Everyone likes a birthday cake. Most of us enjoy blowing out candles as well, although we might prefer to stop counting the candles we need. Celebrating our special day with cake is a long established tradition and is popular across all of Western culture. Have you ever wondered why?
Nobody is sure how it all started but, from a European perspective, we know that in the 15th century bakeries in Germany who made wedding cakes started expanding their business by making cakes to celebrate children’s birthdays – the Kinderfest. Originally the cakes would have been bread-like, being rather flat and basic, made with course flour leavened with yeast and maybe sweetened with honey. But by the 17th century they had become more elaborate and these ‘Geburtstagorten’ had multiple layers and the concept of sugar icing was developed. Such cakes were limited to the wealthy but, later on, the industrial revolution ensured that the ingredients became much more plentiful and as the costs fell, the cakes became more accessible to all classes of society.
Today, we know that birthday cakes come in all sizes, shapes, flavours and colours. Usually there are candles. Ever wondered how the whole candles idea started? Some theories take it back to ancient Greece, others to Roman times. But for more certainty we know it goes back to Germany again, where placing candles on the cake was said to represent ‘the light of life’. Records show that in 1746, Count Ludwig Von Zinzindorf celebrated his birthday with a cake with “holes in it according to the person’s age, every one having a candle stuck in it”. Over the years the tradition of matching the number of candles to the individual’s age became widespread. And of course, blowing out the candles is associated with making a wish. For older people where the number of candles would be too much, there are often three candles representing past, present and future.
So next time you sink your teeth into a delicious birthday cake you’ll know you’re continuing a tradition that is several hundred years old. And above all else, sharing a birthday cake with others brings a sense of joy and togetherness.
If you’re sending a cake for a birthday, we can include some candles with your gift. They come in multiples of three candles. Very tall and elegant in metallic gold. Celebrate in style!