Marie Antoinette would be right at home at contemporary birthday parties where “Let them eat cake!” is the motto of the day. Nothing lends that birthday celebration a personal touch like a home-baked cake. It’s surprisingly simple to create a cake at home that can rival the frosted masterpieces on display in bakeries and supermarkets. This website features birthday cake supplies that can turn even the most inexperienced baker into a pastry chef.
The baby Jesus was the first person whose nativity was feted with pastry. In medieval Germany, sweetened bread dough shaped into swaddling was a standard element of Christmas festivities. As oven technologies improved and bakers became familiar with yeast and refined sugar, cakes came to resemble the familiar confectionary known and loved today. By the 1600s, cake had become a traditional element of birthday parties for the very wealthy, though it wasn’t until the Industrial Revolution made refined flour and baking powder widely accessible that cake became available to the masses.
The birthday candle is an innovation that dates back to the time of ancient Greeks who baked special cakes consecrated to the moon goddess Artemis and lit them with tapers to simulate the lunar glow. Blowing out birthday candles is a more recent custom, originating as part of a 19th century German birthday celebration for children called Kinderfest. In most Western cultures, the number of candles on the cake is the celebrant’s age plus “one to grow on.”
Birthday cakes are associated with a number of customs and superstitions. In medieval England, bakers would slip symbolic objects into the batter, a custom that survives today in the Mardi Gras King Cake. The celebrant who bit into the sixpence might damage a tooth, but he or she would be assured wealth in the year to come; the person who found the ring was sure to get married. If, for some reason, the cake failed to rise, the birthday boy or girl was looking at a year filled with bad luck.
The popular ditty “Happy Birthday to You” was composed in the early 1900s. It has become an integral part of birthday parties, generally sung just before the birthday cake is sliced.
Not every culture enjoys sweets, so birthday cakes are not central to all birthday celebrations around the world. The traditional birthday dish in Korea is seaweed soup, while in China it’s sou bao, a wheat bun filled with lotus paste.
Making a birthday cake for that special someone is not only an act of love, it’s a surprisingly entertaining way to spend an afternoon. Give Paula Dean a run for her money with the birthday cake supplies on this website.