Sweet baby Jesus cakes
Local bakeries put Christ on their cakes—and back into Christmas
He might have died almost two millennia ago, but that’s no reason not to savor the savior’s birthday. And while exorbitant shopping, a house full of plastic Santas and a cup or five of the heavily spiked eggnog will do the trick for some, others are looking to celebrate Jesus Christ’s big day in a not-quite-traditional way.
The idea might be shocking or bizarre or even blasphemous for some—there is that golden calf thing after all, the prohibition against graven images and whatnot—but certainly for some Sacramento residents, Christmas is not complete without a birthday cake for Jesus. Midtown’s New Roma Bakery gets several “Happy Birthday Jesus” cake requests every December, said manager and cake decorator Monnie Sarron.
“I’ve actually made a portrait of Jesus on a cake,” she said.
Talk about your sweet baby Jesus. But for those who are put off by the idea of cutting into the King of kings, she also makes praying hands and cakes written with the customary “happy birthday.” She skips the 2007 candles.
Sarron said she finds it endearing to see customers taking a literal approach to a holiday that has lost its original meaning as it has become increasingly commercialized. For that reason, she appreciates it when customers order Jesus birthday cakes.
“It’s kind of cool when I see it,” she said. “I mean, it’s the reason for the season.”
Although bakers at Sacramento’s C’est Bon Bakery and Ettore’s European Bakery and Restaurant spend most of their time making traditional Yule logs, they do get the occasional order for a cake depicting the miniature messiah.
“Christmas Yule logs are the most requested holiday cakes, but I had a customer request a couple of crossed shaped cakes last year,” said C’est Bon Bakery co-owner and pastry chef Sara Mohammadi. Gordon Warnock, supervisor at Ettore’s Bakery, said they receive four or five requests for holiday cakes with the words “Happy Birthday Jesus” written with dark or white chocolate.
Although some bakeries haven’t received any demands for, say, a Jesus jelly roll, they are well aware of the custom.
Rebecca Schnupp, manager of Sweeties Dessert Cafe, said one her friends found out about the custom the hard way, when she was spending her first Christmas dinner with the in-laws. “They just brought out a cake and started singing happy birthday to Jesus,” she said. It struck her friend as rather odd.
This is no fly-by-night fad. People have been celebrating Christmas with Jesus birthday cakes for a number of years. Sarron, who’s been in the cake-decorating business for two decades, says she first started getting requests for the cakes 11 years ago.
“I look forward to it,” she said. “We get orders and put them on hold until they pick them up on the 23rd or 24th, right before Christmas.”
It might not be a new thing for Sarron, but some people are surprised to hear birthday cakes are a part of the Christmas celebration.
“I can’t imagine doing that, but again, I’m a non-religious person,” Sacramento resident Marily Crosta said outside of New Roma. To Crosta the idea just seems a little bizarre, so she’ll probably continue making her traditional pumpkin and pecan pies this holiday season.
But for others, it’s a welcome reminder of the spiritual origins of an overly commercialized day. Jennie Malone, another New Roma customer, had never heard about Jesus birthday cakes, but she thinks it’s a beautiful idea.
“We tend to forget what Christmas is about and we get so wrapped up in buying presents,” she said.