The Practical Reason Sunshine Cakes Became Popular

slice of sunshine cake with blueberries
slice of sunshine cake with blueberries - Porosolka/Getty Images

There's an undeniable charm to the delightfully named sunshine cake, which is prominent in a number of vintage cookbooks. The bright cake came into existence alongside angel food cakes, to which they are remarkably similar. Angel food cakes are made using an unprecedented amount of egg whites, and in order to not waste all of the accompanying yolks, clever bakers came up with the sunshine cake to put those yolks to use, resulting in a slightly denser dessert. Some sources say that it's named for the pale yellow color that's revealed when you cut into it, and it might also have something to do with the reason it was developed in the first place.

Whites and yolks have very different properties, and since sunshine cakes contain more yolks than angel food cakes, that makes them slightly heavier and denser. They're often served chilled, and while some recipes call for a glaze to be added, other recipes add frosting, whipped cream, or both.

Sunshine cakes are straightforward, simple, and delicious cakes that are a great way to make sure that fewer eggs are wasted, and they're amazing in their own right. They're perfect for the times that you're looking for a quick and easy cake that's sure to impress. Let's take a closer look at the sunshine cake, and why it needs to have a place in your dessert repertoire.

Read more: Cake Hacks Every Baker Will Wish They Knew Sooner

Sunshine Cake Has Been A Popular Cake For Well Over A Century

orange sunshine cake in pan
orange sunshine cake in pan - Facebook/Easy Recipes

Finding the first mention of a particular food or recipe can be a little tricky, so while we can't know for sure whether we can attribute the creation of the sunshine cake to her, it does appear in Fannie Merritt Farmer's "The Boston Cooking-School Cook Book" from 1896. It calls for both egg whites and yolks — 10 and six, respectively — along with powdered sugar, flour, cream of tartar, and lemon extract.

This light, flavorful, easy-to-make cake wasn't just a great way to use up ingredients, either, and it seems as though it was elevated into something pretty special. By 1911, Farmer featured the cake — now with the addition of vanilla — in her book, "Catering for Special Occasions." It appears alongside angel food cake as a suggestion for children's birthday parties, and she recommends decorating with candles. This actually suggests it was geared toward the upper class or those who were more likely to be able to afford candles to put on a cake.

Sunshine cake continued to appear in books and newspapers for decades, and it remained largely unchanged. However, one of the biggest differences between recipes throughout the years was in the flavor of the glaze. Various sources call for finishing the cake with whipped cream, while others call for a sugary drizzle flavored with orange or lemon. When it appears under the rather uncanny name of a sweet southern pig pickin' cake, it's sometimes flavored with pineapple, instead.

Why Was It Necessary To Create An Egg Yolk-Specific Cake?

eggs and baking ingredients
eggs and baking ingredients - Fcafotodigital/Getty Images

Take a look at angel food cake recipes side-by-side with sunshine cake, and it starts to make sense why sunshine cake came into being. Angel food cake typically calls for only egg whites, and at a time when nothing got wasted, bakers would want to make the most out of all their ingredients. (Fortunately, we now know that egg yolks can take almost any dish to the next level, including pasta, soups, and stews.)

When eggs — either whole or in parts — are used in baking recipes, there's a fascinating bit of science going on here. The two parts of the egg have very different properties and compositions, and act very differently when included in a recipe.

When egg whites are used, they actually act as a leavening agent. When they're folded into dry ingredients and baked, they incorporate air into their structure and those egg whites are essentially toughening up cake batter to form the cake itself. Egg yolks, on the other hand, are higher in compounds called lipoproteins, which also play a vital role in creating the structure of baked goods. Yolks make for baked goods that will have a richer texture, while adding that beautiful yellow color: Together, that makes sunshine cake a cake that's worthy of center stage at any birthday party.

Read the original article on The Daily Meal.