Why the US Can't Have Its (Layered) Cake and Eat It Too: Global Cycles, Cake Forms and the Decline of American Hegemony

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Abstract:

The layered cake debuted in the 1870s and reached its height of popularity between 1900 and 1930. Its popularity declined in the 1960s and by the 1990s it was transformed into the génoise (Clark 1999). While changes in cake form may reflect culinary trends or social structural factors, Bergesen's (1996) theory of cultural forms and global cycles suggests that these changes correspond with hegemony-rivalry cycles in the international arena. Analysis of a sample of winning cakes from an American bake-off contest spanning over five decades, in light of Bergesen's theory and Wölfflin's (1929) principles of art history, reveals distinct historical patterns. The paper explores these patterns and their cultural significance. In short, the layered cake's failure to rematerialize corresponds with a lost era of unchallenged American hegemony.

Document Type: Research Article

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.2752/155280105778055399

Publication date: March 1, 2005

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