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

Christmas in July: Going Dutch

Ok, sure, it's July, and the last thing on your mind is broadening your...uh...mind...with exposure to international holiday traditions - I get it. However, this particular post was deemed by the powers that be* too controversial to post back in December, so all my hard work and sparkling wit got shelved, its radiance cloaked all these long months.

So what changed?

Well, that's a long story. One involving too many mango mojitos, a Chuck marathon, and a malfunctioning alarm clock. (Ok, so maybe it's not that long of a story...)

But enough intro: you guys ready to have those minds broadened? I promise it will only sting a little.

*meaning me, John, and the cat

In the Netherlands Santa Claus (called Sinterklaas) doesn't have elves for sidekicks; he has Zwarte Piet (meaning "Black Pete"). Zwarte Piet is usually played by a white guy in blackface makeup, a curly black wig, and big gold hoop earrings. (I am SO not making this up.)

Here's a reference photo from Wikipedia:

"Get your hand off my robe; you'll make it dirty."

Zwarte shows up in cake form quite a lot, too, and in less than flattering ways:

However, if this seems a little insensitive to you, Wreckporter Kiki has a perfectly reasonable explanation:

"Dutch people claim Pete is black because of the soot in the chimneys he has to climb down to deliver the gifts."

OH, so it's soot! Ok, I get it. And you're right: this does look a lot like Bert the chimney sweep:

We all know how Bert liked his lipstick.

And dressing up like Aunt Jemima:

This one found by Wouter T. is probably the most wreckish; it looks like the remains of a melting muppet:

Ever heard the expression "in for a penny, in for a pound"? Well, since I'm already stirring up trouble here, I may as well share what Megan H. found at a bakery in Argentina:

They're little cakes called "Africancitos", or "little black men". With bows on their heads. I don't think they're a holiday treat, though, so you can enjoy your little-black-men cake heads any time of the year. "Great for parties!"

(Yes, I've officially crossed the line from horrified disbelief into horrified humor. It's more fun over here - won't you join me?)

To those of you offended by all this, you should know that Zwarte Piet was not intended to be offensive. (Argentina, you're on your own.) And to those of you who see nothing wrong with outdated and racially insensitive traditions, you should take a look at this poster:

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Reader Comments (338)

I love "the remains of a melting muppet" line. Hilarious! Jen delivers again.
And I can't believe they think it's okay to keep that tradition alive! Didn't Ted Danson get in trouble for this a few years back?

Just so ya'll know,

Anne Marie and I are dreading doing comments today.

Please keep it clean and kind.


cw2 looks, to me, like Ernie climbed (sailed? fell?) down a chimney.

July 8, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterEtiquette Bitch

If I'm ot mistaken, Pete also kicks bad little boys and girls. I am so not making that up.

July 8, 2009 | Unregistered Commentermarybt

Wow. Those first 2 look like Zwarte the clown. Other country's traditions are just...scary. Poor kids. Can you imagine the Zwarte the clown nightmares those kids have over there?

July 8, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterDorci

I'm an American living in Holland and I still can't get used to the sight of Zwarte Piet every year. I hate trying to explain him to my visiting friends and I hate trying to explain the American sensitivity to him to Dutch friends. I think the best approach is a light-hearted one, like in this post, respecting both the Dutch tradition of this weirdo and the US tradition of detesting blackface. Whatever you do, do not look up the name of chocolate covered marshmallows in Dutch.

July 8, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterChristina

Wow, rarely am I left speechless, but I truly am at a loss for words with these wreckages....

July 8, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterKristina

David Sedaris wrote a hilarious essay talking more about this tradition. It's called Six to Eight Black Men.

July 8, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterweirdmom

Oof.. interesting cakes and hilarious commentary!

Good luck fielding the comments, guys!

July 8, 2009 | Unregistered Commentercarrera

Thanks for this post today, Jen. I've been having a rough few days, and I thought "I'm going to go check out Cake Wrecks today. Hopefully there will be a good post today." You didn't disappoint. I agree in the horrified humor, mostly for the Argentina cakes. Did Eva have something to do with these? Nah, she was above that. Oooh! now I have Madonna in my head!

July 8, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterTrevor

The expression on that "melting muppet" might as well be me today...

July 8, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterBelle Epoque

I'd like to know, if it's soot that he has all over his face, how did his beard stay so snowy white in the first cake?

July 8, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterBryna

OK, you know I love your site, but now, I'm going to be singing "Albi the Racist Dragon" ALL DAY! (Psst...I secretly I love you for it.)

July 8, 2009 | Unregistered Commentereaner729

I'm far more appalled by Tuesday's poo cake bonanza.

July 8, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterJeff

The tradition poster really hit it on the head . I can't tell you the number of times I've heard "well we've always done it that way so it's not going to change". My answer has always been, "Just because you can convince a bunch of people to do something for an extended period of time doesn't make it right" Then, to punctuate my point I say "Look at slavery, or womens votes or Auschwitz or.....". That usually leaves them gob smacked and actually THINKING!
Hmmmmm, what do you know...sometimes changes actually means you have to say and/or do something rather than just hide behind the ole' "tolerence for everything anyone wants to do" nonsense!

Martin Luther King said: "In the end we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends"

Okay, climbing down off my soapbox and switching to decaf now...Mighty Good Morn to you all!

Cheers, John and Anne Marie! ;D

July 8, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterJudy

I thought Zwarte Piet hit bad boys and girls with sticks and shoved them in his bag to take away. Nothing like a little scare tactic to make the kiddos behave at Christmas. Makes our whole "coal in the stocking" threat sound quaint!

But, I find it mildly disturbing that people turn him into a cake and eat him. Although, at this point, nothing should surprise me.

July 8, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterFairly Odd Mother

I am just floored. I am glad we have come far enough to be mortified.

July 8, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterCottagecheap

Wow, Black Pete sounds like Krampus. Krampus the Christmas Demon smacks bad little children, too... with a broom yet.

And I am so not making that up either...

July 8, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterHollygoyle

Horrified humor is definitely more fun!

July 8, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterKristin

OK... So... If he's black because of the soot in the chimneys he slides down, what's with the white beard? In that picture with the cakes of his head, he has a white beard/goatee looking thing on his chin. Wouldn't that turn black, too? How's he keep it so nice and sparkling clean?

Just curious.

July 8, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterjedijson

Ah, memories of my childhood. They tried to have a PC makeover of Pete in the Netherlands, but in a crazy way -- they had all different colors of Petes, like pink, purple, green. But that didn't stick, I don't believe (I don't live there, just have Dutch parents who did the Sinterklaas tradition here in the US with us). Not to mention that until recently, these awesome chocolate covered marshmallow cookie treats you could get in Holland were called Negro Kisses (!!!). THAT at least has been changed, now they are called Angel Kisses I think.

July 8, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterMarieke

I like the kicking kids part.

If they're going for a "soot covered man" there are far less offensive ways they could do it. And why is he wearing earrings to climb down the chimney? Is that the latest in Chimney Sweep fashion (didn't see it on Dick Van Dyke)

I could care less if they make little cookies with black mens faces, since there are "white" face cookies. But the whole "black people have GIANT pink lips" thing has GOT to go!

July 8, 2009 | Unregistered Commentermeredith

I like the man dressed in red and white, the with a big belly better! But their "santa" is WAY more creative!

July 8, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterrose

Actually, Zwarte Piet typically canes children who haven't been good, as well as leaving a piece of coal in their shoes rather than the present they were hoping for. Nothing like adding some BDSM to an already strange tradition.

I have to saw though, I grew up with this tradition in Belgium, and it genuinely never occurred to me that this very cartoonish representation of a black person had any relation to my black friends. I know that seems hard to believe for most Americans but it was true for me.

I've lived in the US for long enough now that I understand why this would not be at all acceptable here. The imagery is slowly becoming less acceptable in Europe as society becomes more multi-cultural, but try to remember when looking at these not to judge them solely based on American race relations history.

July 8, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterAreia

The muppet one makes me think the cake 'decorator' was confused about whether they were doing a Pete cake or a Cheshire Cat cake!

July 8, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterHilary

My husband spent some of his formative years in Germany where they also have Black Pete.

In his recollection, Pete is a gypsy type Santa sidekick who takes bad children. Black Pete leaves a warning (coal, maybe?) to all the good kids among the presents Santa has delivered.

Jim remembers Black Pete as always wearing a turban.

July 8, 2009 | Unregistered Commenteradrienne

Okay, this part from Wikipedia had me giggling until I almost peed.

"if they have been bad, Piet will scoop them up, stuff them in his huge dufflebag and spirit them away to Spain as punishment."

Is Spain such a horrible place that it is now used as punishment? Is it like Pleasure Island in Pinocchio? Bad boys go there, then they are turned into donkeys?

July 8, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterErica

Ah mango mojitos. You seem to work so much better off of them than I do.

You're awesome; these are funny, and I'm proud of you for posting such awful cakes!

July 8, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterLeah

I'm amazed they had Zwarte Piet in cake form! They don't really do cake here that much! Oh, and the melty cake is a grocery store cake (of course) from Albert Heijn.

I believe Piet is supposed to be Turkish, for what it's worth. I'm an American in the Netherlands and last Christmas was my first one here. It's a strange one, to say the least, but it's Piet that all the little kids like to dress up as, more than Sinterklaas.

July 8, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterBeth

I've spent the last three Dec. 5ths in the Netherlands and I HATE Zwarte Piet. I don't say anything to the Dutch people because I know I'll never be able to make them think it is offensive. But I hate it and I will always think it's an awful tradition, no matter what.

July 8, 2009 | Unregistered Commenternaechstehaltestelle

I grew up in a Dutch Canadian family, and yes, I visited Black Peter at Christmas instead of Santa Claus. I was told that Black Peter represented several moorish children that St Nicolas saved from starvation (St Nicolas is Turkish, BTW), and so they help him distribute gifts to all good kids in thanks. Black Peter's role is to determine which kids have been good and earned a visit from Sinterklaus, and then bring him to their houses on his horse. Remember, St Nicolas is very old, and needs help getting around. If Black Peter doesn't deem a receipient worthy, he leaves coal in their shoes instead (I've never heard of kicking). I am a little ambivalent about the story today - it may not be culturally sensitive now, but I don't really believe it was intentionally derogatory. Many celebrations today omit Black Peter, which may be for the best.

July 8, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterAnonymous

If you think that's funny, check out David Sedaris' narrated "Six to Eight Black Men" on YouTube (in 3 parts).

My choir director is Dutch, but I haven't had a chance to ask her about their, um, traditions yet. :)

July 8, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterAnonymous

According to David Sedaris, they're not covered in soot, they used to be slaves and now they're just 'helpers'.

YouTube's got the Six to Eight Black Men bit:

Part 1:
Part 2:
Part 3:

I did a study abroad in Ecuador and these images are all over there too- there's even an ice cream treat on a stick.

In Brazil, music stores have a section for "Black Music" that runs the gamut from 50s R&B to modern hip hop. Basically, if you recorded something of any genre, and you're black, you go in the Black Music bin.

July 8, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterAnonymous

I think you meant Ernie instead of Bert. Bert has a tall skinny face. Those look like a bunch of black Ernies.

July 8, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterAnonymous

I agree with the poster of the encierro of the Sanfermines festival (that's the running of the bulls). My Spanish husband even thinks they're crazy. Every year someone either gets severely injured or killed. Did you know that they all run into a bullring and close the doors? So, many of the runners are trapped in the bullring with the bulls! That's what they do at the end! Also, they do it once every day during the festival. And one more thing, it's going on RIGHT NOW, July 7th-14th!

July 8, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterSerĂ¡

I'm guessing the white "bows" are intended to be bones.

Racism in sugar. I'm stunned.

July 8, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterSeaShore

@Rose: St Nicholas and Sinterklaus were representative of Sainthood and piety, hence the slim build. The fat Jolly Santa is a creation of the Coca Cola industry and represents abundance and gluttony. Appropriate no?

July 8, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterJudy

At first I thought the idea of this Piet guy was horrid ... but then I read that he hits kids that are bad and punishes them for their wrong doing. Now, I strangely feel connected to him and think we need more Piet in all of us for hope in future generations. EAT PIET! :)

July 8, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterSheila M.

"Bert the chimney sweep" Ah ha ha ha!

July 8, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterMari

This isn't strictly a non-American phenomenon. doesn't anybody remember that super awkward weirdness that happened in the Village not too long ago? the baker's pathetic bs-ing is what made the news spot.

July 8, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterAnonymous

These are hilarious! Traditions are, more often than not, ridiculous.

I LOVE the de-motivational poster! So very, very true.

July 8, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterViewtiful_Justin

The Muppet one looks like a Jay Jay Walker cake.

July 8, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterJenDiggity

Gee. And I thought I was cringing when I saw the poo icing cakes.

Reminds me of a story. Back in the 60s, Sears and Roebuck used to have a candy department. If mom took us kids shopping, and if we behaved, we'd be treated to our choice of a small sack of candy.

One day while I chose my candy, my mother noticed a favorite candy from her own childhood in the 40s - chewy chocolate babies. She was so delighted that she exclaimed loudly "Oh look! Chocolate Babies!". Only she didn't say chocolate, because that's not what they were called when she was a child. Half the store turned wide eyes upon us. Mother and I were both horrified and ashamed.

Keep in mind, Mom is the furthest thing from a racist, and was far more progressive in the 60s than other parents I knew. Sure, we laugh uncomfortably about it now because it was a long time ago. But it really was not that long ago in history that this sort of thing was acceptable.

July 8, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterdrrum

Bows on the Africancitos? Naahhh...those are BONES, m'dear. Does no one else own up to remembering when native Africans were portrayed in cartoons as big-lipped black men with a bone on top of their heads? I hadn't thought about that for YEARS, but I bet a dollar to a donut (or cupcake) that those are bones, not bows.

July 8, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterLynn

This reminds me of a story my grandmother from Germany would always tell us about her younger brother.
When she lived in Germany as a child, Black Peter and Santa would come to their house every year. However, her younger brother was a terribly misbehaved child. Since Black Peter and Santa were just some of the neighbors dressing up, her parents gave them permission to have a little fun. So, Black Peter asked if my grandma's brother had a been a good boy,to which he plainly lied. Black Peter called him on it, threw him in his sack and walked out the door telling the kid the whole way that he's dragging him to hell.
About a block down the road, after much crying and pleading, her brother promised to be good for the rest of his life and ran back home once released. Apparently that behavior only lasted a couple weeks, but it makes for a good story anyway.
And thus, scare tactics are beautiful thing. ^_^

July 8, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterRAM

Wonder if SC Governor Sandford enjoyed any of these treats with his Argentina lover? hehe. (Sorry, I'm from SC...have to poke fun!)

July 8, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterAnonymous

This post has left me speechless.

July 8, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterAnonymous

I am Dutch and I was always taught that Zwarte Piet is to reward good children but also to take away the naughty children in his sack. ;)

July 8, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterlawgirl

You made me laugh so much with this post! seriously that's a feat today!
it's educational though - I never knew about that!
thank you!

July 8, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterAmy

My grandparents are Dutch, so I already know about black peter. Sometimes he's represented as a black cat. As I remember it, he punished children who are bad by giving them coal (or stuffing them in his sack, depending who you talk to).

Anyway, funny post, thanks for sharing!

July 8, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterErica

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