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An Interview with Cake Wrecks Creator Jen Yates

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If you're a lover of the Internet (and hey, that's probably what brought you here), chances are you've heard of Cake Wrecks; if not, you're in for a treat. Every day, the blog features new pictures of cakes that probably should never have been. Gross grammar mistakes, monumental misunderstandings, and just plain freakish creations are featured alongside snarky commentary from the blog's creator, Jen Yates.

In just over a year's time, the blog has transformed from an inside joke into a global web phenomenon – all sparked by the hilarious error of one very confused cake decorator. Now, Jen and her husband John have a book version of their beloved website, complete with tons of never-before seen cakes that have been massacred by professional decorators. The couple is currently on a tour to promote the book (one which was temporarily interrupted by some serious health issues, all faithfully documented on the blog), and have just added new dates. I recently got the opportunity to ask Jen some questions about Cake Wrecks – both the site and the book – and shed some light on the backstory of a blogging success story.

What inspired you to start CakeWrecks.com? Did you ever imagine it would be so popular with the general public? How long did it take for the blog to take off?

The first cake I ever posted on CW was actually the inspiration for the whole site. It's that famous cake with the words "Best Wishes Suzanne Under Neat That We Will Miss You" iced on it. My friend Abby forwarded the e-mail to me, and I found it funny enough to go looking for other goofed-up cakes online. When I found a few, I thought, hey, this would be fun to put on a blog! I only did it for my own amusement, though; I never in a million years imagined anyone other than a few close friends reading it. Within just a few months, though, folks starting finding it and telling their friends. A few cake decorators posted the link on some popular cake site boards, and then it *really* hit the big time when Digg and Reddit picked it up. I was shocked, to say the least. Still am, for that matter.

Do you or your husband have any background at all in baking, decorating, or the culinary arts?

Uh, not exactly. :) We own and operate a small specialty-painting company, and that's been our gig for nearly ten years now. For Christmas a few years ago John signed us up for cake classes together at the local crafts store, though. We took all four courses from January to April of '08, which is why my friend sent me that e-mail; she knew it was a new hobby. I started Cake Wrecks in May, so the timing really all fell into place. These days John and I still make cakes once in a while for friends.

Your daily posts are like clockwork. How do you come up with all those wrecks?

It's not me, it's the readers! We get a lot of submissions, probably because cake is so hugely popular these days. There's a cake for everything: divorce, successful potty-training, you-name-it! And where there is much cake, there is the potential for much Wreckage. [rubbing hands together gleefully] Mwuhahaha!

Do you have a "day job?" If so, do you plan on keeping it now that your book's been published?

Before I started Wrecks I was handling the at-home aspects of our company: the website, finances, etc, which only took about as much time as a part-time job would. Once I started Cake Wrecks, it began absorbing more and more of my time, "free" and otherwise. Today, thanks to our dismal economy, we haven't had a painting job in many months – so now John works for me! It's fantastic, really, and I'm quite spoiled having his help. We're also extremely grateful that CW has filled in the gap, so that neither of us has had to go out and get "real" jobs. Hah!

I often find that the cakes get more hilarious the more time I spend looking at old posts. Do these wrecks still crack you up? Do you have a favorite?

I feel egotistical admitting this, but yes, sometimes I *do* crack up over old posts. I'll be looking for a photo in the archives and get distracted, because I won't remember having written something. It's kind of fun looking back, too; like reading over an old diary. I have lots of favorites, but usually for different reasons than the readers. Sometimes I'm just really happy with the way my writing turned out, like in Drew's Birthday Wish, or others I remember some crazy circumstance (like the Epcot/Spaceship Earth debacle) that was frustrating at the time but makes me laugh now. My favorite kind of Wreck, though, is the misunderstanding/literal kind, where there was some break-down in the communication process that resulted in something hilarious – like the Flash Drive cake, or the famous "Under Neat That" Wreck. Those just never seem to get old.

Is it true that many of the wrecks in the book are brand-new? Was it difficult to keep them to yourself (ie, off the blog)?

Yes, about 75% of the Wrecks are all-new content in the book. And yes, it was extremely difficult to "save" some of those for the book! That's one thing about a blog; you get an instant payoff. Love it or hate it, people are going to tell you immediately what they think of a new post. With a book, you're left in suspense for many agonizing months.

I'd love it if you could explain the contest you've created for your book tour. With the cupcakes.

Glad to! I wanted this book tour to be like no other book tour; more of a traveling party than your typical signing event. So, I asked Andrews McMeel if we could plan a maximum of reader participation, while keeping the atmosphere fun and casual. The cupcake Wreckplica contest is a way for fans to get in on that fun. The rules are pretty simple: just make your favorite Wreck on a cupcake. (And "wreck" is open to interpretation. Heh.) There will be prizes for the top three winners. In addition, since no party is a party unless *everyone* gets cake, we're having local bakeries bring in some fabulous cakes and goodies at every stop. Some cities we're even having two or three bakeries working together to provide the treats, which I'm super excited about.

What blogs do you like to read – for inspiration or just for fun?

I'm interested in all kinds of things, so I have a pretty diverse blogroll. My go-to place every day is Super Punch, which feeds my internet ADD by compiling links, pics, and stories of everything from Lego sculptures to indie art to fascinating news stories. I looove low-brow and fantasy art, so when I have a little free time I'm usually exploring new independent artist's sites and drooling over portfolios. For easy stress relief I still check in with blogs like Zoo Borns (love the cute), Awkward Family Photos (comic relief), and geek sites like Geekologie and Great White Snark, I also follow a few Disney blogs (to feed my inner Diz Geek) and fashion/cosmetic blogs like Doe Deere (love her!). Then there's the cake blogs, the funny writer blogs, the techie blogs…yeesh. What DID we do before the internet? :)

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If you're feeling inspired to add Cake Wrecks to your personal blogroll, my recommendation would be to go for it. You won't be disappointed. Apprehensive? Check out the book on Amazon.com or at a bookstore near you.

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About Marissa Flaxbart