It’s my birthday today! So naturally, I got curious about the history of birthday cakes. This is the earliest b-day recipe on the books, from Jennie June’s American Cookery Book, published 1870:
The “cakes” are actually cookies; but the most interesting part of this recipe is the directions to “sprinkle colored caraway seeds on top.” Colored could perhaps mean “toasted.” It could mean dyed with natural dyes. It could mean candied.
But does it mean that “colored caraway seeds” are proto-sprinkles? Jimmies? Hundreds and Thousands?
At any rate, I decided not to make these cakes for my birthday: I anticipate them to be floury, dry, and full of currants. Very 19th century and not my favorite style of cookie. Instead, I’m baking an apple up-side-down cake and a plum cake, and my friend Jeffrey is arriving with a vegan delight. The more cakes, the better, I say.