Pound Cake Project, Conclusion

I went into this project knowing that what we call pound cake today is far different from what pound cake was originally but I wanted to learn why there were such differences.  Along the way I learned some of the reasons why this happened, some of which I suspected and others which I did not.  For example, I had an inclination to believe that advances in technology and availability of ingredients had a large role in the transformation of pound cake but I would have never thought that World War II was also partly responsible for the creation of what we think of today as pound cake.  My inclination was justified, as the progressive use of technology in the various recipes indicates.

My most important goal for this project, and one that has taken on great meaning for me, was to see how the evolution of recipes, using pound cake as the representative recipes, parallels the movement of women from the private sphere to the public sphere. This can be done by analyzing the recipes themselves, their level of detail and the assumptions they make and looking at the social position of women around the times each recipe was written. Unfortunately, the time allowed for this project and the nature of it did not allow for a more in-depth study of this process but I am confident in saying that there is, in fact, a correlation between the associated effects of women going from the private to the public sphere and the evolution of recipes.  For example, the first recipe in the book, written before the Industrial Revolution, when women’s place was still at home and in the kitchen, makes a lot of assumptions. This can be used as proof that women in the late 18th century needed very little instruction as they knew the process of cooking well, which they had possibly learned from their mothers, and needed only to learn how to make new things.  In vast contrast, the last recipe, from the 21st century, makes very few assumptions, which is indicative of the fact that the writer knows that the vast majority of the women who would buy the book need step by step instructions as they are not experienced in the kitchen like an 18th century woman would have been.  Through the process of gaining more independence and higher social status, generations of women have neglected and forgotten the art of cooking and baking and this is reflected in the evolution of recipes.  The more public women’s lives get, the less they know how to cook and the more instruction they need.  This is a topic that I would like to study more in-depth under fewer time constrictions.

The final aspect of this project was the cake itself and how the final product has been throughout the centuries.  The findings, as I expected, are that, in fact what we call pound cake today is not at all pound cake and should not be called so.  As Greg Patent says in his article “Don’t Call it Pound Cake,” “I believe that the pound cake formula has been altered so extensively by so many bakers over time, that it’s not correct to call these newer cakes pound cakes at all.”  The taste factor is very important, they taste completely different.  All the cakes were liked, the 1950 version less so, but most of those who tried them all preferred the 2006 cake over the rest. This is unsurprising as our modern palate likes modern flavors and textures.  This preference for the modern cake shows that our taste has indeed evolved but one question remains: Have recipes changed and evolved to reflect our change in taste or has our taste changed in reaction to the evolution and changes in recipes?

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