The tradition of putting candles on a birthday cake is said to have roots in Ancient Greek and German cultures. In Greece, round cakes were made to honor Artemis, the goddess of the moon, with candles added to symbolize the moon’s glow — the Greeks believed that the candles’ smoke carried their prayers to the moon. In German tradition, the ceremony of Kinderfest celebrated the birthdays of young children, and around that time cakes began to take on a sweeter consistency and feature layers. In some stories, Germans are credited for placing candles on the cakes, saying that it represented "the light of life."
Over time, cakes became popular for their taste and design, spawning the full-blown industry that they are today. And while every ceremonial gathering often features a cake, birthdays are the only ones that keep the tradition of the candle. Although it may just be superstition that a wish made when blowing out our candles will come true, we think it’s a tradition we want to keep around for a very long time.
Birthday cakes nowadays have undergone serious development and growth. Cake aficionados make their careers solely on the production of these pieces of art. And while the art of the birthday cake is a feat to master, with questions of batter, icing, layers, flavors, shape, and more, we’d argue that the finishing touch always comes with the candle. And though most deem this an afterthought, the candles you use to top your ingeniously crafted creation are testaments to your ability to complete the package, and to complete the look.
And although Australia has attempted to thwart the age-old tradition of blowing out the candles for health reasons — "to prevent the spread of germs," according to National Health and Medical Research Council via the Australian Daily Telegraph, except for in the case of an individual cupcake and candle for the blower only — we are still candle-heavy in this neck of the woods and are highlighting these little birthday toppers while we still can.
So in honor of the underappreciated wish-carrier, we’ve rounded up 22 of our favorite, and most desirable, candles out there. With that, dear friends, happy birthday(s), and may all of your wishes come true.
1. The Amazing Candle (That We Wish Wasn’t a Flower)
How could we cover candles and not include this exploding gem, complete with a rocket flame shooting out of the center as well as lingering individual glows. Our main complaint: why a flower? (And one that looks like it belongs in The Little Mermaid at that.)
Available online at $19.95 for a pack of three.
2. Sparkler Candles
In the wonderful world of sparkler candles, nothing could be too much. However, as ages rise and more people hit the cap on number (sometimes celebrating their third 49th birthday in a row), we might opt for letter sparklers or even these shaped sparklers. Regardless, everyone needs a little sparkle.
Available online for $2.75 and up per sparkler.
3. Strength in Numbers
You can always opt for sheer magnitude, filling the cake surface with as many lit sticks of wax that you can get your hands on. (Hint: we might opt for the 6- to 12-inch candles here — not only are they more attractive, but falling wax should be less of an issue.)
4. Novelty Candles
While many ride the line of tacky, some are just too funny to pass up — and let’s not forget the age-old adage, "one person’s trash is another person’s treasure." I for one am obsessed with the construction cones. Why? Because most of my cakes resemble construction sites. And the tools? I mean, why not?
Pictured candles available online for $3.99 per pack.
5. Silver & Gold
If Rudolph isn’t already dancing in your head with this oh-so-original title, direct your focus to the perfect simplicity of these shiny go-to styles.
Available online at $2.49 per pack.
6. 'HAPPY BIRTHDAY' Letter Candle Set
A classic and enduring set of candles, these HAPPY BIRTHDAY candles fit the simplest to the most decorative cake, and can be a last-minute fix to any candle disasters.
Available online at $4.99 per pack.
7. Glitter Candles
In honor of our Entertain editor, who lives by the words "she who leaves a trail of glitter is never forgotten," enter these tall glitter candles, which in our opinion, should always be accompanied by edible glitter sprinkles.
Available online at $2.49 per pack.
8. Really Tall Candles
These hand-dipped, pure beeswax candles are about 8 inches long and ¼-inch thick, and they are all unique and have a bit of quirky character. They also jet out from your cake for miles and look absolutely adorable and Dr. Seuss-esque. (P.S. They're sold out online, but contacting this Etsy shop owner may increase your chances of procuring some.)
9. DIY Candles via Martha Stewart
In the world of DIY, the more personal, the better, and these ideas and shapes are perfect for a range of personalities.
10. Black & White (and Other Cutesy Candles)
Shop Sweet LuLu has a range of standard size candle varieties, with everything from black and white with polka dots, squiggles, and stripes to multicolor varieties, including primary strips, black tie, green apple, and candy cane.
Available online starting at $3.50 per pack.
11. DIY Fruit Candles
For those of you crafting your Whole Foods-esque, beautiful and fresh-looking berry-topped cake, and who don’t want to mess with the feng shui for the "blow out your candles" necessity, try this adorable and clever trick, involving spearing the fruit with a wooden skewer and threading a wick through it. You can stack smaller berries or arrange them like this idea-savvy blogger.
More from The Daily Meal