Some Observations About Baking

Despite occasionally writing about architecture, I am not really an architect. But you know what I definitely am not? A baker. I am more an architect than I ever will be a baker.

Still, in this article, I am going to give a few observations about baking – in particular, cakes. Again, I’m not a baker, but see if you agree with them:

1 – Individual subjective tastes differ. I like apple cake; you might prefer chocolate. You might still enjoy an apple cake though, but it’s not your favourite. Or maybe you prefer it a little sweeter. Some people (they’re rare) don’t like apples at all. Preferences also differ across cultures.

Tastes differ (Mechelen, Belgium).

2 – Despite our different tastes, we probably agree on the basics. Most cakes taste good and are hard to resist, even if there are things we’d change. We would also most likely agree that a burnt cake, or one where the baker used salt instead of sugar, tastes bad.

Tastes differ, but some things are just disgusting (source).

3 – The recipes of many popular and delicious cakes are quite old. Sachertorte and sponge cake are from the 19th century, and carrot cake traces back to the Middle Ages. If we followed the original recipes, we’d probably still like them (in fact, many cafés pride themselves on serving the ‘original’).

Good old recipes still work – even long after they were thought up! (Walhalla temple in Germany, built in the 19th century)

4 – Still, every baker will interpret these recipes slightly differently, and add their own twist to a recipe. People do have their preferences, after all. They may have completely new ideas or draw inspiration from old recipes. Some of these changes may become part of the established recipe, or become classics in their own right.

A Gibbs’ church, using Roman elements in a way the Romans never did, and becoming a classic in its own right. Turn your inspiration from old recipes into new, well-loved recipes (source).

5 – Adapting recipes takes skill. You need to know what you’re doing, and even then, you probably won’t get it right on the first try. As a non-baker myself, I follow the recipe to a tee because I know that making good things is hard.

Changing what works is harder than it looks… not for the inexperienced (source).

6 – From time to time, technology or exploration brings us new tools or ingredients: cacao from the Americas, for example. This is always exciting because it allows us to bake new recipes, that even might have seemed alien to our ancestors (but which they would have enjoyed – I’m sure Julius Caesar would have loved chocolate cake).

Feel free to apply new technologies/ingredients appropriately! (source)

7 – Of course, we are still free to use old ingredients and techniques – flour, butter, and eggs are still important, and bakers would be foolish to stop using them without a very good reason. And not all new ingredients will be a success everywhere (tomatoes, whilst useful for pizzas, don’t seem to have worked in cakes).

Not all new ingredients are equally applicable everywhere (source).

8 – Good bakers bake cakes that people like. If they don’t, then people will not buy their cakes and they will have to change or go out of business. The worst bakers are the ones who blame customers like you and me, or say we ‘don’t know enough about baking’. Of course, they are not taken seriously by anyone.

A good baker bakes cakes that people love (source).

Please remember, I’m not a baker – but wouldn’t you agree with these eight points? Somehow, in the world of architecture, points like these are quite controversial.


This is a blog post written for ArchitectuurOpstand, or ‘Architectural Uprising’ in English. It was translated into Dutch and can be found here.

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