No matter one’s age, preferences, or other characteristics, one of the most treasured days of the year is one’s birthday. Why not, then? So many wonderful things fill this day. The birthday candles, lights, balloons, gifts, and greetings from your loved ones make you feel like you are on cloud nine. However, the cake is yet another essential component of any birthday. Even if you don’t do anything special, you undoubtedly cut a cake because a birthday isn’t complete without one. However, have you ever wondered why we eat cake on our birthdays or where this custom came from? Let’s explore the history of birthday cakes.

Since the middle of the 19th century, birthday festivities in Western European nations have included birthday cakes. Classical Roman culture may have started the association of serving cakes at significant birthdays and weddings. These cakes consisted of flour, almonds, honey, and yeast. They were flat and round.

Bakeries in Germany started selling one-layer cakes for customers’ birthdays and weddings in the 15th century. 

The birthday cake evolved into its modern form during the 17th century. These elaborate cakes featured numerous layers, icing, and decorations in addition to other components found in modern birthday cakes. But only the very wealthy could afford these pastries. The industrial revolution enabled the distribution of more materials and goods, making birthday cakes accessible to lower classes.

When someone’s birthday is being celebrated, they are frequently requested to make a wish and blow out the candles. 

Though the exact origin and significance of this ceremony are unknown, there are many theories that try to explain this custom.

Greek Clarification of Birthday Cakes

The tradition of celebrating birthdays dates back to the ancient Egyptians, who thought that when pharaohs were crowned, they attained the status of gods. Their “birth” day was therefore their coronation day. 

The Ancient Greeks were the ones who added cake to this custom. Cake: why? Well, the Greeks required a gift to present to Artemis, the moon goddess, as homage on their birthdays. Greeks started making moon-shaped cakes, which they then decorated with lit candles to make them shine like the moon. 

One theory attributes the custom of putting candles on birthday cakes to the ancient Greeks who honored the goddess Artemis with candles on the 6th day of each lunar month. There is no proven connection between the goddess and the birthday candle tradition.

Pagan Clarification

The narrative explains the rationale behind the candle on the birthday cake:

Fire has been used in several rituals since the invention of altars, and people believe birthday candles have symbolic significance.

In the past, people used to believe that evil spirits visited on birthdays, so to protect the birthday person, others surrounded them and made them happy. People at the party made noise to frighten off evil spirits.

German Clarification

The custom of putting candles on cakes originates from Kinder fest , a children’s birthday celebration in 18th-century Germany. This celebration included cakes and candles, and children were led into a room resembling an auditorium. There, in a location where Germans thought that adults shielded children from bad spirits trying to steal their souls, they were free to celebrate another year. Back then, it wasn’t customary for guests to bring gifts on someone’s birthday; instead, they would just send their best wishes.

It was considered a good omen for the birthday person if a guest brought gifts.

Later, giving flowers as a birthday present gained a lot of popularity.

Swiss Clarification of Birthday Cakes

In 1881, the Swiss made mention of the tradition of blowing out birthday candles. Researchers for the Folk-Lore Journal describe the Swiss middle class as having various “superstitions.” One such superstition involved lighting a candle for each year of life on a birthday cake, which the honored person had to personally blow out.


There is no standard birthday cakes, though the birthday cake tradition involves singing “Happy Birthday” or a similar song commonly in English-speaking countries.

Before the early 1900s, birthday cakes did not feature the words “happy birthday”. Everywhere in the world, there are different birthday songs and ceremonies. In Uruguay, after singing “Happy Birthday to You,” partygoers will touch the celebrant’s shoulder or head. In Ecuador, before serving the birthday cake, the honored person takes a large slice. Whereas, in Peru, guests sing “Happy Birthday to You” with the name of the person whose birthday it is in both English and Spanish before singing any other song in Spanish about cake or the occasion before blowing out the candles and cutting the cake.

Tiny candles that are either pushed into the cake or held in place by special holders are frequently used as decorations on birthday cakes. The cakes are often served with other desserts such as ice cream. In the UK, North America, and Australia, the number of candles is often equal to the person’s age, plus occasionally an additional candle for good luck. People believe that if the birthday person blows out all the candles in one breath, their wish will come true.

Now we know how cakes and birthdays got theit root connected. See you on our next post.