By Michele Bacigalupo
America is widely known as a country that thrives off artificial food. The widespread popularity of the birthday cake flavor among various other artificial treats proves that people just can’t get enough of the irresistible sugar cane sweetness.
The reason why we commemorate birthdays with cakes isn’t exactly known. The history behind the candle ritual is hazy, although some people attribute the modern day celebration to ancient Greeks, who are said to have lit candles on cakes in honor of Artemis, goddess of the hunt, to simulate the radiance of the moon.
Today, birthday cake-type noshes appear to exist in almost every supermarket and convenience store. While Oreo boasts a festive selection on shelves in recognition of the cookie’s centennial, many other items are likely available nearby with a similar proclamation affixed to the label.
Usually not one to miss out on a branding opportunity, M&M’s came out with a birthday cake variety in May of last year. The light blue package appeared in stores several months after the release of pumpkin spice and gingerbread candy options. The culinary masterminds at M&M headquarters may be on a perpetual sugar high—one theory as to how they constantly unveil these delirious variations.
Like its predecessors, the birthday cake package has received mixed reviews. Birthday Cake M&M’s are made with no actual cake, but synthetic flavoring that mimics chocolate cake with vanilla icing. The taste isn’t especially powerful, however. While it’s possible to discern a hint of “birthday cake” in the candy shell—a slight vanilla twist in the formula—overall the bag tastes like the original milk chocolate version.
Birthday Cake Truffles, available from Momofuku Milk Bar, are essentially donut-sized bites of powdered dough and rainbow sprinkles. Rumor has it that the milk bar uses leftover cake crumble, gathered from slicing and layering of their full size birthday cake, to compile the sugary truffles. Recipes available online attempting to duplicate the bakery’s original may not be entirely accurate, but are certainly worth a try in the kitchen.
If small portions of birthday cake simply aren’t enough, look no further than Good Humor to satisfy sugar cravings. The Birthday Cake Dessert Bars certainly have enough elements to turn any sweet tooth into an instant cavity. Multicolor “cake crunch” provides the outer layer for vanilla ice cream surrounding a yellow cake center. The crunch coating is reminiscent of Fruity Pebbles, in case your inner five-year-old needed any more reason to rejoice.
Of course, no birthday cake list would be complete without the mention of cake batter ice cream. Almost every major ice cream corporation has a hand in the cake batter bowl, from Ben & Jerry’s to Cold Stone. Baskin Robbins hosts several cake-inspired flavors on its rotating lineup of 31, including Icing on the Cake, which contains a “candy confetti ribbon,” as well as the summertime staple, America’s Birthday Cake.
Although the argument over whether birthday cake flavor concludes that it is a fad, it’s the opinion of this writer that the flavor is here to stay. Sugar addiction is real. Therefore people will always be in need of cake and cake-like products. Plus, birthday cake is far from a seasonal item. It’s somebody’s birthday every day! There’s always a reason to celebrate.