Skip to Main Content


It was the year 878 A.D., and a man claimed sanctuary in a small village home in Wessex. To the surprise of the villager, the man was not a passing vagabond but Alfred, King of the Anglo-Saxons. The village homemaker was happy to hide him from the marauding Danes, provided he keep an eye on the cake she had baking in the oven. Preoccupied with how to re-take his kingdom, Alfred let the cake burn, and the incident passed into folklore forever.From these seemingly ignoble beginnings, not only was Alfred able to reclaim his spot in history, but the humble villager's cake has become a part of world culture as well. Alysa Levene looks at cakes both ancient and modern, from the fruit cake, to the pound cake, from the ubiquitous birthday cake to the angel food cake, all the way up to competitive baking shows on television and our modern obsession with macaroons and cup cakes. Entertaining and delightfully informative, Cake: A Slice of History promises to be a witty and joyous celebration of our cultural heritage.

Alysa Levene is a social historian at Oxford Brookes University and an enthusiastic amateur baker. Visit her website at