10.15.09, 10:48 AM #1
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Today's Mindless Diversion Web Site: Cake Wrecks.com
When the Icing on the Cake Spells Disaster
By DAVID HOCHMAN
SOMEONE who decorates cakes for a living should possess certain skills. Spelling is an important one. For example, success is not quite as sweet when the inscription reads, “Contralulation’s Ronan.” An eye for color helps, too. Piped dark brown swirls are never a good idea on a cake dotted with plastic farm animals. Finally, a few words about customer service: When someone requests that nothing be written on the cake, “NOTHING” should not be written on the cake.
For those working outside these margins, there is Cake Wrecks, Jen Yates’s popular blog and new book of the same name (Andrews McMeel, $12.99), celebrating the folly of professional confections gone horribly, horribly wrong. Think of them as epic fails, with frosting. There are Hello Kitty cakes that look more like gerbils with glandular problems, fondant ribbons gnarled into hideous nests, and squishy inscriptions that read, “Happy 3th Birthday, Evan.” As Ms. Yates, 31, defines it, a Cake Wreck is “any cake that is unintentionally sad, silly, creepy, inappropriate — you name it.”
“I can’t get my brain around what’s happening in bakeries out there, but something very wonky is going on,” Ms. Yates said by telephone recently. “Wonky” is a favorite term on her site, as in the wonky Curious George cake that looks more like Jo-Jo the Dog-Faced Boy. Sometimes, the wonkiness lies in the sentiment being expressed, as in the cake inscribed, “Sorry for all those things we said.”
Then there was the wonky miscommunication that started it all. In May 2008, a friend e-mailed Ms. Yates a photo of a sheet cake that looked like a prop from “The Office.” It was not. Amid marzipan flowers, the cursive inscription was a profound reminder of the perils of ordering supermarket cakes by phone. It read:
Best Wishes Suzanne
Under Neat that
We will Miss you
One giant LOL and several Google image searches later, Ms. Yates was in the business of chronicling pro baking train wrecks. “People had been posting pictures of ugly cakes for years, so I just started collecting them,” she said. What began as an amusing distraction from her job as a faux finisher for the specialty painting company she runs with her husband, John, in Orlando, Fla., has snowballed into a genuine Internet phenomenon — or at least a serious time waster.
By last fall, around 100,000 visitors a day were gawking at Cake Wrecks. More than a million people subscribe to Ms. Yates’s Cake Wrecks updates on Twitter.
“Everyone in the baking business follows Cake Wrecks almost daily, if only to make sure our cakes aren’t ending up on there,” said Mary Alice Yeskey, who works at Charm City Cakes in Baltimore and appears on the Food Network show “Ace of Cakes.” David Lebovitz, a former pastry chef at Chez Panisse who now writes about desserts from Paris, is also a fan.
“As someone on the professional side, you can see how these disasters happen, which only makes them funnier,” he said by telephone. “You take an order, leave it to one of your assistants to handle, and walk in the next morning and say, ‘Um, O.K. I think we have a problem.’”
Fortunately for Ms. Yates, an enormous number of those problems go unnoticed. She said she receives 50 to 60 Cake Wrecks submissions a day via e-mail, and usually posts between one and five photos each weekday morning. She posts only professionally made cakes (“It’s too easy and mean to go after your Aunt Sally’s cake wreck,” she said) and nothing excessively gory or obscene.
Much of the joy in following Cake Wrecks comes from Ms. Yates’s wry assessment of every plopped-out flower and bug-eyed snowman. She is particularly savage about punctuation mishaps, like when a baker omitted an exclamation point after the inscription, “Way To Go Bob.” Ms. Yates wrote, “Just try to read this cake without sounding sarcastic. Yeah. Exactly.” Beneath a Father’s Day cake that starkly announced “1 Dad,” the caption read, “Of all the Dads out there, you are one of them.”
At Ms. Yates’s bookstore appearances this fall, Cake Wrecks fans competed in cupcake contests to recreate the blog’s most popular wrecks. Some of the classics are tacky, like the chocolate cake festooned with Bud Light bottle caps. Others are silly, like the cake topped by naked mohawk-wearing babies riding plastic carrots.
A few are unfathomable. When a customer brought in a USB flash drive and asked a bakery to print out a digital picture from it to use on a cake for an office party, the baker instead made an edible version of the flash drive itself. A picture of the resulting cake, accurately frosted in silver and black, is probably the most forwarded image on the blog.
“We’ve all seen a cake at a supermarket or someone’s party and thought, ‘What were they thinking when they made that?’ ” said Heidi Mattson, a fan of Cake Wrecks who drove over an hour with her three children from St. Cloud, Fla., to attend a reading by Ms. Yates in Winter Park, Fla., last month.
Ms. Mattson brought along a cupcake replica she made of her favorite cake mistake on the blog. It is known as the Olympics Rings cake.
“The person had probably called up and said, ‘Can you put Olympic rings on my cake?’ ” Ms. Mattson explained. Instead, the edible red letters read as follows, parenthesis and quotation marks included: (“Olympics Rings”)
Ms. Yates said her intention is not to embarrass anyone, though she has received some hate mail from unhappy bakers, she said. Her point is to “find the funny,” she said, in the simple mistakes that are so easy to make at work.
“There are good excuses, I’m sure, for all these wrecks,” she said. “The person who took the order didn’t speak English very well. Someone was at the end of a very long day. We all slip up. But when you do it in the bakery department, it just so happens it’s a little more obvious.”
http://cakewrecks.blogspot.com/"The reasonable man adapts himself to the world; the unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore, all progress depends on the unreasonable man."George Bernard Shaw
10.15.09, 10:51 AM #2
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