My Other Blog

What's a Wreck?

A Cake Wreck is any cake that is unintentionally sad, silly, creepy, inappropriate - you name it. A Wreck is not necessarily a poorly-made cake; it's simply one I find funny, for any of a number of reasons. Anyone who has ever smeared frosting on a baked good has made a Wreck at one time or another, so I'm not here to vilify decorators: Cake Wrecks is just about finding the funny in unexpected, sugar-filled places.

Now, don't you have a photo you want to send me? ;)

- Jen

Sunday Sweets; Fondant Free!

A lot of you have requested that I feature some non-fondant cakes for Sunday Sweets. (For you non-bakers, fondant is a kind of sugar dough which makes cakes look ultra-smooth.) Turns out, that's easier said than done; most bakeries these days use fondant almost exclusively. Still, the more I looked, the more I wanted to feature some butter cream-only Sweets, if for no other reason than to show that you still CAN make a beautiful cake without the aid of fondant, and also without all the expensive doo-dads the pros use.

As usual with my Sunday Sweets, I don't have the credits for all these photos, so if you recognize a cake please let me know who made it so I can link to their site. Thanks!

First up, a cute-as-a-button Strawberry Shortcake Cake from Pink Apron:

I like that she used sugar cookies instead of solid fondant for the name (and probably the strawberries, too, although I can't be sure); I'm always in favor of a cake being as edible as possible. The colors, the little flowers - it all just works. Love it.

Next up is a super fun cake that's surprisingly easy to make, considering how cool it looks:

See, I know it's easy, because I actually made one before. Yeah - me. (This is not it.) You can also make the popcorn using fondant, but it's much easier (and yummier) to make it with icing.

This next one uses a nifty icing technique where you dab it on with a brush or sponge:

Sad looking, worn-out teddy bears = unbearable cuteness, in my book. This little guy is by Sarah of The Little Bakehouse.

And finally, here's a great example of all kinds of different piping techniques:

Simple, maybe, but Tammy over at The Piece of Cake knows her way around a piping bag. That basket weave ain't easy, folks!

The best part is anyone who has taken the Wilton classes can make this cake; I'm pretty sure they teach every technique used here, including the flowers. I'm not plugging for Wilton, mind you (I haven't forgiven them yet for those CCC kits) - but I've known some great Wilton instructors in my time.

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Reader Comments (93)

Thanks for that buttercream goodness! I love to look at fondant but hate to eat it! It's good to see that there are still people that know how to make a cake without it.

November 9, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterAnonymous

I'm almost tempted to go take a cake decorating class...almost!

November 9, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterThe Queen of Fifty Cents

I seriously regret never paying close attention when Grandma did the basketweave on the side of a cake. It was amazing what frosting art her gnarled, arthritic but unbelievably steady hands could produce with a piping bag.

November 9, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterSleepwalker

All of the cakes from are fondant free. And delicious.

November 9, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterAnonymous

I have to disagree about the basketweave cake. While yes, it is pretty, basketweave is one of the most basic techniques that they teach new cake decorators. And I think any professional cake decorator would tell you that Wilton techniques are basic in general--relying on shaped pans and pre-made accessories does not necessarily show true cake decorating talent.

November 9, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterJosh

Wow. This isn't a comment on this post, but it's something you need to know...

It's an ad thing. When I came online today I checked the blogs I follow for updates, then opened all the newest ones. Then my computer started making a "ping" every second or so. I worried I had just unleashed a virus or something, so I started to shut down all windows in preparation for a sweep.

The noise stopped. I reopened the windows, one at a time, and waited for the noise to start. When I opened Cake Wrecks it started again. This time it was a whistle, a high-pitched "heet, heet" every second or so. I looked around for the culprit.

There was an ad that showed a fake "Internet Explorer" box at the bottom of the page. It informed me that I was the 999,999th visitor, and all I had to do was click on it to collect my prize. It kept vibrating for some reason.

I refreshed the page, hoping to generate a new set of ads, and the noise started again - this time it was on the sidebar.

I refreshed again and again, and the ad kept shuttling between the two positions, but the noise kept going.

So. I guess I can shut off the sound from now on whenever I visit Cake Wrecks - that's no problem, I have a "Mute" button on my keyboard. But this ad will probably annoy the hell out of your visitors.

I know that none of us have much contol over the ads that appear on our sites - this was discussed earlier on your site - but maybe you can contact Adbrite and ask them to block that particular ad, and maybe kick that particular advertiser out of the program.

- Harold from Another Monkey

Word verification word: dulchbad

- someone or something that is sweetly evil

Man, that ad sure is annoying. Whoever arranged to have it appear there sure is a dulchbad.

November 9, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterD.B. Echo

Strawberry Shortcake is perfect for a little girl, or the little girl inside an older girl.

How is frosting popcorn made? I thought maybe it was chocolate covered popcorn.

The basket cake is very pretty.

There is a local bakery that has won an award a few years in a row for their wedding cakes from The Knot. They never use fondant, not liking the taste and texture.

Your blog is great, every day of the week!

November 9, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterKnitty

I don't think I could bring myself to cut into that sad teddy bear cake...but there's a weird part of me that's convinced toys have feelings.

November 9, 2008 | Unregistered Commenterfunnycide

Thanks to d.b. echo for bringing up the ad thing. I just got a new computer yesterday and I couldn't figure out why it was making that noise. Especially since it's a Windows noise and this is my first Mac. I was kind of freaking out. So thanks for the explanation! I didn't think to look at the ads.

November 9, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterRoss

Yum. I like that popcorn cake.:o)

~Amy B.

November 9, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterAmy

re: Josh's comment

Trust me, basketweave may be a simple technique, but getting it flawless on the side of a cake without gaps, sagging weaves, and no seams? That does take serious talent and paitence.

Also, you're wrong about the Wilton courses. They are the basics of decorating, but they do not teach you to rely on shaped pans or accesories. I'm a WMI, and we never use any of that stuff in the courses. Course 2 especially is all about technique. If anything, Wilton still keeps alive the old ways of cake decorating because so much of today's designs are almost exclusively fondant, and fondant takes seconds to learn.

re: the topic

YAY to buttercream only creations!! That basketweave cake looks so rich and yummy. I also am in love with the Strawberry Shortcake.

November 9, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterDawnspring


Thanks for letting me know. We just made some adjustments to our ads yesterday, which is why the new annoying one is there. We'll work today to get rid of it.

In the future, feel free to e-mail me directly with this kind of thing. When we have the issue resolved, I hope you won't mind if I go ahead and delete these comments.

Thanks again!

November 9, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterJen

The fondant only craze must be regional because I have never actually seen a cake in real life that had any fondant - not even weddind cakes.

I don't think I really want to. Most look pretty as art but too much like wax that is just starting to soften to the melting point. Not appetizing.

November 9, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterAnonymous

Anyone who thinks it doesn't take talent to use Wilton shaped pans and accessories hasn't seen some of the many sad cakes pictured online made with them.
Creativity and skill is what makes a cake decorator talented, not the supplies they use to create their cakes.

November 9, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterLaurie

Thank you, thank you, thank you for this post. Yes, fondant is nice and all, but many times it seems to be a lazy (wo)man's tool--don't want to actually frost the cake? Cover it in fondant!

November 9, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterMorgi

Impressive,all, but that last one, with the basket weave - those flowers look as delicate as Capodimonte Porcelain. Amazing!

November 9, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterDeborah Godin

How can you make so beautiful cakes :O Theyre are amazing!!!

November 9, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterSome Finland

Love the Strawberry Shortcake Cake! I had one when I was young, didn't look near that pretty, but I still remember it :)

November 9, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterAlicia

I didn't even know what fondant WAS before reading this blog. Am getting more "cake educated" by the day.

Angie (from over at

November 9, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterAll Adither

Thanks for the fun buttercream frosted cake eye candy! I do very amateur cake decorating with buttercream and I LOVE it! I think the point you made about the "expensive doo dads the pro's use" is the reason I shy I away form I LOVE using the piped's fun. I love your cake wrecks becaue they instill me with confidence, LOL! It's like WOW, that person was REALLY lazy when I see some of these cakewrecks. Keep the fun blog posts coming! :)

November 9, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterTattingChic

Those ARE nice. I have taken all the Wilton classes except the fondant one, and I can attest that all these can be made with the piping bags or parchment. Although, I am personally not this talented! :) I would LOVE to know how the popcorn cake was made---please share!

November 9, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterBecky B

You've made my (non-Wilton) cake decorating instructor so happy! She'll teach fondant techniques, but she's old school, and regrets the proliferation of fondant cakes.

I have to share that when I did my first real homework for this class--making about 75 frosting flowers--were consumed by my dog when I was out of the kitchen. The damned dog actually did eat my homework...

November 9, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterMadeleine Robins

Actually, morgi, you're supposed to frost the cake before you apply the fondant. And smooth the frosting. It keeps cakey lumps from showing through the fondant, and fondant, like polyester, shows EVERY lump and curve.

Personally, I think I'm going to stick to buttercream with just accents of fondant for a long, long time. You can't really paint on buttercream, especially meringue-type buttercream, and I likes me shiny. But accents are much easier to pull off than an entire covering, and much faster to make than royal icing or chocolate accents.

November 9, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterAnonymous

The last cake with the basketweave reminds me of a bakery that we always got our cakes from when I was little... owned by a little old Polish man, they used only their own recipe good quality buttercream to make the most delicious cakes ever. We once got a lamb cake for my sister's birthday because it was the day after Easter, and it was yummy albeit hard to cut into an adorable lamb!

November 9, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterAgatha

That basket weave is amazing. I understand that the professionals say that it's a basic technique, but I can't see any short cut to doing it. Do you really have to start at the top or bottom and do every little segment one loop at a time? It would be hard to plan exactly what order to do it in not to get any seams. It would be hard to get it evenly spaced. It's not like the pie crust in sleepwalker's signature where you can actually weave it, and you an move the dough if it's not perfect the first time.

I didn't even know that the super smooth stuff was fondant, but I do appreciate the difference and like this post.

November 9, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterAviatrix

That popcorn cake is really quite spiffy.
And it's a good thing the teddy bear cake is for someone who's old enough to realize she can't pick it up and hug it.....

November 9, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterA Paperback Writer

I love Sundays... thank you so much!

November 9, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterFluffy Cow

I'd also like to know how to do the popcorn...I can't see the kernels clearly enough to figure it out.

I've done 2 of the 4 Wilton courses, and haven't seen yet how they depend on shaped pans or things like that as one commenter suggested...only one of the three basic cake courses even requires a pan other than a basic round, and that's an oval, supplied in the kit.

And yes, once you've completed course II, you should be able to do that basketweave cake...albeit not that perfectly without practice.

Fondant is fun to work with, but OMG is it disgusting stuff.

November 9, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterCanadianChick

The basketweave "Happy Birthday Brenda" cake is from Tammy at - it's pictured on her site near the bottom of all of her birthday cakes. She is absolutely incredible (with buttercream and fondant) and could be a regular feature on your Sunday Sweets! I'm proud to say that a number of cakes on her website were made for my family.
Cristina-South Carolina

November 9, 2008 | Unregistered Commentercristinaem

For those of you asking about the popcorn cake, here's the condensed version of how to make it:

Bake the cake in a bowl, and frost the sides. Don't bother leveling off the top: the mound looks pretty good when covered with "popcorn".

For the popcorn, use a large round pastry tip to pipe balls of icing all over the top, randomly placed. Then change to a smaller round tip, and make smaller balls/dots next to the large ones. Make sure you fill in the entire area, so no cake shows through, and even have some hanging over the edge and overlapping each other. Just keep going 'til it starts to look like popcorn.

Then, for that last realistic touch, use a small mixture of vanilla & brown food coloring to paint in little dots between the "kernels". This looks like the cooked/burned bits on the popcorn, and really sells the whole cake.

Hope that helps! Check Cake Central for more popcorn cakes: they had some nice ones there last I checked. (In fact, the cake I posted may have come from CC, now that I think of it...)

November 9, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterJen

You should check out the amazingly detailed and colorful buttercream floral cakes at Cupcake Cafe in NY:

November 9, 2008 | Unregistered Commenterdeerseason87

The bear cake is by Sarah Jones on Flickr. Here's the link:

November 9, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterKate

Once you're shown the secret to basketweave, it really is easy. I won't do a cake in fondant. All of my cakes are buttercream, with some fondant touches if I can't talk my clients out of them.

November 9, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterJamie

Aww...I want that teddy bear cake for my baby shower! =D

November 9, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterWeyana

Love this idea. Fondant can look beautiful, but I've never met a single person who actually liked to eat it.

November 9, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterJeana

That's a popcorn cake? i thought it was an old fashioned bucket full of suds to do laundry in lol

November 9, 2008 | Unregistered Commenterjess

this is an awesome blog....hilarious!

November 9, 2008 | Unregistered Commentermothermayi

I don't think I've ever had fondant, so I don't have any particular opinion on the taste/texture, but I guess I've always felt that it was sort of "cheating." I mean, I realize it takes a lot of time and skill, and I've seen some really beautiful cakes which used it, but at the same time, I'd rather see a cake that didn't use it, or which used very little, instead using cake, icing, and other edibles.

November 9, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterAnonymous

also...everyone seems to hate fondant. i agree that it can be pretty vile, but i homemade some (what a pain) once and it was SO good. we were eating the scraps like candy. even my mother, the fondant hating queen, loved it.

November 9, 2008 | Unregistered Commenterjess

I'm weird - but I like eating fondant. Every year for Christmas we make a gingerbread creation (last year was Santa driving a Ford Mustang convertible, the year before was Whoville, the year before was a church, etc) and we usually use a mixture of royal icing and fondant for decorating them. They look as good as our self-taught amateurism allows them to be, and taste fantastic when it comes time to eat them.

That being said, my boyfriend's grandmother is a retired pastry chef, and both her and my boyfriend are adamantly against fondant on a cake. With how beautiful today's cakes are, I can definitely see why.

November 9, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterRichelle

Check out The Riviera Bakehouse at Her cakes are amazing. I've made a few of them from her cookbook and they are always fantastic.

November 9, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterE(Liz)a(Beth)

THANK YOU for non-fondant cakes (which I consider fairly non-edible). They are all gorgeous!

November 9, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterAnonymous

these are nice cakes, but I have to stand up for us "fondant" artists! LOL

If you think fondant is disgusting, you have probably tasted Wilton fondant (and I agree with you on that one!) Most other types are MUCH more palatable, though it is very sweet. The fondant I use tastes much like marshmallows.

If you think that fondant work is easier or somehow cheating, I assure you it is not. And as was pointed out above, to have a professional looking finish to your fondant, you have to have a flawless coating of buttercream under it.

I can (and have) worked in buttercream, but I prefer the range of possibilities that I can achieve with fondant. It's just a different medium (just like some painters prefer oils, and some prefer watercolours...)

I am surprised though Jen... you missed the work of an AMAZING buttercream artist: Debbie Does Cake on Flickr; most of her sculpted cakes have fondant only as the accents!

November 9, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterWild Cakes

YAY to an absence of fondant!! I hate having to peel off a thick layer of crap before diving into my piece of cake. Fondant may make a cake look unbelievably shiny and smooth, but to me it looks less like cake and more like plastic. Guess I'm just a traditionalist. Thanks for a buttercream celebration.

November 9, 2008 | Unregistered Commenterevil cake lady

Yea! Buttercream!
Yea! Wilton!

Sorry...but I've always felt fondant was a copout for those who couldn't master real cake decorating...

The creations are beautiful - for sculptures - not to eat

November 9, 2008 | Unregistered Commentertemplework

Those cakes are truly amazing. I want to reach into the computer screen and eat them.

Sadly, I have never been much of a baker. I tried making brownies from a box once, and the result can only be called Large Brown Rock.

It's a joy to see cakes not made with fondant. Fondant doesn't even look like a cake! These look real and yummy at the same time!

November 9, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterShoshana

Umm wouldn't it be easier to make the popcorn with realpopcorn? Perfectly edible and delicious.

November 9, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterAnonymous

To the person who said they think that toys have feelings - there is a word for that. Anthropomorphism - giving human characteristics (feelings, etc) to inanimate objects. So you're not the only one who thinks like that.

November 9, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterChris

If you want to see some flawless buttercream cakes, check out Sharon Z.

Her cakes are amazing! You can't tell which ones are buttercream and which ones are fondant.


November 9, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterAnonymous

This might be a silly question but I have never found an fondant meant to be eaten?

I've had a fondant cake once and I skipped the fondant because it tasted sort of gross but my dad ate it like nothing.

November 9, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterJessica

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