Baking Facts

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Updated:   June 07, 2003


It's All Mixed Up!

The History and True 

Facts About Baking

Devil’s Food Cake

           Let us start out by saying that Devil’s Food is strictly from the United States.  If you open any baking books from Europe you will not find a reference to this cake.  I can find references dating back as early as 1920’s in my dusty American collection; any earlier than this and my guess is the very proper Victorians would have never named a cake after such an improper fellow.  ‘The Dessert Bible' (Christopher Kimble,2000) refers to:

            Heavenly Devils Food - The latter part of the nineteenth century, which saw the development of a lot of imaginative cakes with fancy names also gave birth to one cake whose popularity hasn’t waned from that period to ours, the Devil’s Food Cake.

            The Victorian Book of Cakes’ published in 1897 has a formula for Angel Cake but there is no mention of the Devil.

            We should discuss the colors that make up many variations of this cake.  The name comes from the reddish tint left by the natural cocoa color.  Today, we have Dutch-processed (more alkaline) cocoa available to us that improves the chocolate taste as well as a deeper dark almost black color.  This processed cocoa and regular cocoa (like Hershey) caused the branching off of this famous cake with names such as:

Demon Cake (Hershey) - 1934
Devil’s Delight Cake (Hershey)- 1934
Real Red Devils Food - 1945
Black Midnight Devils Food - 1945
Elegant Devils Food - 1958
Satan Cake - 1930’s
Mahogany Cake (no date)
Red Velvet Cake (no date) and
Oxblood Cake (no date)  

            The ingredients have always included cocoa or chocolate liquor, hot water, flour, whole eggs, shortening or butter and some recipes ask for sour cream, sour milk or buttermilk all of these work with the baking soda, a staple rising agent in every recipe. Ingredients remain the same except for a brief time during the W.W.II, about 1943, when the most severe food shortages began as a reflection of the war.  Sugar rationing began in May of 1942 and meat, cheese and fat were rationed in March of 1943.  Lard and beet juice were introduced into the formula giving it a reddish tint and saving a valuable ration coupon for other things.  These variations were soon dropped as the war ended.

            Leave it to American ingenuity to create such variety to a popular chocolate cake.  Yet, if you look at the other side the Angel Food Cake has never changed.  I’ve dated that cake back, in my American cook- books, to 1897, of course if it gets all mixed up you’ll be the first to know!

Written by: Suzanne Scott

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