In Romanian Principalities, the first confectionary enterprises appeared in the 18th century, during the Phanariot rule, when the Greek and the Ottoman culinary influences were intertwined. The most common sweets and desserts of the time were the baklava related ones and the preserves. Rose water was an important ingredient.

Once the Western influences took a hold in the Principalities (i.e. after 1821), the boyars started to order sweets from Vienna, Paris, and Berlin, or to hire confectionaries from these countries for their personal and family needs.

In Bucharest, starting with the second half of the 19th century,  the confectioneries who revolutionised the art of sweets and cake making were the brothers Capșa (of Macedonian origin) who adapted the French recipes and even invented new desserts such was the case of joffre, a delicious cake of a cylindrical shape, heavy in chocolate,  which got its name in the honour of the French general Joseph Joffre.

In the interwar time, the French, Greek, and Ottoman traditions blended with those of the other territories which became part of Romania, such as Transylvania, hence the offer of sweets and candies became richer and more refined. The royal family, the young couple of Ferdinand and Maria had little children, thus their preferences were emulated by the entire upper class. The producers of sweets and candies did not fail to connect their products to the glamour of the royal world, either by conceiving more stylish posters and packages or by adapting famous international brands to the internal market. 

After 1945, when the Communist regime came to power, the sweets and candies industry experienced a revolution, not only in the outside realm (e.g. the private companies were nationalised, meaning they were confiscated from their private lawful owners and transferred to the state ownership), but also in message. Sweets and candies consumption became more democratic, in the sense that all social categories could equally enjoy the new products. In which the packages and the commercials were concerned, the logos were more direct, they referred to features of daily life, consumption became more utilitarian ( e.g. people would eat chocolate and drink juice or cocoa for becoming more energised and enthusiastic). In addition, the design was simplified, the decorations were more stylised and the geometric shapes became predominant. 

In the last years of Communism however, the colours of the packages were less bright, whereas the themes became less cosmopolitan and referred to ethnic motifs such as peasant outfit or village landscapes, as if in direct hint to the nationalistic regime of the communist dictator Nicolae Ceaușescu. In a way, the sweets and candies world was a barometer of the grim years before the fall of Communism.

 

The National Museum of History in Bucharest runs an exhibition named A Century of Romanian Sweets which is on view from December 2020 to December 2022. https://www.mnir.ro/expozitia-muzeul-jucariilor/

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