Cake Studies

Birthday CakeHistory of Birthday Cakes

Cakes date back to ancient times; however, they were very different then. According to food historians, ancient Egyptians were the first to show evidence of advanced baking skills.

The ancient Greeks made round or moon-shaped honey cakes or bread and offered it at the temple of Artemis: The Moon Goddess.

A later tradition of birthday cakes started in Germany in the middle ages. Sweetened bread dough made in the shape of baby Jesus, in swaddling cloth, was used to commemorate his birthday. This special birthday cake later re-emerged in Germany during children's birthday celebrations a.k.a. Kinder Fest. Germans also baked another special kind of layered cake called Geburtstagorten. This was sweeter than the ubiquitous coarse, bread-like cake.

Centuries Ago …

In medieval England, symbolic objects like coins, rings and thimbles were often added to the cake batter. It was believed that the one who found the coin would be wealthy, whereas the unfortunate finder of the thimble would never marry. And if the cake happened to fall, the bad omen symbolized terrible luck for the person in the coming year.

Halfway through the 17th century, Europeans had made considerable advancement in the art of cake-making. They'd begun to create the precursor to today's modern cakes. This was mainly thanks to technological development: reliable ovens, food moulds and refined sugar to make icing. Round cake hoops of wood and metal began to be used as moulds.

Progress, a sweet progress

The first icing was made from a boiled composition of the finest available sugar, egg whites and various flavors. It was then poured on the cake, which was put back into the ovenIcing On Cake for a while. The cake was soon crowned with a hard, glossy, ice-like covering. Molded cakes and fancy icing was hugely popular in Victorian times. The art of baking cakes progressed through the ages, and it was not until the middle of the 19th century that the modern cake as we now know it was born. The taste and appearance was enhanced with extra-refined white flour and baking powder (instead of yeast).

In the 21st century:

The 'World's Largest Birthday Cake' was on display at Cashman Center in Las Vegas on Nevada May 15, 2005. The 1,30,000-pound cake, made as part of the City of Las Vegas' Centennial celebration, was 102-feet long, 52-feet wide and 20 inches tall, and took 500 volunteers 14 hours to construct and decorate. A Sara Lee Foods facility in Tarboro, North Carolina baked the 30,240 half-sheet cakes needed for the project.

Across the world, several specialist areas of cake-making and decorating have emerged. From multiple-tier, ornate wedding cakes to naughty bachelor(ette) party customized creations and oh-so-cute cartoon character moulds for kiddie birthday; there are cakes to make each special occasion all the more special. 

Kiddies Cakes

Which child doesn't look forward to his/her birthday, months in advance? So it's only natural that preparations for such an occasion be equally special. Having observed that today's kids are spoilt for choice with theme cakes and even theme parties. We, at Monginis, have fashioned a massive range of celebration cakes.

Why CandlesWhy Candles???

This tradition is attributed to the early Greeks, who placed lit candles on cakes to make them "glow like the moon". They believed the smoke emanating from candles carried their wishes and prayers to Gods.

Some say the modern day use of birthday candles originated in Germany, where people used to place a large candle in the centre of the cake to symbolize "the light of life".

The range of candles available today is immense and innovative. Simple or fancy, the common factor is that people usually make a silent wish before blowing out candles on their birthday cake. It is believed that blowing them all out in a single breath signals that the wish will come true, and that the person will enjoy good luck in the coming year.

Happy Birthday Jingle

The very popular, 100-year-old 'Happy Birthday to You' song has become an indispensable part of birthday celebrations across the world. The melody is not all sweet though; the confusion and ambiguity concerning the true song writer led to much controversy.

1. As one story goes …

It's considered the joint work of two American sisters, Mildred Hill, a schoolteacher in Louisville Kentucky Kindergarten and Dr Patty Hill who was a Principal in the same school. It was originally titled 'Good Morning to All' and bore the same recognizable tune that was first published in 1893 in the book, 'Song Stories for the Kindergarten'. It credited Patty Hill for the lyrics and Mildred Hill for the music.

Over the years, the song became extremely popular in schools across the US. The melody was passed into public domain, and it became "safe" to hum it in public without permission. It is said that 40 years later, Patty Hill came up with the words, 'Happy Birthday to You, Happy Birthday to You, Happy Birthday Dear DADADA, Happy Birthday to You'. The entire song was published in 1935.

2. The second version …

The 'Good Morning to All' song was published by Dr Patty Hill. But soon after, a gentleman called Robert H. Coleman published the same song, without the sisters' permission but with a second verse; entitled 'Happy Birthday to You'. The addition of the birthday verse was said to have popularized the song, and over the years the Hill sisters' original composition disappeared. The Birthday Song gained popularity in the late 1930s when it was sung in 'As Thousands Cheer' : a Broadway Production.

Today, the Guinness Book of World Records recognizes 'Happy Birthday to You' as one of the three most popular songs in the English language — the other two being 'Auld Lang Syne' and 'For He's a Jolly Good Fellow.' The Birthday Song is popular all over the world and has been translated into dozens of languages. However, the English version is most popular, and is even sung in places where English is not a primary language. After Mildred Hill died in 1916, Dr Patty Hill took Coleman to court over the copyright issue of the song. It was proved in court that Mildred and Patty co-owned the melody.

Therefore the family became the legal owners of the song and were entitled to royalties whenever it was sung for commercial purpose. Ownership of the song swapped hands in a multi-million dollar deal in 1989. The current copyright of the song is owned by Warner Communications, purchased for more than $28 million dollars.

The copyright of the song has been extended several times and is now not due to expire until at least 2030. It therefore follows that one cannot use the "Happy Birthday to You" lyrics for profit without paying royalties. In other words, unauthorized public performances of the song are technically illegal. So, each time you hear the song sung on TV or radio, it means royalties have been paid to Warner Communications.