A birthday cake is usually a dessert made of one or more layers of baked good, covered in frosting and often decorated with other edible items. The cake is typically topped with candles. It is traditional for the person celebrating their birthday to blow out the candles, making a wish as they do so. The tradition of birthday cakes dates back to the 17th century. It was a luxury good at first but as production improved with the Industrial Revolution, the cost of ingredients and other materials fell, which allowed the birthday cake to become more widely available and affordable.
Often the birthday cake is personalized by spelling out the person’s name or age using frosting, candy, and other decorative elements. It can also be shaped to reflect the celebrant’s personality, interests or hobbies.
In the early 20th century, the Boston Cooking School cookbook published the recipe for a birthday cake that consisted of two densely packed, frosted layers of white butter cake with an overlapping ring of candles in the center. The cake was garnished with colored sprinkles and closely spaced strands of decorative frosting.
The ring of candles was also popular in the late 19th century. The Successful American magazine recommended sticking the lighted candles in the frosting, explaining that “the delicate paraffin wax which was then used as a candle for birthday cakes neither dripped nor gave off a disagreeable odor.” Candles were sometimes placed in special holders, like rosebuds or roses, on top of the cake to prevent them from falling off.
As the birthday cake became more readily available and affordable, bakeries began to experiment with different flavors and designs to make it more festive. In 2020, Kit Kat released a limited edition birthday cake-flavored bar that was coated with “birthday cake flavored creme.”
The frosting on a birthday cake can be any type of food-based icing or even whipped cream. It may be flavored, tinted or colored to match the theme of the party or to honor the birthday boy or girl. The batter can be made from scratch or bought pre-made. It is usually layered with a filling, such as fruit, nuts, fondant or icing.
For a unique touch to a birthday cake, consider writing something special on it. The message could be a simple word like happy or a whole phrase, such as you’re fabulous or love you. You could use a stencil to create the design and then pipe the message onto the cake with a decorative piping tip. Alternatively, you can use a knife to write the text. The key to a well-written message is to know what you want to say ahead of time so that it fits on the width of the space you have available on your cake. You should also plan ahead for how many words you want to spell out, and whether they should be capitalized or lowercase. If you’re writing in cursive, practice beforehand to be sure you can form the letters correctly on the cake.