When it comes to birthdays, there are few things more symbolic than the traditional cake and candles. The cake symbolizes the person’s year of age and the lighting of the candles signifies their hopes for a bright future. These cakes are an integral part of most western cultures’ birthday celebrations and are enjoyed by all ages. However, the history of this sweet treat is more complex than it may seem at first glance.
Before the Industrial Revolution, cakes were a luxury good. The cakes that were made during this time were often elaborate in terms of their decorations and icing. Only the upper-class could afford these kinds of treats due to their expensive ingredients. However, the Industrial Revolution allowed for more widespread access to food and baking utensils which allowed for lower prices for these cakes. This enabled more people to partake in this tradition of celebrating their birthdays with a special cake.
Today, a cake is typically made of either white or yellow cake batter that has been mixed with butter and sugar. This mixture is spread onto the base of a round or rectangular cake and then topped with a variety of frostings. The most popular types of frostings used for cakes include cream cheese, vanilla, chocolate and buttercream. These are then decorated with sprinkles, candies, fruit or other edible embellishments. The most traditional decoration for a birthday cake is the number of candles that are lighted on top. This tradition originated in Ancient Greece. The Greeks would put candles on top of a round cake to honor Artemis, the goddess of the moon. The number of candles represented how many years the person had been alive. The person then blew out the candles in one breath, symbolizing that their wishes for the year would come true.
In the 17th century, bakeries began to make birthday cakes more elaborate with details like icing, layers and decorations. These types of cakes were still only available to the upper class because of their expensive ingredients. The Industrial Revolution in the 18th century once again helped to reduce these costs so that more people could enjoy a cake for their birthday.
A cake is also a perfect canvas for hand-decorating. Various icings such as royal icing and whipped cream can be used to create a personalized design for the birthday boy or girl. This can include their name or image of their choice as well as a message of love.
Another fun way to celebrate a birthday is to have the guests write messages on the surface of a cake with coloured moulding wafers. This can be done by putting the coloured moulding wafers into an open small zip-lock bag and then microwaving it. The coloured wax will drip onto the message and leave a lovely pattern of words or pictures on the cake’s surface.
Whether you are celebrating your own birthday or are hosting a party for someone else, there is nothing quite as special as a delicious cake. Whether you are going for a classic vanilla or chocolate, the sky is the limit for your creative ideas when it comes to decorating and personalizing this delicious sweet treat.