Cakes are made from various combinations of refined flour, some form of shortening, sweetening, eggs, milk, leavening agent, and flavoring.

There are literally thousands of cakes recipes (some are bread-like and some rich and elaborate) and many are centuries old. Cake making is no longer a complicated procedure.

Baking utensils and directions have been so perfected and simplified that even the amateur cook may easily become and expert baker. There are five basic types of cake, depending on the substance used for leavening.

The most primitive peoples in the world began making cakes shortly after they discovered flour. In medieval England, the cakes that were described in writings were not cakes in the conventional sense. They were described as flour-based sweet foods as opposed to the description of breads, which were just flour-based foods without sweetening.

Bread and cake were somewhat interchangeable words with the term "cake" being used for smaller breads. The earliest examples were found among the remains of Neolithic villages where archaeologists discovered simple cakes made from crushed grains, moistened, compacted and probably cooked on a hot stone. Today's version of this early cake would be oatcakes, though now we think of them more as a biscuit or cookie.

 

Cakes were called "plakous" by the Greeks, from the word for "flat." These cakes were usually combinations of nuts and honey. They also had a cake called "satura," which was a flat heavy cake.