It may be hard to imagine a world without chocolate cake, but hundreds of years ago, this decadent dessert didn't exist. However, thanks to a few scientists, our ancestors discovered a way to transform cocoa beans into the baked goods we love - and this past January 27, chocoholics across the country celebrated National Chocolate Cake Day.
While some decided to buy cakes in honor of this commemorative holiday, others tried their hand at a homemade version of the treat. From black forest cakes to brownie cakes to molten lava cakes, the possibilities are endless. Several cities decided to host local events that provided residents with a wide array of chocolate delicacies. Cambridge, Massachusetts, for example, hosted a chocolate tasting in the dark to heighten the guests' senses. You can expand your celebration to include taking a look at the history of chocolate cake and its evolution over the centuries.
In the 1500s, European explorers entered the Aztec region, where the native people used chocolate in religious ceremonies and as currency. After taking some of the chocolate back to their homeland, new uses for the confection began to emerge. The treat made its way to America when an Irish chocolate maker named John Hanan brought cocoa beans from the West Indies, according to Historyinfo.org. Hanan teamed up with Massachusetts native Dr. James Baker, who discovered a way to turn cocoa beans into powder by grinding the kernels between two large millstones in 1764, CNN reports. While this process may seem rather simple and intuitive, having cocoa in a powder form opened up a host of baking possibilities.
In 1780, the business partners opened up Baker's Chocolate and began selling the sweet treat. Thanks to a steam engine-powered cocoa grinder used by Dr. Joseph Fry in 1795, manufacturers were able to mass produce the product. A few years later, Conrad van Houten took the process to the next level when he invented a method called "Dutching," which involves the mechanical extraction of chocolate that leaves cocoa butter behind (which is perfect for mixing into cake batter). This system also facilitated the creation of the first candy bar.
Duncan Hines, a brand synonymous with pre-prepared cake mixes, broke the baking mold when it released a "Three Star Special" cake mix after World War II that could be used to make white, yellow or chocolate cake. Now, artisanal chocolatiers have expanded the varieties of cake on the market, even adding a flourless version to the lineup.
You don't have to limit your celebration to January 27th because, as most of us know, every day is a good day to have a slice of chocolate cake.