It’s their birthday and that means it’s time for balloons, birthday gifts and of course, cake. So light the candles, sing “Happy Birthday,” and tell them to make a wish because this age-old birthday tradition is one of the best around.

The history of cakes and candles began in Ancient Greece. The Greeks made round cakes to honor Artemis, the goddess of the moon. They often decorated it with either 1 lit candle or several to represent the glow of the moon. Overtime, other cultures began to make cakes and ate them for their taste, rather than to honor Artemis.

happy birthday

The first birthday cake was believed to have been made in Germany in the middle ages. The Germans used the cake to celebrate the birthdays of young children and called the celebration Kinderfest. It was also here that cakes began to be layered and alternate ingredients were used to make the cake sweeter than the usual coarse, bread-like cake that was usually found. This kind of cake was called Geburtstagorten by the Germans. The 17th century was the period that introduced birthday cakes with a more elaborate detail of icing, layers, and decorations. However, these kinds of cakes were only affordable by the wealthy, upper class due to high prices in ingredients. In the 18th century, food and cooking utensils started to become more accessible, and therefore, more affordable. With that, the price of cakes went down significantly and the quantity of cakes baked went up considerably.

Blue candles on a cake by Joey Gannon Photo by Joey Gannon

Birthday Candles History

As mentioned above, the Greeks were credited with putting candles on cakes to represent the glow of the moon. They also believed that the smoke from the lit candles carried their prayers and wishes to their Gods who lived in the skies. Some scholars do not attribute the Greeks for the tradition of putting candles on cakes though. Some believe it started in Germany, where a candle was supposedly placed on the cake to represent “the light of life”. Today, many cultures place candles on cakes out of tradition, as well as superstition. Usually, the quantity of candles on a cake is representative to the age being celebrated. The superstition is to make a silent wish and blow out all the candles at one time so the wish comes true. Many believe if the candles are not blown out in one breath or if the wish is told to anyone else, it will not come true.

little girl blowing out candles while boy watches

Birthday Cake Ideas

What started out as a simple, bread pastry, turned into a phenomenon around the world. Today, there are vast amounts of cake flavors and recipes available to suit individual tastes. And some of the best birthday cakes available are the ones that are simplest. Send cakes such as red velvet covered in cream cheese icing, a vanilla bean cake topped with buttercream icing and white chocolate shavings, or even a tiramisu classico cake to make the birthday a tasty one. Take the gift to the next level with the gift giving idea of birthday flowers and cake. This gifting combination sends the message to have a bright and tasty birthday!


Header photo by Ed