Celebrations call for cake
Happy birthday, America! We celebrate you with more than 240 candles that decorate your cake.
Life, liberty and the pursuit of deliciousness is July. Like with any birthday celebration, cake is required; thus, let us eat cake to share the happiness.
The simple joy of eating cake in celebration is an old tradition. The Ancient Egyptians are credited with being the first to celebrate by eating cake but their cake was far from that of today since it was more like a flatbread.
Although the Ancient Egyptians did not recognize actual dates of birth with parties, they were only allowed pleasures of lavish merriment when a new pharaoh was crowned at which time cake was eaten. The coronation of a pharaoh symbolized his “rebirth” as a divine ruler; thus, reason for such a special observance.
Once cake took first honors in setting the tone for celebrating an out-of-the-ordinary time, placing burning candles on cake followed. For this act, the early Greeks get the start-up credit. Round, honey cakes were baked to pay tribute to Artemis, the Greek goddess of hunters. The shape of these cakes represented the moon, and the burning candles symbolized moonlight. These specialty cakes were offered by hunters to appease Artemis in hopes she would grant successful hunts.
During the 17th century, cakes became much sweeter and tastier and their appearance evolved more like those of today. Sugary frostings, even with simple handmade decorations, began emerging and the idea to stack individual layers took off. Unfortunately, during much of this time, only the privileged elite were celebrating individual birth dates.
At some point in the 18th century, the Germans started the practice of placing a single, large candle in the center of a cake as a way to celebrate the “gift of life.” Some scholars think the Germans believed the smoke that would drift upward from the burning candle had the power to carry prayers heavenward. Others are of the opinion the purpose of the candle’s smoke was to ward off evil spirits for the coming year for the person celebrating the “gift of life.”
Eventually, tradition placed not one candle on a cake, but rather one candle for each year of life, plus one in hopes of making it to the next year. We can thank the Germans for pushing us in the direction of celebrating individual birthdays with eating cake topped with burning candles.
But, whoa! The pandemic of 2020 has upset almost everything, now including the long tradition of making a wish and blowing out candles in hope of making that wish come true. Long have people disregarded the truth of sugar highs and germs that can come from eating birthday cake and blowing out its candles. Most of us have huffed and puffed blowing out our candles, but now, with COVID-19 in our midst, this long tradition may have crashed and burned.
In 2017, Clemson University did a scientific study about the effects of blowing out candles on birthday cake. Their findings reported that a single breath used to blow out candles can increase the bacteria count on a cake an average of 14 times.
A new decision is now yours. Do you ingest someone else’s spit, knowing that the coronavirus lingers, or do you allow the tradition to live on? Regardless, let us all eat cake on our happy day.
Hints and tips:
• Summertime is a great time to sit and sip a glass of ice tea with lemonade ice cubes. Prepare lemonade, pour into ice cube trays or mini muffin tins and freeze. Add a couple cubes to each glass, even a fresh mint leaf, and fill with tea.
• Romans are believed to have sent the first printed invitations, on stone slabs.
• A golden birthday is turning the age of one’s birthdate; for example, age 20 on 20th day of the month.
• Eating fairy bread — buttered white bread with colored sprinkles — is an Australian birthday tradition.
• Chinese eat long noodles on their birthdays as a symbol of longevity.
• In Jamaica, the birthday person tosses white flour on his head as a sign of growing older.
Celebrity chef Julia Child said it best: “A party without cake is just a meeting.”
Summer is busy; cake mix makes these birthday worthy recipes easy.
CHUNKY MONKEY CAKE
1 box yellow cake mix
1 cup water
3 1arge eggs
1/2 cup vegetable oil
3 ripe bananas, divided
2/3 cup walnuts, chopped
1 cup chocolate chips
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour two 9-inch round cake pans. Peel 2 bananas and mash. Add cake mix, water, eggs and oil; beat on low speed of mixer until well combined, about 1 minute. Increase speed to high and beat until mixture is smooth, about 3 minutes. Chop remaining banana into 1/2-inch pieces. Using rubber spatula, fold bananas, chopped walnuts and chocolate chips into cake batter. Divide batter evenly between pans. Bake for 30 minutes or until toothpick inserted in middle of cakes come out clean. Cool in pans, about 10 minutes. Remove and cool completely. Frost using your favorite chocolate icing.
CHOCOLATE ITALIAN DELI CAKE
1 box chocolate cake mix
1 cup mayonnaise (no substitute; not salad dressing)
1 cup water
1 teaspoon cinnamon
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour two 9-inch round pans; set aside. Using an electric mixer, beat cake mix, mayonnaise, water, eggs and cinnamon for 30 seconds in a large bowl on low speed. Beat on medium speed, scraping sides down, for 2 minutes. Pour batter into prepared pans. Bake for 30 minutes or until toothpick inserted in centers of cakes comes out clean. Cool and then remove from pans and frost with a dark fudge icing.
Serve this next cake with scoops of vanilla ice cream.
ROOT BEER FLOAT CAKE
1 box yellow cake mix
1 (12-ounce) can root beer
1/4 cup vegetable oil
3 large eggs
1/2 cup powdered sugar
3 tablespoons root beer
Vanilla ice cream
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Beat all cake ingredients together until smooth. Pour into a well-greased and floured Bundt pan. Bake 35 to 45 minutes. Cool in pan for 15 minutes. Remove, cool and pour on glaze.
Glaze directions: Stir until smooth 1/2 cup powdered sugar and 3 tablespoons root beer.
Pierce top of cake with a long pick about every 2 inches and pour glaze over the top of the cake.
PINA COLADA CAKE
1 box white cake mix
1 (4-serving size) package vanilla instant pudding
3/4 cup water
1/4 cup oil
1 cup flaked coconut plus extra for sprinkling on top of cake
1/3 cup dark rum
1 (8-ounce) can crushed pineapple, in juice
1 (4-serving size) package vanilla instant or coconut cream pudding and pie filling
1/3 cup dark rum
1 (9-ounce) package frozen Cool Whip
Blend all cake ingredients in a large mixing bowl. Beat 4 minutes at medium speed using electric mixer. Pour into two greased and floured 9-inch cake pans. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes or until cake springs back when lightly pressed. Do not underbake. Cool in pan 15 minutes; remove and cool on wire racks.
Frosting directions: Combine all ingredients except whipped topping. Beat until well blended; fold in the whipped topping. Frost; sprinkle with coconut. Chill. Refrigerate leftovers.