Market basket: Celebrations call for cake

Market basket: Celebrations call for cake

Tammy Algood  |  Special to The Tennessean

Cake. Few foods signify a celebration as deliciously. This was especially evident when I was growing up. While you are more than likely to see one of some kind displayed beautifully on a pedestal in many kitchens year round, that wasn’t the case when I was a child.

I suppose that’s why a birthday cake was as wished for as any gift. I know a lot of people my age who relate to that well. In my case, it was a white layer cake with pink frosting. For my husband, it was a yellow layer cake with chocolate frosting. For my dad, it was a white layer cake with caramel frosting. I love how each has a special version of the role cake plays in a party.

The picture of cake was very different in ancient times when it was more likely to be flat, not frosted and sometimes filled with nuts. It wasn’t until centuries later that anything close to what we label as cake looked similar to what we have now. That came about when it was discovered that beating air into egg whites changed the texture dramatically.

As I thumb through recipes given to me by my grandmother, I notice several things that have made cake baking easier through the years. For one, the brilliant addition of flour to cooking spray. Gone are the days of having to smear the pans with a thin film of shortening, then dust it as evenly as possible with flour. A quick spray followed by an even quicker rub all over the pan works like a breeze.

Testing for doneness can be accomplished instantly with a cake tester, and it leaves practically no hole in the finished cake. A piece of uncooked spaghetti works well too. My grandmother used a toothpick for layers and an ice pick for thicker cakes like Bundt.

You asked for it

Billie Loveless of Cincinnati would like to know the easiest way to dust a cake layer without making a mess. “I love the powdered sugar look, but don’t like the cleanup of my countertops!” she writes.


Start by placing a large piece of waxed paper on the countertop. Then put the cake on a wire rack over the paper. Powdered sugar in a fine mesh sieve just needs to be gently tapped as you hold and move it over the top of the cake. 

Tammy Algood is the author of five cookbooks and can be seen on “Volunteer Gardener” on PBS stations in Tennessee. Follow her at