From all the special days and occasions we have as a child, a lot of our very best memories are of birthdays past. This is a celebration of all that we are, celebrating the day in which we joined the world, by the people whom care most about our lives. To celebrate this occasion in style and create some of those memories for people you care about, an essential ingredient to any birthday is the birthday cake.
A birthday cake, traditionally, will be made from bright colours and in an elaborate pattern or design. Their style and taste is something most people now associate with birthdays, from most cultures, ages and religions. This begs the questions, where did this tradition first begin?
The first known usage of a savoury treat to celebrate a birthday was in ancient Greece. When the celebrations were held, honey cakes and bread were baked for a special birthday meal. This still goes on today in very traditional Greek families but it is more common to use a more modern cake for the celebration. The next appearance in history is in Roman society. At the lowest end of the scale, there was a private party, held at home for the person whose birthday it was. Again, this was honey cakes and bread. For royal birthdays, large festivals were held and savoury treats were on the menu. This went from carnivals and was a national celebration for a monarch.
The third occurrence in history was in the middle ages in Germany. The celebration of Christmas was marked by the baking and eating of sweetbread, made from a flour recipe, much like the modern day cakes. The sweetbread was baked in the shape of baby Jesus. This is the first probable ancestor of today’s recipes is similar to that of today’s sponge cakes.
The next place that popularised the idea of birthday cakes was England. The cook used to bake valuable items into the cake such as thimbles and coins. They were mixed in with the cake mix and then baked in the oven. The idea was that when the it was cut and eaten by the attendees of the birthday, what you received in your bit of cake was a reflection on how your life would go. A coin for a successful and wealthy life and a thimble for a lonely and poor life. This is still somewhat used in modern day birthday cakes when cakes are decorated with coin shaped sweeties, candy and whatnot.
Birthday cakes today have taken on a whole new meaning however and is divided up between the birthday guests and eaten in celebration of the birthday’s recipient. They cakes are a log more elaborate and there are as many different birthday cake designs as you could possibly imagine. They are a large part of modern day celebrations, particularly in Christian society. They are often mounted with a number of candles, representing the number of years the person whose birthday it is has been alive. They are then traditionally blown out and a birthday wish is made.