cake disaster
EVEN PRO BAKERS suffer culinary disasters — layer cakes that resemble earthquake scenes, frosting that looks more like Play-Doh than something edible. Some of the worst offenders star in “Cake Wrecks” ($13, Andrews McMeel), a new book from Orlando blogger Jen Yates (Cakewrecks.com) that offers photo proof of heinous misspellings (“Happy Thanksgiven”), poor design (ghoulish Santas) and just plain ickiness (chocolate icing resembling bear scat).

“It’s the American way to celebrate everything with cake,” Yates says. “We get cakes now for kids who’ve been potty-trained that say ‘Way to Go.’ There are many opportunities to go wrong.”

So, how can you avoid these, er, crumb mistakes? If you order a cake, Yates says, “Have appropriate expectations for your budget level. If you’re going into a grocery store, don’t expect ‘Ace of Cakes.'”

DIY won’t always rule out mishaps either. Tracy Kellum, a 35-year-old Silver Spring resident, taught herself to bake with the help of cooking blogs and the Food Network. Now she regularly whips up cupcakes in flavors such as chocolate five-spice with ginger buttercream frosting for friends, family and paying clients. But her first paying gig didn’t go well. “A co-worker asked me to make cupcakes for her son’s birthday,” Kellum says. “It was eye-opening,” — literally:” She pulled an all-nighter dealing with overflowing pans and oozing chocolate suns. Other newbies over-whip icing or try to get eggs to room temperature by microwave, only to find the yolk’s on them.

But debacles not only make great stories; they’re also valuable learning experiences for the next time you attempt a Triple Buttercream Strawberry Devil’s Food Surprise. “Basic ingredients for cake are cheap,” Kellum says. “If it doesn’t work, throw it in the trash and start over.”

» Boxed Setup: Testing Three Cake Mixes

» Raise the Cakes: Whip Up an Iced, Layered Lovely for a Party

Written by Express contributor Beth Luberecki