A dear, well-intentioned soul gave me a copy of Cake Wrecks: When Professional Cakes Go Hilariously Wrong, by US author Jen Yates, who shares cake disasters with the world through her daily blog. The recently-published book, based on Yates’ blog, was a gift: “Hope this is good for a giggle after a long day’s baking!”
I can hardly bear to have it in the house! Have visited the blog a couple of times at the suggestion of colleagues. The whole concept leaves me cold. Far from being hilarious, it seems sad and cruel to laugh at other people’s mistakes and misjudgments. A more appropriate response, to me, is compassion. If one is in a supervisory role with the baker, much closer oversight, some instruction and encouragement. If the customer, the right of refusal and certainly some sort of immediate substitute and/or refund and compensation.
Yates only chronicles professional cake disasters, so there is an argument that could be made in the general vein, “If you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen.” That’s one of the supporting reasons for restaurant reviews. The other, apart from giving critics an opportunity to craft scathing criticism - often more fun to write and delicious to read than praise - is so the rest of us can steer clear.
However, a good food critic LIVES to find true genius. What do a blog and book like Yates’ say about a world where snide’n'snark serve no other purpose but entertainment?
I’m truly interested in your opinion, especially if it differs from mine. Am I missing something?
You are not the only one that doesn’t see the humor. I guess I sympathize with having difficulty decorating sometimes. I don’t remember, but if the cakes are professionally done, were they presented to the customer like this or are these just errors that people submitted that were caught before going to the customer? If the decorator is in on the joke, I assume he/she is laughing at his/herself.
I have to commend you for taking a compassionate view when seeing others’ mistakes, be it cakes or anything else. Surely the baker or maker did not intentionally err, so this person and his/her finished product do not deserve ridicule. Your post is a lesson for all of us.
Thanks for the responses. No, the decorator is not in on “the joke.” By Yates’ definition, a cake is a wreck when it’s unintentionally silly, sad, creepy or inappropriate. The main criterion is that someone paid to have the cake made. According to an article published in the Toronto Star, there are the fakers - submissions that Yates usually finds easy to spot as set-ups. “Every once in a while I’ll put one up, but I tell people this is an intentional wreck.”
She told the interviewer that she wades through 60 submissions a day, and her blog gets 50,000 hits a day. That was in September last year.
p.s. I haven’t read closely enough to know whether these cakes were caught before going to the customer. I think not, in some cases. Some may even have been requested by the customer. Not sure.
I haven’t seen the book, but I do on occasion visit the blog. I don’t always follow the commentary - or maybe I should say that I don’t always get the humor behind the commentary! but sometimes the pictures are absolutely priceless and worth a laugh. Not all of them, though.
The wedding cake one with the lines that were supposed to be plaid, and it was very much off kilter - that one still gives me nightmares to think that someone showed up to deliver a cake that looked like that. Some of the cakes are in really poor taste - I can’t imagine being asked to do a cake that looks like a woman in labor but someone was, and someone did. And shouldn’t have. There’s a difference between something being in poor taste; and something poorly done, though.
So while I don’t agree with the tone that accompanies the pictures, there have been some pictures that bring a smile to my face because I think they’re funny. The one about no sexual harassment was pretty funny.
I think those are the only ones I remember. Plus the one that started it all - the one from the cover of the book. That still makes me smile.
Sometimes not every cake is inspected by a supervisor before it goes out the door. I’m not talking about the ones where the writing is hard to read or a letter is misread - I’m talking about the real obvious errors where someone has left off a word, or make a mistake and did a sloppy job of correcting it. And there are as many bad examples of airbrushing as there are good ones. The thing is, someone has paid money for this and in a lot of cases, I think they should have had a refund. Sometimes I wish there was follow up so we could find out how things turned out. I can’t imagine paying for some of those cakes, to be honest with you.
I don’t know, I personally find it pretty funny, but now I’m feeling a little guilty about that I will say though that there are a lot of cakes featured on the site are technically well executed, but have vulgar subject matter or other things in poor taste, so I’m not really sure how compassion would work in those instances. I think you can laugh about a lot of the cakes without it being a cruel laugh. Who knows, maybe the professional involved would say I laughed the whole time making it and I can’t believe someone ordered something so tacky!
I have to admit, I also find some of those cakes hilarious. After reading your post, I was trying to think how I would feel if I were a professional and one of my cakes ended up there. A thought that did make me squirm, was wondering if anyone ever lost a job because of something ending up there.
The blog author does feature dreamy, beautiful cakes now and then, check out “Sunday Sweets”.
Thanks for the comments, guys! I was beginning to wonder if I’d lost my sense of humour. I do have one, honest!!!
No guilt trips intended! I really wanted to hear other points of view. I still do wonder about the whole concept and especially, the cake that started it all. The baker, for whom English was clearly a second language, wrote down the caller’s words verbatim, ” Best Wishes Suzanne and underneat that We will Miss you”. That’s what went on the cake - all of it, including the misspelling. Were they making minimum wage, I wonder, trying to keep body and soul together and feed their family? Where was the boss, fer cryin’ out loud?! And yes, did someone lose their job?
But I’m happy to be reminded that it’s possible to be amused by human foibles and missteps without the laughter necessarily being cruel.
In commercial bakeries, there’s usually a form that gets filled out when a cake is ordered and then, in almost all cases, a completely different person from the order taker is the one finishing the cake. Depending on how the order is filled out, the decorator will write exactly what is on the form the way it appears on the form without question (“mine is not to question why….”) and then the cake is boxed and ready to go. The form goes onto a spindle for completed orders or somewhere else and that’s that.
That’s what the funny part is for me. Some of those order takers should have been physicians with the handwriting they have. I run into the same problem with people faxing over orders to me - even when I say PLEASE PRINT IN ALL CAPS SO IT IS LEGIBLE!
If you are the decorator and can’t spell, it’s not a problem (at least, not usually) because you’re copying verbatim what’s on the order form. But if you aren’t paying attention…..
I think the only thing I could see someone losing a job over was that want-to-be-plaid wedding cake. That was atrocious and should never have been delivered!
Although I do find it funny (I, too, was given a copy of the book as a gift by a Librarian), I have also put the shoe on the other foot. How would I feel if this happened to me? Horrible. I do really feel for some of these people who try and make mistakes and then get chided about said mistakes or bad taste. I go both ways on this.
I feel the compassion side for the bakers who had honest, hardworking intentions with their featured cakewrecks, I would be mortified and while tearing up from laughter my first time on the site, wondered how it must feel to be “featured”. On the other hand, some of those photos are the result of extreme rudeness, laziness (Whiting out mistakes with huge blobs obviously of icing, reselling a cake to a new person when the old message was obviously scraped off etc) and disregard the recipient’s special occasion completely. That just makes me sad, I would never devalue another human being that way. For those types, I think they deserve to be “recognized”. Human nature isn’t always honest and well intentioned, and I think the majority of the cakes in that book are simply making light of a sad fact! There are some in there that tug on my heart strings, though. I would hope they asked that person permission to use it before printing it.
Carolita, GREAT topic. I think it stimulated my brain more than my morning coffee, just now! =)
I think Cake Wrecks is funny and I don’t feel the least bit guilty. I was once the recipient of what would be called a cake wreck. When I was away at college, my mom wanted me to have a birthday cake. She called a bakery and when asked what the cake should say, she replied ” ‘Happy Birthday Natalie—19’ is good enough.” Well, of course my birthday cake said “Happy Birthday Natalie—19 is Good Enough!” It took years for me to figure out what actually must have have transpired for me to receive a cake with such a strange message.
I’ll say it again. There was never any intention to lay a guilt trip on anyone who enjoys the book, the website or the overall concept of Cake Wrecks. Rather, I recognize there’s more than one way to view things and am always interested to learn from others. I had such a strong negative reaction that I couldn’t help being curious. What was I missing? Thank you for sharing your experience. You too, Jemoiselle!
I have to admit I’ve giggled at a some of the postings. However - there was one posting that I saw in the archives awhile ago. It was about someone’s wedding cake, and she even included a photo of the bride & groom. That, I felt, was horrid - this was their wedding. I mean, cruel wasn’t even enough of a description.
I’ve since stopped visiting the site, even though I need all the laughs I can get.