Cristina's Corner

Birthdays Around the World

No birthday celebration would be complete without cake! At least, that is how most South Africans, myself included, feel about it. It doesn’t matter how old you get, a birthday without a piece of scrumptious cake just feels incomplete. It’s with this in mind that I wanted to explore what other countries have on their tables to celebrate birthdays.


Being a Western country, France does have cake as well, but slightly different. As you might expect, cakes in France are simple yet elegant. They tend to forego icing and opt instead for a cake topping of decadent ripe fruit, chocolate and cream. YUM!


Okay, okay, their celebration is very much like our own with a delicious cake served to delight guests. One kiddies’ birthday staple over there, however, is something you might not expect… It’s called Fairy Bread. It’s basically just buttered slices of white bread covered with sprinkles.


Indonesia is home to some interesting culinary delights, but this one surprised me. Traditionally, they celebrate special occasions, like birthdays, with a savoury rice cake. Quite different to the rice cakes we know here in South Africa, these consist of layers of cooked yellow rice, decorated and served with a variety of vegetables.


Again, a country with a culture very much like our own when it comes to cakes, but they do have one strange tradition that sets them apart. Small items, usually a thimble and a coin, are tossed into the batter before baking. If you get the coin in your slice, it means you will become wealthy – great! Get the thimble? It traditionally means you will never marry…


This vibrant South American country serves a cake filled with fruit and meringue on birthdays. So what? It’s still cake, right? Yes! But the birthday boy or girl traditionally blows out the candles then bites into the cake without using their hands. It might not be sanitary, but it does sound like a lot of fun!


Rather than a cake, people in India often celebrate their special day with milk or yogurt dumplings served either with nuts or flavoured syrups.

There are probably as many different traditions as there are countries in the world, so I will stop my list here. One thing is sure, I could never give up the joy of a good red velvet cake on my birthday.