Pastries by Mellissa, Special Cakes for Special occasions and chocolate fountains
Pastries by Mellissa, Special Cakes for Special occasions and chocolate fountains
Following are some interesting facts about pastries.
Birthday Cake History
The History of the Wedding Cake
The Tradition of the Groom's Cake
Pie History
History of Fruit Cobblers and Crisps
Cookie History
History of Chocolate

Birthday Cake History
The tradition of birthday parties began centuries ago in Europe, according to Wilton Industries, a company that specializes in baking and cake decorating. It was feared that evil spirits sought out people on their birthdays. To protect the birthday person from harm, friends and family would gather around, bringing good wishes. Giving gifts brought even more good cheer to ward off evil spirits.

The custom of the birthday cake was observed in ancient Greece. During the Middle Ages, it re-emerged in Germany as a kinderfest, or a birthday celebration for a young child. Birthday candles originally were placed on cakes to bring birthday wishes up to God.

The largest cake ever created weighed 128,238 pounds, 8 ounces. It had 16,209 pounds of frosting. Created in celebration of the 100th birthday of Fort Payne, Ala., it was made in the shape of Alabama.

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The History of the Wedding Cake
The history of the wedding cake began with bread (usually wheat). The bread was broken over the head of the bride for a plentiful life and years of happiness. Guests scrambled for the crumbs and ate them eagerly as they were assumed to be tokens of good luck.

More recently, brides and grooms kissed over bunches of little cakes and later, the cakes were made into one with icing over them and thus the tiered wedding cake custom began.

For many years, the top layer of the cake was frozen and then consumed on the first anniversary. Many now suggest this top layer be eaten on the one month anniversary or soon after.

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The Tradition of the Groom's Cake
The tradition of the Groom's cake began in the South and was originally a symbol of the couple's sweet life together.

For years the Groom's cake served as a type of favor for guests. It was a dark fruitcake which was baked in advance, cut up into small squares, and put into little monogrammed boxes. The boxes were given to the guests to take home. The time, labor and cost in doing this ultimately led to the end of part of this tradition.

Today the Groom's cake really serves as a way for the Groom to have his own special part of the reception or rehearsal dinner. The cake often hints at some aspect of the Groom's personality. If the Groom loves to play golf, the cake may resemble a golf bag. If the Groom is a race car driver, the cake may resemble a race car. If the Groom loves Michael Jordan, the cake may resemble his basketball jersey, and so on.

In general, the Groom's cake is often a chocolate cake but may be the groom's favorite flavor. If he just loves carrot cake, make it carrot cake. If he just loves cupcakes more than regular cake, make it cupcakes! There is no limit to the design.

The Bride usually orders the Groom's cake from the same baker who is providing the wedding cake. Unless the Groom was in on the original decision, the Bride usually keeps the design of the cake a secret until the wedding day.

Some Groom's prefer to order the Groom's cake themselves, keeping it a secret from the Bride. Either way, the Groom's cake can be a fun part of the wedding celebration.

Some couples choose to serve the Groom's cake at the Rehearsal Dinner as a dessert because it is often a "less serious" cake than the wedding cake. Other couples choose to display both the wedding cake and the Groom's cake at the wedding, allowing the Groom's cake to serve as another dessert option. Either way, both are acceptable.

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Pie History
The magic of pies dates back to King Henry VIII. Legend has it that the British ruler was livid when he found out that one of his abbots was building an elaborate and expensive kitchen. The wise abbot took the wind out of the King's anger by sending him a delicious, warm pie.

Early pies were predominantly made with meat. Two early examples were shepherd's pie and cottage pie. Shepherd's pie was made with lamb and vegetables, and the cottage pie was made with beef and vegetable. Both are topped with potatoes.

American pie is defined by flaky crust. The crust can be the key to pie perfection, and the secret to making the flawless crust is to take it easy and keep it cool. There are only three basic ingredients: flour, butter (or shortening or lard), and water. To make the dough more manageable, add an egg.

A tip for pies:
Custard, cream, mousse and other ready-to-bake fillings need a prebaked crust, which do NOT soak up the mixture.

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History of Fruit Cobblers and Crisps
Fruit desserts are truly part of our American heritage. Fruit cobblers go far back into the history of American cooking. Many are based on a sweet, baking-powder-biscuit type of dough that's cooked on top of or under a layer of fresh fruit. It's a very English type of cooking that stems from early Colonial times. In truth, these old-fashioned, fruit-based desserts are our true American heritage.

In Colonial times, settlers were very good at improvising. When they arrived here, they looked around for ingredients to make their favorite dishes, and if they didn't find them, they used whatever was available. That's how we ended up with so many traditional American dishes with such unusual names. The names of the dishes often described how they looked or even how they sounded when they were served or cooked.

Crumble is a good example. Obviously that's what happened when it was cut open. Another example is the shoofly pie, which supposedly comes from the tradition of setting pies on the window ledge to cool. Flies would get after the pies, so the cook would fan them and say 'shoo, fly, shoo, fly.' Pandowdy probably got its name because it was kind of dowdy-looking and it was cooked in a pan.

To Grandma, these dishes may sound familiar, but young cooks may never have heard the likes of many of these.

Pandowdy is a deep-dish dessert that can be made with a variety of fruit, but is most commonly made with apples that are sweetened with molasses or brown sugar. The topping is a crumbly type of biscuit.

Shoofly pie doesn't contain fruit, but, it will forever be linked to apple pandowdy after the old song. It is a traditional Pennsylvania Dutch dessert that is made with a filling of brown sugar, molasses and butter.

Slumps, brambles and grunts are all old-fashioned New England desserts, usually made with berries and topped with a type of sweet dumpling mixture. They are all simple variations of cobblers.

There are several regional variations of these same dishes. In the Boston area, slumps are made by dropping dumplings into simmering fruit, covering the pot and steaming the mixture on top of the range. In other parts of New England, brambles and grunts are baked with the dumplings on top so that they crisp up.

In some parts of New England, a grunt isn't a type of cobbler at all; it is a steamed pudding with berries.

Fool, which dates back to the 16th century, is a simple combination of fruit and cream or whipped cream. Sometimes the fruit is stewed, then folded into the whipped cream. Originally "fool" was a term of endearment, which might be how this dessert got its name. It has origins in England, where it was probably made with gooseberries. When it was made here, however, it was made with blueberries or blackberries.

Buckle or crumple is a type of cake that is made in a single layer, with berries added to the batter--usually blueberries. The batter is quite thick, and as it bakes, it forms a thin bottom layer. The topping is similar to a streusel, which gives it a buckled or crumpled appearance.

Cobbler is a deep-dish fruit dessert that is topped with a biscuit crust. Depending on the region, it might also be called a bramble, grunt or slump. It can be made with almost any type of fruit, including peaches, nectarines, plums and blackberries.

Betty was a popular baked pudding made during Colonial times. It's made by layering spiced fruit with buttered bread crumbs. All sorts of fruit can be used, but apples are the most common. You might find it in recipe books listed as "Apple Brown Betty."

Shortcake is a classic American dessert made with a rich biscuit. It's split in two and topped with fruit and whipped cream. Strawberries are traditional, but peaches and apricots are also quite tasty.

Roly-poly is made by rolling fruit up in a type of pie pastry, wrapping it in cheesecloth and steaming it. Sailors made this dessert and often called it a duff.

Crisps and crumbles are different from cobblers in that they are made with a shortbread crust rather than a biscuit. The fruit is cooked on the bottom with the crust on top. As it bakes, the top becomes crisp and crumbly. The difference between the two is simply regional. Crisps are the homey, American versions of the British crumbles.

Crunch is similar to a crisp and a crumble, but in a crunch, there's a shortbread crust on the bottom as well as on the top.

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Cookie History
The first cookies were created by accident.The earliest cookie-style cakes are thought to date back to seventh-century Persia, one of the first countries to cultivate sugar. In the Netherlands, cooks used a small amount of cake batter to test their oven temperature before baking a large cake. These little test cakes were called "koekje", meaning "little cake" in Dutch.

Originally called "little cakes," cookies are made with sweet dough or batter, baked in single-sized servings and eaten by hand. American cookies originatedwith the colonists and thrived on waves of immigrant culinary contributions. Spice cookies, soft raisin cookies, shortbread, brown sugar-laced oatmeal, molasses and ginger drop cookies were delectably familiar.

Today, cookies are most often classified by method of preparation - drop, molded, pressed, refrigerated, bar and rolled. There are different cookie styles, any of which can range from tender-crisp to soft. Their dominant ingredient, such as nut cookies, fruit cookies or chocolate cookies, can also classify them.

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History of Chocolate
Chocolate was first sampled in Europe, when Columbus came to the New World. But it was the conquistadors who traveled with Hernando Cortes (Spanish explorer and conqueror of Mexico) that really introduced chocolate to Europeans.

What started as a drink made from ground cocoa beans, water, chili powder and corn is now a delicious confection, whether it's in a candy bar, cake, truffle, pie or pudding.

Glossary of Chocolate
Semisweet (bittersweet) chocolate--It's a chocolate liqueur to which sweeteners and cocoa butter have been added; also known as dark chocolate. According to government standards, it must contain at least 35 percent chocolate liqueur. Its fat content averages 27 percent.

Sweet chocolate-It contains more sweeteners than semisweet chocolate and at least 15 percent chocolate liqueur. Sweet chocolate is used mostly for decorating and garnishing. The fat content is similar to semisweet.

Milk chocolate-Cocoa butter, milk, sweeteners and flavorings are added to chocolate liqueur. It lends itself to good use for garnishes and candy coatings. All milk chocolate made in the United States contains at least 10 percent chocolate liqueur and 12 percent whole milk.

Chocolate liqueur-It's produced by grinding the cocoa bean nib (center) to a smooth, liquid state. The chocolate liqueur can then be cooled and molded into blocks that are also known as unsweetened baking chocolate. The liqueur and blockscontain roughly 53 percent cocoa butter.

White chocolate-Although there is not yet a formal definition, white chocolate contains cocoa butter but no nonfat cocoa solids. It's mostly used as a coating and contains sugar, cocoa butter, milk solids and flavorings.

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serving the Cincinnati, Evansville & Lexington areas

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