Birthday Cake - History of Birthday Cake

© copyright 2004 by Linda Stradley - United States Copyright TX 5-900-517- All rights reserved. This web site may not be reproduced in whole or in part without permission and appropriate credit given. If you use any of the history information contained below for research in writing a magazine or newspaper article, school work or college research, and/or television show production, you must give a reference to the author, Linda Stradley, and to the web site What's Cooking America. 

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Some historians think that the custom of the birthday cake was observed in ancient Greece, and they report that the birthday cake began with the Greeks who used to make honey cakes or bread. Ancient Romans celebrated three different types of birthdays: Private celebrations among family and friends, the birthdays of cities and temples, and the birthdays of past and present emperors or members of the imperial family. The 50th year was celebrated with a honey cake made of wheat flour, grated cheese, honey, and olive oil.

Others contend that the Birthday Cake tradition was started in Germany in the Middle Ages where a sweetened bread dough was made in the shape of the baby Jesus in swaddling clothes and were used to commemorate his birthday.  The Birthday Cake later re-emerged in Germany as a kinderfest, or a birthday celebration for a young child.

In England, birthday cakes are baked with symbolic objects inside. In medieval times, objects such as coins and thimbles were mixed into the batter. People believed that the person who got the coin would be wealthy, while the unlucky finder of the thimble would never marry. Today, small figures, fake coins and small candies are more common.

Birthday candles originally were placed on cakes to bring birthday wishes up to God. In ancient times, people prayed over the flames of an open fire. They believed that the smoke carried their thoughts up to the gods. Today, we believe, that if you blow out all your candles in one breath, your wish will come true.

 


 

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