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.

« Watch a Cake Being Wrecked | Main | I've Heard of Death Taking a Holiday, But This is Ridiculous »

Reader Comments (93)

ok this isn't technically a professional cake, but I think it's a good example of having fun with icing!

November 9, 2008 | Unregistered Commentermaggie grace

Thanks for the all buttercream post! I appreciate the skills involved in working with fondant and I think it's beautiful, but it's not yummy! Cake should be, above all else, yummy! I work in buttercream (with a very rare fondant accent) and nobody ever complains about how my cakes look or taste!

November 9, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterStephanie

I must learn these techniques-- even if my bakery does not want me to do anything outside of 'the book'.

November 9, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterAidokime

That popcorn cake was featured in a book called collette's cakes.

November 9, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterIamDerby

I knew I had seen that popcorn cake before! When I searched for cake decorating classes in Wisconsin, I got this page:

November 9, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterSarah

I agree with WildCakes. Fondant is not easy, it is not a cop out. It is difficult to master and takes patience and skill! You try rolling out a dough to the perfect thickness, lift the entire thing (if you are doing an 8 inch cake, you need a circle AT LEAST 18 inches around) and then smooth it out without ripping it. And that's before you even decorate it.
I too am a WMI (Wilton Method Instructor) and I actually self-taugh starting with fondant, and later working with buttercream.
They are both excellent mediums to work with, each having distinct advantages. But, since learning how to smooth buttercream to the consistency of fondant, I do enjoy it, but once "crusted over" buttercream can crack when moved, fondant doesn't do that.

November 9, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterValarie

Wow, I don't see how she did that weave! That's amazing. It has to have been pre-piped and then wrapped around the cake. Right?

Strawberry Shortcake is just too cute.

November 9, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterFreedomFirst

For all the fondant haters: my sister and I make our own marshmellow fondant, and it is really tasty. The kids eat it like candy. Still, I understand why people prefer to not have fondant, but I actually love the kind we make.
Also, someone already mentioned it, but the cake has to be iced almost perfectly with buttercream before adding the fondant, so in a way, it is extra work, because you have two layers that must be perfect.
These cakes were great today though! But I am one of the few that prefers the fondant, because of the look. (And now that we make our own, the taste too!... it's double the goodness!)
Kelly, Burleson, Texas

November 9, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterAnonymous

For some awesome buttercream cakes check out She used to have a place in Dallas but I guess she moved and hasn't opened her new shop yet but still has a site. It is hard to believe that some of these cakes really are buttercream. Pretty incredible.

November 9, 2008 | Unregistered Commenterflourgirl


How could you share such a cute popcorn-in-a-bowl cake, even TELL us you've made it, and then not give us a link to a recipe? Inquiring minds want to know more!


November 9, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterAnonymous

...unless the only Wilton instructor in your area isn't offering Course II or III (just I and the Fondant/Gumpaste) because "nobody wants to work with royal icing anyway". WTF?

November 9, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterKerry

love the popcorn cake...MAN, I wihs I could do ANYthing that's on this site...even the really bad would be cool to have some talent like popcorn bowl cake maker.

November 10, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterGreenEggsandSam

Ooh, it's the Buttercream vs. Fondant wars! Who will emerge victorious? I'm gonna need some of that popcorn cake for this.

November 10, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterSara

Just as there is good quality melt in your mouth chocolate and bad waxy chocolate, there is good delicious fondant and there is bad please don't make me eat that stuff fondant. Unfortunately the most accessible fondant sold in chain stores everywhere is the terrible stuff.

November 10, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterAnonymous

Jen, thanks for posting buttercream beauty, and for the Wilton plug. I'm an instructor, and the basketweave cake has techniques from 3 of the 4 courses. I teach fondant, but don't use much of it personally. Even if you don't like to cover cakes with it, its sculptural properties (and pretty flowers!) make it worth trying!

November 10, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterRebecca

Okay, the bear cake is really well done, but the lettering?
Alas, of the quality that would be mocked in daily Wrecks. It drives me nuts because it totally takes away from the bear, and it's puzzingly unprofessional.

November 10, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterDivaLea

That Tatty Teddy cake is sooooo cute, but like funnycide there's no way I could cut it. Especially since I actually have some of those teddybears.

November 10, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterJulie

I just ordered my completely fondant-free wedding cake last week and I am so excited about it after seeing her other designs. While I was in ordering, she was working on a cake for a baby shower. It had light green frosting and a pea pod on top made out of sugar. It was fabulous looking.

November 10, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterCarol

I like these. I am curious on how the popcorn cake is made.

If you need more examples of professional, beautiful, non-fondant cakes check out Cakes for Occassions by Kim Morrison.

Kim is very talented. And her cakes are very yummy too.

November 10, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterMarjie

Ok, I looked further at Kim's site and she does do fondant as well, but the snowflake cake, the chocolate cake, and the green cake in her gallery are all non-fondant.

November 10, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterMarjie

The only fondant cakes I've see were mine...made from recipes in the cake bible...nothing wrecktastically bad either. I love fondant, but hate working with it.

The SSC, teddy bear and popcorn are cool cakes. I don't much care for basket weave. Probably I'm just jealous.

word verification genticat has something to do with this: maintenance of genetic variation in captive popu-. lations

November 10, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterHavocec

Yeah! Fondant sucks!

I personally know one baker who can pull off a gorgeous fondant-free cake. I wish that I could find some photos of his wedding cakes on the web, but Google is coming up with nada.

Anyway, it's JJ's French Bistro on Waialae Ave in Hawaii. I'd highly recommend any of their pastries, and if you do go, ask to look at their cake book. Too cool.

November 10, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterKore

If you can find Choco-Pan in your area, I highly recommend trying it, or you can order on line. I still prefer buttercream over fondant, but this is pretty good, it's very easy to work with,and the creator is a lovely person.

November 10, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterThe Courteous Chihuahua

If you can find Choco-Pan in your area, I highly recommend trying it, or you can order on line. I still prefer buttercream over fondant, but this is pretty good, it's very easy to work with,and the creator is a lovely person.

November 10, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterThe Courteous Chihuahua

@divalea; Actually, the lettering is spot on. The bear is called Tatty Teddy, from the Me to You cards and gifts line, and the lettering on those cards and gifts looks exactly like that!

November 10, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterPixie

Several years ago, I spent my summer vacation at the Wilton School outside of Chicago. For 5 days, we learned the basics of baking, making icing, piping, decorating, using fondant, making gum paste flowers, wedding cake construction and much more. The facility was clean and spacious, the instructor was outstanding.

I had already been making wedding cakes for friends, but the course was spectacular. More than 2/3 of the class had barely picked up an icing bag before. I recommend their courses to everyone -- especially if you can afford the time and expense of doing the week-long course.

And yes, the basketweave -- I adore a well-done basketweave. I used it on wedding cakes for years. It fell out of favor from wedding cakes and was replaced by disgusting fondant. Bleh!

November 10, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterNick

The sad little bear is Tatty Teddy. He's very popular in the UK, and has his own storybook.

November 10, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterPanda

I love to see beautiful buttercream, because it's harder to make it as pretty, and yet SO so much tastier!

I used to work weddings, and people loathe fondant almost unanimously. Love the look - hate the taste. But frosting, YUM! So decorators who can make tasty beautiful??? My heroes!!! :D

November 10, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterDea

HOORAY FOR BUTTERCREAM!! I love piping and piping techniques and there is just so much more out there then fondant! (I really don't like the stuff but will use it if some requests it). I feel like its cheating. Like playing with playdoh (and yes I know this takes time and patience), I just feel like bakers who use other technigues (gum paste, chocolate, royal(amazing stuff), buttercream, etc) are amazing artists!

November 10, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterKat

Ohhh, so nice to see pretty and yet edible cakes. I detest trying to eat fondant.

My wedding cake was basket weave, I love the look of that design. Paired with real flower toppers it was simple and elegant.

November 10, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterPeggy

The strawberry shortcake can be found by Pink Apron at this link:

November 10, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterKris

Ohhh that bear is SOOOO cute! He looks so sad, I want to pick him up and give him a hug. But then he'd be just be nothing but squishy cake and frosting. :(
Cute bear cake = good, squishy cake & frosting = not so much.

November 10, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterMissy

Meh, I didn't like any of these. No comparison with your regular sunday sweets.

November 10, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterAnonymous

re: Tatty Teddy. Buh. Lettering straight from the merchandise doesn't make it good lettering. (Says the letterer and typesetter.)

It still looks like wreck lettering.

November 10, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterDivaLea

Ugh, I can't wait for the fondant craze to pass!!! I could not be more bored with it.

Although some folks can do great work with it, the majority of what I've seen done with fondant is not so great, usually sloppy, and it just seems like an overall waste of time and money to me. Especially when most fondant tastes like crap.

I would love to see more fondant free cakes featured! I know they're out there somewhere.

I'd even take gum paste decorations over fondant -- both for looks and taste. Maybe it's just me, but you don't see gum paste flowers that often anymore...

November 10, 2008 | Unregistered Commenteralicia policia

Those lily of the valleys on the last cake are awesome! And while the basketweave may be taught as a basic in W's classes, it must take a lot of work to get it to actually look that good.

November 10, 2008 | Unregistered Commenterholly

aww who would have the heart to CUT and EAT that poor cute teddy bear?

November 11, 2008 | Unregistered Commenterisa

The cake with the basket weave is beautiful! I love the tiny little leaves and flowers.

November 11, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterMichelle

Oh man...

I don't know what you see in them, the popcorn and the bear are definitely wrecktastic.


November 11, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterAnonymous

I am a believer of creating with buttercream instead of fondant myself. It taste 1000 times better! I also don't have an airbrush tool, which seems to be the other over used tool in cake decorating. While fondant cakes can be absolutely stunning, I have more respect for people that use buttercream to decorate with because it really does take skill to make it look really good. Otherwise... did you all see the monkey poop??

November 12, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterCK

Nice to see the buttercream! Many thank you's from a buttercream artist! :-D I watch your blog in fear and delight, wondering, hoping, dreading the day I log on and find a wreck of my own posted! You keep me on my toes and honest! Cheers!

April, the baker at Norbury's Fine Foods, Kings Lynn... UK.

November 14, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterTrinite Ducalon

Thise buttercream-only cakes are soooooooooo excellent! It impresses many a client who is not impressed by even the best fondant brands out there (like Fondarific, its older competitor Satin Ice, or even the cheaper marshmallow fondant). I read in blogs and forums that Wilton's fondant is pretty pants.

February 12, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterwhizkidforte

'I'm always in favour of a cake being as edible as possible'

Me too. It's always the biggest disappointment when the decorations turn out to be plastic. But you seemed to be suggesting that this one was more edible than usual because it had cookies instead of fondant. Fondant is edible.

If you're going to tell me I should be throwing away fondant cake decorations, I'm going to ask you what you did with your soul.

October 29, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterCarrieVS

PostPost a New Comment

Enter your information below to add a new comment.
Author Email (optional):
Author URL (optional):
Some HTML allowed: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <code> <em> <i> <strike> <strong>