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: Fun and Fondant-Free

When you consider our usual Sweets lineups and all the cake shows on TV, you might be tempted to think it's impossible to make an amazing cake without fondant.

But you would be WRONG.


Submitted by Evy M. & made by Cupcake Cafe

This beauty was made entirely with icing. No fondant, no gumpaste, nada. And I will never be satisfied with my icing roses again. Wowza.

A lot of bakeries prefer fondant because it's easier to achieve certain looks with it. It also travels well and helps maintain a cake's freshness by sealing in moisture.

On the other hand, odds are you'll never find someone who just looooves the taste of fondant. In fact, many bakeries will tell you to peel the fondant off your individual slice and just eat the cake and icing underneath.

Which is all fine and good, but... did you know a fondant-free cake could look this good?

Sub'd by Taru and made by Katharina C. & Sara T. of SugarPlum Visions

Those accent flowers are gumpaste, but the rest of the cake? All icing, guys. Booya.

Obviously I love fondant for the options it gives us, but the fact is it can never replace traditional and oh-so-jaw-dropping piping skills like this:

Sub'd by Alison P. & made by Imaginative Icing

Can you imagine the skill level required to make each of those tiny, perfectly-spaced dots? And then carefully layering those hearts and cages on the edge? Even the top swirls are solid royal icing, which is unbelievably fragile. I would bet only one baker in a hundred today has this kind of skill, which is why it's so darned inspiring.

Ok, you're thinking, that's fine for traditional cakes - but surely no one can make a sculpted cake without fondant!

Oh, yeah? (And don't call me Shirley.)

Sub'd by Brittany S. & made by Deviantart user ~Kahlan4

Hot diggity dog! That's fondant-free, folks!


And from the master of fondant-free cake art himself:

By Don Buciak II

Just look at those highlights in Wall-E's eyes, and that cookie crumble "dirt"!

Btw, Don is one of my top ten all-time favorite cake artists, ever. The things this guy can do with icing will knock your socks off.

Think your only option besides fondant is boring ol' buttercream? Think again.

Submitted by Kendra T. & made by Andi B

These fabulous cupcake toppers are made with chocolate candy melts. The melted candy is piped onto a sheet of plastic, and once it's hardened they pop off for instant cake decorations.

I've always loved this technique because it's such a fun pop-art style. Don't these next ones look like they jumped out of the pages of a sketchbook?

Sub'd by Regan & made by Sugar and Cake

There's a similar technique done with icing called a frozen buttercream transfer:

Submitted by Gail L.; found here, but the baker isn't listed. Anyone know?


With the BC transfer you again pipe your design on a clear plastic sheet, but then you freeze it before flipping it over onto your cake and peeling off the plastic. Obviously this takes a lot of time and skill for more complicated designs, but can you imagine the possibilities?! CAN YOU??



I've razzed on edible photo paper a lot in the past - and with good reason - but like most things, it can sometimes be used for good. (Not very often, but sometimes.) In fact, I'm happy to say that this is the best use of edible photos I've ever seen:

By Valarie "Gwen" K.

Brilliant. And perfectly done. It also goes to show that sheet cakes can be just as much a work of art as sculpted cakes.

In fact, here's another sheet cake used as a blank canvas for - I can't believe I'm about to type this - an amazing airbrush design:

By Devin B.

Clearly this was not done with the Airbrush of Atrocity. Color me impressed.

Another icing technique with spectacular results is the run-in, or flooding, method. You see it most often on too-gorgeous-to-even-consider-eating cookies, like this one:

Submitted by Amanda N. and made by The Sweet Adventures of Sugarbelle

Forget the glass of milk: this thing needs a frame!

And see how pillowly soft and smooth the icing looks? That's done by first piping an outline and then "flooding" inside the lines with the same icing thinned down with water. And while you see this most often on cookies, you can also pipe the icing on - you guessed it - a clear sheet of plastic, and then carefully - CAREFULLY - peel it off once the icing has dried. Then you place the hardened icing on your cake or cupcakes.

For those of you with mad art skillz, you can even use icing like thickened paint, like so:

By Amy Marie

Even her handwriting is gorgeous. Disgusting. (Er, in a good way, I mean.)

And yes, you can actually use a paint brush with icing. In fact, there's a technique known as "brush embroidery" that actually requires it:

By Chelsea Anderson

This one was done over fondant, but brush embroidery can also be applied over regular icing. You pipe the outlines of your design, and then use a wet brush to drag the lines inward. It sounds simple, but getting it to look as beautiful as this takes bucket loads of skill and patience.


Hoo boy, you guys! This is turning into a marathon post and John's going to kill me for rambling on this long and including this many pictures, but I've got to include just a few more:

Submitted by Jennie S. & made by Some Crust Bakery

Simple perfection - just look at those razor sharp edges!

Oh, and you should know that there are tons of pretty fondant-free cakes out there decorated with fresh flowers, but I didn't include any here because I wanted to focus on the bakers' skill with actual icing.

Besides, putting flowers on a cake is relatively simple. This, on the other hand?

By Serious Cakes

This is simply stunning.


And these will totally fool you:

Submitted by Evy M. & made by Cupcake Cafe


Because I'm not sure *I* do.

The fondant vs icing debate will no doubt continue to rage on, but I hope these Sweets have shown you a little more of what's possible in the hands of a talented baker - and maybe even given you aspiring Sweets bakers out there a few ideas to try with your own cakes!

And as always, if you have a Sweet to nominate, please send it to me at Sunday Sweets [at] Cake Wrecks [dot] com.

Happy Sunday, everyone!

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Reader Comments (84)

THANK YOU!!! I hardly ever read the Sunday Sweets..... all that fondant.... the cakes might as well be made of sculpting clay. Now... all of this with buttercream? THAT'S CAKE!

January 29, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJeneric

These are beautiful cakes. I have done a lot of cake decorating and refuse to use fondant. If I can't make a design with buttercream or royal frosting, it's not going on any cake I make. I think fondant tastes horrible. Cakes made entirely with frosting are twice as good!!

January 29, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterRachell

i would feel like a heartless JERK to eat that last one!

January 29, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterstella

I like the hot dog one the best!

January 29, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterrad hannah

Thank you for showing that buttercream frosting cakes can be just as gorgeous as fondant cakes. Personally, I think to be this good with buttercream takes far more talent than can be said for fondant cakes. The cakes showcased today exhibit some extreme talent and decorating skills! As far as fondant goes, I don't mind the taste of it but I do prefer frosting. I grew up with a cake decorator mother whose frosting is the best I've ever tasted. Her frosted cakes would've rivaled any fondant cake out there.
Oh, and to mijk who was extolling marzipan...I don't know how you can eat the stuff. I've tried it and found it to be quite awful. Of course that is just my opinion (although I don't know anyone who really likes the stuff) I would rather eat fondant than marzipan any day. Just thinking about it makes me shudder.

January 29, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterSandy

Thank you for posting these! I love the fondant-free posts and had noticed the last few Sweets posts had been missing at least one fondant-free cake. I always like seeing them.

January 29, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterlinda

Beautiful! Is it possible to do fancy stuff with marzipan? It's the only one I like the taste of...
Oh, and how much do these works of art cost? They must cost a lot, with all that work in them!

January 29, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterKim C

Did the cages on the white cake look like a bra to anyone else?

January 29, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterKim C

As soon as I saw the first cake, I KNEW it was Cupcake Cafe. So happy that 2 of their cakes made it into this post! I love their buttercream flowers so much! When I was really little, they let me into the decorating room once, and I got to watch them make the flowers. My favorite are their cupcakes - I like to lick all the frosting off, then eat the cake! Best buttercream ever, hands down. It's so sad that their location in Books of Wonder is gone. Now I can't look at the cakes in the window on my way to work every day anymore.

January 29, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterKate

WOW! These cakes are all breathtakingly amazing! Some of the most awesome I remember seeing on this blog. That pastel with the flowers cake and the Wall-E are by far my favorites ever!!!

January 29, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMommaKelli

I actually *like* the taste of fondant.

January 30, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterSaraphina

Happy dancing commenced as soon as I read the title!!!
I am dead set against fondant; can't STAND the stuff. Every time I hear "You'll love ours!' I sigh because no, I *won't.*
People forget all the things you can do with buttercreams and frostings, and man, all the different types! Swiss and italian meringue, French buttercream, ganache, cream cheese frosting, whipped cream... That crisco-laden crap Wilton calls buttercream is not the end-all to frosting!
I think fondant is for *braces self* lazy decorators. Of course you can do anything with it; it's play dough. What can you NOT make with play dough?
Okay off my soapbox. Thank you so much for these cakes today!

January 30, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterRocka

Gorgeous!! Now I'm hungry for cake with LOTS of flowers.
I'm not crazy about fondant and, when watching cake shows on tv, I can't help thinking "I wouldn't want to eat a cake that so many hands have molded/shaped/rolled/formed/touched/etc." LOL

January 30, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterlittle di

Thanks for the fondant free Sunday Sweets!

Awesome website.

January 30, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterErica

Thank you, thank you, THANK YOU for featuring fondant-free cakes! My mom ran a side-business doing cakes for years, and never once used fondant. The artistry and talent required to do fondant-free is truly astounding, and it makes me sad that we never hear about it, especially on baking shows. When is the Cake Boss going to issue a Next Great Baker Challenge of a fondant-free masterpiece?!

January 30, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterSheryl

These are amazing. Thanks for taking the time to explain the different methods -- I appreciate the work that went into these even more. These cakes really are works of art!

January 30, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJJ

To me getting a face, especially the eyes, to look correct is the HARDEST thing to do with icing. That Tangled cake is Fantastic!!

January 30, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterKristi

I'm actually one who likes fondant - depending on what it is. I had a wonderful mocha flavored one before then one on a wedding cake that tasted like circus peanuts (I kid you not - but the cake was NOT a wreck it was lovely).

That said, I have admired those who can do icing skills more because it takes a steady hand and patience whereas fondant is faster and sometimes an easier way out of troubles.

January 30, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMel

omg... so.. now I totally feel like an amature...if I thought I'd ever make it to this level I'd stop typing now and go practice, but that's not going to happen. So, like the rest of us, I'm just going to sit here and gawk! wow, totally breath taking art.

January 30, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJuliet

I'm such a huge Peanuts fan. I am in love with that Charlie Brown cake. The Little Red-Haired Girl is so cute. I can't even begin to fathom how they created these works of cakey goodness, but they're awesome!

January 30, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMrs. One Day

Thanks, Jen! This post was wonderful! Nothing made me burst out laughing, but this was like attending a master class given by someone who bursts with love for the craft!
Amy Marie's Rapunzel [?] cake blew my mind - such talent! And Cupcake Cafe's flowers...
The fluid smoothness, the razor edges...!
Foo on fondant.
Hmm...I may just take some baby steps and explore this profession. I'm certainly fussy enough for it. Many employers have told me "you don't need to be an ARTIST". And I've developed patience in my old age...
The only problem is I can't bake for s**t.
::bubble bursts::

January 30, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterBlondie's Mom

The Charlie Brown cake was the groom's cake from my wedding. My husband LOVES Charlie Brown, and I just happen to have red hair, so I'm his little red headed girl. I'm not nearly as pretty as the girl on the cake. :)

One of my mom's friends made the cake - I'll need to get her name and business. She did it for free, since my mom does her hair. Best yet, the cake was incredible - spice cake with maple buttercream frosting.

January 30, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterGail L

Stunning! I loathe fondant and this post makes it clear that not only is it not needed, there are more options than just buttercream!

January 31, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMid Mod TomM

I am going to be lynched for this, but I have to contest the "loooves" the taste of Fondant thing. I'm sort of a freak. Even though I've followed baking blogs for years, been a long term Wrecker, and in general know a LOT about cake decorating, I had NEVER had Fondant until my cousin's fiance' (who attended culinary school) made my wedding cake. She recreated the entire first level of Super Mario Brothers for us around the cake, throwing in a few extra fondant Goomba's, Koopa Troopa's, and 1-UP Mushroom for color. When we cut the cake, we accidentally cut through a Koopa Troopa, and rather than see him suffer, I did the humane thing and popped him into my mouth. One VERY well sized fondant sculpture, all of it, in my mouth. And everyone told me to spit it out, freaked about me eating fondant, said I'd make myself sick....I chomped down and LOVED it.

However, I have a serious soft spot for traditional iced baked goods and I LOVE seeing the magic people can do with icing. I just wanted to note, some of us freaky folks like Fondant. I personally find it delicious.

January 31, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterManda

This is by far one of my favorite posts! So informative! I love learning about the different techniques! Can we have more Sunday Sweets like this, please? :)

February 1, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterTera

Rock On, Sunday Sweets!

February 1, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterKatWag

Thanks for showcasing the way cakes SHOULD be decorated! All of them are just gorgeous!

Personally, can't stand fondant OR marzipan. My secret recipe for buttercream wows them every time (butter AND shortening, vanilla AND almond flavoring). I'm a hobby baker, and will always remember my niece's wedding where the catering manager wondered who did her cake - he'd never seen buttercream basketweave before! (How young was he??)

Keep 'em coming!

February 2, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMaGriz

HOLY ...!!! i can't believe that they are not make from fondant! omg and those roses were just amazing!! i just sat there with my mouth on the floor at how gorgeous those cakes were.

February 4, 2012 | Unregistered Commentercaitlin

I have been a cake decorator for over 20 years, and while I love the look of fondant cakes, i have never, nor will i ever, make one. I have used every style of transfer and design possible, even coming up with some of my own ideas. I want my customers to marvel first at my cake's beauty, then sink into bliss with every delicious mouthful. The idea that they have to "peel off" any part of my masterpiece appalls me.
With practice and patience, anyone can achieve the look that they desire without resorting to fondant, as these gorgeous creations attest...excuse me I must go and get my fork. :-)

February 5, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterkymberli

I just showed this to my 7 year old. Rapunzel cake rolled up the screen.
"IwantthisIwantthisIwantthisIwantthisIwantthis..." She's stop saying it now, but she's still thinking it. Great, so I have less than 3 months to either find Montreal's greatest cake decorator or start taking some serious courses. Thanks SO much for sharing.

February 17, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterLynne

Is it just me...or do those "baskets" on the 3rd cake look like boobs to other people, too?? otherwise, I LUV THEM ALL!! I WANT THEM ALL!

February 22, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterAbby

Are the flowers on the first and last cakes made with buttercream icing? Royal icing? I'm not a decorator (obviously), but I'm writing about a character who is, and I need this answer for research. Please, please, please? How are such amazing flowers possible? And are they piped right onto the cake, or preformed and then placed?

February 29, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterKatma

I love the taste of fondant. I will just buy the Wilton stuff and eat it like candy. So there. There IS someone out there that does actually love the taste of fondant!

April 25, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterKatie

I'm new to this blog and am reading backwards from present - and this has to be my favorite Sunday Sweets to date. I love the way you not only talk about the cakes, but give insights into how they're constructed and the techniques used. Thank you!

July 24, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterDorothy

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