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: Ribbons and Lace

This week I figured we'd take a break from the geek themes and instead feature some Sweets that showcase amazing piping skills. This kind of cake art is becoming pretty rare in these days of all-fondant cakes, so it's nice to be reminded of the painstaking talent that a lot of the more traditional bakers possess. The designs can be deceptively simple, but it takes a practiced hand and a lot of patience to get results like these.

First, let's start off with some lovely scroll work and piped pearls:

(Made by Yukiko, aka Rosey Sugar.)


Here's a fondant-free example:

(Submitted by Amanda T. and made by Das Meyer Fine Pastry Chalet.)

That's all hand-piped! Here, check out the detail:

This next one contains some mind-boggling string work. (String work uses royal icing, which hardens after it dries.) Just look at this:

Those triangular pillows on the side were made by layering royal icing in a lattice pattern. It's incredibly fragile, and there's no room for error. That goes double for that astounding bottom ruffle of strings. Each strand is piped individually, and is literally suspended over thin air. Look how perfect the spacing is:

I love the color on this next one:

(Made by Annie K. of Annie's Art Book)

Orange and white - awesome! Love the ball and the butterflies, and the way this baker used the molded lace edging is really unique and modern:

Doesn't it look like crochet? Hard to believe it's actually icing.

And last is the most technically difficult of today's bunch:

(Also by Rosey Sugar. Thanks to Donatella for the link!)

What makes this cake so impressive is the icing drop strings and the hanging scroll border. For the strings, each strand was in effect piped in mid-air. The tip is pulled away and placed in the same spot, hopefully leaving an unbroken string. Then, to really show off her mad skilz, the decorator did a second tiny loop inside of the first one:

For the scroll border, royal icing is layered on a flat surface, dried, and then carefully adhered to the base with more icing. Have I mentioned that this stuff is incredibly fragile? 'Cuz it is. I've been told that for a cake like this, you have to do the string work onsite; the slightest bump or jarring would cause them all the break right off.

Well, hopefully you have a better appreciation for piping art now! Thanks to today's bakers!

« A Whale of a Tale | Main | We Are SO Gonna Get In Trouble For This One... »

Reader Comments (144)

Julie @ 12:13 - I kept waiting to see the price in your post. I'm still curious!

Is it bad form to say the price?

September 13, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterKaren

And now I'm off to lumpily frost my son's lopsided Lego cake...

September 13, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterKristen

wow! On the last one they made the icing look like jewels, truly impressive!

September 13, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterDeray

I'm always surprised at how few fondant cakes do much piping work. I'd've thought the smooth surface would be perfect for showing off that sort of skill.

I love good pipe-work. It can be intricate and beautiful, or funky and modern. I've always been disappointed that my hands aren't steady enough for it.

September 13, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterdiopsideanddiamonds

Gorgeous! I'm a bit of a traditionalist, so these just make my heart sing. :) Love the second one.


September 13, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterAnonymous

WOW. Just WOW. Just when I think my own cake decorating skills are pretty good, I realize that, no, they are so not! These are absolutely amazing works of art. Thank you, Jen and John, for sharing.

WV: subooner. My skills are very subooner.

September 13, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterDebbi

I love these so much more than the fondant cakes. You can really see the artist at work here.

September 13, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterFlvolgal

Wow, these are amazing. My mom used to decorate cakes from our home so I have a little experience with royal icing (my valentine's box in second grade was covered in royal icing LOL), and it is just amazing to see these. :)

September 13, 2009 | Unregistered Commentertogetherforgood

Thank you for showing off traditional skills. Fondant is nice, but piping skills are so key and get ignored because of sculpting nowadays.

September 13, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterRedheaded Mama

Wow- AMAZING and beautiful cakes- hard to believe that it's icing and not lace.

September 13, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterLinds

I can't believe they put that beautiful cake in front of the horrid strawberry table cloth.

September 13, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterRebecca F.

Wow. Those cakes are beautiful!

I hope they tasted good too. ;)

September 13, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterKaty

oh, thank you!!! I really love to see fine examples of piping technique, being a fondant-hater...

that lambeth work and string work is incredible - I do NOT have the steadiness of hand for that!

September 13, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterCanadianChick

Holy cow, those are incredibly beautiful!

September 13, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterAmanda

just awesome - i kept looking at the cake with the suspended strings and pillows and thinking about how long that would have taken! I bow in awe to all of those cake artists who can do this. My hand aches with the thought of doing all this - Just lovely work. I can't imagine trying to do this work on site at a reception.

September 13, 2009 | Unregistered Commentermn_me

Gorgeous cakes! The new site layout looks great too... love the blue.

September 13, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterMy Feet Hurt

Quite the extravagance. I've always found wedding planning to be such a bother, but I would go through with it without complaint if I could have a cake as wondrous as any of these. (^o^)/

September 13, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterCat.

ahhhh! beautiful! i would lose my ever loving mind trying to do that though...the patience these people possess is astounding.

September 13, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterSara

The one 9and ONLY) thing that Hubby and I agreed on for our reception cake was that it must be fondant-free (to us fondant is artificial-looking and tastes nasty). Luckily we found a local small European-style bakery who does fantastic piping work. While not quite as elaborate as these, we thing it turned out quite lovely. Was quite tasty, too.
Alpine Bakery in Concord, CA

Let's support our local *real* cake artists!

September 13, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterpam

Holy frickin crap! That is amazing! It just blows the mind how a baker has not only the talent but also the patience and steady hand to execute such amazing work.

September 13, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterLiz

These are just beyond beautiful. I'd never seen fondant until reading this blog, it's not something used much around here (and I've never eaten it, so can't speak for the taste - never been on a wedding cake I've eaten). It's a different form of artistry, more sculpting and molding but I am just in awe of this fine, delicate work shown today. Like beautiful lacework. Another artistry form.

September 13, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterholly

I did henna for the first time this weekend. After doing some very basic shapes for a coupla other people (this was a very casual setting with friends - I didn't have a booth or anything like that), I was comfortable enough with my pastry bag that I tried to do my own hand.

I had joked that I could decorate the hell outta a cake now, but your examples completely overshadow my efforts. The midair loops and lattice work is truly exquisite.

September 13, 2009 | Unregistered Commentersteeple333

I am absolutely in awe. I could only hope to be 1/100 this good! I was just telling my husband the other day how I'm not very good at the detail piping like this and these cakes just prove it!

September 13, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterKelly

OMG. Those are just exquisite. As much as I love laughing at the cakes all week, I'm starting to think I make myself look at them every day so that Sunday is that much sweeter.

I am so impressed...

September 13, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterSmokiechick

Okay, those cakes just blew my mind.

September 13, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterAlexandra

Wow! The orange and white cake was sooo amazing!

September 13, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterBiteMeCharlotte

How refreshing. I really enjoy the pop culture-themed cakes, but it's really amazing to see these. It takes a different type of artistry and skill to make these!

September 13, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterAimee

Omg. Stunning. Wow. I want to eat them all.

Yes, fondant doesn't have to taste bad. Although it frequently does. It should taste like sugar and flavoring, not playdough. And it is more difficult than (a simple) buttercream work.
My first fondant cake was much harder to execute than any iced caked I've done.

@Anon 10:56 and John - I agree, his and hers about an unknown person can be tricky. Although it breaks the rules, I like to use "their" instead. Much less awkward than the combo, and consistent. There are other pronouns that blend gender and singular/plural, like "you", "your", and the royal "we".
And I also choose to break the rule about punctuation inside quotes, because that's just a silly rule that causes confusion.

Oh, and slow blackberry update! I fixed it by turning off scripts and setting images to low resolution. I'm not sure what scripts I'm not running now, but it appears I can comment.

Alex (almost forgot to put name!)

September 13, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterAnonymous

I love, love the traditional cakes and for me they show more skill and talent than the fondant cakes. I am getting tired of seeing cake, after cake just shellacked in fondant. It takes artistic talent to make those cakes, but to me it just looks like- wow those people really made some cool stuff out of fondant and the cake is just missing. I like these cakes because its more like wow look what was made out of cake. I don't know if I am making any sense. But these cakes were intricate works of art, time, skill and LOTS of patience. Thanks for showing us the more traditional cakes.

September 13, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterBridget

amazing work!

September 13, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterarchersangel

Beautiful work. The one with the string work is my favorite. It must have taken hours and hours.

September 13, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterNancy

These are some of the most beautiful cakes I've ever seen. The people who decorated these lovelies are some VERY talented people. Just to think of the amount of patience they have. WOW!

September 13, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterAngie

WOW! I've never seen cakes so beautiful!!!! That is absolutely amazing! I actually didn't know icing could be suspended like that. Thanks for posting these!

September 13, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterKay

Where I live, we have a family-run bakery named Goll's that does all buttercream wedding cakes. They do a fantastic job and my brother and fiancee are getting their wedding cake from them. The icing is delicious, but so sweet it could put you in a diabetic coma. It's one of those once-in-a-blue-moon tastings.

I'm also happy to report the cake I ordered for my future SIL's second bridal shower (yup, second) turned out great. The colors of the roses were exactly what I wanted and the spacing and spelling were correct. You can get decent cakes from a supermarket bakery sometime.

I really like today's selection. Those all-white, simple-looking but really not cakes are gorgeous.

September 13, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterBree

When I get married (not that I'm engaged. Or even have a boyfriend. Or am even out of middle/high school) , I TOTALLY want one of those people doing my cake-a different flavor of cake for each tier, and ALL MAD PIPING SKILLZ, ALL THE TIME! I've never actually had fondant, but I HAVE had frosting, an irreplaceably magical substance. These are true Sunday Sweets.

BTW, Jen? After seeing this post, I decided to revisit some past Sweets, and discovered that I could only see one page (through May of 09). I've been a loyal Wreck fan for years, and I KNOW there are more. Is it just my computer, or is there something wrong with the site? Or...OR...*conspiracy-theory-creating mind at work* ... uh, I got nothing.

- Eliza

September 13, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterAnonymous

The days you post cakes like this, it should be 'Sunday Stunners' because the cakes are gorgeous, stunningly so in the case of the ones you posted near the end. My hat is not only off to the artists who decorated these cake, I'm on my face before them paying homage to their genius. I don't want a cake this gorgeous when I get married because I'd never want to cut into and destroy such a work of art.

September 13, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterhoppytoad79

wow! that is unbelievable! those cakes are goooorgeous and truly works of art.

September 13, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterstella

I had beautiful lace work like that on the bottom of my wedding cake, that is until someone put their thumbs through either side when they moved hoo.

September 13, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterjo

Those are specacular! Wow! If only I could be that talented, my daughter would have THE BEST birthday cupcakes in the preschool class on Wednesday!

September 13, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterThe Stringham 4

@ jackie31337 (12.31pm) and other posters who occasionally say they couldn't bear to eat a beautiful cake: I'm nowhere near today's category of sheer awesomeness, but when I make a cake, its purpose is to be eaten. It has to be both as lovely as I can make it (unintended wreckiness aside) and as delicious. I sit back, love looking at it for a while, take some photos, and then enjoy watching the recipients enjoy it with all their senses. Ours is an ephemeral art.


MC from NZ

WV: propo - today's examples show propo dedication to the craft

September 13, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterAnonymous

beautiful! i wish i could make cakes like much practice!

September 13, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterKelly

This is incredible artistry. I hope the people that do these amazing cakes got paid a lot of money for all their hard work!

September 13, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterJust Me,Pilgrim

These are beautiful!

I am a believer in ending the fondant craze (if it should even be called that). I'll have to think of a better term, but the point is to stop the careless and thoughtless use of fondant!

September 13, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterMichele

And this is why it's worth it to pay thousands of dollars for a wedding cake. BEAUTIFUL!!

September 13, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterSariah

Oh wow.

September 13, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterbrenkachicka

Wow, those are simply amazing. Fondant is cool, but these bakers REALLY have talent. Thanks for showcasing!

September 13, 2009 | Unregistered Commenter:::b r a n d i:::

I had to laugh after you said that it was a geekless day; when I looked at the ball and butterflies on the top of the orange and white cake, I thought, "quiddich snitch!"

You can take the geek out of the cakes, but, apparently, not out of me.

Beautiful cakes.

September 13, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterAnn

If that "loop" artist had messed up, it would have been a "Loopy Fiasco!"

Get it? like rapper Lupe Fiasco? No? Sigh.

Oh well. I thought it was funny...

September 13, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterCharmCitySugar

Who would want the responsibility of delivering one of those cakes to the reception? Not me!

September 13, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterCyndi

Oh, eff, now I wish I'd had a beautiful wedding cake. Crimony. I think for our 10 year I'm going to have the "wedding" complete with a competent DJ and a gorgeous cake, inspired by Sunday sweets.

September 13, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterEtiquette Bitch

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