Baking has become increasingly popular over the past few years, losing its rep as a housewife’s hobby and truly opening up to the hands of the nation. But before we dive straight into what types of bakeware are available to purchase, let’s travel back in time to find out where it all began, and why it seems to have become so popular in recent years. To source the origins of bakeware in Britain, we must first look at the history of British baking as a whole.
Back in the Middle Ages, baking wasn’t accessible to the masses – in fact, it was a luxurious hobby that little got to enjoy. Stoves were incredibly expensive, so unless you had money, you had no means to bake. Rich Brits would regularly enjoy soft, floured wheat bread, whereas the poor could only afford tough, dense rye bread. Bakeware in medieval times was pretty basic, so you could only really bake simple loaves, heavy cakes and meat pies using ceramic pots. This time, however, did see a huge progression in metalwork using bronze and iron, so metal bakeware was accessible, if limited.
As Britain progressed into the 16th and 17th centuries, economic growth opened up baking to the wider population, allowing the newly-construed ‘middle class’ to have a more varied diet. As wealth grew, more and more Brits took up baking in their homes to treat their families to biscuits and cakes. In fact, the late 17th century saw the introduction of the nation’s favourite festive treat: the mince pie! Sugar became an inexpensive resource, so people could flavour their bakes with sweeter spices. But perhaps most notably, this time saw the invention of the ‘cake hoop’ – the cake tin’s ancestor.
Cake hoops were round moulds constructed of metal or wood, placed on top of flat trays or pans to mould the cake mixture into a round shape. By this time, a standard kitchen would include a small selection of baking copper or brass baking pans and pots, however despite the on-going development in metal bakeware, the cakes weren’t at all like the ones we know and enjoy today, moreover a solid, yeasty alternative. Aside from cakes and buns, pastries became incredibly popular at this time, with London cookery schools opening to teach housewives this highly sought-after skill.
It wasn’t until the 18th century that baking really took off, seeing the invention of the semi-closed oven. As we progressed into the 19th century, baking powder was introduced, which in turn meant that people could bake lighter cakes to truly open up the possibilities for what could be made. Metalwork saw a growth in evolution too, with the production of metals like steel and aluminium allowing metalworkers to create bakeware better suited to baking. These materials proved to conduct heat better for evenly baked goods, without harmful effects – such as copper’s toxicity.
Today, the baking industry has well and truly transformed. Metal and ceramic bakeware are still very much used in baking, but non-stick aluminium varieties (developed in the mid-1900s) and silicone alternatives are often more favoured due to their advanced properties. Silicone bakeware was developed by French inventor, Guy DeMarle, who initially manufactured a baking sheet. Due to its success, this material quickly spread across Europe in the 1990s, becoming widely available for home and professional bakers. With the progression of technology and bakeware materials, we not only have more reliable baking tins and trays, but we also have multiple types of bakeware to cater for vast array of different cakes, pies, breads, biscuits and desserts – originating all across the globe!