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Cake Wrecks Author Jen Yates in Tempe Tonight (Tasty Q&A Inside!)

A couple of years ago, an e-mail circulated around featuring a hilariously misspelled and misinterpreted cake from the bakery department at either Sam's Club or Wal-Mart (depending on who reported the story). That e-mail prompted budding cake decorator Jen Yates to create Cake Wrecks, a blog dedicated to professionally decorated cake disasters.

Cut to 2010. Yates and her website now have a cult following of readers who get their daily laughs from reading about cakes gone wrong. We're talking misshapen soccer balls. Butchered birthday greetings. And hilarious cases of miscommunication, like the bakery that accidentally drew a picture of a jump drive on a cake rather than printing the golfing photo contained on the drive they were asked to replicate.

Jen Yates will be signing her new Cake Wrecks book -- a fluffy confection filled with fan favorites and 75% more cakewreck-y goodness not found on the website -- at Changing Hands Bookstore in Tempe tonight at 7 p.m. In the meantime, Yates had a few juicy tidbits to offer about decorating, her blog and the cakes that are too naughty to print.      

New Times: What was your inspiration for Cake Wrecks? 

Jen Yates: It came from an e-mail a friend of mine forwarded because she knew cakes were a hobby of mine at the time. It was the famous Wal-Mart cake, the one that's on the cover of my book. My husband signed us up for cake decorating classes. We had just finished up four months of classes in April when I got the e-mail. I thought, I wonder if there are other cakes that are messed up like this one.

NT: Do you ever visit bakeries personally to try and find Wrecks?

Yates: No, I'm too scared for that. It's all reader submitted. People send them in and take pictures for me and send them in via e-mail. Anytime I'm in the grocery store I now have to go and look at the cakes, though.

NT: Have you ever (unintentionally) made a Wreck?

Yates: Like I say on the blog, I think anyone who's ever attempted to even bake a cake has made a Cake Wreck at least once in their life because it's just the nature of the beast. My problem is that I'm such a perfectionist that I get frustrated very easily. So I've never sent anything out the door that was wrecked, but in the comfort of my own kitchen I've made a few wrecks. 

NT: Any thoughts of going into the cake decorating business yourself?

Yates: Oh, goodness, no! Talk about setting yourself up for critique. I like maintaining an ivory tower from which to cast stones.

NT: Do people ever send you cake pictures too racy to print on the blog? 

Yates: Yes! My inbox needs an 'R' rating, or maybe even an 'X' rating. Even though I specifically tell people to not send them in, they do. I've seen more fondant genitalia than one person should ever be subjected to. It's very traumatizing.

Courtesy of Jen Yates
Another case of miscommunication at the bakery.

​​NT: Some of the Cake Wrecks are so awful it's hard to believe they're professionally done. Are you sure there aren't any home baked goodies on there?

Yates: To my knowledge, they're all professional. If we find out that one is not professionally done, we usually pull it.   

There's one cake that I haven't posted yet because I know no one will believe it's professional. But I have been to the site myself and it's in their portfolio. It's a Barbie cake with the mermaid Barbie and they made this terrible cake and just jammed the mermaid doll into it so the fin is sticking out one side and the body is sticking out the other. I know if I stick that one up people will say [I've] gone too far; that this is not professional. Someday I'll be brave enough to put it up.

NT: Did you expect the website to be such a hit? 

Yates: The success of Cake Wrecks has always been a shock to me. When I created it, I knew nothing about blogging. I didn't even tell my friends about it for the first few weeks. When it caught on really quickly I was surprised.

NT: How did Cake Wrecks go from website to book?

Yates: Within a few months, someone approached me about possibly doing a book. I told him he was nuts...I mean I was very nice about it, I was flattered, but I didn't think it would work as a book. I'd never written anything professionally before.

I had a couple more publishers approach me and then I started taking it seriously. I've always wanted to be a writer ever since I was in grade school I always wanted to be an author. Finally I thought 'this is a dream come true, why am I turning it down?'

Contest Alert: If you've ever thought of making a Cake Wreck of your own, Yates is inviting guests to bring a cupcake-size "wrecklica" of their favorite Cake Wreck disaster to tonight's signing at Changing Hands. The best ones will win bragging rights among Cake Wrecks' cult following, plus sweet prizes.  

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