Birthday Cake History
History of Birthday Cake can be traced back to the ancient Greeks who made round or moon shaped honey cakes or bread and took it to the temple of Artemis -the Goddess of Moon. Some scholars, however, believe that the tradition of Birthday cake started in Germany in Middle Ages. Sweetened bread dough was given the shape of baby Jesus in swaddling cloth and was used to commemorate his birthday. This special birthday cake later reemerged in Germany as a Kinderfest or the birthday celebrations of a young child. Germans also baked another special kind of a cake called Geburtstagorten as it was baked in layers. This was sweeter that the coarse and bread like cake that were usually made at that time.
Why is Birthday Cake Round?
In earlier times, Birthday cakes were mostly round in shape. Scholars associate religious beliefs and technical compulsions for the same. Greeks offered round shape cake to the Goddess of Moon - Artemis as it signified moon. They even placed candles on the cake to make the cake glow like the moon.Some scholars opine that cake in the ancient world has association with the annual cycles. Round shapes of cakes were preferred as these represented the cyclical nature of life. Most specifically, the sun and moon. Technical reason given for the roundness of the cake is that most cakes we know off advanced from the bread. In ancient times breads and cakes were made by hand. Typically, these were fashioned into round balls and baked on hearthstones or in low, shallow pans. Hence, these naturally relaxed into round shapes. With the progress of times baking pans of various shapes were developed and today we see cakes in imaginative shapes and sizes.
Tradition of Putting Candles on Birthday Cake
Tradition of placing candles on Birthday cake is attributed to early Greeks, who used place lit candles on cakes to make them glow like the moon. Greeks used to take the cake to the temple of Artemis-the Goddess of Moon. Some scholars say that candles were placed on the cake because people believe that the smoke of the candle carried their wishes and prayers to Gods who lived in the skies. Others believe that the custom originated in Germany where people used to place a large candle in the centre of the cake to symbolize ‘the light of life’. In present times too, people place candles on Birthday cakes and a silent wish is made before blowing out the candle. It is believed that blowing out all candles in one breath means the wish will come true and the person with enjoy good luck in the coming year. Some also smear out the name of the person before slicing of the cake to bring good luck.
Traditions and Superstitious Beliefs Related to Birthday Cake
In medieval times people of England used to place symbolic objects like coins, rings and thimbles in the batter of the cake. It was believed that those who found coin in the cake would be wealthy while the unlucky finder of the thimble would never marry. Wedding was signified for the person who found the slice of cake with ring. Even today some people follow the tradition and place small figures, fake coins and small candies inside the cake. If the cake fell while baking it was considered to be a bad omen and signified bad luck for the person in the coming year.
All this talk about birthday cakes makes me think it must be someone's birthday. Hmmmm wonder who that could be?