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

The Great Cupcake Cake Debate Continues


Apparently last week's post in which I 'fessed up to my cupcake cake aversion hit a nerve. Or, a hundred nerves. Yep, my inbox has been inundated with e-mails both defending the hapless creation and joining me on the side of decency and real cakes.

(And just to be clear: I have no problems with cupcakes. C'mon: mini cakes you don't have to share? What's not to like? No, it's only when you cram a bunch of them together and slop on a gallon of icing to make a smooth surface that my eyelid begins to twitch uncontrollably. Ok? So, to sum up: cupcakes good, cupcake cakes baaaad.)

The best part about all this public outcry, however, are the photos you guys have sent in supposed "defense" of cupcake cakes. Many of them are so bad I can only hope you guys are being sarcastic, 'cuz if not, daaaang.

An example:

If this looks familiar, it should: it's what the Ojai cupcake cake was supposed to look like. However, looking at it you can see that Ojai actually wasn't that far off the mark; I guess "shiny poo souffle" must be on the spec sheet.

Then there's this one:

Which I don't think is professionally done, but I am assured is still a "good" CCC.

These baffling creations, however, are professionally made:

But I don't get it. I guess the mounds made into animals are the cupcakes? Considering how messy that would be to serve, though, why not go with a real cake? Plus, that only serves 9 I'll-just-have-a-tiny-piece people, or 3 kids - which is hardly worth the effort.

And here a decorator traded in the neon french fries for a bad airbrush job:

Now granted, these are not the worst cupcake cakes I've seen - not by a long shot - but keep in mind that all of the above were sent in as examples of "good" cupcake cakes, people. As in, seeing these should make me change my mind and start liking CCCs. This goes to show two things:

1) Readers L.G., Callie C., Michelle M., and Valerie M. are sweet people who undoubtedly see the best in everyone, and

2) anything e-mailed to Cake Wrecks is fair game. Just sayin'.

The CCC indecency is spreading, too: check out this article in a recent issue of Family Fun sent in by Jess T. & Kelli:

"An easier way to decorate cupcakes"?!? That thing looks more like a radioactive zombie cloud than a pumpkin!

Of course now I know I have to throw some "good" cupcakes cake examples in here, if for no other reason than to prevent another tidal wave of angry pro-CCC e-mails. Let's see here...

Well, due to the confusion over whether or not I was vilifying all cupcakes, about a billion of you sent in these iPhone cupcakes:

Which are cute, but don't count; they're separate cakes and therefore Jen-approved.

Ok, we still need a "good" cupcake cake. (Yes, the "good" will always be in quotation marks.)
Hm. Ah, here ya go:

There's the ticket: draw the design inside the edges, thereby avoiding the scalloped look. Bravo, Carrie S.; you found a "good" one!

And Katie S.'s is still scalloped, but nicely done:

So there are two exceptions that prove the rule. I still maintain, however, that anything a cupcake cake can do:

A real cake can do better:


The floor is now open. Discuss.

« Adding Insult to Injury | Main | Any Occasion Will Do »

Reader Comments (254)

I agree with you on all but one point: The palm tree cupcake cake sent in by Katie S...the brown part of the tree looks like a lumpy penis.

I'm just sayin...

September 26, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterEmily

whoa, the starry night cakes are INCREDIBLE!!!

September 26, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterZoe Young

Apalled at my own reaction, I must state: I actually like the CCC version of Van Gogh's Starry Night better, although I love the Starry Night cake, too!

September 26, 2008 | Unregistered Commenterwrittenwyrdd

Throw my name on your list of those who don't care for cupcake cakes.

The beauty of a cupcake is it's cleanliness and that you don't have to share. You get your own lil' personal cake that you can eat without the aid of a fork or plate.

CCCs take everything sacred about cupcakes and ruin it: they're incredibly messy and have now become a part of a greater whole that you must destroy to enjoy.

I'm sure it's a great position for the more existential cupcakes that need to feel like they're part of something bigger, but I hate ingesting that much frosting and having my cupcake-fingers stained with three-inch-thick frosting.

September 26, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterMichael

Okay, the Van Gogh one is okay. But I'm still with you on this one. Kids...just say NO to cupcake cakes!!

September 26, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterNiki

I've never seen a cupcake cake other than on this blog, and from what I've seen, they're generally pretty ugly. The football and tree one you showed weren't bad. And I actually like the Van Gogh one better than the cake version, because the cake looks stringy and yucky to eat. But I agree generally cupcakes are better separate. Or, for example, as part of cake decoration. My husband and I once made a cookie monster cake at our son's request and used cupcakes for the eyes, for example. The rest of the face was made from normal cake.

September 26, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterAmanda

OK, before the storm of CCC lovers hits, I would like to be on record as saying I have always thought CCC's were FUGLY and a poor excuse for a food product much less a dessert.Thanks for upholding the good name of REAL cakes and REAL cupcakes.. even wreckalicious ones!

September 26, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterAdele

You go, Jen! Stick to your guns!

The "watermelon" arrangement reminds me of a lady's freckled decolletage modeling a mint green off-the-shoulder number.

The palm tree is done well, although something about the base disturbs me.

September 26, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterThe Courteous Chihuahua

Cupcakes are meant to be individual items, not slopped together to turn it into something else. That's why there are cupcakes & then there are cakes. The iPhone cupcakes are cool, but like you said...they are cupcakes, not a cake!! Oh well, point taken...even if not everyone agrees.

September 26, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterKacey

Hey, when you first look at that watermelon cupcake cake, did anyone else see a lumpy bosom with freckles? I'm just sayin'. I had to stare at it awhile to see the watermelon.

Maybe a new category idea? Optical illusion cakes? :)

Sorry, couldn't help myself.

Another terrific post! I have my hubby reading now!

September 26, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterChristen

I have to agree about the CCC issue in general, but the Munch painting example limps a bit. IMO the CCC-Munch is good whereas the real cake version just looks... well.. creepy. Sorry. I guess it's the frames and conventional 2D-imaging on the CCC version that do the trick for me whereas the "heap of weirdness" on the real cake just puts me off.

September 26, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterKriisi

I'm generally not a fan of cupcake cakes, but from the football on down, I'm very impressed.

September 26, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterJamie

OK – the second one down – I saw a woman’s décolleté. And she needs to see a doctor. STAT.

September 26, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterAnonymous

Okay, I was completely in agreement until the "good" example of the palm tree. It looks like a turd with leaves.

On the other hand, I actually like the "Starry Night" cupcakes better than the real cake one, so I suppose I'm still in the air, though leaning heavily towards real cakes!

And what's with polar bears, penguins, rats and ducks? Even on a real cake, that's really messed up.

Linda T.

September 26, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterLinda

Why, people, why??? Just make some pretty cupcakes if you want cupcakes! It takes all of 5 seconds to artfully decorate a cupcake- you can do it! If you want it to look like real cake- GET A REAL CAKE!

/rant. whew! I feel better now.

Keep up the good work!

September 26, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterEmily

I was initially impressed with the Van Gogh cupcakes, but *dang!* that "Starry Night" RAWKS!

September 26, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterphotoJENic

I didn't know Van Gogh made cakes! Where were these designs when I was getting married???

September 26, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterSarah

Okay, the foilage on the cupcake palm tree is incredible. But the bottom of the tree really kinda freaks me out. If you thought the shiny poo souffle was bad, that's just regular old poo.

I do think it's somewhat unfair to compare the 2 Van Gogh cakes, though. Both are really amazing in their own way.

September 26, 2008 | Unregistered Commenteranjulka

I totally agree with you. However, that last CCC was awesome until I saw the cake version. Scalloped, yes, but awesomely creative with the frame and everything. I've often thought that half cupcakes around the edges to removed the scalloped look would be helpful, but then it would be a sheet cake....

September 26, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterKati

That pumpkin cupcake cake looks kinda crazy. I am sure if you turned your back on it, when you spun around it would be right behind you, with that psycho grin on it's "face". Yup. That's a cake that would kill you in your sleep. I'm positive.

September 26, 2008 | Unregistered Commenternancy b

No way! The Impressionist cupcake flat cake with the frame is WAY better than the 3-D one.
I know...I'm an artist.

September 26, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterAndrea

Usually, Jen, we are in complete agreement about cake aesthetics, and I can only shout "Bravo!"

Today, I must disagree with you. I think the Van Gogh cupcake cake is far more true to the original artwork and more appetizing than the real cake you claim has done a better job.

1) I honestly wouldn't have known the real cake was supposed to represent "Starry Night" without the CCC example for comparison.

2) There's far more blue icing on the real cake.... if you know what I'm saying....

3) What's up with the orange icing circling the middle layer?

September 26, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterThe Lili Effect

Hmmm, I'm usually 100% on the NO cupcake cake side - but I actually like the cupcake starry night cake BETTER than the cake one. Maybe it's the presentation.

September 26, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterQueenMAB

A few things: What IS that in the second photo? I just don't get it.

The iPhone cake is mega cool.

The football and the tree are very nicely done. I just knew there had to be an example out there of what a nice cupcake cake looks like.

And the very last one - the art - wow! That is skill.

September 26, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterApril

Jen, you had me shouting "Amen! Tell it, sister!" until the last picture. I agree with you about everything except Starry Night. I'm embarrassed to admit that I like the cupcake version better.

September 26, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterDorothy Parker

I do like the Starry Night Cakes. I am not sure whatone of the cakes on the page is supposed to be. It sort of looks like a bra stuffed with more than the usual number of breasts. My final decision is that it might be a watermelon, but I dunno.... (dang, I see that other people saw the same thing!)

I always look at cupcake cakes as a way of cheating me out of my fair share of cake and trying to compensate with way too much icing.

September 26, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterKLZ

I'm with you on the cupcake cakes, though I like the ease for parties.
However, I don't like that Starry Night cake! Ugly!

September 26, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterCakeEater

From the first time I laid eyes on a CCC, I wondered why in the world they would do such a thing. I'm still wondering . . .

I'm right there with ya!

September 26, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterDawn

I can't say that the pros and cons of cupcake cakes rank as something to get worked up about in my world, but one thing I find really intriguing here: what kind of occasion requires a Van Gogh cake? "Congratulations on cutting off your ear?" "Congratulations on your migraine?" Weird.

September 26, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterMongoose

I LOVE the van gogh cake

I agree that there are a lot of ccc that have no reason being ccc

-- if you're going for a square, then make a sheet cake! but there are benefits to a ccc
-- like at a picnic, no cutting, you just pull off a cupcake.
--- and you can easily mix flavors to allow for folks with chocolate allergies
---you can create odd shapes (like that pine tree, that was a cool one)

I think that the ones that show those rounded corners everywhere are not really professional ones.

September 26, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterMaire

I guess I'm just a tacky person, because for the sake of kids parties, I do love the cupcake cake. I agree, the one I got my son last year had a ton of icing spilling over the side, but for my 2 year old, that pretty made me the best mom ever. For something more classy, though, I'm with you, seperate cupcakes or a regular cake. Your blog makes me laugh daily, by the way, and also makes me scared to death that the cake I'll be attempting for my soon to be 3 year old won't end up here, lol (I promise it won't be a CCC!)

September 26, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterSam and Brian

I have to agree. The CCCs usually make me want to call my dentist because my teeth hurt from seeing all the icing. Just frost the cupcakes individually. It takes just as long as to make all that good attempt to look "good."

September 26, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterAmanda

The Starry Night cake is actually using 3 different Van Gogh paintings, one for each layer, hence the orange icing in the middle. I also prefer the CCC version of that one, but I think a different photo angle would make the true cake look better.

In general, however, I am on teh No CCC side.

September 26, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterAnonymous

Here's one that's a conceptual rather than literal interpretation of pac-man (3rd cake down). With some more cupcakes, could be really awesome

September 26, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterTina A.

At ICES this year, did you see Mike Terry's Fat Buddies? These were cupcakes that were completely covered in icing. I think that is what that one person was trying to accomplished but was not so successful. PS: I enjoy doing cupcake cakes but these are not the best representations of them!

September 26, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterJenniferDNC

The "Impressionist" cake on the bottom just screams of "Oh, I LOVE Impressionists, I hang them all over my dorm room, I just love art" with its bizarre Monet/Van Gogh combo. I can't believe any real art lover would be happy with that. It totally abuses the aesthetic.

The cupcake Starry Night, on the other hand, demonstrates a real understanding of the painting, even if it IS still demeaning.

The cupcake cake is like buying a print. The "real" cake is like buying an "Impressionist" coffee cup.

September 26, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterWendy

Um, yeah... I'm gonna have to agree with you on most counts there, Jen. I do like cupcake cakes, especially for kids' parties -- less potential mess to clean up, no complaining about who got the better piece, arguments over the corner, etc.


I'm severely disappointed that nobody (including you, Jen) seemed to notice that the "ducks" had 4 flippers... FOUR FLIPPERS???

September 26, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterM K Glass

What is the second one, that pink thing? I seriously can't tell.

I agree with the first poster that said the palm tree looks like a penis. I know it probably took a lot of work and all, but it looks like a penis.

September 26, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterAnonymous

Jen just to give you a little support, I asked the lady that owns our local cupcake specialty store (yes we have one and it rocks) if she ever made cupcake cakes with her creations. The look of horror she gave me in response suggested I'd actually just asked her if she used fresh puppies in her recipes before she replied, "Ewww, no!"
On a side note, I feel kind of sorry for the rat-thing on the animal-things cake. No wonder he looks so cranky...he's surrounded by carnivore-things!

September 26, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterLeslie

I thought the watermelon was a butt and underwear at first. And what's with the extra cupcakes below? If you need more cupcakes than your "cake" calls for, just have cupcakes.

I'm with you, cupcakes are wonderful, but cupcake cakes are ugly as hell. I did like the starry night ccc and the real cake as well, though they are different enough for me to like them both.

No cup cake cakes!

September 26, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterLizard

Shenangigans!!! Get your brooms...

September 26, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterAmy

What the heck is the pink with red dots cupcake cake supposed to be? It looks like a rash above someone's v-neck tshirt!!!

But yes, the Starry Night cakes are amazing!

September 26, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterCharly

At first, I found the first CCC I saw at a local Wal-Mart intriguing. THEN I realized what I was looking at and the shock began to wear off. These things are horrible. Plus, it started a trend...They are EXTREMELY popular in Ohio. Personally, I would refuse to make one, unless appropraitely bribed, then I would deny everything!

It's cake OR cupcakes, people. Or cupcakes on the side.

Marie Antoinette did not say "...let them eat cupcake cakes."

September 26, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterAmbrosia Logsdon

Thanks again for always entertaining ! I happen to love cupcakes, but not CCC's. Very confusing. I am enjoying the break from the hurricane by checking out your site...My sister makes some pretty cupcakes for her home business...check them out at "" There are 2 archived sections that have "Willy Wonka" in the title....Thanks !

September 26, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterJames ~n~ Amber

where do i get the starry night cake or CCC. either would make me astoundingly happy!

September 26, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterAnonymous

From your post, I'd have to conclude that CCCs can be good, but are not to be attempted without an excellent design & real talent. I can see their usefulness, in situations where knives & forks aren't wanted/available (i.e. outdoors where you can just hose the frosting off of everyone).

As for the Van Gogh debate, I saw another image of the CCC that I thought looked disGUSTing, because it was easier to see the inch-thick layer of icing needed to pull it off. I'll have a slice of the interpretive but edible Real Cake, please!

September 26, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterFlartus

ok holy cow. not going to lie the van gogh cakes seriously blew my mind. i just woke up and i don't know if i can function for the rest of the day. AMAZING. although the cake one is way cooler :D

September 26, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterWakeGrace

You are usually right, but I'd bet a consensus would say the Starry Night cupcake cake is a better rendition of VG's painting. That creator should get credit where credit is due. That is beautifully done!

September 26, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterLisa

I whole heartedly agree - cupcakes - YUM! CCC - very rarely turn out ok. The Van Gogh being among the rare. WOW!!! I am loving both versions of Starry Night!
(Oh - and is it just me, but the ducks look like they are trying to impersonate a cartoon version of a hound following a trail.... or they came from Tyson have have some severe hormonal issues!)

September 26, 2008 | Unregistered Commenter*Michelle

Both the Starry Night cakes are just GORGEOUS!!

I'm not a fan of cupcake cakes. I think it's too messy, honestly and I'm not a huge fan of over-frosting a cupcake (little kids make enough of a mess on their own without being given extra frosting). Give me a real cake that I can cut into pieces as big as I want ;)

September 26, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterV. Nicharico

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