No birthday is complete without cake; after all, it helps to make becoming another year older tolerable. So where does eating cake on a birthday originate from? And who thought it would be a good idea to stick flaming candles on top? Whether you’re a fan of traditional cake or prefer something a little more unique, here are some theories on the origin of birthday cake.
Ancient Greece: The Bringer of Cakes
While they were not used to celebrate birthdays, circular cakes and candles were used to worship Artemis, the moon goddess, in Ancient Greece. Round cakes were meant to look like the moon and the candles on top made the cakes give off light just like — you guessed it — the moon. Extremely inventive, Greece.
Cake + Birthdays = True Love
Cakes didn’t find their real calling until much later (around the Middle Ages) — commemorating a birthday. This German version of a child’s birthday celebration, known as Kinderfeste, contained a cake with candles, one for each year they had lived and an additional for the year to come. Wishes were made, cake was consumed, and humanity moved one step closer to discovering the origins of the birthday cake as we know it.
Sugar, Spice, and Everything Nice
During the Middle Ages, the sweet-tasting cakes that we’re used to would only have been for the wealthy. Sugar and other cake-making components were widely accessible as a result of the Industrial Revolution. Cakes quickly became a delightful and significant part of our life. I think it’s safe to say the Industrial Revolution is the real MVP here.
The Magic of the Cake
A birthday cake may do more than simply celebrate a birthday; it can also foretell the future. In Southern tradition, the number of candles left lit after you blow on them will tell how many years you have until you get married — no pressure or anything.
Another more dangerous tradition involves baking a dime or thimble into the cake. Whoever receives the “special” piece will become wealthy (or choke on the metal in the cake, NBD).
Birthday cakes have a tangled history, but one thing is certain: no birthday is complete without them. In the wise words of Katy Perry, “make it like your birthday everyday” and treat yourself to some cake.