The concept of "minced meat or fish" combined with other ingredients and made into patties dates back to ancient times when meats and fish were not plentiful and various additions of other foods extended the otherwise meager portions of meat.
In the U.S. it is surmised that crab cake types of dishes were introduced to the early Colonies by English settlers. Most commonly when we think crab cakes today we think of Maryland or Baltimore Crab Cakes.
According to Encyclopedia of American Food and Drink, John F. Mariani [Lebhar Friedman:New York] 1999 ( "Crab cake. A sauteed or fried patty of crabmeat. The term dates in print to 1930 in Crosby Gaige's New York World's Fair Cook Book, where they are called "Baltimore crab cakes," suggesting they have long been known in the South.
In addition to crab this preparation method can really be applied to any type of shellfish including shrimp, scallops even lobster. The ingredients should include each of the following elements. Elements will be discussed further below.
You can use crab or another shellfish such as shrimp, scallops, or lobster. The texture and flavor of course will vary for each ingredient.
Important: Buy the freshest crab you can find. The flavor of the cake is dependant upon this high-quality ingredient. We do offer a few recipes that use canned crab but the best recipes use fresh.
Eat, Drink & Be Merry in Maryland: An Anthology From a Great Tradition, compiled by Frederick Philip Stieff [G.P. Putnam's Sons:New York] 1932 (p. 44)
Take one pound of crab meat for each four crab cakes. Put crab meat into mixing bowl, add one and one-half teaspoons salt, and two teaspoons white pepper, one teaspoon English dry mustard and two teaspoons Worcestershire sauce, one yolk of egg and one soup spoon cream sauce or mayonnaise, one teaspoon chopped parsley. Mix well, making four crab cakes, press hard together, dip into flour, then into beaten eggs, then into bread crumbs. Fry them in hot grease pan.--Mr. W.L. Jackson, Managing Director, Lord Baltimore Hotel, Baltimore." Crab-Flake Cakes (Baltimore) - 1932
The National Cookbook: A Kitchen Americana, Shiela Hibben [Harper & Brothers:New York] 1932 (p. 112)
Form into flat cakes; dredge in finely sifted bread crumbs and fry on both sides in either lard or butter.
Serve on a hot platter with Rich Cream sauce poured over the cakes. Crab meat used must be from the body part of the crab, and must be very carefully picked over."