Why We Celebrate Birthdays With Cake

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Cakes have become such a central theme in birthday celebrations that it’s hard to imagine ushering in a new year of life without one. Whether its a San Francisco macaron or a cupcake from New York, there are going to be cakes. From small cupcakes to multi-layer grand designs, it just isn’t a birthday without some type of cake. This article will explain the history of birthday cakes and why they have become such an important part of our culture. 

How Did Birthday Cakes Get Their Start?
While birthday cakes have become a world-wide symbol of celebration, cakes have only been used to honor birthdays since roughly the 19th century; however, cakes have deep historical roots that can be traced to the Ancient Romans. Romans would bake flat rounds of flour that contained yeast, nuts, and honey to serve at weddings and occasionally birthdays. 

Germans are recognized as being the true inventors of the birthday cake. Following the tradition of designing cakes in the form of a swaddled infant to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ, Germans began to use cakes to recognize the births of children in a holiday known as Kinderfest. In the 1400’s, Germany bakeries decided to enlarge their marketing potential to more than just weddings, and started selling one-layer cakes for birthdays as well. 
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By the 1600’s, cakes had become a regular part of birthday celebrations among the wealthy; however, it was not until after the industrial revolution that cakes became as commonplace as they are in our current culture. 

Meaning Behind Cake Shape 
While current birthday cakes are designed in many different shapes and forms, a round shape is the typical birthday symbol. Cakes were originally designed to be round because bakers wanted to replicate the shape of the moon or the sun, symbolizing the circle of natural life. Likewise, cakes developed their round shape simple because of ancient technology and culture. In ancient culture, cakes were generally made by hand and formed into round balls, giving them their circular appearance. 

Cakes in Modern Culture 
In modern culture, birthday cakes can be baked and designed to match the personality and uniqueness of the birthday boy or girl. Cakes come in different sizes from the traditional circular shape to cakes designed to look like a football or even a favorite pet! With the use of different icings, fondants, and ingredients, a cake can be made in a world of different patterns and designs. Birthday cakes are often accompanied by candles to be blown out, and the singing of festive songs such as “Happy Birthday to You”.

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