It’s lovely to think that a birthday cake actually manifests an ancient custom, when — just like today — bakers baked things for special days, like weddings, births, and funerals. Most of those celebratory items took the form of breads baked into unique shapes. But not until the nineteenth century could the average Joe (or Jane) enjoy a sumptuous cake. Thanks to the burgeoning industrialized production of flour and sugar, the birthday cake — along with the wedding cake as we now know it — appeared with greater frequency on the tables of the poorer strata of society, as well as the richer. According to Andy Smith,
The modern use of candles on a special cake may be connected to the German tradition of Kinderfest, dating from the fifteenth century, a time when people believed that on birthdays children were particularly susceptible to evil spirits. Friends and family gathered around protectively, keeping the cake’s candles lit all day until after the evening meal, when the cake was served. (Oxford Encyclopedia of Food and Drink in America, 2004, Volume 1, p. 99)
What cake do you drool over for your birthday? Here are some contenders for the drippingest tongue ever:
Please pass me that fork … the winner is … chocolate!
One thought on “A Gallery of Birthday Cakes”
That history of birthday candles is really amazing. I never gave it a thought. I wonder about blowing them out and making a wish. That too had to come from some belief that isn’t so common any more.
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