The best birthdays are those that are celebrated with family, friends and of course, cake. And while there are many different kinds of cakes, the round, frosted confection that’s usually topped with a row of lighted candles is the one most associated with birthdays. While you may be familiar with the ritual of blowing out all those little lights, there’s actually quite a bit to know about this beloved dessert.
It wasn’t until the Industrial Revolution that it became more affordable to make cakes with layers, icing and decorations. It’s believed that these ingredients were expensive before, but as baking tools and food were more readily available, people began to bake more often and decorate their sweets.
By the 1700s, many people were decorating their birthday cakes with icing, flowers and other decorative features. A number of different recipes for cakes were popular in this time period, but the most common included a simple butter based cake that was baked in an angel or round cake pan and then covered with a layer of frosting. During this time period, many people also started using a ring of candles around their cakes.
In the early 1900s, it was recommended that you use a pastry tube to pipe on decorative frosting. This method helped ensure that the icing was evenly spread over the entire surface of the cake and looked nicer. It was also recommended that you use a mixture of granulated and powdered sugars to achieve the most natural looking cake frosting.
A new type of candle holder was introduced in the late 19th century that allowed you to place multiple candles on top of the cake. These candle holders had handles and a wide rim to hold the candles and were more attractive than the narrow hand painted wooden ring of the previous century. It was also recommended that you use strands of closely spaced, delicately colored decorative icing to frame the ring of candles.
Another popular tradition that is associated with birthdays involves making a wish as you blow out the candles on your cake. This custom dates back to Ancient Greece and was intended to honor the Moon Goddess Artemis. It’s believed that if you blow out all the candles in one breath, your wish is guaranteed to come true.
Whether you enjoy a traditional round or fancy-piped slice of cake, the fact is that birthday cake is a comfort food and has risen to prominence as a celebratory treat. And because of this, you can find birthday cake-flavored treats everywhere from ice cream to cookies to candy.
Whether you’re celebrating your actual birthday or just want to make someone else’s day special, try this fun and festive recipe for birthday cake cupcakes! They’re sure to be a big hit. And if you’re feeling especially sentimental, try this homemade vanilla birthday cake. It will bring you right back to your childhood and all of the wonderful memories that go with it.