Birthday cake: Korean style

So it’s my birthday month, and what better time to talk about cake… birthday cake, to be exact.

Every expat will have at least one birthday in Korea. And although being away from one’s family and friends back home during this time sucks, there’s still plenty to look forward to.

My favourite part is the cake. I’m not entirely sure if the custom is Korean culture or just expat culture, thought I suspect it’s a little bit of both.

See, Korean restaurants don’t have dessert menus. And bakeries have an entire fridge full of ready-made cakes. Win! For this reason, it’s not unusual to take a cake along to dinner (no corkage!)

Among our little community, Baskin’ Robbins ice-cream cakes are by far the popular choice. In fact, it’s the exclusive choice, even for friends who aren’t particularly fond of ice-cream. One, their judgement can’t be trusted, and two, they should just take one for the team. Because these cakes are amazing. They’re made up of different ice-cream flavours, so you get to sample ones you wouldn’t necessarily buy, and really, who wouldn’t want to be spoiled for choice?

Whenever there’s a birthday to be celebrated, someone will coordinate getting a cake to wherever we’ll be getting together, whether it be a restaurant or someone’s house. After our meal, the candles are lit and we all join in to sing Happy Birthday.

On the topic of “Happy Birthday” – why on earth do Americans sing it so damn slowly? It’s ridiculously drawn out, and for someone like me who can’t exactly hold a note, it’s total torture. Back home, it’s a fast-paced, happy affair, and the singing part is over quickly.


My favourite part of my favourite part is after the customary wish-making and candle-blowing. Because then we eat! And don’t think you’re going to be served your slice on a pretty little side plate with a pretty little cake fork. Oh no! You get a bunch of plastic spoons from Baskin Robbins when you buy the cake, and if you don’t have enough you just dig your disposable chopsticks out of the drawer and soon it becomes a¬†free-for-all, dig-in-and-grab-your-favourite-flavour affair.

Mmmm, cake.

Here are some of the great cake moments I’ve experienced so far. Click on the photos to read the descriptions.