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Baking - Introduction

If you try to define 'baking' in the most general sense, it usually means anything that has flour at is base and is cooked in an oven. Bread however forms the basis for all the baking that has followed. Stone Age farmers created the first flat bread, then in the Bronze Age they discovered by putting a pot over the bread they could cook in what was a primitive oven.

Yeast. The Egyptians discovered how to use yeast. They quickly realised by saving a small piece of fermented dough from an earlier batch all they had to do was mix it into the new dough.

History. During the Middle Ages the difference between what was bread and what was cake was not very clear. Size may have played a role. "Cake' could be translated into Latin as "panis biscotus", which means little cake or pie. By the 17th century things had changed. You would recognise many of the ingredients used at this time can also be found in modern cakes; for example, chocolate, sugar, vanilla and treacle. By the end of the century you could also find cake tins.

The technology of the 19th century provided the greatest breakthrough. Chemical raising agents, such as, bicarbonate of soda and baking powder replaced yeast. A ready supply of white flour and the development of an oven with reliable temperature control also made for a much simpler cake-making experience.

Library resources

On our shelves:

  • For books that include all types of baking: cakes, biscuits, muffins and pastries - 641.815 Baking

Subject Headings

Web Resources


  • How to make a cake plus decorating tips, followed by recipes for many of your favourite cakes.