The Real Reason We Eat Cake on Birthdays

No birthday is complete without some cake — after all, it makes turning another year older a little more bearable. But where does eating cake on a birthday come from? And who thought it would be a good idea to stick flaming candles on top? Whether you're a fan of traditional cake or prefer something a little more unique, here are some theories on the origin of birthday cake.

Ancient Greece: The Bringer of Cakes

Although they weren't used to celebrate birthdays, round cakes and candles in Ancient Greece honored Artemis, the moon goddess. Round cakes were meant to look like the moon and the candles on top made the cakes give off light just like — you guessed it — the moon. Very creative, Greece.

Cake + Birthdays = True Love

It wasn't until later (during the Middle Ages) that cakes found their true calling — celebrating a birthday. Called Kinderfeste, this German version of a child's birthday party included a cake with candles, one for each year they had lived and an extra for the year to come. Wishes were made, cake was eaten, and mankind got one step closer to the origin of the birthday cake as we know it.

Sugar, Spice, and Everything Nice

During the Middle Ages, the sweet-tasting cakes that we're used to would only have been for the wealthy. Thanks to the Industrial Revolution, sugar and other ingredients needed for a cake became available to all. Just like that, cakes became a sweet and important part of our lives. I think it's safe to say the Industrial Revolution is the real MVP here.

The Magic of the Cake

A birthday cake can be more than just a way to celebrate a birthday; it can predict the future. In Southern tradition, the number of candles left lit after you blow on them will tell how many years you have until you get married — no pressure or anything. 

Another more dangerous tradition involves baking a dime or thimble into the cake. Whoever gets the "special" slice will become rich (or choke on the metal in the cake, NBD).

Birthday cakes may have a long and complicated history, but one thing is for sure: no birthday is complete without them. In the wise words of Katy Perry, "make it like your birthday everyday" and treat yourself to some cake.