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

Bride/Baker Communication 101

Most brides think that bringing in a photo of their dream wedding cake will help clarify for their bakers what it is that they want and expect on their big day.

[shaking head] Those sweet, silly girls.

In reality, these photos are more like "guidelines." A springboard, if you will, from which the baker may or may not spring - and then into heretofore unheard-of realms of artistic "expression."

Perhaps some examples will help.

Bride Laurie S. asked for this cake, only in ivory and with blue flowers instead of white:

(Photo & cake by Martha Stewart)
Instead, she got this:

"It's boxy, and it's blue and white. What more do you want?"

Kirstie also wanted a cascading floral design, like this:

Which her baker recreated pretty well, except for one key detail:

S/he used real flowers instead of sugar ones.

Once the petals shriveled, Kirstie's cake design became less "cascading flowers" and more "attacking butterflies." Which isn't horrible, I suppose, but it is kind of hard to resist the urge to flap your arms and shoo them off.

(Note: The silver thing is their topper, which the baker laid flat instead of standing up. Or maybe the butterflies just knocked it over. :D)

Sharon L. wanted this gorgeous topsy-turvy design:

(Made by Lisa's Creative Cakes - and I totally want one.)

...only in 3 tiers and using her colors of fuchsia, orange, and lime.

Her baker's interpretation?

Remember that springboard I mentioned? Well, some are a LOT springier than others.

And finally, this bride wanted her seashell-themed cake to rise to new heights:

Instead, she got one that was apparently dropped from great heights:

Think it was served with a pancake dinner?


- Related Wreckage: Love is in the Air...

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Reader Comments (165)

I think the takeaway lesson here is that you're taking a big risk if you contract for a cake not specifically listed in a baker's portfolio.

October 21, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterurban.exotic wrecks are my favorite wrecks! (I feel terrible about that, but there it is.)

October 21, 2009 | Unregistered Commentermarn

That last one really looks squished...
The original looks like the one some friends of mine had for their wedding 2 years ago - and it was most definitely not a wreck!

October 21, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterStephanie

The wedding cake dream-crushers are by far my favorite of the Cake Wrecks posts. Ugly cakes + hopes slaughtered = AWESOME.

October 21, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterCasey

I really suspect that a lot of what has happened here results from two things:
1. Not asking to see the bakers photos of previous cakes so you can determine if they are even capable of the level of skill you're expecting.
2. Taking a picture of a $4/serving cake to someone who is charging $1.50/serving and expecting the same results.

October 21, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterpeachfish

I particularly enjoyed the spatula/smoother marks on the seashell cake. Maybe they used a sand trap rake for that extra beachy feel...

October 21, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterShannon

OK, that did it. The pancake-flat wedding cake "replica" of the box style made me spit tea on my keyboard. Hilarious for us; for the bride... not so much.

October 21, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterDeborah in California

I can't complain that the baker came in with an ugly cake, but we did check them out ahead of time, and we gave them a picture of exactly what we wanted and double-checked the delivery time with them. It was actually supposed to be similar to the Glamour "Do" version of the cake with pink petals, only pink icing with white flowers. "No problem," they said. "We do this kind of thing all the time." That's a direct quote!

On the big day, the cake didn't show up until an hour into the reception, and it was all white with big sugar calla lilies on top. It was a pretty cake, but we were freaking out because it was definitely not OUR cake-- not pink, obviously, and I knew I wasn't expecting calla lilies. We were afraid that someone else had ours and was having the same experience somewhere else in town. No, that was our cake, they assured us. (To their credit, they had the filling right, but we had to cut it up to find out!)

By the time you're paying $500 for a cake, you ought to get what you want, no big surprises. My new husband went in later to talk to the baker, who would only offer us more cake. Why on earth would we need more cake? It's been five years, and I'm still irritated.

October 21, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterAnonymous

It's looking at me! Dear God, IT'S LOOKING AT ME!


Sorry. All good now. Just...that last cake...

October 21, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterKristen

We had a simple solution for our wedding cake -- Cheesecake with strawberry topping. Three tiers using the Wilton tier with side support. Mother-in-law made it.

Cheesecake people! The preventative for wedding cake disasters.

October 21, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterDocRummel

Ugh, can we please slap the person who popularized the "topsy-turvy" cakes? I've seen the process of making them, it's a colossal waste of cake and the end result looks silly to boot, especially if you can't be arsed to pay for more than three layers (and they ain't cheap). Please, let's put an end to the madness.

October 21, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterKage

Is it me or is there no lime-colored anything on that 3rd cake? And the last one...I have no words. Did the baker get in an accident on the way to the venue?

I admit that after seeing the wedding Wreckage here that I was very very scared about what my cake would look like at my wedding 4 months ago. Even more so after we ordered a birthday cake for my stepson from the same baker and they spelled his name wrong! It turned out fine though, since I chose a cake from her portfolio and just asked for color changes. She even told me straight off that lavender was a difficult icing color and that it might not match exactly (I didn't care, we had all different shades of purple).

Future brides need to learn from this site! Thanks Jen and John for educating me to the dangers inherent in ordering wedding cakes!

October 21, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterLeftWingLock

(Something nice. Nice, nice . . .)
Well, seashell cake was flat-out -
easier to serve!

October 21, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterHaiku Joy

I would be so ANGRY (insert expletive) if my cake turned out like any one of these. Sure it's a cake and not the focal point of 'the' day, but geez!

October 21, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterBellaLovesPink

I've always wondered - do these bakers ever get paid for the work they do? Do they get sued for the work they do? How on earth do they stay in business?

October 21, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterAnonymous

I have to admit, the first three weren't so bad. They weren't perfect, but really not ugly cakes. The last one, though... whaaaaaaat?

October 21, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterAmanda

It's just Amazing to me what professional bakers will try to pass off as acceptable to their customers! That last one (sea shells) is JUST PATHETIC :-O Poor Bride...

Lil wish here - would it be possible to have the photos larger when they are clicked on? I'd Love to see some of the details closely, but they seem to be the same small size as in the posts... or is it just me? :-(

Surviving breast cancer...

October 21, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterdenise

Ditto GrumpyBear. Our cake was inspired by a photo from The Knot, and the baker at our venue captured it exactly! So glad :)

The one with the flat cake topper....well, couldn't someone have *fixed* the topper before the reception?

October 21, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterValerie

I agree with Heather... they weren't HORRIBLE until that last one. The attacking butterflies wasn't the best, but it could have been so much worse - as we've seen in the past. I don't think the last one could get any worse, tho. That poor bride.

October 21, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterAngie

Oh my! On my special day. I would prefer to a good baker than to sacrifice my happiest day ever. lolz Anyways, these cakes made me smile. Thanks for sharing. =D

Summer" rel="nofollow">A Writers Den" rel="nofollow">Brown Mestizo

October 21, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterSummer

Three weddings. Three great cakes (for my daughters). I feel so badly for those poor brides, especially the last one. On my.

October 21, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterJudi Hahn

*jaw dropped to floor*

okay. I understand it's not a great idea to bring a picture to the bakery and ask for a replica.

... but how are these bakeries, especially the shell cake one, pass as a professional? Do they just don't have the skills to create a cake, or worse, do a half-ass job (to lower cost), knowing full well the bride and groom can't say no because they don't have any alternative?

October 21, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterAnonymous

What does one do in a situation like that? Do you demand your money back? What?

I brought a mag pic for my cake to the baker and it was exactly as I'd hoped it was.

I can't imagine how crestfallen the brides must have been.

October 21, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterHungarican Chick

You would totally ROTFL if you saw my expression of horror right now. They just got worse and worse! *shudder*

Now, I have two bakeries I frequent, and I know that one has a baker who is more talented than the other--it's just the truth. Neither of them do BAD work, it's just one seems more adept than the other. I would NOT ask the less-adept baker for the topsy-turvy fondant cake.

I wonder if people think that if a baker is a 'professional' that they automatically are in the same league as the famous folks at the Food Network? (heck even some of THEM need some help)

If I showed my baker a picture of a Martha Stewart cake and they said "Well, I can try...I haven't done that before" or they start to sweat, maybe I would rethink things a bit.

October 21, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterMelissa (& Billy)

Is the last picture the result of asking the groom’s ex-wife to do the cake?

Unless it was some kind of evil revenge thing I can’t imagine a professional showing up with that monstrosity and thinking everything is OK.

October 21, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterAnonymous

Some of those are fair critiques but I do wonder about the tops-turby one. It's clearly made by a baker with a LOT of skill and I question whether its entirely fair to ask a baker to be able to duplicate it?

Like some of those Sunday Sweets pictures are gorgeous but I would shutter to be the bride who takes one of those ideas and brings it to a baker and says "make this."

Most bakers just won't have that kind of skill, eh? Am I wrong? It's almost like "you expected too much."

October 21, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterNewsCat

poor things! i love that middle cake! (the correct way!)

October 21, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterLucille Ball Jr.

I can't believe professional bakers did this to these poor brides. They look more like attempts made by well meaning amateur cake baking friends.

October 21, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterlovey-dovey

You know, when I ordered my wedding cake, I ASKED if I could send in a picture, and they said no... how odd. And I DIDN'T get what I wanted... but I wouldn't really call it a wreck, either, per se.

Although, in retrospect, apparently the picture wouldn't have helped.

October 21, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterTwirly McSwirl

These cakes have GOT to be done by friends, they can't be professsional. Ugh! The last one looks like it was made with someone who used pyrex instead of proper cake pans.

And Andy, my wedding cake was done with a stiff delicious cream cheese frosting (Pumkin and carrot cake layers, yum) and actaully looked like fondant. I was surprised myself, but it can be done!

October 21, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterApril Graves

Just goes to show..sometimes the picture is better than reality.;O)

Amy B-H

October 21, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterAmy

To avoid disappointments, just look at what the baker has already created, and decide whether or not they are the right ones to pull off the look you are looking for. If a baker has never made sugar flowers before, don't expect them to be able to make them now. They are limited in their abilities by lack of experience, training, knowledge...

Metaphorically speaking, don't assign a graduate school paper to an 8th grader and hate them when they fail horribly. It's hard to feel bad for the brides here. They expect the neighborhood baker to bake as well as Martha Stewart, or other high-end bakers famous enough to end up in magazines?

If such a baker is too expensive, well, weddings aren't cheap to do perfectly.

October 21, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterSylvia


October 21, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterAnna

I wonder if the brides who brought in these requested photos looked at their baker's portfolios. If these brides had looked at anything else the baker had made, they should have been able to tell whether what they were asking for was too complicated, right? Sure, the bakers should be honest about their skills too, but especially in the case of that Martha Stewart job, I can see that's a complicated design, if the baker doesn't have *anything* like that for me to look at, I'm going to keep looking for a baker or think about another design.

October 21, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterKatie

Actually, I kind of liked the first wreck. Not sure if that says more about me or about the effect of this blog.
And I'm with you, Laura Wynn. At my wedding I shall have pie. Just pie.

October 21, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterHobbit

Omg! That last cake is flat-out pitiful (sorry, I couldn't resist). You have to wonder what the baker was thinking as they stood back to admire their work...

October 21, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterPiece of Cake

Cakes like these make me glad I made the decorations for my cake and put them on myself! At least if it looked pathetic I knew I hadn't spent a lot of money on it.

October 21, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterMorgan

These are my favorite posts that you do. Awesome.

October 21, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterBrooke

The one question left unanswered is: were those real sea shells on the last cake?

WV: colum - golum's spreadsheet-guru twin.

October 21, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterjackie31337

I agree with Gary, I think that for some IDIOT reason, the bakers just glazed over, and nodded and nodded, "yes, we can do this" without any real clue how they would accomplish this feat...and then well, you see what happens.

Like everyone said, portfolio is key I guess!!

I have seen the cakes my sister makes, and therefore I know I am (lucky) enough that I can go "Hey you, make this" and she will and it will be awesome!!

October 21, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterAnne

I don't think it is fair to say not to expect a great cake if you go for a less expensive source.
I didn't have much money for my wedding. Got my cake from the bakery at the local grocery store, and added my own topper. Not only was the cake beautiful, it tasted fabulous!

hmn, but maybe when the brides went in with the pictures, the bakers misheard and thought the brides were asking for wreckplicas of those cakes, instead of replicas...?

October 21, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterscrappin{jewlz}

How upset would you be to have those plopped on the cake table. Poor brides.

October 21, 2009 | Unregistered Commentercupcakesandfluff

I feel like these people are victims of not doing their research. If a baker makes sub-par cakes, they're not going to suddenly gain Martha-like qualities overnight because you handed them a cool picture.

And remember, folks... buttercream is cheaper for a reason. Most cakes I've seen that are buttercream versions of a fondant cake look crappy. Them's just the breaks.

October 21, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterDootsie

The first two aren't TOO bad, compared to some others I've seen on this site. I'm glad I picked a design out of my baker's own design book; at least I knew they knew how to do it right because it was their design.

October 21, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterAmber

Oh gosh....with the exception of the "butterfly rose petals" one...if any of the others one had showed up at my wedding I would have cried and cried. Those are awful. Especially the last one. Horrible. Seriously, what were they thinking????

October 21, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterBarbara_in_WA

(Kage said...
Ugh, can we please slap the person who popularized the "topsy-turvy" cakes? )

Agreed. They were cute the first thousand times I saw them.

On another note, don't just ask to see the bakers' portfolio. Other wedding professionals can be a great source for info. My florist turned me onto an award-winning cake maker who advertised mostly by word of mouth. Her stuff tasted great and looked amazing, he said, and he was right. He also warned me about a bakery that was known among other wedding pros for wobbly, sloppy cakes that they charged steeply for.

So, if you can, pump your professionals for info about other services if they seem chatty. They're the ones who see everyone else's work and they would know who the real standouts are. I'm sure there are some out there who would mostly promote their friends, but it still couldn't hurt to get seek the behind-the-scenes perspective.

October 21, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterAnonymous

I agree with Katie (and some others who mentioned this) - did the couple not look at the baker's previous work?

I think the baker on some of these (especially the last two) was just trying to drum up business and knew they didn't have the skill and equipment for the pics brought in. They should have just said no.

The attacking butterflies one isn't that bad at all - I just wonder if the guests had to pick off the real flowers or what.

This is one reason I kept my cake very simple. A family member made it and I knew she didn't have that much experience. Well, she totally blew my mind because my cake was awesome. :)

October 21, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterJane

All I can think of is how expensive wedding cakes are and how pissed off I would be if my wedding cake did not resemble what I requested. It's not like there's time for a "do over".

October 21, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterTerri

Well, the topsy turvy one DOES look like it might fall over!

October 21, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterPerkinsClan

First "attacking butterflies" and then "dropped from great heights" along with "pancake dinner"

This is how I get an ab workout every day, laughing at the commentary on these cakes.

October 21, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterThe Black Dog

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