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!

« ARRRRGH | Main | BULL'S-EYE! »

Reader Comments (84)

Jaw dropping perfection :O

January 29, 2012 | Unregistered Commentermindy1

I have a friend that peels the fondant off the cake and eats the fondant! He loves it! ;P

January 29, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterNatasha

I actually make my own fondant using the Wilton recipe for rolled marshmallow fondant. Its super sweet but tastes exactly like marshmallows! You can even flavor it if you want which creates a ton of possibilities!

But I am super super impressed by all of this buttercream action, have to give that stuff a try!

January 29, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterAli

I'm going to want
the Charlie Brown "love-you" cake
the rest of my life.

January 29, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterHaiku Joy

I can personally vouch for Cupcake Cafe's work. I've been lucky enough over the years to indulge in their treats, and I can tell you that the flowers are truly works of frosting art. Their buttercream is the best I've had and the cake is always delicious too--dense and moist. God, now I want to go grab one of their cupcakes (which are decorated with the beautiful buttercream flowers too)... Is it a good or bad thing that I live a 40-minute train ride away from their bakery?

January 29, 2012 | Unregistered Commenter{gemmifer}

I'm not even a Star Wars fan and I think those cupcakes look awesome!

January 29, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterThe Goddess of Books

I do loooooooove the taste of fondant. I had to instruct the kitchen staff at my wedding to leave it on the plate and let guests choose whether they wanted it or not. I've had some nasty fondant, but on the whole i think it's delicious. Then again, i cant eat a cake with too much icing. Gross.

January 29, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterChelsea

so nice to see cupcake cafe mentioned twice in this post. we order cakes from them for our bosses birthday every year, and i tell you, those buttercream flowers are just as delicious as they are beautiful. (and they stain your tongue funny colors. ) one of the top cake places in the city. worth every penny.

January 29, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterzoomusikgrl

WOW!!!! AMAZING!!! JAW DROPPING AMAZING!!! If i had to choose one favorite, it would be impossible! These are way better than fondant cakes.

January 29, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterUzma

My jaw hit the ground with the white cake and the paintbrush technique. True art.

January 29, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJezebele

I love fondant. If you don't like it, just pass it this way.

January 29, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJudy

These are gorgeous. Absolutely gorgeous but all I can think is that they all have a ton of icing and I'm not an icing girl. Give me cake!

Am I weird for not liking buttercream? It tastes too much like butter. Not all of it does, but I had a beautiful wedding cake one time at a friend's wedding and the buttercream was so buttery you could smell the butter before you even got to the cake! Yuck! I think the cake is going to be the hardest part of my wedding search. Don't like fondant, not crazy about buttercream. The good thing is that now, no one cares if you don't have a white cake. Thank you changing trends!

January 29, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterKristin E.

I think this is a cultural thing (europe here). I don not know anybody who likes icing.. And besides why use fondant when marzipan has been invented?

January 29, 2012 | Unregistered Commentermijk

The flower cakes from Cupcake Cafe rocked my world, so gorgeous! The rest of these were beauties, too, but I've got a fondness for colorful bouquets. Amazing work with just icing! What a great start to a morning. Thanks, Jen!

January 29, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterleorising

I love fondant! even the smell of it makes me want cake, even thinking about the smell of it makes me want cake! Well now i want cake :(

January 29, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterkayliegh

It would be a CRIME!!! to eat that first one. And the last one. And the white one. And the violet one. And the...

January 29, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterSunshine Mary

Amazing and inspiring - especially for us here in Texas gearing up for the all Buttercream category at That Takes the Cake in late February!!!

January 29, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMichelle

Just gorgeous! I'm glad you made it a long post- and as a bonus I now know what Charlie Brown's little red headed girl looks like (and she's adorable, no wonder he loves her.)

January 29, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterms anthrope

*thud* That would be me fainting!! Thank you so much for posting my cake on Sunday Sweets, I'm honored!!

January 29, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterSerious Cakes

I want a piece of super flowery iced cake for breakfast. That first one is the perfect cake to icing ratio for me!

January 29, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJRose

Yes! It's all about the cake maker's skills. My wedding cake had a similar style to cake 2 (without the gumpaste flowers). When we looked through her portfolio I asked her if she had any cakes that weren't fondant. She replied "Those aren't fondant. Those are buttercream." It can be done, but not everyone can do it.

January 29, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterrachel

I tried making a fondant covered 16th birthday cake for my daughter. It was hideous. On the other hand, the cakes I made with buttercream for her 2nd birthday rocked. I'm tempted to make her a 16 1/2th birthday cake with buttercream to make up for the 16th birthday cake (even though she loved it, flaws and all). These buttercream designs give me hope, whereas I feel that fondant is secretly laughing at me as I struggle to roll a smooth sheet.

January 29, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterAndrea H.

Aww, I love fondant! I have in the past shamefully eaten it out of the packet...

But wowza- those roses! I have piped roses just once in my life and they were pretty difficult. Mine looked fairly flat too.

January 29, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterRu

Ages ago, when I was young and single, I took a cake decorating class because it looked like fun and I thought it would be a good way to meet women (it was on the first count and was not on the second...) While all of my cakes made the Monday-Friday cakes featured on Cake Wrecks look like Sunday Sweets, I did develop a lasting appreciation for the art of icing. These fondant (not that there's anything wrong with that)-free cakes are absolutley incredible! And this post is one of the best SS's ever!
And please, please, tell me no on ate the scarecrow cookie...please.....

January 29, 2012 | Unregistered Commentermel

This post is right up my alley! I decorate cakes, and I am anti-fondant. I don't like the way it tastes, and don't want people to have to peel it off before they eat my cake! Check out my blog for lots of fondant free creations...

January 29, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterRobin @ Bird On A Cake

'And don't call me Shirley'...Bwahaha! Another fab reference to add hilarity to my day.

And from a Canadian boy, yet - double kudos!

January 29, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterDiane

Gorgeous post. Another Sunday Superlative! Thanks. These are artists of the finest order

My experience with buttercream has been disgusting. Vegetable shortening, sugar, flavoring and color. It holds its shape and pipes reasonably well, but it's inedible. Is there a real, edible butter cream? My favorite accompaniment to cake is whipping cream - with a filling of fresh fruit or custard. Maybe I just should get trifle :-).

January 29, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterNorine

Kristen E.-

Go for a delicious carrot cake with a cream cheese frosting. (The best tasting frosting - ever!) You can still have it decorated with gum paste or chocolate art. Come to think of it, I bet cream cheese frosting would be great on lots of different types of cake. (Invite me!)

Are you getting married soon, or just (wisely) planning ahead for the future?

January 29, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterTricia

Those were absolutely mind-blowing! Thanks so much for taking Sunday to remind us that there are still some decorators out there with mad skillz, especially after that Scooby Doo cake earlier this week!

January 29, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterKristen55

I actually DO love the taste of fondant... :P

January 29, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterSporky

I just wish we could click on the pictures to see the details better, like we used to. These cakes are all so beautiful, and the flowers are just amazing!!

January 29, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterTheOneOnTheRight

O. M. G. I am utterly floored. These things shouldn't be eaten, they should be in galleries!

January 29, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJB

These are absolutely beautiful! I honestly don't understand why more bakeries don't use marshmallow fondant. It tastes so much better and looks about the same.

January 29, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJnaie

I'm one of those few rare people that loves the taste of fondant and gumpaste, and am not too wild about buttercream. That said, these cakes are gorgeous!!!!

January 29, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterLeeI'm po

We had an all buttercream wedding cake and it was so smooth you couldn't tell! Freeds in Las Vegas, they're amazing!

January 29, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterHS

I love the Sunday Sweets that show non fondant cakes. Those royal icing techniques?... I learned those at my father's elbow in his bakery when I was a teenager. I still know and play with them today, however I don't get much chance to use them as I no longer work in a bakery and am only decorating cakes for friends now. Thanks again for showing the wonderfulness and the awfulness of the business!

January 29, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterApril Koenig

I love these posts. I'm a fondant-hater (I admit it! I'm proud of it!) and love to see good old-fashioned cake design that doesn't involve that plasticky stuff. And for those who have had bad buttercream experiences, my former MIL makes a buttercream that is basically like a custard, that is perfectly rich and sweet and has the texture of soft cream butter. It was almost enough to keep me in the marriage. Almost...

January 29, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterS

Wow. Truly amazing and inspiring. This ought to hush the "you can't make fondant designs with butter cream" crowd who object to the inspiration/wreckerated posts. (or is that naive of me?)

The third one and the Wall-E cakes were especially stunning due to the details. Now I want to try the brush embroidery technique. That'll blow my diet, though. I'm a frosting fan living in a fondant free home- and don't mention marzipan, either, and that was before the demonic pig. I consider cake the delivery system for the frosting or icing! :D

January 29, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterBarbara Anne

Totally not inspiring cake commentary, but did anyone else scroll down to the bug 'n buds cupcakes and have it look like they were changing size? Cool.

January 29, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterBrooke

Every time I read one of your entries I want to learn how to do this! Fascinating!

January 29, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterBarb

I knew without looking that those were Cupcake Cafe cakes. Always amazing and delicious.

January 29, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterlindat

Excellent sweets as usual!! Just wanted to add that I make my fondant with marshmallows. Much more tasty!

January 29, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterHelp Me Rhonda

I LOVE fondant free cakes! It takes way more skill! These are all amazing!

January 29, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterjessica

I actually like the taste of fondant over butter cream icing. And I prefer frosting in a can over everything else! My tastes are so simple. *looks in awe at the talent these bakers have while eating chocolate icing out of the can and crying from jealousy *

January 29, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJabby

Thank you for this post! Looking for wedding cakes without fondant seemed like an impossible task! Now I have some ideas. Keep the fondant free cakes coming!

January 29, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterDeidre

My Mum used to decorate cakes. Generally she would cover a cake in fondant but everything else she made with royal icing. She used to do the most amazing piping; all sorts of laces. And on more than one occasion fixing the cake after transport was done late at night with the help of a bottle of sherry (It was the 70s).

January 29, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterCarz

I can't eat a cake with too much icing either... because there IS NO SUCH THING AS TOO MUCH ICING!!!

January 29, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterBea

Count me in as a fondant lover. The general dislike for it is a bonus. I'm all too happy to take the pieces of fondant that others peel off of their cakes. :D

January 29, 2012 | Unregistered Commentermin

Indeed some of these cakes look very lovely. I prefer the fondant look though.

January 29, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterReenaj

Love the white cake from Some Crust Bakery. It is a local legend in these parts. The others are also stunningly beautiful!

January 29, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterSoCalLynn

PostPost a New Comment

Enter your information below to add a new comment.
Author Email (optional):
Author URL (optional):
Some HTML allowed: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <code> <em> <i> <strike> <strong>