Cake Wrecks, The Book: An Interview with Creator Jen Yates
"The classic Wrecks are those that are misspelled, misunderstood, or trying way too hard to be creative."
Since May of 2008, Jen Yates has been documenting moldy feet, pregnant bellies, and misplaced apostrophes spotted on cakes on her wildly popular blog Cake Wrecks. Very quickly, Jen has made a career out of ridiculous cakes. Her new blook (blog-turned-book?) Cake Wrecks: When Professional Cakes Go Hilariously Wrong comes out on October 1, and features a bunch of brand-new content. Yes, that means more creepy baby cakes! We chatted with Jen about the Cake Wrecks concept, what holidays are most wreckable, and more.
So, let's start at the beginning. The Cake Wrecks creation story. It quite literally began with "The Cake That Started It All," my first post. My friend Abby forwarded that e-mail to me, I laughed, started wondering if there were more like it out there, and, well, one thing just led to another! Within a few hours, Cake Wrecks was born.
Did you think it would blow up the way it did? (And wherever you are, Abby, thank you for bringing this bundle of joy into our lives.) Absolutely not! I figured it would be a fun diversion for a little while, but I never thought anyone other than a few close friends would ever read it. It was really more for my own amusement. In fact, the first time a stranger commented on a post, I was a bit freaked out. Today I'm *still* stunned by CW's continuing success.
A smashing success! How did the book deal happen? Do you envision a movie too à la Julie & Julia? (Sorta kidding) A few months into writing the blog, an editor contacted me. Then a few agents. It was quite surreal, and I actually dismissed the idea of a book at first. It was only when multiple people approached me that I started seriously considering it--and from there it wasn't too long before I teamed up with Andrews McMeel to actually put the thing in motion.
Somehow I don't think CW would do well on the big screen. Heh. Besides, I think the spirit of Cake Wrecks is alive and well in some of the cake reality shows out there, and that's good enough for me. ;)
Why should people buy the book when they can, ahem, get the milk for free? The spirit of the book is the same as the blog, so if you enjoy Cake Wrecks online you'll enjoy it in print. In addition to all the new Wreckage (about 75 percent of the book has never been on the blog) there are also some behind-the-scenes tidbits I think fans will enjoy. You'll learn a little bit more about me, the early days of the blog, the controversies I either incurred or survived, how bakers have reacted, and other fun facts. There are also some reader stories sprinkled throughout the book. Mostly, though, it's all about the Wreckage.
Did you have to get permission from all the readers who submitted photos? As far as the legalities go, yes, we had to set up a special contract page for readers to submit any photos that they wanted to be considered for the book--so we have official permission for everything printed. Getting that set up and establishing a filing system to keep track of it all was quite the challenge, too!
What are the classic trademarks of a Cake Wreck? From the frosting font to the airbrushing to the plastic toymabobs. The classic Wrecks are those that are misspelled, misunderstood, or trying way too hard to be creative (hellooo, pregnant belly cakes!). And, of course, you can't go right with tons of airbrushing and plastic flotsam.
Is there one theme that's continually wrecked? Babies? I'm seeing a lot of freaky babies. Baby showers continue to be the Wrecks-theme champion. I don't think there's any other category of cake that is so consistently Wrecky, which must be why I love them so much.
A holiday that's most wreckable? Christmas was INSANE last year, so I can't wait for those holiday cakes to start showing up again. Wreckerators in a festive spirit produce some absolute wonders.
Can you tell if any "Cake Wrecks" were intentionally made just to be on the site? (I mean, you are a pretty big deal.) We do our best to screen out the intentional Wrecks. Most fans tell me if they did it on purpose, and I screen out those that seem overly suspicious. We also will follow up with submitters if we suspect an amateur at work. The good thing is that I do occasionally feature Fan Wrecks, so hopefully readers know they can still get on the blog without resorting to a "fake" Wreck.
Have you ever found yourself the victim of a Wreck? Me? Hah, not that I know of! Well, unless you count the intentional homages to the blog--those are always fun to see.
Is there a classic Wreck flavor? Note: not regular cake flavor. Not a regular cake flavor, huh? Uh, well, it seems like every creepy Wreck is always made of red velvet. You know, the better to resemble guts and gore? So I guess that's kind of the unofficial Cake Wreck flavor.
Have you ever made a cake "artist" cry when he or she realized their "art" was on your site? Ooh. Well, yes, I think so, unfortunately. It was the very first baker I ever heard from, in the very early days of the site, and she was so sweet and so embarrassed at the same time that she actually made *me* cry. (Turned out she wasn't a professional, which made me feel even worse.) Obviously I removed her photo and wrote her a heartfelt apology, but that experience taught me a lot.
Now I try to consider every post from the baker's perspective, and I always try to keep my humor light and as insult-free as possible.
What entry got the most comments (or just created the biggest Wrecksplosion in general)? That's a tough one, since there have been a few (inadvertently) controversial posts since CW began. I think the most traumatic for me was the insulin pen cake, which I talk about in the book. But there was also the horse post, which I unknowingly posted the day after all those famous race horses died. (Later I posted some realistic baby cakes the same day a news story broke about a baby's gruesome death. My bad timing is becoming legendary.) The controversies don't necessarily get the most comments, though--the more popular posts or the ones with spelling errors in them do. :D
The post with the most comments, though, is the one announcing the book tour. When I ask for feedback, the fans give it in spades! I think we have something like 800 comments on that entry, all demanding we add the commenter's city or country to the tour. That kind of enthusiasm is why the tour went from an initial five stops up to the 12 scheduled now.
Clearly people will be a little starstruck around the original Cake Wreckerator herself. Who does the same for you? I still get a little starstruck when I hear from some of my favorite bloggers--and bakers, too. I'll be watching some cake challenge on TV and squealing over all the contestants that I "know" from e-mail. Elisa Strauss (of Confetti Cakes) sent me her new book some months back, and over the past few weeks I've gotten to exchange a few chatty e-mails with Mary Alice (from Ace of Cakes), who is even cooler than I thought she'd be--and that's pretty darn cool.
Do you have a day job? Right now it's all Cake Wrecks, but John and I also own and operate a faux finishing company called Artistic License. I don't paint onsite much anymore. The past few years I've just handled the paperwork and website and such from home. Now that the economy has taken a downturn we don't have much work, though, so John's been helping me more and more with Cake Wrecks. I'm getting quite spoiled, too. We work so well together that I'll be a little sad to see him go back to his day job.
Is there potential for BrownieWrecks, CookieWrecks, and CupcakeWrecks? From what I've seen, if a decorator can squirt icing on it, s/he will--and that means Wreck potential. So I do occasionally post the non-cake Wreck, and you'll continue to see the odd cookie Wreck or bread Wreck from here on out.