I saw a recent Twitter thread that asked about all the things we may never go back to since COVID-19: Eating from a buffet. Trying on makeup samples. Shaking hands. And one that comes up time and again is that time-honored tradition of blowing out the candles on a birthday cake.

You know what I mean — everyone sings as the big, beautiful cake is placed in front of the birthday boy or girl (of any age), and then –deep breath — we all watch as the celebrant blows all over the top of it. Bonus points if you’ve got a toddler who takes about 10 sloppy breaths to get the job done. (Ahem, see my own beautifully spitty daughter in the top photo?)

To some of us, maybe it’s always been a bit disgusting, only we never really thought about it the way we do now, after COVID.

Considering that now we know that maybe we shouldn’t be blowing on and spitting all over food we plan to share with others, I have found 5 creative alternatives for blowing out the candles on your birthday cake.

We already know that so much has changed about birthday celebrations, but there’s no reason to cancel birthday candles! Maybe just a little creative thinking so that we can continue the make-a-wish tradition without exhaling a big breath of potential germs and viruses all over the frosting.

Oh, and don’t miss Liz and Kristen’s¬†Spawned podcast episode¬†all about how we can still make birthday parties special while we all wait to get vaccinated.

Note: Hey, science-loving friends! ¬†Of course we’re all aware that in¬†reality, there is a minuscule chance of viral transfer¬†from blowing out candles, and our suggestions have to do with our own squeamishness these days — ¬†not the actual data around how coronaviruses are transferred (i.e. not ingested) and the likelihood of catching Covid via birthday candle blow-outs. ¬†Still, if it makes you feel better to try one of these ideas then go for it. Especially if you’ve got a runny-nosed toddler celebrating a big day. Been there!

Top Photo: © Christina Refford

5 alternatives for blowing out birthday candles in the age of Covid

1. Get a dedicated “candle cake,” separate from the big one

Individual cupcake with birthday candle for safe celebrating during Covid-19 pandemicPhoto: Isabella and Louisa Fischer via Unsplash

If you’ve even seen a one-year old near their gorgeously decorated¬†first birthday cake, you can understand why parents often give them a “smash cake” to fondle and drool all over. Perhaps this can become the new normal for birthday cakes — one small round coordinating cake or cupcake, covered in candles, then placed in front of the blower. Then a big one for the crowd, no blowing necessary.

(Here’s why our own Kristen tried to get this candle-cake trend going way back in 2017. She was ahead of her time!)

With their own little cake, the birthday celebrant can blow all over their own individual treat, while everyone else digs into their own presumably-germ free slices.


2. Try the Mitt Romney birthday candle method

Oh, how I laughed at how weird Mitt Romney looked in that 2019 video in which he carefully plucked each lit candle off of his office birthday cake and blew them out in his fingers, one by one. How strange! How silly!

(If you haven’t seen this video, you really should take a look at it.)

While I would only recommend this method for steady-fingered adults who will not freak out and drop a lit candle when wax hits their hand, this birthday candle blow-out alternative gets the job done without potentially contaminating a delicious cake. Just use clean fingers and try not to touch the frosting!

And Senator, I apologize for not recognizing your prescience here.


3. Use the Original Blow-Out device, designed just for this reason 

Use the Original Blow-Up candle blower for safer birthday parties during Covid pandemic

If necessity is the mother of invention, then the Original Blow-Out candle-blowing device was way ahead of its time. Invented almost five years ago (or in Before Times, as we all think of it), the Original Blow-Out was created by a mom who had seen enough wet attempts to blow out candles and decided to do something about it.

Behold! A disposable funnel with its own tiny filter, which removes over 99% of all bacteria and viruses from a person’s breath as they blow out their candles.

For just over $3, it comes in a rainbow of cake-matching colors, and is the ideal device for the party planner extraordinaire who leaves no detail out.

Scientific footnote: If you really are concerned with being in an environment where people are blowing air, unmasked, this may not be the best choice for you because of that 1%. But it still beats the original, deviceless candle blow-out method.


Related: 8 cool birthday party cake ideas for tweens and teens

4. Try this paper plate swap method

Birthday candles placed in paper plate for safer celebrating during Covid pandemicPhoto @ Kristen Chase | ThatKristenAgain

Our publisher Kristen Chase happened upon a brilliant (pun intended) solution to the candle/cake issue when her oldest daughter Quinlan turned 16 in 2020. Instead of placing 16 candles on the cake itself, she carefully pushed them through an upside-down paper plate, placed it in front of her teen, and lit the candles. So clever!

While not as grand looking as a fully lit up, three-tier buttercream, it’s an excellent way to get the job done, especially for a “bigger” birthday with a lot of candles. And hey, at the end of it all, there’s still cake which is really what matters. And you don’t even lose any of the frosting to the candles!

Related: The Ultimate Birthday Gift Guide! The best gifts for kids in 2021 by age.


5. Wave your hands!

Blowing out candles during Covid pandemic by waving hands over cake© Christina Refford

My teen daughter introduced me to the “wave hands” method of extinguishing birthday candles at my own family birthday dinner last year, and I have to say, it’s a winner! No extra cake needed, no fancy supplies or cake swaps.

Besides, the videos of my flapping my hands back and forth to blow out my candles makes for some good family laughs though it does produce some blurry photos.

The bonus of this method, according to my kids: No mom spit on the cake!