Human Error, It’s Icing on Her Cake
Confectioners’ mistakes spell sweet success for blogger Jen Yates, now a best-selling author.
Serious dessert decorators view a sheet of cake as a blank canvas, waiting to be turned into their artistic expression.
For Jen Yates, that cake is a disaster waiting to happen.
Yates has found great success in highlighting the artistic failures of cake decorators. Her blog, “Cake Wrecks” (cakewrecks.com), has been a huge success, spawning a book, Cake Wrecks: When Professional Cakes Go Hilariously Wrong, that hit The New York Times Best Seller list, with a holiday-themed sequel due out later this year.
The Altamonte Springs resident is amazed that her niche blog could turn into such a success—and that there are so many unfortunately designed cakes in the wild. “We all have little brain farts during the day,” Yates, 32, says. “The only difference is these people have piping bags.”
It all started in 2008, when a picture of a white cake with yellow and pink icing flowers was forwarded to her. Atop the cake was a message, carefully written in D’Nealian cursive, complete with “monkey tails.” While the photo shows the cake creator had decent pastry-bag penmanship, that’s where the competence ended. The cake reads:
“Best Wishes Suzanne
Under Neat That
We Will Miss You”
In a matter of months, the Cake Wrecks blog was attracting more than 50,000 unique visitors a day, thanks in part to cakecentral.com, an online community of cake artists. (Her site currently gets 80,000 unique visits a day, and Yates has 1.2 million Twitter followers.) She signed a book deal with Andrews McMeel Publishing that includes official calendars. Cake Wrecks has become a full-time gig, replacing the faux painting business she and her husband, John, used to own.
Yates appreciates cake makers and doesn’t want to seem like she’s ridiculing them, so she features well-made and unique cakes in a weekly feature called “Sunday Sweets.” She also blocks out any shop labels from wrecks to prevent embarrassment.
“I’m not Consumer Reports,” she says. “I’m just trying to give people a laugh.”
One of her favorite recurring cake themes: “infants” made of dessert for a baby shower treat. “For some reason, the idea of eating a human being seems to appeal to people,” she says with a laugh.
Marie Porter’s own “wrecks” have never been featured on the “Cake Wrecks” blog, which might help explain why she’s such a big fan. The owner and self-appointed “Evil Cake Overlord” of Celebration Generation in Plymouth, Minn., enjoys crafting over-the-top cakes, like an edible re-creation of the infamous brain consumption scene in the 2001 movie Hannibal.
Porter has tried to put herself in the shoes of cake makers whose designs end up as fodder for “Cake Wrecks,” but she simply cannot comprehend how someone crafts a graduation cake with the words “I Want Sprinkles” written on top. “I can’t even fathom
how those wrecks happen. I honestly can’t.”