This Yam Dish is the Real Birthday ‘Cake’ in Ghana

Vanessa Calys-Tagoe September 21, 2022
3tor -- Photo Credit: DromoTetteh

Globally, cakes are the most common feature of birthday celebration. From fruits-crusted or the regular plain but often well-decorated cake and everyone loves it.  However, in some parts of West Africa, a traditionally made yam or plantain meal called “3tor” is used as the celebrating “cake” not just for birthdays, but to mark certain “milestones” reached in a person’s life.

The Akan and Ga Dangme tribes of Ghana calls this dish “3tor”. “3tor” and hard-boiled eggs are eaten and offered to ancestral spirits and deities during festivals, for performing customary rites, celebrating birthdays, the commemoration of a return to good health from serious ailment, or escaping a near-fatal predicament. The following are examples of the occasions when this celebratory delicacy is used on various occasions.


The main celebration “tool” for every birthday is a cake, but in some Akan homes, the cake as it is known by all is replaced with 3tor. The meal is prepared and served to replicate what an actual cake would look like. There would also be the cutting of the “3tor cake” and it’s shared amongst all at the party. This is usually done in small gatherings or among families. 

Some claim that 3tor is “soul” food and it’s the best meal to celebrate a new milestone with. 


For important occasions like the “Twins-Festival” (Akweley Suma), “Outdoor Naming Ceremony,” and “8th Day Abrahamic” circumcision,” which is now extensively observed by other tribes, notably the Akans, the GaDangme (or Ga) tribe of Ghana invented the sacred food otor (also Eto, Oto, or Otoor). Otor is often utilized for weddings, and Dipo/Atofo

The cuisine is available in a variety of forms, such as “mashed yam” and “mashed plantain,” and has been widely embraced by some of the nearby Akan-Tribes. The most well-known of the sacred dishes made for the twins at the “Twins-Festival” is the GaDangme Etor. Others, including “Naji Enyo” or “Naji Ejwe,” which usually consists of rice or yam with a tomato-based stew and is topped with boiled eggs and “Kelewele,” are less well-known.

Puberty Rites

Menarche is the first blood discharge a girl experiences which introduces her to menstruation. In some Ghanaian homes, 3tor is prepared with eggs and given to the girl as a welcome feast meal into womanhood. While the culture may be dying due to urbanization and globalization many homes still keep up with the practice because 3tor is a sacred meal and it’s believed that it will help the reproductive system of the young girl. For girls and boys who have reached adulthood, communities perform puberty rituals. Etor/Otor is a meal that is heavily utilized in these ceremonies, especially for girls. To demonstrate that the girls participating in these rites have transitioned into ladies, it is fed to them. They are instructed in personal cleanliness as well as the duties of womanhood. The otor’s eggs are particularly important because they represent fertility.


Otor is used during wedding ceremonies since it is frequently referred to be the breakfast of the brides in many communities. It keeps brides away from the restroom and is quite filling. Once more, it is offered at weddings alongside hard-boiled eggs, which stand in for fertility. On her wedding day, a woman is said to consume otor with eggs, which is thought to prepare her womb for conception. The eggs are forced down the brides’ throats as a symbol of their readiness to procreate. When a bride eats an egg rather than swallowing it, it is considered unlucky since it represents that she is consuming the unborn children.

3tor/Otor is a sacred meal for the gods. It is a meal given up to the gods to not only thank them, but to seek their blessings and intervention in situations, but the preparation of the meal for the gods is quite different. 

It’s main ingredient is either plantain or yam with palm oil

Last Edited by:Sedem Ofori Updated: September 21, 2022


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