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Cake 101: Why Do We Eat Cake on Our Birthdays?

It’s hard to imagine having a birthday without cake. The cake is a staple of any birthday celebration. It signifies the big day and is something everyone can share together during the festivities.

A slice of cake with a sparkler

If you look through your childhood photos you’re likely to find a picture with people crowded around a candlelit cake. The group are likely celebrating as the birthday boy/girl blows out the candles and cuts their cake. But why do we do we eat cake on our birthdays? Where do these fun and delicious traditions come from?

Today we’ll explore the long history of cake, which goes back far before anyone we know or anyone they knew was born. From confection to candles, we’ll see where the tradition’s started and how birthday cakes came to be.

The History of Cake

The ancient Egyptians were the first civilization to celebrate birthdays. When the pharaohs were crowned, it was believed they became gods. As such, a pharaoh’s coronation day was seen as their “birth” as a god, so you can imagine the celebration was quite extraordinary. The Ancient Greeks loved how the Egyptians honoured their pharaohs and decided they wanted to mimic the festivities, but with a tasty addition: cake!

In their own celebrations, the Greeks would make circular cakes with candles on top to symbolise the moon. This was a special ceremony to thank the goddess Artemis, the goddess of the moon, hunt and purity. The round shape of the cakes has stuck to this day, but the Greeks weren’t the last to take up the tradition.

A peach coloured circle cake with rose petals

The Tradition Continues

Time went on, and the tradition of these round cakes for celebrating made its way to Germany. While the Egyptians and Greeks may have sparked the idea, the Germans took the idea and, in 1400-1500 C.E, began using cakes for actual birthday parties, which at the time was a very, very new concept.  

Kinderfest

Children playing with confetti

Kinderfest (“kinder” meaning child and “fest” meaning party) was born during this time, and it was a celebration for children. The origin of Kinderfest comes from an old German belief that children were highly susceptible to being harmed by evil spirits (especially on their birthdays).

During Kinderfest, the child’s parents would make the cakes in the morning. Then, they would place a candle on the cake to represent each year of the child’s age, plus one. The additional candle expressed the parents’ hope that their child would live another year. As soon as one candle would go out throughout the day, another would immediately replace it.

No one could eat the cake until after dinner. Finally, when the moment came, the birthday child would make a wish and try to blow out all the candles in one breath before getting to eat the cake. Like in our modern tradition, the birthday child wouldn’t tell anyone their wish so it would come true. The child was now safe and protected from the evil spirits.

Modern Day

Following the industrial revolution, birthday cake’s exploded in popularity and their prominence in today’s birthday celebrations, particularly in the Western world, is stronger than ever. And while the traditions have modernised, we can see the origins in our celebrations to this day.

Birthdays are considered an important event in most cultures around the world, and there are many festivals and holidays that celebrate with cake. With so much versatility in the realm of cake making, you can have a very untraditional birthday while still having your cake and eating it too…literally. 

From mousse to ganache, fruit to chocolate, no birthday is quite complete without the sweet tradition of cake.

There you have it! Did you know just how long some of our birthday traditions date back? Next time you celebrate with a birthday cake just think about the fact that it was originally made for pharaohs and goddesses!

Photo of three Brunetti Oro Birthday Cakes

Celebrate with a Cake as Special as Your Big Day

After six decades of building an authentic Italian experience loved by both young and old, Brunetti Oro 1956 invites you on a new journey. Representing a new generation, Brunetti Oro is committed to pushing even further to deliver an enhanced Italian experience with a twist on the old and a touch of the new.

Brunetti Oro has you covered no matter what kind of confection you need. 

We invite you to visit us online or in-store at Flinders Lane, Melbourne CBD or Myer Melbourne to order our unique and renowned celebration cakes. Make your birthday extra sweet and absolutely memorable with Brunetti Oro!

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