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Have your cake and know it

By Calvin Odhiambo | February 1st 2015

The word cake dates back to the ancient days of the Vikings. It traces its origins from an Old Norse word 'kaka'.

Today, cakes are made from various combinations of refined flour, some form of shortening, sweetening, eggs, milk, leavening agent, and flavouring. The first cakes, on the other hand, were more bread-like, and sweetened with honey, nuts and dried fruits.

These ancient breads and cakes, often made by hand, were sometimes used in religious ceremonies, apart from the known stomach satisfaction value. They were purposely fashioned into specific shapes according to the various cultural observances.

Round shapes were the most popular and most adorned because they symbolised the cyclical nature of life, specifically the objects of light; the sun and moon. Due to their importance in expressing cyclic life, people used them as offerings to the gods and spirits.

The Chinese made cakes at harvest times to honour their moon goddess, Heng O. The Russians traditionally paid their respects in spring to a deity named Maslenitsa by making pancakes they called 'sun cakes'.

In most cultures, cakes were also given to patients of depression. This was due to the effects of sugar that manifested in hyper-excitement, which was seen as a sign of recovery.

Cakes boast a relationship with candles that traces its origin to ancient Greece. Candlelight (either from one candle stick or several lit together) symbolised the light from the sun and moon. In many cases to date, cakes and candles are used as one on occasions such as birthdays and weddings. This and more was a culture upheld by many from Egypt to Israel and by blacks to whites.

However, today people eat cakes, not for the culture or symbolic value, but for the taste.

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