Cakes are a universal favorite and provide a festiveness to just about any occasion. But when it comes to a birthday, cake is a must.
The 1st thing kids think of when they hear the word "birthday" is a cake with candles. But do you know why we eat cake on our birthday and where the tradition of putting and lighting candles on it comes from?
Since ancient times, different civilizations have had sweets similar to cakes. They were similar to bread, sweetened with honey and decorated with dried fruits and nuts. In Ancient Greece, they made ritual breads with honey, intended to be gifts to the gods.
On top, people would place lit candles, since fire was considered a means of communicating with the heavens. In Ancient Rome, flat sweet pitas were a part of wedding celebrations and birthdays.
But with the advancement of Christianity, these traditions were gradually forgotten because it did not put much importance on the day of birth of the person. Bakers during the Middle Ages would prepare fruit pitas or gingerbread, which had a several month shelf life.
Cakes are a relatively new culinary invention. They appeared in Western cuisine in the middle of the 18th century. Initially cakes were meant primarily for the aristocrats since sugar was a very expensive ingredient.
In the 18th century, the advances in the German confectionery world and interest toward past traditions, as well as the overall development of technologies were the prerequisites that led to the invention of the cake and the new tradition of placing lit candles on top. The belief goes that when you make a wish and blow out the candles on your birthday cake, then that wish will come true.
Even though cakes gained popularity thanks to German and Austrian confectioners, neither Germany nor Austria had a monopoly on the sweet temptation.
In modern times, people associate the cake with celebration and its presence at the table contributes to the festive mood. Nowadays, the cake is an inseparable part of commemorating the birthday, while thinking of a wish and blowing out the candles are practically mandatory!