World's Ugliest Cakes
Last year, Jen Yates asked people to send her pictures of “cake wrecks.” An Internet phenomenon was born. PLUS, see our gallery of the world’s greatest cake disasters.
Cake Wrecks. These two little words turned into an Internet phenomenon for 31-year-old Orlando, Florida, resident Jen Yates, who’s built a following posting pregnancy cakes, poo cakes, and all-around ugly, crazy or simply bizarre cakes on CakeWrecks.com. With categories such as Creepy Cakes, Mithspellings and Oh Poop, the blog serves up cakes for holidays and major life moments you didn’t even know anyone would want to celebrate with cake—like divorce.
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With its simple design, the cakes speak for themselves, in all their misguided glory, served up alongside commentary from Yates, sometimes in the form of an imagined conversation with the person creating it, sometimes sheer disbelief that someone might want money for such a monstrosity. Yet it caught on, thanks in part to what Yates calls divine timing. “I happened to start this crazy cake blog in May of last year, and now cake is in. It’s all over the Food Network. There’s now way I could have foreseen that. People share what makes them laugh, even more than their political views.”
Cake Wrecks receives up to 60 submissions a day, and regularly gets 100-plus comments which debate whether, in fact, a given cake is supposed to resemble dog vomit or an adjustable gastric band (Yates’s guess? “It's a fetus-with-an-iPod pie!”). Yates is about to go on tour for her book Cake Wrecks: When Professional Cakes Go Hilariously Wrong (Andrews McMeel), released this Friday, featuring some blog favorites and largely new material. As part of the tour, local bakeries are offering up either intentionally made wrecks, or real cakes, and attendees can make their favorite wreck on a cupcake, with prizes given out.
Her technical definition of a wreck is “any cake that is unintentionally sad, silly, creepy, inappropriate.” The main rule for what’s allowed on the blog is that the cakes must be professionally made. Yates is so adamant about the this that she recently took down a cake when she found out it was made by teenagers. “I don’t want to be making fun of somebody who’s not being paid,” she explains. “The people who read this blog make cakes for their kids or friends; they don’t want their cakes on Cake Wrecks. There’s a different expectation if you paid for it. If your friend made you a cake for your birthday, you can’t mock that. It’s a labor of love and on a completely different level.”
Yates’s favorite story behind a wreck is the flash-drive cake. “A customer brought in a picture the bakery was supposed to print out and instead the bakery put a picture of the external hard drive on the cake. It was supposed to be a photo of the boss golfing or something. I love those little miscommunications, even more than the misspellings.” Sometimes the poor customers agree to share their misfortune with Yates, such as the man who bought a Costco fireman cake, only to be stuck thinking, “Am I the only one who sees a giant wang?"
Since I run a blog about cupcakes (which Yates has guest blogged on), I of course have to ask about her aversion to the cupcake cake (CCC), a frequent object of scorn. What’s her biggest beef with them? “First, that they’re messy. The No. 1 defense was that they’re easier than cake because you don’t need knives and forks,” says Yates. “Then I found out they glue them to the cake board using icing, so you’ve got icing on the wrapper and under it. You almost have to cut around the icing to pull the cupcake out. I’ve seen some people remove the cupcake and it comes out bald. And so often they’re ugly. Some private bakeries will refuse to make them,” she victoriously reveals. “We’re winning! We’ve made progress in the war on CCCs.”
Having viewed thousands of cakes, including one with an Tupperware aquarium and live minnows, what’s left? “The only thing I’m waiting to see is a professionally made kitty-litter cake. I get kitty-litter cakes submitted half a dozen times a week but haven’t posted one. As far as I know there’s not a professional baker out there who will make a kitty-litter cake. So far that seems to be relegated to the amateur category.”
Rachel Kramer Bussel is a New York-based writer and editor, and is the founder and co-editor of Cupcakes Take the Cake.