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)

I agree with Pez - I see an insulator from an electric distribution system. I'd say a power company celebration, but the bottom doesn't make any sense.

January 12, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterMeg

I should have swallowed my drink before I saw the Oprah cake. Now it's splattered all over my keyboard.

January 12, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterDebbie

The last one looks more like Nichelle Nichols than Oprah.

January 12, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterLucy S.

Gah! My eyes!!

And just a reminder, as if anyone needed one:

Vote, vote, vote, vote!

January 12, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterCorbie

For what its worth, DH suggested we cut our wedding cake with a KBAR. Sad to say, we actually did. LOL I *think* someone got a picture of it, but wouldn't have any idea where to get a copy...

January 12, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterCraftyLzrd

Took one look at the disembodied head and thought "Eartha Kitt."

;^O Jan the Gryphon

wv: mularros - not sure, but it has something to do with mariachi bands in marabou high-heeled slippers

January 12, 2009 | Unregistered Commentergryphondear

Holy hopping crud. I mean, I'm not a big Oprah fan, but I wouldn't go around demanding her head on a platter, either! o_O

Agree with the above poster who says she looks like the Face of Boe, too.

January 12, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterdameruth

Here's what I found on the net for the Baumkuchen. I've been a cake decorator for over 30 years and I've never heard of this before. I'm absolutely fascinated and would love to tasted one done the traditional way.:

Baumkuchen -- the King of Cakes!

A true test of a pastry chef's skills, the Baumkuchen has earned its reputation as the "King of Cakes." This labor-intensive specialty gets it name, which translates literally as Tree Cake, from the many thin rings that form as layer upon layer of cake is baked. For more than 200 years German bakers have been producing this treat by placing a thin spit over a heat source, originally a wood fire, then evenly brushing batter over it, giving each new layer a chance to bake to a golden brown before brushing on the next. When the cake is removed and sliced, each layer is divided from the next by a golden line, resembling the rings on a crosscut tree. Skilled pastry chefs have been known to create cakes with 25 layers, weighing over 100 pounds and measuring more than 3 feet long. The recipe here is adapted for the home baker and uses a springform pan instead of a spit. Of course the ring effect won't be exactly the same, but the taste is still worth the effort and you won't have to spend your Christmas holiday cleaning drips of burned batter off the oven.


2 sticks butter
3/4 cup sugar
8 eggs (separated)
2 tbsp rum
grated lemon rind
1 pinch salt
1/3 cup minced almonds
1 cup plus 2 tbsp flour mixed with
1 cup plus 2 tbsp starch
1/2 cup apricot jam, melted
almond paste, powdered sugar, or chocolate icing (optional)


Whip butter and sugar well until creamy. Gradually add egg yolks and the remaining ingredients to the butter-sugar mixture until a light, foamy batter forms. Beat egg whites until very stiff and stir gently into the batter. Pour about 2 tablespoons batter (a thin covering) into a 8-1/2" springform pan greased with butter. On the uppermost oven rack, bake (or broil!) in a preheated oven at 450° F for 2 minutes or until golden brown. Watch carefully, this browning can take place very quickly. Repeat until all the batter is gone -- you should have about 14 to 16 layers. When the cake is done, let it stand a few minutes before running a sharp knife along the sides of the pan. Remove the cake from the pan and glaze with melted apricot jam. Once the jam is set, you can add an additional glaze of thinned almond paste or immediately finish the cake with a thin icing made from powered sugar or the highest quality chocolate available (use your favorite chocolate).

January 12, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterJudy

I agree that the second one looks like an electricity plyon. Maybe it's a celebration of the rural electrification project way back when?

January 12, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterkahara

I'm not sure how manly a tank covered in puffy buttercream swirls can be...
And that dog cake is inexcusable. I think I threw up in my mouth a little.

January 12, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterCassi

This website is so educational! I had never heard of Baumkuchen or Norwegian wedding cakes before.

Re the dog cake: According to the Life website, it is a birthday cake somebody make for a dog -- i.e., real hotdogs stuck into a glob of dog food.
That answers the "what?" question. As to "why?" . . . I have no idea.

January 12, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterGM

Do you think that petrification is what happens to dogs after eating that wiener extravaganza?

Notice how still the two pooches next to it seem to be.

January 12, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterBibi

My first thoughts about the hot dog cake was the LOLDogs!!! LOL!!

Great photos...thanks!

January 12, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterHunBun

Oprah Cake Analysis:

45% Face of Bo
45% Mombi (Dorothy GAAAAAAAAAAAALE!)
10% Oprah

January 12, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterGlory von Hathor

I enlarged the dog cake (big mistake at 6:30am on an empty stomach) and those are REAL hot dogs sticking out of that mess!

And Oprah's head? Wouldn't you put the pearls on her neck and not circling a tree stump? She must be soooo proud, nevertheless!

January 12, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterTatersmama

Great photos! Please tell me the rest of Oprah is under the table.

Thanks to Judy for the Baumkucken recipe...I'm thinkin' rotisserie on the outdoor BBQ...maybe?

WV: remmobli: getting mmobli again after sitting too long.

January 12, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterwolfmom

Before I read the comment I thought the Oprah cake was Condy Rice!

January 12, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterJennifer

That tank cake weighed 350 lbs! Yes, bayonetts detach, but where is the fun in that?!
If we had actually had a real wedding (and not eloped in a tiny closet) I would have totally wanted to cut our cake with hubby's sword (or Kbar, lol).

January 12, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterMammaDucky

Cutting cake with a sword is a long tradition in the military. It happens at every Marine Corps Ball and at many weddings that involve a Marine. I haven't seen it in the Air Force, so maybe it's just a grunt thing. Love the blog! The dog cake is more than slightly disturbing; as is the Oprah cake. Ew!

January 12, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterLanna

Hmm, I never thought I would hear about bayonets, kabars, and ninja swords here on cake wrecks! My husband and I cut our cake with a Marine NCO sword. I'm glad the thought of doing with a bayonet or kabar never crossed his mind. We did have GI Joes on the groom cake though!

January 12, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterAudrey

It's military tradition to cut the cake with a sword - every year at the Marine Corps Ball the cake is cut with a sword.

January 12, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterAnonymous

OK, the hot dog cake does look like something my mom would have made in the early 60's. But then again, we would have had a cigarette sitting somewhere nearby and her plaid thermos, that I found out years later was filled with many Tom Collins. (Is the plural Tom Collinses?) Ah, those golden childhood memories...tobacco, booze, coffee and meatlike products as the mainstay of any meal. I still dry heave at the smell of a tuna noodle casserole which was poured down our Catholic throats every freeking Friday. The dogs on corned beef hash cake would have been a sin, literally.

Years later, I did marry a military academy graduate and it is a tradition to cut the wedding cake with his sword, which is much more gentile than straffing it with small arms fire. That may have come later if my mom brought her above mentioned thermos. Probably the sword was an excuse for him to whip out something long, stiff and used only on special occassions at the reception.

January 12, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterflavolgal

I'll have your head on a platter....poor Oprah....I don't think this is how she would want to be um...honored????

January 12, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterAnonymous

Well as the spouse of an Army Officer, we cut our wedding cake with his sword. Roll eyes all you like but it is tradition at military Balls for cakes to be cut with swords. I say Kudos to the person who made the Tank cake.

January 12, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterAnonymous

When my husband retired from the Navy. They gave him a sword and yew oh yes he was supposed to by tradition.... cut the cake with it!

January 12, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterLynne

The "odd" donut looking cake looks they got ahold of some extra moon pies on sale!!

January 12, 2009 | Unregistered Commentercocilian

My brother got married at the Ranaissance Faire, and I find myself saddened that they didn't cut the cake with a sword. Then again, their wedding toast was given by Henry VIII and Ann Boleyn, so sharp objects may have been tactfully removed.

January 12, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterNara

Do you see the sparse refreshments on the first table with the Wisconsin cake? Now-a-days the table would be filled with every sort of finger food imaginable. Back then it was sufficient to have cake ... and mints and nuts. Times have changed and I am not sure (in this case) they have changed for the better. We all eat too much.

January 12, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterJustMeCopper

Can I add a link of your site to my blog at I find your site very funny...and I think others will too!

January 12, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterFun Mom

3-2-1........... HURL!!!!!!! :(

WV: Solaca These cakes so laca any ounce of good taste.

January 12, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterSport's Mom

What I want to know is, whose head do you think was on the cakeboard to the right of "Oprah"?

wv - belogs, as in that wreck belogs in the garbage can

January 12, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterHeidi

Serious question....

If I went into a professional cake shop and asked them to make me a cake of brie rounds with Purple Haze chevre icing, do you think it would be reasonable?

January 12, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterDiamond

I don't think the dog cake is that repulsive- I actually think it is a cute idea. I remembering doing something similar for my former dog when I was little. I know my puppy would LOVE it!

January 12, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterStephanie B

I think that tank cake looks REALLY yummy, for some reason.

January 12, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterLindsey

"oh no they di'int"? Could that be a Stanley from The Office reference?!!

January 13, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterAnonymous

I didn't read through all the comments so, I'm sorry if I'm repeating, but it's traditional to cut the cake at military functions with the bayonet or a sabre/sword.

You can Google "Military Cake Cutting Ceremony" for more info, and tons more pictures on it.

January 13, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterkathryneliz

My Brother in Law cut his wedding cake with the very sword used to kill the Grand-cestor of his best man, back in the 17th Century, when neighbours knew how to feud properly...

January 13, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterAnonymous

The oprah cake got me. No really thank you Jen, I was about to go to sleep lol.

January 13, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterMegumi

Great history lesson.

Head cakes are so Futurama, and creepy.

wvotd: Alestra...Multitask, take Alestra for gastric upset and erectile dysfunction.

January 13, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterHyena Overlord

Wow, when I get a dog, I will totally celebrate that dog's birthday with a cake like that!

January 13, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterVirginia

Everyone should try some's soooo good!

January 13, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterAnonymous

The "dog cake" will forever haunt my dreams...

January 13, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterThe Small Town Girl

I actually prefer that to the real Oprah.

January 13, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterApril

I made the mistake of showing this to my military historian other half.

He wants me to make him a tank cake for his next birthday!

(I made two round chocolate cakes for his birthday last week. I put them together on a large tray, then realised they looked a bit like boobs. Oh well. Boobs it was!)

January 14, 2009 | Unregistered Commenteralivicwil

Dog cake...I gagged (i'm currently eating a burrito LOL)

Oprah cake..I thought it was Condoleeza Rice.

or however you spell it.

January 14, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterAngela

Must....not.........laugh...out loud.....people in the building will think I´m nuts....

January 14, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterCalantha

Wow! Did anyone see "Gary Unmarried on Wednesday night at 8:30? The little girl in the show made a bust of Mia Angelo that looks alot like the Oprah cake! I couldn't believe it when I saw it...what's up with busts?

January 14, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterAnonymous

I've actually cut a cake with a sword before, so it's not just a guy thing. (My X chromosomes insist on that, as does my hubby!)

The hot dog cake looks like something out of James Lileks' wonderfully hurl-inducing book "The Gallery of Regrettable Food". Folks in the 50s apparently had a thing for inventive (but nauseating) methods for presenting hot dogs. Outtakes are available on the web here:

January 15, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterCalli Arcale

Finally! I'm so glad this was posted! I was afraid that it was rejected! This is my lucky day!

January 15, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterBecca B.

The number is blocked by that guy's elbow, but I think it's 12th Armored Division in that tank cake photo. That was my grandfather's division, I'll have to send him a link to this post.

February 1, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterCharlie Trotter

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