The word cake was derived from the Old Norse word ‘kaka’ somewhere in the 13th Century. A popular part of western culture, birthdays have been celebrated with cakes for centuries. The birthday cake served on a person’s birthday is decorated with as many candles as their age. It is tradition that if you close your eyes, make a wish and can blow out all the candles on the cake in one go, your wish will come true, but you have to keep it a secret.
Many scholars say that this centuries old tradition of making birthday cakes is attributed to the Greeks. In ancient Greece, the Greeks used to make moon or round shaped bread or honey cakes and took them to the temple of their Goddess of Moon, Artemis, on her birthday. Her birthday cakes were shaped round to signify the ‘moon’. The cakes were lit by little candles to make them glow like the moon. It was also believed that the smoke coming from the candles carried the cake maker’s prayers to the Gods.
Many other scholars say that the cake originated in the Middle Ages in Germany where Christians celebrated the birthday of Jesus Christ by making sweet bread shaped like a baby wrapped in cloth to signify Jesus’ infancy. Germans also had the tradition of placing one large candle in the middle of their cakes to represent the ‘light of life’.
Another interesting tradition around birthday cakes was in England during medieval times. People used to place ornaments like rings, coins, etc. in birthday cakes. The person who got the slice with the coins was prophesized to be wealthy, the person to find the ring was said to get married soon and so on. There were also superstitions about the falling of a person’s birthday cake while baking. The person for whom the cake was being baked was said to have bad luck for one whole year to come.
As modern times progress, technology has made the baking of birthday cakes extremely easy. Now we have birthday cakes in all sorts of shapes, sizes and colors. But we still put candles on the cake for wishes.