By Charlotte Triggs
December 24, 2007 12:00 PM

Knut would probably have preferred a croissant. That’s what the pampered polar bear at the Berlin zoo snacked on before his handlers put him on a diet earlier this year. But for his first-birthday celebration Dec. 5, zoo chefs whipped up a healthy—and evidently tasty—rice-and-vegetable “cake” topped with a single (wooden) candle, served on a bed of greens. “[The cake] lasted 15 minutes,” says zoo director Bernhard Blaszkiewitz. Knut, nine months after making his debut at the zoo after being abandoned by his mother at birth, is still thriving, pulling in the crowds (Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes have visited three times) and making the most of a new habitat, with trenches, trees and a waterfall. His handlers predict he will start showing interest in she-bears in a couple of years. In the meantime, “he eats, sleeps, does funny things for the public,” Blaszkiewitz says. “It’s a nice life for a polar bear.”