History of Birthday Cake and Candles

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The birthday cake has been an integral part of the birthday celebrations in Western cultures since the middle of the 19th century. Certain rituals and traditions, such as singing of birthday songs, associated with birthday cakes are common to many Western cultures. The Western tradition of adding lit candles to the top of a birthday cake originates in 18th century Germany. However, the intertwining of cakes and birthday celebrations stretch back to the Ancient Romans. The development of the birthday cake has followed the development of culinary and confectionery advancement. While throughout most of Western history, these elaborate cakes in general were the privilege of the wealthy, birthday cakes are nowadays common to most Western birthday celebrations. Around the world many variations on the birthday cake, or rather the birthday pastry or sweets, exist.

The Candles

Though the exact origin and significance of the candle blowing ritual is unknown, the history of placing candles on top of the cake is well documented. This tradition can be traced to Kinderfest (Kinder is the German word for ‘children’), an 18th century German birthday celebration for children. A letter written in 1799 by Goethe recounts: “…when it was time for dessert, the prince’s entire livery…carried a generous-size torte with colorful flaming candles – amounting to some fifty candles – that began to melt and threatened to burn down, instead of there being enough room for candles indicating upcoming years, as is the case with children’s festivities of this kind…”  As the excerpt indicates, the tradition at the time was to place candles for each year of the individual’s life with some added candles ‘indicating upcoming years’.-(Wikepedia)

*Love this idea below, have you ever thought of using peanut butter cups as candle holders for the cake?

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