Birthday is surely one of the most memorable and cheerful events in everyone’s life. The main attraction in a birthday is the yummy birthday cake. However, have you ever wondered who invented this sweet delight while blowing away the candles on your birthday cake? Probably not! To give you an insight into the history of birthday cake, given below is some interesting information on its background. Since the exact origin of the cake is not known, different people have different tales to tell. Some historians are of the opinion that the origin of birthday cake took place in ancient Greece. It is believed that Greeks prepared honey cakes or breads to celebrate the occasion.
Interesting Information on Background of Birthday Cake
Cakes were initially called by the name ‘plakous’ by the Greeks, which is a similar word to ‘flat.’ These were a combination of nuts and honey. Besides, they also made a cake called "satura," which was a flat heavy cake. It is also believed that the Greeks offered round shaped cake to the Goddess of Moon called Artemis. It is this for reason that even candles were placed on the cake to make it glow like the moon. The Romans followed the suite, with a slight change in the name of the cake, which became "placenta" as derived from the Greek term.
They were even called "libum" by the Romans and were primarily used as an offering to their gods. Placenta was sort of a cheesecake, baked on a pastry base, or sometimes inside a pastry case. Moreover, there were three types of birthdays celebrated by Romans, including private celebrations with family and friends, city and temple birthdays and the birthdays of past and present emperors or members of the imperial family. It is even said that the 50th year was celebrated with a honey cake made of wheat flour, grated cheese, honey, and olive oil.
Nevertheless, the cakes of that era bore little resemblance to the modern day birthday cakes. They were primarily made up of cereal grain meal, moistened with water or wine. They were possibly leavened with some form of yeast and sweetened with honey. The cakes were usually shaped into flattened rounds and baked by being turned over on a griddle. Even the word ‘cake’ is said to have been coined in early 13th century. It is derived from an Old Norse word, ‘kaka’. Ancient Greeks referred their cakes as breads as there was little distinction between the two.
Both were leavened with yeast, while their sweetness was not an important characteristic. People in England used to cal their cakes as Pastries. As per another tradition, sweetened bread dough was made in the form of a baby Jesus in swaddling clothes in Germany. Apart from this, in England birthday cakes were baked carrying some symbolic objects such as coins and thimbles. These objects were mixed with the batter of the cake and different prophecies were associated with them.
For instance, it was said that the one who would get coin in his piece will become wealthy, while the one who would find the thimble would remain unmarried. In the 14th century in Europe, professional cooks learnt the art of making cakes and breads for special occasions. They made cakes, heavily leavened with yeast and contained dried fruits as per the occasion. During the 16th century, cooks in Italian and French pastry shops started making items which used batters based on egg-and-sugar foam instead of yeast.
As the art spread across Europe, the cooks started modifying their ways quickly. During the 18th century, the cake industry took a leap as the world trade started expanding. This led to a steep fall in the prices of the earlier expensive items as well as increase in the quantity. As a result, the cooks could now access all the other ingredients such as nuts, lemons and oranges, vanilla, chocolate, and sugar, which were not affordable before. By the middle of the century, beaten eggs were used as raising agents instead of yeast. The mixture was beaten to an extent where there would be enough air in it.
After this, the mixture was poured into moulds to give it an elaborate design and shape. However, they were at times laid on two tin hoops, set on parchment paper on a cookie sheet, which later formed the modern cake pans. With the passage of time cakes were being considered a symbol of well being by early American cooks. In early 19th century, the Industrial Revolution revolutionized the trade further. Baking ingredients became easily available because of mass production and improved transformational facilities.
It was during this time that modern leavening agents, such as baking soda and baking powder were invented. This brought a complete change in the way cakes were perceived. The popularity of cakes grew and they were made for every special occasion. Slowly and gradually, it grew into an industry, the credit of which can be given to a number of things such as the expansion of world trade, improvements in food refining and the invention of chemical leavening agents, stoves, refrigerators, and other equipment and tools. Yet, no matter what, the fact remains that nothing other than the cake makes a birthday entirely special and complete.