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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

The Great Cupcake Cake Debate Continues


Apparently last week's post in which I 'fessed up to my cupcake cake aversion hit a nerve. Or, a hundred nerves. Yep, my inbox has been inundated with e-mails both defending the hapless creation and joining me on the side of decency and real cakes.

(And just to be clear: I have no problems with cupcakes. C'mon: mini cakes you don't have to share? What's not to like? No, it's only when you cram a bunch of them together and slop on a gallon of icing to make a smooth surface that my eyelid begins to twitch uncontrollably. Ok? So, to sum up: cupcakes good, cupcake cakes baaaad.)

The best part about all this public outcry, however, are the photos you guys have sent in supposed "defense" of cupcake cakes. Many of them are so bad I can only hope you guys are being sarcastic, 'cuz if not, daaaang.

An example:

If this looks familiar, it should: it's what the Ojai cupcake cake was supposed to look like. However, looking at it you can see that Ojai actually wasn't that far off the mark; I guess "shiny poo souffle" must be on the spec sheet.

Then there's this one:

Which I don't think is professionally done, but I am assured is still a "good" CCC.

These baffling creations, however, are professionally made:

But I don't get it. I guess the mounds made into animals are the cupcakes? Considering how messy that would be to serve, though, why not go with a real cake? Plus, that only serves 9 I'll-just-have-a-tiny-piece people, or 3 kids - which is hardly worth the effort.

And here a decorator traded in the neon french fries for a bad airbrush job:

Now granted, these are not the worst cupcake cakes I've seen - not by a long shot - but keep in mind that all of the above were sent in as examples of "good" cupcake cakes, people. As in, seeing these should make me change my mind and start liking CCCs. This goes to show two things:

1) Readers L.G., Callie C., Michelle M., and Valerie M. are sweet people who undoubtedly see the best in everyone, and

2) anything e-mailed to Cake Wrecks is fair game. Just sayin'.

The CCC indecency is spreading, too: check out this article in a recent issue of Family Fun sent in by Jess T. & Kelli:

"An easier way to decorate cupcakes"?!? That thing looks more like a radioactive zombie cloud than a pumpkin!

Of course now I know I have to throw some "good" cupcakes cake examples in here, if for no other reason than to prevent another tidal wave of angry pro-CCC e-mails. Let's see here...

Well, due to the confusion over whether or not I was vilifying all cupcakes, about a billion of you sent in these iPhone cupcakes:

Which are cute, but don't count; they're separate cakes and therefore Jen-approved.

Ok, we still need a "good" cupcake cake. (Yes, the "good" will always be in quotation marks.)
Hm. Ah, here ya go:

There's the ticket: draw the design inside the edges, thereby avoiding the scalloped look. Bravo, Carrie S.; you found a "good" one!

And Katie S.'s is still scalloped, but nicely done:

So there are two exceptions that prove the rule. I still maintain, however, that anything a cupcake cake can do:

A real cake can do better:


The floor is now open. Discuss.

« Adding Insult to Injury | Main | Any Occasion Will Do »

Reader Comments (254)

I think the animal ones are kinda cute. They are still wrecktastic but cute

September 26, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterRose

Well, I'm no big fan of CCCs but I have to admit that the regular cake version of Van Gogh makes me feel dizzy, and I'd rather go for the CCC version !

By the way, I really enjoy your blog and often end up looking insane laughing in front of my computer

September 26, 2008 | Unregistered Commentertraveling bird

I admit that I'm a CCC-hater, but the football one isn't THAT bad. You do need to not try to include the edges of the cupcakes in the picture. That was my favorite part of the flower-power Spiderman from last week.

Starry night, however, is great. And the real cake does look better. I'm a HUGE Van Gogh fan, so that warms my heart.

September 26, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterRecoveringActor

Somebody, please, manufacture a square cupcake pan...messy scalloped-edge solved.

I am a big cupcake fan and have made hundreds of goofy, witty, pretty and yummy little gems over the years. I have even duplicated a teeny turkey dinner (white meat with gravy, mashed potatoes and peas) on a Peek Phreans cookie "plate" (thanks to Family Fun mag). Constructing a cake from them, however, seems like a lot of fuss for little payoff.

September 26, 2008 | Unregistered Commenterglutefreegirl

I'd never heard of cupcake cakes before this blog, but the palm tree is pretty cool. The scalloped edges make it more realistic! And I agree with the others that the cupcake Starry Night looks better than the cake version.

September 26, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterHolly

I'm sure others will comment on this too... but just to point out that the last cake is actually 3 different famous Impressionist paintings: Van Gogh on top, middle layer is one of Monet's "Haystack" paintings, bottom is Monet's "Waterlillies". NONE of them is Munch, Kriisi!

September 26, 2008 | Unregistered Commentercannongirl

Jen, my name should read "glutenfreegirl"--I left off the "n"in "gluten", which makes it look as if I have no glutes....which, thanks to all the cupcakes I bake, couldn't be farther from the truth! LOVE your site--excellent work!

September 26, 2008 | Unregistered Commenterglutenfreegirl

I am only a fan of the Mario Bros cupcake cake, where the cupcakes are all separated, like pixels. What is the point of having individual cakes if you're just going to assemble them in one massive blob?

Here's a link to the mario cupcakes

September 26, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterK8teebug

They're also called "pull apart cakes". Which I only prefer for a kid's party because you don't need the extra plates and utensils.

But for my daughter's 3rd party, I just made a whole bunch of cupcakes without forcing them to conform in to one crazy edged creation:) Works just the same for the frosting addicted children.

September 26, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterLadyShay

The layer cake with Starry Night, on closer look, is representing more than one painting, with only the top layer being Starry Night. It's pretty awesome looking, but I'm a little grossed out by the volume of icing, as far as actually eating it goes.

I'm generally anti-cc myself, but I do like the Starry Night CC, and the palm tree's...not terrible. Just make a cake, seriously. Do people have that much trouble slicing cakes?

September 26, 2008 | Unregistered Commenteractinolite

I like the tiny animal cupcake/cake things. Admittedly if I can't label what type of dessert it is, I should hesitate, but I think they are cute.

September 26, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterHotch Potchery

oh please! I think the lady in Family Fun who says that frosting that pumpkin cake is EASIER,well, she's full of hooey. I like how she sorta-kinda makes it look like she came up with the cupcake cake idea on her own.

And the real kicker of this whole post is the CCC-ers defending their 'art', while still coming to this site to make fun of dorky cakes. Isn't that the pot calling the kettle black?!

September 26, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterClistyB

I have to agree on the CCC's. A bad idea all around, except on the Van Gogh. I think it works because of the circular swirls in the sky. Your eye is drawn to them and their movement so you don't notice the scallop edging.

September 26, 2008 | Unregistered Commenterkelli

A couple of things about the CCCs with animules...

A) What bizarre biosphere do these decorators live in, where ducks and elephants cohabitate with penguins and polar bears?

B) Any parent who serves one of these better wear combat gear when they do, because there's gonna be serious trouble when little Suzie and Tiffanie, who have seen "Happy Feet" 382 times between them, have a huge throw-down about who gets the cupcake with the penguin. It's worse than fights about who gets the corner pieces or the roses!

September 26, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterRose

I agree with the cupcake cakes. The look like heart attacks just waiting to happen. They make me want to have a panic attack. How can they be an easier to eat than cake. It be like eating a melting ice cream cone.

You probably look ridiculous trying to eat the thing.

Your tongue sticking out of your mouth to the the side.

Trying to catch the food color infested icing that is falling off on every side.

Frosting smeared across your cheeks.
(Maybe you are gong to a Halloween party later)

Hmmmmm, Gross.


September 26, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterHyla Waldron

I subscribe to Family Fun magazine and when I saw that cupcake cake, I spit soda out my nostrils thinking of you. Horrible!!!!!

September 26, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterBeth

I LOVE the Van Gough ccc! I want that for my next bday.

The "pumpkin" cake looks like a tomato with a bad case of mumps imho.

September 26, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterThe Seeker

I'm neutral in the CCC debate, but that Van Gogh cake is amazing!! The CCC one is pretty good too!

September 26, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterNathalie

Perhaps it is just me... but there is another consideration to the cupcake thing...
When you pull one off, it gets gross! Stretched icing, smeary mess... eew!!!

September 26, 2008 | Unregistered Commenterfluffy cow

ha ha. emily took the words right out of my mouth!
i agree; cupcake cakes = gross! and i saw that one in the issue of family fun and almost threw up; who would want to eat that???

September 26, 2008 | Unregistered Commenterlisavengesta

Okay, so I'm actually not that adverse to CCC's however they need to be done right. A few of the ones you've shown were done right in my opinion. The best part of CCC's is that it's actually easier to Scrape off the icing than it is w/ sliced cake!

September 26, 2008 | Unregistered Commentersues2u2

I'd never seen a cupcake cake before I read your blog. Maybe I just have a family that loves me. ;) In theory, cupcake cakes sound cool (no cutting involved!) but in practice, they generally seem lame.

You are my hero.

September 26, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterKamity

I nearly threw up when I saw the watermelon cake(?)! It looks like a magnified version of Kermit's affliction from August! GROSS!

September 26, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterAnonymous

I have never in my life seen a cupcake cake before, until the original post. Oh, how I long for the innocent days when I did not know of its existence ...... I suppose it's a good idea, to make sure that everyone gets the same size piece, etc, but it's just WEIRD.

September 26, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterDianie

I had no clue what the "watermelon" CCC was until checking out the comments here.

I thought it had to do with a woman's anatomy, too.

September 26, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterFrankie

I'm so ashamed. As one who has biology and nature near the top of my interests, I should have noticed the many feet on the ducks. Hmmmm, maybe that cake represents what nuclear waste will do to the pond - and explains the other odd critters. However, they left out the three-eyed fish, surely that should be a part of this cake!

September 26, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterKLZ

I'd never seen a cupcake cake before I started reading this site.

I think I want my innocence back.

September 26, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterDonna

I agree completely. CCC should be banished and whoever thought them up in the first place punished for unleashing this unholy creation.

September 26, 2008 | Unregistered Commenterlilianril

Does anyone else see a person flipping them off in the starry night cake? It could just be my mobile, but I swear the stars on top make two eyes, and there's a swirly line mouth, and then a raised middle finger from the building thing.

September 26, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterAnonymous

"Square cupcakes" are just mini-cakes, and pros make them all the time for wedding cakes - they're quite the "in" thing to do these days. Slice up a sheet cake, decorate each one individually, you've got a bunch of mini-cakes. But if what you want is square edges, why bother making anything other than a square-edged cake?

It's to my way of thinking that if you want a big cake, make a big cake; if you want the convenience of cupcakes, just do cupcakes. Especially for kids - as has been noted, it's convenient, and it provides easy cleanup. Not to mention that the work of making a bunch of cupcakes and then trying to ice them all together with frosting or icing that's thick enough not to sag in the spaces between the cupcakes is tonnes more than necessary.

One thing I have learned in life is that most kids are just happy to have cake. It's largely parents that go for elaborate setups and overdone cakes, generally just to show off what great parents they are. Your kids love you! Give them finger-food and always carry a packet of Wet Ones. Easy.

September 26, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterOphelia

Well my family uses the cupcake cake at kids parties because you dont have to cut em, kids love em, and they are less messy. Today being my birthday, I am hoping for one of those big chocolate chip cookie cakes!

September 26, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterDarth Rob

Agreed, I love the last 5 CCC. I was thinking about an Elmo CCC for my son's 2nd birthday, but now I am thinking I might reconsider.

September 26, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterSarah Rosales

Too much frosting is a bad thing, and Cupcake Cakes require one to use a massive amount of frosting, and therefore, Cupcake Cakes are evil.

But Cupcakes alone are delicious.

Power in numbers!

September 26, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterKid kaz

So many wrecks, so little time to snark on them all!

Since when are ducks quadrupeds? As to the penguin behind them, my brother and I had a philosophical disagreement about him. I say he looks horrified because he's on the verge of exploding, while my brother believes him to be an enraged potential interspecies rapist about to act. I leave it to wiser heads to decide the question.

The watermelon CCC makes my point perfectly about what's wrong with CCCs in general: if they have enough icing to make the picture clear, then there's five times too much icing for anyone to eat and you wind up with a gigantic mess; if the cupcakes are iced individually and arranged, then it takes far too much effort to figure out what it's supposed to be.

I'm actually a bit divided on the Impressionist CCC and cake. I think the CCC is a far better interpretation of a painting, and rather spectacular to look at, but I can't imagine wanting to try to eat a 'piece.' The regular cake frankly makes me feel a bit queasy to look at, but I'd absolutely try a slice.

Oh, and my brother took one look at the pumpkin and started muttering: "Can't sleep, pumpkin will eat me."

September 26, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterTwistie

Devoted reader, first-time commenter: I somehow missed this whole cupcake cake phenomenon, but I hate it. Except, admittedly, that Van Gogh CCC, which is beautifully done...but would still likely look nicer on a sheet cake.

September 26, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterKaitlen

Oh, I noticed the supernumerary mutant duck feet (just got here). It reminded me of the baseball "diamond" from the other day. But the ickiest thing about those animalump "cakes" is the lake of frosting background that doesn't seem to be frosting anything but a board. Bleah.

September 26, 2008 | Unregistered Commenterthisbagisnotatoy

Are you kidding? The cupcake Van Gogh is WAY better than the cake version. The cake Van Gogh looks like a pile of clown vomit.

But in general I'm with you on the cupcake cakes being a bad idea (and actually your site is the first place I heard of them, but damn are they ugly!).

Love the site.

September 26, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterSra

My thoughts while reading this post:
What, exactly, is that pink cupcake thing supposed to be? Is it an open blouse of a woman with measles? Is it a splitting heart? What?
The ccc palm tree looks pretty good to me; bark can be lumpy, I suppose.
Love the iPhone.
That's a PUMPKIN?! I thought it was a bunch of grapes! Come to think of it, if you wanted a bunch of grapes cake, wouldn't a ccc be the way to go?
The Van Gogh cakes amuse me and disgust me at the same time. First, to anyone who's ever seen a Van Gogh in person, the idea of imitating his thick, gobby painting style with icing, has got to be amusing. (I'm not dissing VG here. I am commenting on the thickness of the paint he slapped on canvas.) But -- I could not possibly eat a cake (ccc or otherwise) that had huge, thick blobs of VG blue icing on it. Ewwwww. It seems to me that these people, like the ones who made that disturbing baby cake, forgot that a cake is generally meant to be eaten.

However, I think I'd like to see a Jackson Pollock cake. I'm no decorator, but I'm visualizing a large white sheet cake with bright streams of thin icing going everywhere. I would be highly amused to see that!

September 26, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterA Paperback Writer

I'm pretty solidly anti-CCC. The "easier to serve" argument just doesn't make sense. Want to serve cupcakes instead of a real cake? Wouldn't it be easier and cleaner to, I dunno, keep the cupcakes separate?

Really, folks, nobody needs than much icing.

September 26, 2008 | Unregistered Commenterdimloep-suum

I have to agree with you - most cupcake cakes aren't done very well. I get the idea behind them, but they usually seem to be put together rather sloppily.

The Van Gogh cupcake cake and reg. cake are beautiful however! I love how the cupcake cake is framed.

September 26, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterTanya

I agree with the hatred of CCCs. I had someone contact me several months ago to do a my little pony birthday cake. Cool, I thought, that could be fun. Then she dropped the CCC bomb. I said, "I'm sorry but I can't make a CCC meet my professional standards. Here are some other options." including individual cupcakes or a 2D cutout pony cake. Ultimately it didn't work out because she wanted a grocery store cake price. Oh well. I'd rather not make money than end up with a cake on your blog. :)

September 26, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterLynn

What's great about the cupcake cake at least for myself and my playgroup is it's a bit more organized for the children.

I've found it to be less messy that buying a bunch of cupcakes at the store plus you can do cool designs if you want. It really works well for our kids.

This is the one we had at a baby shower for one of our moms:

September 26, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterPamalaLauren

I had a cactus ccc for my bday one year, it was awesome! I need to find a picture. They're not always bad (just usually).

September 26, 2008 | Unregistered Commenterclow

I have to say that while I agree with you on CCC in general, I think you are wrong about the Starry Night comparison. I think the CCC version is much better, paritially because it can be served on a frame, and also because the cake just looks like a big old mess.

September 26, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterJulia

I kinda like the one that has an island scene, well wait, I think the frosting and colors are horrendous, but the shape looks like a postcard. So it could be fitting, just with better frosting. Love the Van Gogh Starry night and agree with the football one looking better because the design was inside the edge, way better! I think the animal mounds are gross, and messy, and way too sugary, ick.

September 26, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterCrayl

For those who can't tell... The Van Gogh cake is 3 separate Van Gogh pantings. Starry Night is only the top layer.

September 26, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterAnonymous
September 26, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterAnonymous

That's supposed to be a watermelon? Count one more person who thought "low-cut blouse".

CCCs are only easier to make if you're getting someone else to slather on enough frosting for a smooth surface. And who needs that much frosting?

If you want "easy to frost", forget CCCs -- for a birthday party, some friends of mine made cupcakes and put them on the table with several flavors of frosting. Everyone got the exact frosting flavor/style/amount they wanted. (Granted, all the guests were adults. I wouldn't try this for a kid's party unless it was held outside next to the garden hose.)

September 26, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterAnonymous

I am with you, that first cupcake cake looks gross. I am not a fan of the thick, overdone, over-colored frosting anyway. It tastes bad and makes the kiddies poop funny colors. Ew ew ew.

September 26, 2008 | Unregistered Commenterwhywouldyouknitthat

Amanda - I made a crown cake for my 4 yr old daughter's princess birthday and used cupcakes for the points of the crown. It looked pretty awesome.

That pumpkin CCC in Family Fun was messed up, and I immediately thought of this site.

Brown is not a color that should be used on a cake, unless it chocolate.

That is all.

September 26, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterLyz

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