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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 Visits Japan

[Note: Before you get confused, today's post is by Sharyn. You can always see who wrote what at the end of each post.]


In my junior year of college I went to school in Osaka, Japan to learn the language. Recently, while giving my hubby a crash course in useful Japanese, I started to feel nostalgic. So today's Sweets are a little cake walk down memory lane:

Here are a few cakes that give a snapshot of what I saw every day.


Hello Kitty was everywhere.

By Manjares

Since my host family had a black cat named Mimi, of course I had to start with Chococat. At first I was horrible with chopsticks, so Mimiko always sat under my chair and pigged out.


My host mother taught me a lot, including some simple origami.

By Cakewalk Custom Cakes  Photographed by Leap Photography

Once you get the knack of it, paper origami cranes are pretty easy. I have a feeling gumpaste ones are a lot harder.


There was a big bamboo patch on the way to school.

By abbietabbie

This bamboo is hand-rolled fondant, slotted together and hand-painted, while the curly bamboo is gumpaste. She got the squiggly parts just right.


The food in Japan was fantastic. Most restaurants had perfect, plastic replicas of their food on display, so they didn't need menus.

By Whipped Bakeshop

I think they should have made them out of cake, though.


The very first souvenir I bought was a wooden puzzle box for my Dad, and it had this iconic print on it:

By Alix's Cakes

It's called "The Great Wave Off Kanagawa" by Hokusai. Now I really want to nibble on that box...


Since I lived midway between Osaka and Kyoto, I spent a lot of time in Kyoto. It was spectacular, especially during cherry blossom season.

By Pink Cake Box

There were days when it just rained pink flowers.

Did you know it's impossible to maintain a bad mood when it's raining pink flowers? Seriously. Try it sometime.


Kyoto had a zillion gorgeous temples.

By Gateaux Inc.

I never saw one that was all white, although there was one covered in gold -- and no, they don't make that one in cake. (Really, I looked!) This reminds me of rice paper screen doors.


Most temples had gorgeous gardens, lots of water, and little footbridges.

By Cake Central Member semalo63

Of all the cakes I looked at, this one evoked the strongest memories.
(Ah yes, I remember that Thursday well...)
Oh, and I think this is royal icing...
(Note from Jen: Yep. Although the top collar is done with a run-in technique, which starts out liquid & then hardens to that perfectly smooth surface.)


Of course, every garden had a Koi pond:

By Elizabeth Hodes Custom Cakes and Sugar Art

These guys look better behaved than your average koi, who could get downright obnoxious if they thought you had a handful of koi chow. And I often did.
("Heeeere, fishy, fishy...")


Temples were a favorite place for weddings, and the wedding kimonos were stunning. This cake was inspired by a champagne silk kimono:

By Something Sweet by Michelle

Wedding kimonos can cost thousands of dollars. If the kimono that inspired this was even half as gorgeous as the cake, then I'd say it was worth the money.


It was always the most fun when you'd see a happy girl out in a fabulous kimono, enjoying the perfectly-kept grounds.

By Christopher Garren's

Not one of them ever offered me cake, though.
Probably because it was (almost) too beautiful to cut.
(Look, if there's a cake, I will cut it.)

Of course, I can't show you everything I saw in Japan with a few cake pictures -- and who really wants to see "creepy subway guy" in cake, anyway? -- but I hope this helped give you all a Sweet little taste. さよなら (Sayonara.)


Do you have a Sweet to nominate? Then send it to us at Sunday Sweets [at] Cake Wrecks [dot] com!

« Pan-Demonium | Main | "Takes Direction Well" »

Reader Comments (61)

Wow, Sharyn! +9 coolness ;)
Of course, it's getting creepy how cool I think you are- Japan's the only foreign country I've wanted to visit (still on The List).
I used to be a decorator and the best compliment was when people didn't want to cut it. I'd thank them but remind them it would taste amazing, too, and that was the second part of enjoying it. (And that run-in technique is very easy with a little practice- if you decorate at home you should watch a few demos and do it!! It works great on sugar cookies if you rolled them out smoothly.)

I can't pick a favorite so I'm going with Koi and Kimono here.

November 4, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterBarbara Anne

Wow! The 3-D-ness of that foot bridge is *amazing*! So many beautiful details on that cake. If you haven't already, click for the larger picture.
And, YES to the showers of pink petals. Love that time of year here in NC.

November 4, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterCaren

These perfect cakes made me ache for home. In particular, the cherry blossom cake, the Japanese doll cake, the garden cake, and the koi cake each capture the traditional Japanese aesthetic in colors: creams instead of whites, and lots of mustards, tea-stain browns, a surprise of pinks, slight avocado colors, deep blues and maroons . . . okay, that sounds like an ugly 1970s kitchen, but it's entirely different. Japanese quilters almost always use these color combinations.

Just this week, I found a shop which was eliminating their Magnetability line for 90% off. The clerk apologetically told me that the only magnets left were the "ugly ones," as the sale had them quite picked over. I took a look - of the 25 or so magnets left, 15 were clearly Japanese washi paper prints or kimono prints, and they all had those color combinations. I bought the lot, to the astonishment of the clerk.

It's also impossible to be in a bad mood when biking home from the library, scattering fallen white and pink petals, the wheels kicking them up to tickle the ankles. I also remember scooping up cherry blossoms and slipping them into a closed umbrella. Then, open the umbrella and - tada! - instant fluttering petal shower.

Sharyn, Osaka is much more urban and southern than where I lived, so I imagine snow festivals were not part of your experience, and the Tanabata festival is in July, so perhaps you were not there because of the American summer vacation. But, oh, my heart. They were the way to grow up. Do you perhaps have a chance to visit a chrysanthemum festival?

I'm going to stop waxing melancholy now. At least in public.

November 4, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterHaiku Joy

I think that this is one of my favorite Sunday posts ever- those cakes are all amazing! I'm so envious of the wonderful time you must have had, but thanks for sharing the "memories" with us! (and pretty cakes are so much more fun that a slide show, aren't they??)

November 4, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterev

When I lived in South Korea, I would go to Osaka every chance I got. I miss it soooooo much!!!! The best sushi on the planet was in a little restaurant near a Mikimoto shop in Shinsaibashi.

November 4, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterVickiC

*sigh* this post made me miss Japan too! We were in Kyoto and Tokyo last year during thanksgiving. Kyoto and Nara were by far the best part of the trip. if it was possible i'd move to Japan in a hot second.

November 4, 2012 | Unregistered Commentertraci d

What a wonderful post! I have also longed to visit Japan sometime in my lifetime. I have met many exchange students and my college roommate was from Kyoto.

These cakes are gorgeous! Well done, Sharyn!

November 4, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterKim in ID

So. Beautiful. I can't pick a favorite- so one of each, please!

November 4, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterakathleen

Well done, Sharyn! I am dazzled by the palette of your talent! My late wife spent some time in Japan and loved it there. She would often reminisce about her experiences and the people she met and the beauty she saw, including many of the things you've highlighted today. I think a part of her never left. As for the cakes, I won't be koi: I love the footbridge. I find scenes of the various gardens and ponds and footbridges to be sooooooo relaxing.

November 4, 2012 | Unregistered Commentermel

...were you in Hirakata at Kansai Gaidai, mayhaps? I think that town was technically in Osaka province. Also, Kyoto was damn awesome. I particularly liked the Jidai Matsuri parade with all the people in the historical costumes. And the Gion quarters with the Kabuki theater and sometimes wandering maiko or geiko around sunset.

November 4, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterRaikana

I love this post! It brings back memories of the wonderful time I spent in Kyoto-and I was only a tourist there for a couple of days! I loved the temples. I have never forgotten the floors that "chirp" as a security measure. I've wanted to do that to a house ever since-not just for the security, but for the wonderful sound when one walks on them. Alas, it hasn't be feasible yet.

November 4, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterKaren

@Raikana -- Yes! I was at Kansai Gaidai, and it was in Hirakata-shi.

November 4, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterSharyn

My only experience with Japan has been in things I read and watch, but that alone has been something of an education. (I'd never claim for myself that I could get by without some serious help, but I did remember Kinkaku-ji being touched upon in a couple of those series.

Lovely cakes, and apparently wonderful memories!

November 4, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterNyperold

Sharyn - an absolutely enchanting post! My grandparents had the opportunity to live in Okinawa for six months while grandpa was on a work assignment. Being inveterate travelers, they spent many a weekend touring various places in Japan. I loved the stories & pictures they returned with and remember listening fondly to their tales. This post makes me miss them so much, but I know they're enjoying their travels together again. Thank you for the loveliness and happy memories.

November 4, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterbmbagain803

Oh, my. I married my husband in Fukuoka in southern Japan, and we lived in Sasebo for a few months before (sob) moving back to the States. So I really only had a chance to see Kyushu, and never made it as far as Kyoto, although of course he's been there and waxes poetic about it every chance he gets. The colors and designs on the cakes are so evocative (although I'm glad you couldn't find "creepy subway guy"), and it just makes me want to move back there ASAP! Thanks for sharing your wonderful memories through cake.

And thanks to Jen and John for seeing the brilliance that is Sharyn and including her in your CW authors group!

November 4, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterLaura

HOW can anyone bear to cut into any of these cakes? I don't understand.

November 4, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterBea

Japan's on my "someday" list, too. I love these cakes, and Sharyn's text was amazing, too.

November 4, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterDeirdre

Great job! Lived in Okinawa and visited Japan. You've done a great job on what I remember. Very nostalgic for me today. Loved all of them, but my favorite was the foot bridge one which booted out the sushi one. The cherry blossom one - wow. I haven't seen cherry blossoms as described, but have seen wisteria do that - you can only smile when surrounded by such wonder and beauty.

November 4, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJoanie

Beautiful cakes and commentary. Between Sharyn and Haiku Joy I feel as if I had a mini visit to Japan today. Thank you both for sharing your memories with us! Now I will be googling all the sites you mentioned instead of cleaning house this afternoon. I love a good reason to procrastinate.

November 4, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterShBell

Those were some beautiful cakes that brought back memories of Nihon (that's "Japan" in Japanese;)
I couldn't get over all the Nintendo-esque beeps and other sounds at the train stations or in the malls. Or do you have a cake of a bright pink or purple garbage truck playing music (much like the ice-cream trucks in America do)?

November 4, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMike Wazowski

I've always been more of a dream-European myself, but between these gorgeous cakes, Sharyn and HaikuJoy's memories and all the comments, I'm really wanting to visit Japan!
I think my favorite was the doll cake. My grandma has a real one that looks almost exactly like that, and both are simply fabulous. I also loved the bamboo cake; the aesthetics are fantastic and I just love the simple elegance of it.
Can't wait for next weeks sweets!

November 4, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterRachel S.

These are all so lovely! (And thanks for not finding one to represent "creepy subway guy!" -- just sayin'...)

November 4, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterKaren

Oh these are stunning! The detail is amazing! :D

November 4, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJean

My favorite Sunday Sweets edition yet! My brother has also studied in Osaka twice in college (and in Kyoto his senior year of high school), and this time around stayed for 8 months; and worked while studying. It's an amazing place and rich in culture! Those cakes are the best ones yet!!

November 4, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJess

My favorite Cake Wrecks post EVER! I lived in Sapporo for two years before I got married. This was like a trip back to my home. It just needed an amazing snow sculpture. I miss it so much! Thank you for the memories today!

November 4, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterAngie

Lovely cakes. Requisite nitpick: I'm pretty sure the -o- in Sayonara is long, and that you need an "u" between the "yo" and the "na" to spell it out in hiragana.

November 4, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterkhereva

If any of you are yearning for a "creepy guy on the subway," you might try this wreck:

November 4, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterHaiku Joy

WOW! leave it to the Japanese! these cakes are gorgeous! I don't say gorgeous lightly either. I have always loved Japanese art work.... but these take the cake! I couldnt eat them either!

November 4, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterLori

I spent my childhood on Honshu (during the Eisenhower administration), and still remember the Big Buddha, the tea house on the slopes of Fujiyama, and the beach on the Sea of Japan. Cherry blossom always make me nostalgic. I still have yards of obi cloth my mother bought, my Girls' Day kimono and obi, and other little childhood treasures--not the least of which is the strand of Mikimoto pearls I was given on my 16th birthday (and which are now classified as "antiques"--rather like me).

November 4, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterKimR

I like that you posted the author at the beginning. I wish you would do that every day.

November 4, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterDD

At the risk of being party to another Epcot, as a super-mega-fan of Chococat, I feel I need to inform the wonderful Cake Wrecks world that the first cake is NOT Hello Kitty, but is actually Chococat. I do not endorse Hello Kitty, but I do endorse Chococat, who is a boy and is adorable and way born on my birthday (May 10). Thank you for posting a Chococat cake, though, it totally made my morning.

November 4, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMe

I'm sorry Sharyn! I'm very sorry. I will read the whole commentary before ever commenting again. You correctly called Chococat by his name and I feel immensely silly. *apology internet cookies to your highness!*

November 4, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMe (again)

Beautiful! I visited Japan in 2003 during my semester abroad in college. I got the chance to go to the Cherry Blossom Festival in Osaka and one of my favourite pictures is me smiling under a plethora of fluffy pinks and whites. I had a cherry blossom tree in the front yard of the house I grew up in Jersey. Every time it blooms, I have a greater appreciation for it. Thanks for sharing the cakes and making me want to go back to visit!!

November 4, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterNikki D

Splendid post and cakes!
But pardon my ignorance.. isn't the Koi pond red cake Chinese ?

November 4, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterCyllan

Wonderful! Notice the detail in the second cake.

November 4, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterA-random-weirdo

Oh my gosh Sharyn, this post is sooo なつかしい!!!

I lived in Japan for 3 years (6, actually, if my time as a navy brat on Okinawa is included) and I miss it so much! I lived in Gifu-ken, about an hour away from Nagoya but I loved to go to Kyoto whenever I had the chance!

I have to say you had me worried for a moment when you first commented about Kitty-chan at the beginning and then had a Chococat! But then I read the explanation and all was well again! I hope you have a wonderful weekend! お元気で!

November 4, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterLauren

"impossible to maintain a bad mood when it's raining pink flowers"
Well, that explains why I'm always so happy when I walk under a crepe myrtle and get pink flowers in my hair.

November 4, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterLibby

I live in Japan and I think you made great choices! I too love when it rains pink. I live close to Kamakura, but Ueno Park is also very beautiful and pink during cherry blossom season. I also love the Japanese Maples in the fall. There are so many things to love about Japan.

November 4, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMegs

"Did you know it's impossible to maintain a bad mood when it's raining pink flowers? Seriously. Try it sometime"
False. It's entirely possible when you're allergic to Cherry Blossoms. :-( I wish I wasn't though - it sounds heavenly!!

November 4, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterCorrine

Oh, what a lovely post! Both my parents spent time in Japan (but didn't meet each other there; my mother lived in Kyoto, and my father was stationed in Osaka) and have told me many stories of their time there. Because of that, I have an almost pyschic link to the place. My mother taught me to use chopsticks quite capably many years ago, and I read pretty much anything I can get my hands on about Japan, and know quite a bit about Japanese history and geishas. I drink tea every day in the Japanese style from a Japanese tea set. About the only thing I have not actually done is gone to Japan itself, but someday--someday...!

Oh--and I understood the kanji before you translated them as "sayonara". I customarily sign my name with the characters for "Sara"--no one's going to forge that!

November 4, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterSaraCVT

@Sharyn Awesome. I was there studying a few years backed. I liked hanging out at the stores around the Train Station and at Kyoto sometimes on weekends. Mostly I liked the BookOff stores and the arcade on the top floor of the department mall. ...and maybe the three-story arts and crafts store over the bookstore.

November 4, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterRaikana

Thanks so much for making me want to return to Osaka! You said you were between Osaka and Kyoto: you weren't by any chance in Takarazuka? Did you go to see a Takarazuka Revue show? Did you get to the Tezuka Animation Museum? If not, I think you would have enjoyed both.

November 4, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJohn Wolf

Those cakes are gorgeous. I love Hello Kitty. One day I'd love to go to Japan.

November 4, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterBarbara

These were just exquisite. I loved the India themed ones so very much, but the elegant simplicity in these convey the most beautiful sense of peace.

November 4, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterKillian

My cousin —who was in Sendai two decades before the quake— posted this on Facebook & said he liked the sushi cake. That threw me off guard thinking there was actual sushi in or on the cake. What a relief after looking for myself it's just pieces of cake and fondant to LOOK like sushi. (I'm not really a sushi fan, though.)

November 4, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterSamyueru-kun

@Sara, if you can find a copy of Exploring Tohoku, you might enjoy it.

November 4, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterHaiku Joy

@Sharyn @Raikana I was also going to ask if it was Kansai Gaidai! I recognized the location from your description. I studied there during the spring semester of my junior year and, yes, cherry blossom time is amazing! I was there before the earthquake, though (just after the new library was finished), so I don't know how much is different now.

This post brought back some wonderful memories!

November 4, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterSusanna K.

This is my favorite Sunday post you've EVER done!! It makes me super nostalgic for my Japanese class...albeit, at UCLA, not in Japan. How I remember watching endless videos for class that followed an Indian architect who had moved to Japan, who kept accidentally ending up in awkward situations with his beautiful Japanese secretary. My classmates and I spent the entire year wondering when exactly the poorly shot video was going to turn into the porn it so clearly wanted to be...but all they ever did was go to the beach.

November 5, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJessica

Thank you Sharyn! My daughter is currently learning Japanese and has a goal of going back to Japan for an exchange program during her junior or senior year. Can't wait to show her all of these cakes because she will love them!

November 5, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMelonie

I also went to Kansai Gaidai (2002)! Thank you for this post. It combines my two favorite hobbies: baking and learning about Japanese culture/language!

November 5, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJenny

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