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

Ways To Play It Safe

Today's post requires a special intro, so here's Dara G. to explain:

"My local [CENSORED*] bakery has this new policy - not strictly enforced, but kinda enforced - NO PHOTOS in the bakery department. None, nada. Per an ex-employee there, upper management is afraid that one of that store's specific cakes will be posted on 'that bad cake site.' Per what they tell you in the store, their cakes are 'all copyright protected.'"

(*Store name omitted. Because I care.)

She goes on to say:

"Apparently this new 'no photos' thing came about after y'all had posted their 'Popcorn' cakes on the site."


Oh, you mean these ones?

Now, I honestly didn't know all these popcorn cakes were even from this particular store-which-shall-remain-nameless, but it's nice to know folks over there are reading the site and recognizing their handiwork!

Anyway, Dara goes on to say that she was actually accosted by an employee citing "copyright protection" after Dara snapped a picture of this:



The employee of this bakery-which-shall-not-be named even made Dara delete the photo off her phone, not knowing that Dara had actually taken TWO photos. (Sneaky girl...) 

Now, I have always been of the opinion that if you don't want your bakery's wrecks on Cake Wrecks, STOP MAKING WRECKS. But, hey, banning pictures is one way to go about it, too.

After all, if you ban photos in your bakery, then no one will ever know that your bakers made something like this:

Yes, that IS a plastic bunny tail where the mouth should be. A copyrighted bunny tail.


Or this:

As a joke, Katelyn's friends asked for her cake to read, "Katelyn's Failure Cake." Little did they know they'd get EXACTLY what they asked for.


Or even this:

If ONLY we had SOME way of knowing who is responsible for this glorious copyrighted cake design!


Of course, even if you do successfully bar people from photographing your wrecks in-store, there are still all those who'll just snap pics at home and then gleefully send them to me, with captions like, "Yummy piles of candy vomit!!"

In fact, here are two more sitting in the inbox right now, both from the same bakery I'm still not going to name, no matter HOW much you beg:

Jennifer J. writes, "Found this today, post-Halloween, at a [CENSORED] in Seattle, WA."

I've pointed out the unfortunate "I" placement on this design before, but this one is doubly unfortunate:

The fact that there's no period after the "P" might, shall we say, arouse suspicion as to the baker's true motives, don't you think?


And here's one that came in yesterday, where an election consolation cake got "owned:"

We have a winner! 


Of course this bakery isn't the only chain to ban photos; fact is, most stores now have similar rules. I hear from readers every week who are harassed, shooed away, and even outright kicked out of stores for whipping out their cellphones in the bakery.

Now, far be it from me to criticize rules (even ones I find really, REALLY stupid) but I don't see how harassing your own customers  - and ones who often buy your wrecks because Cake Wrecks has made them a world-wide inside joke - is good for business.

Then again, I also thought it would make more sense to train your bakers not to make wrecks instead of trying to prevent people from seeing them, so what do I know?

Oh, and while we're at it, I hear the bakery-which-shall-not-be-named doesn't make those popcorn cakes anymore, so kudos there, guys!

Now, about your spaghetti cakes...


Thanks to Dara, Gabriele, Lisa S., Chelsea M., Jennifer J., Bill, & Jessica A. for the picture perfect moments.


UPDATE: Dara G., our wreckporter on the scene, has recently contacted me to amend a few details in her story. She tells me the bakery employee was very polite in advising her of the photography ban, and while Dara did feel pressured to delete her photo, she was never actually ordered to. She also tells me the ex-employee who credits/blames CW for the photo ban doesn't know that for sure; it was just his/her personal theory. (Drat. Now I have to return that merit badge I just ordered for myself!)

Anyway, just wanted to include those corrections to be as accurate as possible!

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Reader Comments (171)

NO ONE can make you delete a photo off your phone. They can stop you from taking others, but they cannot force you to delete anything from your camera or your phone—without taking you to court, at which time it will likely be too late.

November 9, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterLeslie F. Miller

I think Dara could have made the claim that she holds the copyright to the photo she just took and thus would not have to delete it. I don't think they can even claim copyright infringement unless she were to go home, make a replica and then sell it for profit without giving them royalties.

November 9, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterTara

Oh good, that is my favorite store to find wrecks for you guys! I find that after 6 pm, there is no one in the bakery department so I could do entire elaborate photoshoots there if I so wished.

November 9, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJRose

Leaving the grocery store stickers in the pics kinda gave it away. lmao Last night I guessed it was that particular store when I saw your Facebook post. I don't know why, but I did. lol

November 9, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJoJo

So many *facepalm* moments in one article. Good post. :)

Seriously though, any store that gives me trouble about using my camera is losing a customer. I'm always using the camera on my snartphone for scanning barcodes to check prices and get product information.

November 9, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJohn

Ooh! I took a lovely photo of a cake from [*CENSORED*] a couple of years ago, but never submitted it. I'll have to submit now.

November 9, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterAlibaba

I was a bakery manager for a national well known grocery store and I can tell you with out a doubt, you cannot copywrite a cake. Now the pictures of characters are copywritten and you could go as far as to say the designs, if they came from say Decopac, are copywritten too. However the bakery has paid for permission to use these images. And again its the image that's copywritten and not the actual cake.

These are not "trade secrets" for God's sake, they are cake.

And can you really ban someone for taking pictures in a public place, pretty sure the answer is no

November 9, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJennifer

My 4 year old just said "what is that pink thing, is it a bunny and why is it's tail in it's mouth?" Enough said.

November 9, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJudith

Cake # 5 looks like someone emptied their bird cage onto it.

November 9, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterLoza

I just cracked up so LOUD at the unfortunate "i" placement! Fortunately, my co-workers are used to me talking to myself so they thought nothing of it. Seriously though, if I weren't already crazy, this site would be problematic for office break viewing.

November 9, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterKatie

In Hawaii, due to price competition, one local store has a sign on the front door "No electronic recording allowed inside." Seems there have been employees of other stores (competitors) come in and either record the prices verbally to a digital recorder or take photographs. Since they rarely decorate cakes with any wording, no Wrecks are to be found. Peace to all ~

November 9, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterKolohe

That last one isn't spaghetti and meatballs. it's a Horta nest.

November 9, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterBADKarma

I can't help noticing that the Un-named Bakery's name is all over the photos! Ha!

November 9, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterAllison

Oh that's hilarious that they think they can stop us. I love this site and I agree that if anything it should help bakers to pay more attention to their work. Jen, you have also been very fair with actual takedown requests in the past so it's not like this site has ever been malicious. Thank you for Cake Wrecks and all the fun it brings.

That being said, I say we as wreckerators should start flash mobs of picture taking of cakes, so long as we can do it in a Safe manner that gets our Way

November 9, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterThe Black Dog

Probably a good idea if you are gonna censor the name out your posts, you might also want to censor their name out of the pictures. Just saying....

November 9, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterShells

I am not a lawyer, but I do know a little about copyright law.

They are allowed to prevent you from taking pictures, though if they post a no photography sign or tell you not to take pictures then you may be trespassing if you take pictures anyway (from inside the store, taking pictures of a display in a window on a public street is fine.) They cannot force you to delete photographs already taken, nor can they prevent you from leaving.

As for copyright concerns, cake designs are probably copyrighted. Taking a photo constitutes creating a derivative work, which is not permitted without the rights holder's consent. However there are exceptions for fair use, based on 4 factors:

* The purpose and character of your use
* The nature of the copyrighted work
* The amount and substantiality of the portion taken, and
* The effect of the use upon the potential market.

In the case of cake photos, the purpose is sufficiently transformational that it seems unlikely any court would deem the photographs infringement, especially since there is no economic harm. If Safeway had their own site dedicated to their bad cakes, they might be able to make a better argument there. Actually making a copy of one of their cakes, would probably be a violation, but done as parody, and not for profit would likely be a non-issue as well.

November 9, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterfacw

I usually just put the cake in my cart, move to a discrete area to take my pic and then return it...

OMG Sharyn you are too funny!

November 9, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterKimberly

I'm not a lawyer, but I am a photography enthusiast and have seen similar non-cake-photography encounters before. (e.g. Take a photo of a building, have a security guard come running out insisting that's illegal and you need to delete the photo.)

Here are a guide from someone who *IS* a lawyer who deals with this kind of stuff:

Some points: That store employee who made Dara delete her photo? That's illegal. The store can make a "No Photos" policy and can ask her not to take photos, but if she's taken a photo it's hers to use as she sees fit. Certain things might prevent her from publicly sharing it (photo of a person w/o a model release), but the photo itself is under her copyright. Even a police officer can't tell her to delete her photos. The worst the store can do is ask her to leave (and call the police if she refuses).

I know a lot of stores don't like photography in their stores for reasons beyond Cake Wrecks. If you can take a cell phone photo of a product, you can also compare that product with other stores online or in the area to find the best deal. Stores don't like that. They want you to just toss the item in your cart and buy it there. Of course, good luck stopping all of your cell-phone-camera carrying customers.

As far as copyright on cakes, I can see copyright being an issue if a customer wanted a ordered a Mickey Mouse cake and the bakery wasn't licensing the character from Disney. However claiming that your "If a lemon got the runs" cake is copyrighted is stretching it a lot.

The only thing I'm sad about is the store in question isn't in my area or I'd go in with my cell phone camera primed and ready.

November 9, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterTechyDad

Well. I must say everytime I go into my store I feel SAFE...WAY more than some stores. Mine is 5 min away, I know all the clerks even though it's a large city & I just feel loved. I have LOOKED for things to photograph & they never have any! They're just that good. I swear this on my dogs life.

I thought they all did the same thing nationwide seems my store rocks better than others. ;)

PS Sharyn - I'm teaching that to my kids when they get home.

November 9, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterTK

That is a 50 Shades of Pink Bunny and that isn't a tail in his mouth. He forgot the "Safe" word and he got that gash on his bunny back. There must be a "Way" to prevent these senseless injuries!

November 9, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterVixx

As far as taking pics in stores goes, privately owned companies can request that you not take photos in their stores for reasons such as: a rival wanting to see how a product is displayed, they might want to copy it. A rival price matching, yes, they all send out people to price check in other stores but if they catch you at it they will ask you to leave or follow you around the store trying to make you uncomfortable. I am sure there are other reasons but those were the ones I was told when I worked for a particular retail giant...Walmart.

November 9, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterValerie

Agree with M. Dale - I very purposely make a trip to the bakery to look for wrecks, when I would otherwise ignore it completely. Hermit cookies and loaves of bread often follow me out!

Stores are PRIVATE PROPERTY and therefore can make their own rules about what can and cannot be done there (within the law of course!) Even if it means laughing in the face of customer service instead of properly training their staff.

November 9, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterKimberly

A randy young bunny named Routh,
Desired for his exploits down south,
Pleasured a fawn,
Just before dawn,
And came up a bit down in the mouth.

November 9, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterjackwire

I ask permission before I take a picture of cakes...."so I can send them to my husband to see which one he wants me to buy for the party".....they always say it's okay...

November 9, 2012 | Unregistered Commentermom

I work in a retail store and asked once about the no photos sign we have posted. I was told that it was to prevent copying from our competition or worse, someone with bad intentions casing the store. That said, we usually don't stop a customer taking a photo of a product, but we have stopped people from taking photos of our displays or parts of the building.

November 9, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterAnonymous Retail Drone

I do all of my grocery shopping at one or the other of two (CENSORED) grocery stores near my house, and I've NEVER seen a wreck - believe me, I've looked, because it's one of MY life goals to be wreckporter! But maybe it's because Canadian (CENSORED) bakers are too polite to decorate cakes inappropriately? :)

November 9, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMichelle

I work at one of those bakeries as a decorator and only 1 cake looks familiar. cake #5 and head office is totally responsible for the way that one looks as it is decorated according to their specs haha.The rest are unexplainable.

November 9, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterTrina

Gee, I didn't know you could copyright crap. Now we have to worry about the crap police too?

November 9, 2012 | Unregistered Commentercrownring

Let's just say that the SAFE WAY to avoid embarrassing the "bakery" in question is to SAFEly black aWAY the name of said "bakery" from the labels before submitting them.

November 9, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterHeather

I got caught taking a photo of a cookie cake at a mall but instead of shooing me away the kid behind the counter asked if he could be in the photo. Sounds like he needs to go work at **NAME REDACTED**.

November 9, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterPenny

Suddenly, I feel the need to buy or make a hat or sunglasses with a built-in spy camera. And give the bakeries a dictionary, since piping bags cannot be fitted with spell-check.

Our local animal shelter also has a new rule against taking pictures because some anti-shelter group took deliberately bad pics and used them for negative publicity. I had to email my friend their posted picture of a blurry lump of white fur instead of one that really showed how cute the dog was.

November 9, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterCatTrampoline

I think the bunny tail was put where it was to keep the bunny from talking (e.g., uttering the name of that cake's creator...) Personally, I feel if whatever you are producing embarrasses you, WORK ON YOUR SKILLS. Train your staff. Call me crazy.

November 9, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterbiobabbler

No one can stop you from selecting the wreck and wheeling over to the produce department to snap a pic, then changing your mind about the purchase! ;)

November 9, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterlisa

Oh, I'm so glad I got to see this before it was taken down! I always miss these things.

November 9, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterStephanie

"Bert Krages, an attorney who specializes in photography-related legal problems and wrote Legal Handbook for Photographers, says, "The general rule is that if something is in a public place, you're entitled to photograph it.""

Read more: Public Photography Laws - Photographing Police and Public Places - Popular Mechanics

November 9, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMamaSandyG

@SuBee: Pick me! Pick me! I call the washboard or the tambourine! I have no vocal ability, so we need someone to actually sing the words....This might be good therapy for Theardare. We could put him on drums because he's used to working with loud instruments (of death, true, but still...).

I may have to go back and sing the song again, but I don't think the hip bone is connected to the rib cage...

November 9, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterAndrea

Copyright? Meaning that every cake in the store is a completely original design that has never been made anywhere else and is in no way an imitation of an existing work? That's an interesting way to look at it. I mean, most of the cakes displayed ARE completely original (innovative spelling, unprecedented placement of bunny tails, creative interpretation of popcorn, etc.) They just aren't original on purpose.
I feel sorry for the poor employees and managers who have to try to enforce this policy with a straight face.

November 9, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJennifer

On the one hand I am sure it's kinda flattering to know that your blog is so big that stores are now making up rules specifically because they fear their creations ending up on your blog.

On the other: Are they bloody serious?

First as someone said above copyright allows for works to be used in parodies and criticisms, and this site definitely falls under that so even if these chains had any legal grounds for copyrighting their food they would not have any grounds to stop them appearing on here just because parodies and critics are protected under those same laws.

Second they can't copyright their cakes, as their cakes are not a name brand.

And third, harassing customers like that is a very good way to see to it that having your cakes appear on Cake Wrecks is going to end up being the very least of your worries.

Honestly grocery chains, have you lost your sense of humor? I'll be happy to lend you mine if so.

November 9, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterAbby

Those first two popcorn cakes (just the first one picture) really don't look all that bad, actually.

But WHO would copyright protect that SECOND monstrosity?

November 9, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterAisha

Guess she is nicer than me because I would have told her I am not deleting anything off my phone. I have my phone out all the time in my local store because that is where I keep my grocery list. Sooooo, if you can take a pic, and then flip back to your list they should be none the wiser ;)
I agree with you though, teach your bakers not to make monstrosities like those. And yes, that "I" on the skeleton is very suspicious. Either that or he is happy to see you :)

November 9, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJen

Huntsville gals, when I lived off Gate 3 of the Arsenal, the WM Superstore was ripe with wrecky goodness! (Now I live in GA where our local Food Lion fills that void. GO DWAGS!

November 9, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterjrh927

Why does Cake #2 look more like a pie someone put icing on? Disgusting!

November 9, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJulie

These people would be SAFEr aWAY from the piping bags, ifyouknowwhatimean. Ugh. Some people...such killjoys lol :D hahaha

November 9, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterStoich91

OMG! That bunny ATE another bunny! Yeah, I would copyright that.

Also, you're not showing bipartisanship. Where's the cake that says:

I'm just shocked I haven't seen any cakes that say "Demoncrat" or "Repubican." Come to think of it, that would be more accurate. :P

November 9, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterpikkewyntjie

You have to admit that the skeleton looks very happy.

November 9, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterKaren

@The Black Dog-Your flash mob idea is fabulous.

November 9, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterSuBee

Awesome censoring!
I wanna be part of Sharyn's band! I can even sing!!!

November 9, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJodee in WA

The only time I spotted a wreck at our local **CENSORED** was when I saw some skull-and-crossbone January. Unfortunately, I didn't have my phone with me, cause that was really odd.

November 9, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterkelticat

You might want to blur out the un-named store's name grime the price labels on the cakes.

November 9, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterLol4real

I call copyright
on Lemon Meringue Pie.
So original.

Don't plagiarize cake!
Unique method: M&M
rainbow fades to grey.

November 9, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterHaiku Joy

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