velvet Cake was adopted by Eaton’s department store chain and called the Eaton Cake. Although this cake originated in the United States, in Canada its invention was attributed to Lady Eaton, the owner of the Eaton stores.
The white frosting that is used to decorate Red Velvet Cake serves to further emphasize its rich red colour. Cream cheese frosting can be used on this cake, but traditionally it is decorated with the French style buttercream frosting called Ermine Icing. Velvet and ermine, the combination is more regal than exotic, and suited more to a royal cloak than a cake.
Red Velvet Cake featured in the Hollywood film Steel Magnolias in 1989. Nowadays, it is an integral part of Valentine’s Day celebrations along with chocolate and red roses.
This is perhaps the most exotic cake name. Madeleines are little cakes baked in shell shaped moulds using the original sponge cake formula [link]. There may be the addition of lemon zest or ground almonds for flavour.
Madeleines are most widely believed to have originated in the South of France, making their first appearance in the 18th century. Louis XV is said to have named them after a cook called Madeleine Palmier; subsequently they became very popular at the court of Versailles. Another story claims that these little cakes originated in Spain and were brought to France by a pilgrim named Madeleine.
Madeleines appear during a Food Moment in Marcel Proust’s book In Search of Lost Time. Proust writes “No sooner had the warm liquid mixed with the crumbs touched my palate than a shudder ran through me and I stopped, intent upon the extra ordinary thing that was happening to me. And suddenly the memory revealed itself. The taste was that of the madeleine which on Sunday mornings……my Aunt Leonie used to give me, dipping it first in her own cup of tea or tisane.”
Cut and Come Again Cake
Cut and Come Again Cake is a traditional English fruit cake made with lots of dried fruit. Although a fairly simple cake, I included it in this collection due to its unique name. The cake invites you to sample the cake, and keep returning for more! In my book you can’t get any more hospitable than this.
Upside Down Cake
Another traditional cake with an exotic name is the Upside Down Cake or the Tarte Tatin as it is called in France. Fruit like pineapple, cherries or apple is placed in the base of the cake tin and the batteer is poured on top. When the finished cake is inverted out of the tin, the layer of fruit forms an in built topping.
The internet abounds with the Paleo and Keto versions of all popular cakes. Paleo cakes are gluten-free, grain-free and dairy-free. This is supposed to make them guilt-free too. Cakes made this way are supposed to be good for your health and good for your figure: a bit like eating your cake and having it.