First Birthday Cake Courtesy of: Malcolm MacGregor/Moment/Getty Images

For my first birthday, my mom made me a vanilla cake with chocolate frosting. It had pink sprinkles laced along the edge and a prominently placed “one” candle in the middle. I was too young to remember this yummy cake; however, there is photographic evidence that more of the cake made into my hair than it ever did in my mouth. What I do remember about my birthday over the years is asking my mom to make me a different kind of cake for every one. I could never pick a favorite; there were far too many cakes to choose from.


Christmas Kugelhopf Cake Courtesy of: Health Life & Beauty

Cakes, as we think of them, are generally round, frosted, and serve to celebrate something in our lives. This is true in different cultures as well. In India, they celebrate with Barfi, a popular cake that is similar to cheesecake in the United States. Gateau de Rois, or King Cake, is similar to sponge cake and is a common celebratory cake in France. And in South Africa they celebrate with Milk Tart.

In the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries a popular type of cake found in Europe was Kugelhof. It was very similar to what we know as a Bundt cake today. Kugelhof was sweet bread made with a few simple ingredients: flour, milk, and yeast. It was the decoration that really took the cake. You would often see fudge, chocolate, or fruit syrups drizzled on the top, with lemon zest, almonds, raisins, and blueberries draped along the top and sides for added beauty.


Cake or pudding mold, redware, lead glaze, 1830 to 1860, Fenimore Art Museum, Cooperstown, NY, F0515.1955. Photo By: Melissa Olsen

When it is time to celebrate, there are beautiful arrays of cakes to pick from, and each one is unique. Bundt cake is no exception. As you can see, it is made in a circular mold that has a hole in the middle. The hole helps to keep the edges moist while ensuring the cake cooks all the way through. It makes for a denser and moister cake, which can double as sweet bread. The mold shown here is from the 1800s and is made from red iron clay. Similar molds could be found up and down the East Coast in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. You can still find very similar molds today at your local Williams-Sonoma. You can even buy them in the shape of flowers, beehives, animals, and abstract shapes for a little extra fun!


Assortment of small Bundt cake molds Courtesy of: The Answer is Cake Blog

Bundt cake is a popular cake in modern times, but it has been a staple of Sunday morning breakfast and dessert throughout the centuries. In fact, it is believed that Kugelhof, or Bundt cake, was the cake Marie Antoinette was referring to when she said, Qu’ils mangent de la brioche, let them eat cake. Cake is something that is truly important to cultures across the world, and serves as a way to bring families and friends together in celebration. The next time you are ready to celebrate, what type of cake will you pick? Do you have a favorite?

-Melissa Olsen

  1. Maryann Tebben, Gastronomica: The Journal of Critical Food Studies, Vol. 15 No. 2, Summer 2015; (pp. 10-25) DOI: 10.1525/gfc.2015.15.2.10
  2. Timothy G. Roufs & Kathleen Smith Roufs, Sweet Treats around the World: An Encyclopedia of Food and Culture (Santa Barbara: ABC-CLIO, LLC, 2014), accessed November 13, 2015, https://books.google.com/books?hl=en&lr=&id=M_eCBAAAQBAJ&oi=fnd&pg=PP1&dq=kugelhof+hold&ots=YA-W1BdcB5&sig=50qULA9j5gXMV-Nd2Q7l5jY9NLg#v=onepage&q=kugelhof&f=false
  3. Jean-Robert Pitte, French Gastronomy: The History and Geography of a Passion (New York: Columbia University Press, 1949), accessed November 14, 2015, https://books.google.com/books?hl=en&lr=&id=QCDeGUq1IbUC&oi=fnd&pg=PR9&dq=kugelhof+hold&ots=nP8zTZhLeu&sig=IxGpm98dMpGmYpM7_RTWWXngJg4#v=onepage&q=kugelhof&f=false
  4. David Lebovitz, Kugelhof Recipe, accessed November 13, 2015, http://www.davidlebovitz.com/2005/11/kugelhof/
  5. Cake or pudding mold, redware, lead glaze, 1830 to 1860, Diameter: 5 7/8 Depth: 2 1/16. Fenimore Art Museum, Gift of: Frank E. Klapthor, Washington, DC. Cooperstown, New York, F0515.1955. Photo by Melissa Olsen