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!

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Reader Comments (144)

Thank you for posting this. When I first became interested in baking, I was taught that this is the real deal and that fondant was taking the easy way out and was the step-child of the real artists who do this kind of work. I appreciate someone drawing attention to the skills that are becoming harder to find, because my mindset has been hard to change, although I've developed an appreciation for some fondant work.

September 13, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterAnonymous

Oh yeah! It's so nice to see there are still some people out there WORTHY of the title, Cake Decorator. These are absolutely STUNNING examples of the craft!

September 13, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterSuzanne Dargie

I LOVE traditional wedding cakes that are done well. Just gorgeous! One pet peeve, though, what photographer decided that to be cool he/she should photograph a cake at such a neck-crunching angle. It's so overdone and annoying as heck when you're trying to view the mind-blowing skills of the ACTUAL artist.

September 13, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterJohn and Sarah Sperry

Awesome work. Very delicate and time-consuming, but beautiful.
~Amy B

September 13, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterAmy

Would anyone here be willing to share their royal icing recipes or know where i could get some?
I really want to try scroll work with that now.It looks fun,even if my hand tends to shake a bit.
Ha!My word verification is "kings"..

September 13, 2009 | Unregistered Commenter84

These are amazing cakes. Thank you for sharing them. If I ever get married again I want one like the orange and lace. I love it!!

I can't tell you how much I love your blog. I was having a really bad day and decided to look at my favorite blog and some of the cakes that you posted made me laugh so much. It's been a long time since I laughed that hard. Thank you.

September 13, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterAnonymous

How in the world were those cakes transported safely to their location?!? I can't bring home groceries without there being a mess in the boot. The icing drops are spectacular!

September 13, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterziagrrl

Those are sure some BEAUTIFUL cakes! I love the look of the crochet cake.

September 13, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterDana

I am SO glad you showed the skill of piping. All this fondant work makes me wretch sometimes. That's all I see over here in Germany...fondant fondant fondant. Drives me nuts.

I did a stint as a cake decorator and used to look at stuff like this as aspirational. Lovely, lovely things!!

September 14, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterSiressYorkie

WOW! I have got to hire one of these bakers when I get married. I would rather pay the extra cash for a baker that can do hand piping like that than for a cake with that icky fondant.

September 14, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterThe Black Dog

Those cakes are fantastic, I am not a cake artist but I can only imagine the time and patience that must go into such designs.
My favorite is the first one posted.

simply amazing!

September 14, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterJessica

The bakers who just did those cakes. You are so AMAZING! Love all of the cakes. =D

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

September 14, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterSummer

That cake with the string amazing! Absolutely amazing. I could stare at it for a few hours, maybe....well, if I had nothing else to do. It just seems too perfect.

September 14, 2009 | Unregistered Commenter12 hour pills

We got our wedding cake from Das Meyer... in addition to being drop-dead beautiful, it was crazy tasty too!

September 14, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterJulia

these are so beautiful, I would feel guilty eating any of them!

September 14, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterRachael

They're beautiful. :) however, I was really hoping for some Patriot themed sweets. I'm sure there's some beautiful America Cakes out there.


September 14, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterAnonymous

Gorgeous. Beats the crap out of fondant.

September 14, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterAlyson

And how about some buttercream that is actually made with butter? Oh, and colored buttercream where the coloring is mixed with the frosting rather than airbrushed on in such a disgusting quantity that you can actually taste it.

September 14, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterHavard

These are the cake decorating skills that literally take my breath away.

September 14, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterJolene

PS I know, because my mother is a wedding cake decorator who decorated in that style and I have done a little of it myself. I KNOW how difficult it is to get it right.

September 14, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterJolene

Das Meyer did our wedding cake, which turned out great. When you're out here in Denver on tour, it'd be worth your while to visit, especially if you make it when they have free cake tastings. Not only do their cakes look awesome, but they are the best tasting cakes I've had, and I include ice cream cakes in that statement.

September 14, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterturbidity

The only way i can see somehow 1-upping these cakes is if we somehow got Willard Wigan into cake making.

And if you don't know him, google him, please - if only so you know what i'm talking about. (keep in mind all his work is done BY HAND, so we would be beyond mad skillz and into godhood level stuff)

September 14, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterEvalis

After reading through the comments, I do want to add:

These are the sorts of skills I could see paying $$$ ... $$$ ... $$$$$$$ for with a cake, be it buttercream and amazing piping, or fondant and amazing sculpting.

I think what gets me about the fondant (aside from the general taste) is that there are bakers who base their prices on buttercream vs. fondant with fondant costing two, three, four times as much, but with no particularly higher skill set in either medium.

I would want the best skill my cake money could buy, and I think if you've got mad piping skillz, charge appropriately for that, and if you've got mad fondant skills, charge appropriately for that, but don't charge more based entirely on medium, unless your skills (or lack thereof, wreckerators!) in both are matched.

September 14, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterdiopsideanddiamonds

How does one even begin to learn to pipe icing?

I mean, I can sorta whip up a cake now, but I have no clue where to start on the decorating - I'm not artistic by nature - at all.

September 14, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterSili

Wow . . . not other words are needed.

September 14, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterNick

If I were one of these bakers, I would make the bride and groom sign a contract promising not to smash my cake in each other's faces.

Our wedding cake was a simple but pretty buttercream affair with MUCH simpler detail than these... but looking at them brings back good memories.

True artistry!

September 14, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterKatie Alender

I keep coming back to look at this! Thanks so much for posting these lovely cakes.

September 14, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterdharmamama

These are so beautiful. I love the one with the loops hanging down, they must have been so difficult to create!

September 14, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterLucifera

hey! I just found your site, not kidding like a week ago and I have read all of your posts lol.... ok but anyways I just wanted to say that I think you're hilarious and I have a quick ??? why do people not like fondaunt (i know i spelled it wrong sorry) I have heard it does not taste good.... is this true? ok thats all and btw my fave is the orange and white one except I think blue and white would be cooler!

September 14, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterAnonymous

Das Meyer has quoted us just under $400 for 100 people, for those people who asked about pricing. That's low for our area, and buttercream designs are included! Fondant and sugar flowers etc are extra :-) but our design is very, very simple and we might pay more for something fancier now...
I hope it's not tacky to share pricing, but I do think that we're getting an incredible deal and am happy to pass along a great bakery, as they're so rare today!

September 14, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterAmy.mangos

That last cake . . . woah. O.O

September 15, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterbookbug

The first one is my favorite. My least favorite is the cheddar cheese wrapped in doilies.

September 15, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterAnonymous

I have to say that while that piping shows some amazing talent, and it's really cool (especially the lattice pillows and lace on orange)...

...I would never, ever want any of those as my wedding cake. They look great but they're so stereotypically "Wedding", probably don't taste all that good and you'd feel bad cutting into them anyway because they look so great. Then you do cut into them and realize they taste like Styrofoam.

No thanks. I'm happy to look but I won't buy.

We're getting tiramisu instead!

September 15, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterJenna

(...and I do realize that the icing is not fondant, just sayin' that the inside of the cake may not be all that great).

September 15, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterJenna

Breathtaking cakes and a welcome reprieve from geek cakes !

September 15, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterLynn


September 15, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterBritt

The orange ball with the butterflies I thought was the golden snitch from Harry Potter, lol

September 16, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterAnonymous

How incredibly elegant.


September 16, 2009 | Unregistered Commentercygirlkat

wow! that orange cake is absolutely the most stunning cake i have ever seen!!!

September 17, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterGiusi.

My goodness! I'm stunned! I didn't know bakers still did this kind of work these days. I had thought it died off during the Industrial Revolution or something. Now I'm tempted to order one of these old-fashioned cakes. But you know what? They look too pretty to eat!

Thank you so much for applying an educational comment with each one. I'm literally in learning heaven! I wish you had more posts like this. Perhaps every Saturday? I've love to see the detailed and painstaking world of cake artistry.

Oh, and thank you for the special close-ups. They helped me see the detail. Its wonderful to know you take such great care to make these kinds of photos. My eyes aren't all that good, so its much appreciated.

Sr. Mina, BSP

September 21, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterSr. Mina, BSP

Hi all, I made the orange with butterflies cake ( AnnieK and Tandoori, we are the same person :-) ) and wanted to say how happy I am that Jen posted my cake here and that there are so many people who like it and appreciate the amount of work that I've put into it.

I am not a professional baker and this was my first Royal icing ( and weeding )attempt and I did it just for fun, not for particular wedding. I just invited friends and neighbors to indulge ;-)

About fondant vs. buttercream thing,I just have to say that fondant cake doesn't equal less delicious one; however, it equals a decorator that knows what he/she is doing. I have never compromised the taste for the look and I really don't understand why people think that one excludes the other.

Thank you once again for the kind words! This is very motivating for a newbie like me!

September 23, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterAnnie

late to the party on this one, but... are you KIDDING ME with that piping work? that is just beyond amazing!!

i love the look of a cake with the fondant -- it can be sculptural and all -- but these literally take... well, they take the cake! (yes, i went there.)

September 26, 2009 | Unregistered Commentermp.

Incredible! My sister used to make cakes like this, not for a living but as a "hobby", but she never tried this as far as I know!

September 26, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterAnonymous

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