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Q and A with Cake Wrecks Blogger Jen Yates

"I'm not out to vilify bakers; I'm just trying to find a little funny in unexpected places"

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Blogger Jen Yates looks at hilariously awful holiday cakes in her new book Wreck the Halls: Cake Wrecks Gets Festive. Image courtesy of Andrews McMeel.

Baking can be an intimidating prospect. It requires lots of precision, and it’s disappointing to spend a painstaking chunk of your day futzing with an arsenal of measuring cups, the front of your person plastered with flour, only to have your creation come out of the oven looking less than fabulous. In your 11th hour panicking, you could opt for a professionally made cake—but even those can reach your eager clutches as an aesthetic and architectural mess. You could be upset, cry, maybe sit silently and stare blankly off into space wondering what higher power could possibly allow this sort of thing to happen. Or you can laugh it off—and Cake Wrecks, a blog started by Jen Yates in 2008, provides some much-needed comic relief as it looks at human foibles by way of baked goods. I corresponded with Yates via email about the blog and her new holiday-themed book Wreck the Halls.

What prompted you to start Cake Wrecks?

All of my friends knew about my new cake decorating hobby, and one of them forwarded me an e-mail with the now famous “Best Wishes Suzanne/Under Neat That/We Will Miss You” cake in it. That was my lightbulb moment, and within just a few hours I’d started the blog. Of course, I never expected anyone to read it! It was just a fun little side project, meant only for me and my own amusement. The fact that other people found it and liked it was the shocking virtual cherry on top.

Are you personally making any decorated baked goods this holiday season?

Um, no. This time of year is way too crazy!  I do bake, just not as often as I’d like because of the no-time thing. In fact, the hobby preceded the blog. My husband, John, signed us up for cake decorating classes at a local craft store back in 2008, and a few months later I started Cake Wrecks. As much as I love the wrecks—and believe me, I do!—I still have a passion for great cake art. That’s why we also feature amazing cakes every Sunday in our Sunday Sweets posts.

Why do you think there is such a prevalence of poorly decorated baked goods?

I think it’s just human nature. We’ve all been there: the post-lunch mental lull, the rushed order, the distraction that keeps us from noticing something glaringly obvious later on. Hey, I’ve done it, and odds are all my readers have, too. Like I say on the site: I’m not out to vilify bakers; I’m just trying to find a little funny in unexpected places.

Of course, some of the cakes I post are more of a concept-wreck, like belly cakes and edible babies, and those boil down to a matter of taste—pun intended. There really are ladies out there who think a slice of boob cake is “adorable.” Which is awesome. Because then we get to giggle about it.

Do you notice any trends among the wrecked holiday cakes?

Angry Santa faces. Like, plotting-to-murder-you-in-your-sleep angry. I don’t know why, but apparently a lot of bakeries are anti-smiley face.

Are there certain pieces of holiday imagery that wreckerators from all over seem to have trouble with?

The star of David, no question. If I had a nickel for every five-pointed Hanukkah star I’ve seen… well, I’d have at least 50 cents. In Wreck The Halls I include a Hanukkah cake with a five-pointed star that’s also upside down and inside a circle. Yes, they actually made a Hanukkah pentagram.

What is your favorite holiday cake wreck?

The first one that jumps to mind is Constipated Santa. He has this florescent pink face, and he’s bent double like he’s straaaaaiiining, and I can’t help but giggle every time I see it.

Then there’s this ridiculous lizard-with-a-human-head-wearing-a-Santa-hat cake. It looks as creepy as it sounds, believe me.

Of course the cover wreck is also a doozie: “Happy Hole Days.” We also have “Happy Holly Days,” “Marry Christmas,” and “Merrychrist Mas.” Good stuff.

And while it’s not holiday-oriented, the Star Trek/Star Wars mash-up ranks pretty high in my all-time favorites. As a die-hard geek, it makes me both cringe and laugh at the same time.

For someone who is entertaining during the holidays and ends up with a cake wreck, do you have any advice for them on how to fix it?

My advice? Don’t even try. The holidays are hectic enough without stressing over cake, so just let it go—or better yet, turn it into an inside joke.  Who knows? You might end up with a new yearly tradition, like signing all your cards, “Mary Chistmas!” or making special homicidal snowmen for the front yard.

If you need a last-minute stocking stuffer—or simply want to enjoy more holiday wrecks—pick up Wreck the Halls. And for tragically comic cakes all year long, check out the Cake Wrecks blog.

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