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

LIFE Wrecks

LIFE and Google teamed up not too long ago to create a nifty online photo database of LIFE photographs, 97% of which were never previously released to the public. It's really fascinating stuff, and I highly recommend you do a search for "cake" there the next time you're bored. Most are gorgeous creations that show that cake art has a long and rich history, but a few are a bit more...interesting:

Good to know that handwriting and spacing were an issue even back in 1951. It only looks misspelled, though; that's just a scrunched 'm' in 'recommissioned'.

This one is just odd:

What IS this? Do you suppose it's made of large donuts? And the ferns - why?
(UPDATE: Mystery solved : it's a "baumkuchen". Thanks, guys!)

You'll "tank" me for this next one:

See, this is why you don't let guys cut the cake. The archive is full of men cutting cakes with swords, too. [eye roll] Fellas, it's a TANK. Do you really need to "man it up" by cutting it with your rifle?

This one is actually a "dog cake", but I had to include it for the "oh-no-they-di'in't!" factor (Note: put down the coffee and brace yourself):

[dry-heaving] Why? Why did someone feel THIS was deserving of preservation on film? WHY?!?

And finally, a modern-day Wreck:

"Oprah? Is that you?"

All images courtesy of the LIFE photo archive. Thanks to Becca B. for finding Oprah's head and Jessica T. for the doggie Wreck.

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Reader Comments (103)

Not that its of any real consequence, but tank boy is actually cutting it with the bayonet (long knife) on the end of his rifle.

January 12, 2009 | Unregistered Commenter*Michelle

"What IS this? Do you suppose it's made of large donuts? And the ferns - why?"

it looks like an insulator from an electricity pylon to me. maybe a celebration at a power company, perhaps?

love, pez.

January 12, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterAnonymous

Oh my gosh. A history lesson too??? This blog has EVERYTHING!

January 12, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterJustfrosting

I tank you for this hilarious post.

Also, cakes and hot dogs should never be that close to each other. Bleh!!

January 12, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterHorribleLicensePlates

The Oprah and the Tanks ones are immense.

January 12, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterThe Cheap-Arse Film Critic

That first cake looks like my grandma's handwriting.

January 12, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterJami

The 'donut-cake' looks like" REL="nofollow">Baumkuchen to me.
It's something complicated and European.

January 12, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterChocoholic

That Oprah one is so disturbing!! Why would you want to eat someone's face?!

January 12, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterSarah

I knew Oprah was looking to lose weight, but having your entire body removed???

January 12, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterThe Courteous Chihuahua

Hi! Maybe I can help you with this 'donut'-thing. I don't know why it is decorated with ferns, but I think this cake is an ordinary german "baumkuchen" (don't know if there's an english name for it). It is just a bit higher than normally.

January 12, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterMeike

Who knew that this had been going on for the past fifty years? And that last cake is just creepy!

My husband and I cut our wedding cake (no, it was not a tank) with his Dad's sword, since he was in the Navy. Not only was it awesome to cut a cake with a sword, but it meant a lot to him, too! So there are reasons to cut cakes with things other than knives. :-)

January 12, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterLaura

The last cake looks like a cheap horror film prop. So nasty.

January 12, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterLaura Moffitt

You never know...we can't tell because of the black and white but that could have been a pink tank with fuchsia rosettes around the treads - in which case manning it up with a nice bayonet might have truly been called for.
As for the Oprah cake, now I know why she gained weight again...she had to hide the evidence.

January 12, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterLeslie

The one that looks like stacked donuts is called Baumkuchen...a very difficult cake to make, you spin a spit and drizzle layers of batter until it forms a many layered tree rings.

January 12, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterJamie

Oh my that doggie cake was pretty gross..... till I saw the oprah head. that really was worse!

January 12, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterMary Ellen

Oh, if only I had a cake made of my likeness. Then I'd know I'd really made it.

Angie (from over at

January 12, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterHalf Assed Kitchen

Ah, Jen, all in one blog you managed to go from the historical to the hysterical.
I was okay until the dog cake but the Oprah one was way too much.

January 12, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterdrgns4vr

The donut thing looks like a chocolate fountain.

January 12, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterNulono

it looks like hot dogs in dog food. or hamburger meat. there is nothing that resembles cake in that picture at all. *shudder.

and i've always found eating cake that is human shaped to be a little cannibalistic. unless you're at a zombie party and everyone is dressed the part. on another note, i would be so sad if someone though i looked like that.

Am I the only one who saw that Oprah cake and thought "Face of Bo"? Ok then...

January 12, 2009 | Unregistered Commenteranadandy

What is Oprah's head supposed to be sitting on? A tree stump wearing a string of pearls? How horrible!

January 12, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterMeg

oops. i should read everything. at least i know that now there is a reason it looks like dog food.

The Baumkucken, as it seems to be called by other commentators, also looks like a Norwegian wedding cake covered in frosting. I'm actually submitting a picture of one as a wreck, in an of itself (Tradition be damned!, it's ugly!)

January 12, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterKate

Nulono said what I was thinking: the baumkuchen looks like a frozen chocolate fountain. With ferns. Very pre-Martha Stewart, those ferns.

January 12, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterLisa

Look at how high that bottom part of the tank cake is! When they serve it, the pieces will be like two feet high. They'll have to cut a piece, then cut it in half horizontally.

word ver: toropedi = When you paint a bull's toenails.

January 12, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterI Love Baby Quilts!

Awww...let the guys in the military have their fun! Stress relief and cake-can't get much better. LOL

As for the ferns and donut thing? I have no idea...

~Amy B.

January 12, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterAmy

#3 - bayonets detach. :)

January 12, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterJenny

it's obviously a chocolate fountain

January 12, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterAnonymous

I think that's Condoleeza Rice... LOL!

January 12, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterAndrea*

My parents cut their wedding cake with my Dad's dress sword. He was an officer in the U.S. Navy at the time. On their 30th anniversary a friend made them one of her spectacular (but rather messy) cheesecakes, and they attempted to repeat the cutting. It was pretty funny since cheesecake and swords just don't mix. But we all got a good laugh which was the most important thing.

January 12, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterFreedomFirst

Yep, I was only going to agree on the 'Baumkuchen'. It tastes quite nice, but I am not sure how he is intending to cut this....


January 12, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterSnowberry and Lime

That USS Wisconsin cake was cut with a sword. Just sayin'. My ex-husband has pictures of his CO at the time cutting a "Happy Birthday USS Oklahoma City" cake with a sword. It's what they do. Gotta add testosterone to the cake somehow!

January 12, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterSabra

And another thing...did anyone else look at the sign in the back of the tank cake, see the word "comm" (probably short for communication) and think ".com" until they realized what century this was taken in?

Also, that guy with the bayonnette is hot. Well, not anymore I mean, but 60 some years ago: hot.

January 12, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterI Love Baby Quilts!

So, are those real weiners (struggling to keep a appropriately serious face) or are they made of frosting??

January 12, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterDeborah Godin

My husband cut our wedding cake with a Japanese sword... it started as a joke (I was registering for our cake serving set, he says "forget that, I'm cutting it with a ninja sword", I said "sure, you do that") and ended up being pretty funny. He's a black belt and it was a very nice ceremonial katana, but still. The phrase "my husband cut our wedding cake with a ninja sword" still has an amusing ring to it.

January 12, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterJena Marie

The last one is reminiscent of John the Baptist. Kinda creepy.
Kate H

January 12, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterKate

That last Oprah head cake made me audibly gasp. I'm sure my cow-workers are wondering what I'm doing now. Good googly moogly that's a wreck and a half! Thanks for the history lesson!

January 12, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterElvira

I believe it is military tradition to cut wedding cakes with the officer's sword. I know my husband and I did it and all our friends. It is actually a gorgeous picture.

January 12, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterSagey

I said, "Bring me Oprah's head on a platter!"


January 12, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterHerbee

Definitely Baumkuchen, with chocolate in this case. It's that long when they make it, but normally it's cut up in shorter pieces (like two "rings" or so) before it's sold.

January 12, 2009 | Unregistered Commenternowaks nähkästchen

In the 1950s, people seemed to eat hot dogs with everything. Hot dogs enjoyed a much higher status in the food world then than they do now.

But the hot dogs in the cake just reminds me of cigars put out in piles of raw ground beef (think "Better off Dead", when Laine Meyer gets a job at Pig Burgers.)

exidemn: ezcema cream

January 12, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterJuliet

yes, it's a Baumkuchen... and German Chancellor Konrad Adenauer is doing the cutting.
-What a birthday cake.


January 12, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterAnonymous

I don't even know where to begin!

I think the brown stack is just a bunch of moon pies.

When I first saw the title of the post I thought you were forgetting about cakes for the day and focusing on people who have failed at life.

January 12, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterJessica T.

I think the dog photo-cake is a pre-cursor to "Cake Wrecks" (i.e. Don't do this)

January 12, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterwow_just_wow

i believe that the weird donught-cylinder thing is a suspension spring. Like in a car. probably for ford motors or something at a big celebration thing. but still, the ferns? i have no frigging idea.

January 12, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterAlicia

Holy crap! THat dog cake is unbelievable!

January 12, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterAmy Jo

The head cake reminds me of the Golden Girls episode where Rose wanted them all to have their heads frozen upon death so they could later be brought back to life when cures could be found. In a funny dream, Blanche, Dorothy and Rose are all just heads on the table while Sophia is still up and about.

January 12, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterKnitty

OK, that Oprah head scares me! :P

WV: sequast - some of these cake wrecks should be kept sequast!

January 12, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterAnonymous

Short answer, yes, we men DO have to "man it up" using swords, bayonets, etc. If it were possible, and if they were sharp enough to cut a cake, we would use a bazooka. No one can definitively say why. It's just the way of things.

And I believe "Comm" is short for "Command," folks, not communication. Or commie... Nice post!!!!

January 12, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterEl Comodoro

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