Monday, January 12, 2009

LIFE Wrecks

Monday, January 12, 2009

LIFE and Google teamed up not too long ago to create a nifty online photo database of LIFE photographs, 97% of which were never previously released to the public. It's really fascinating stuff, and I highly recommend you do a search for "cake" there the next time you're bored. Most are gorgeous creations that show that cake art has a long and rich history, but a few are a bit more...interesting:

Good to know that handwriting and spacing were an issue even back in 1951. It only looks misspelled, though; that's just a scrunched 'm' in 'recommissioned'.

This one is just odd:

What IS this? Do you suppose it's made of large donuts? And the ferns - why?
(UPDATE: Mystery solved : it's a "baumkuchen". Thanks, guys!)

You'll "tank" me for this next one:

See, this is why you don't let guys cut the cake. The archive is full of men cutting cakes with swords, too. [eye roll] Fellas, it's a TANK. Do you really need to "man it up" by cutting it with your rifle?

This one is actually a "dog cake", but I had to include it for the "oh-no-they-di'in't!" factor (Note: put down the coffee and brace yourself):

[dry-heaving] Why? Why did someone feel THIS was deserving of preservation on film? WHY?!?

And finally, a modern-day Wreck:

"Oprah? Is that you?"


All images courtesy of the LIFE photo archive. Thanks to Becca B. for finding Oprah's head and Jessica T. for the doggie Wreck.
*Michelle said...

Not that its of any real consequence, but tank boy is actually cutting it with the bayonet (long knife) on the end of his rifle.

Anonymous said...

"What IS this? Do you suppose it's made of large donuts? And the ferns - why?"

it looks like an insulator from an electricity pylon to me. maybe a celebration at a power company, perhaps?

love, pez.

The Cheap-Arse Film Critic said...

The Oprah and the Tanks ones are immense.

HorribleLicensePlates said...

I tank you for this hilarious post.

Also, cakes and hot dogs should never be that close to each other. Bleh!!

Justfrosting said...

Oh my gosh. A history lesson too??? This blog has EVERYTHING!

Chocoholic said...

The 'donut-cake' looks like Baumkuchen to me.
It's something complicated and European.

Jami said...

That first cake looks like my grandma's handwriting.

The Courteous Chihuahua said...

I knew Oprah was looking to lose weight, but having your entire body removed???

Sarah said...

That Oprah one is so disturbing!! Why would you want to eat someone's face?!

Meike said...

Hi! Maybe I can help you with this 'donut'-thing. I don't know why it is decorated with ferns, but I think this cake is an ordinary german "baumkuchen" (don't know if there's an english name for it). It is just a bit higher than normally.

Tabitha (From Single to Married) said...

Who knew that this had been going on for the past fifty years? And that last cake is just creepy!

Laura said...

My husband and I cut our wedding cake (no, it was not a tank) with his Dad's sword, since he was in the Navy. Not only was it awesome to cut a cake with a sword, but it meant a lot to him, too! So there are reasons to cut cakes with things other than knives. :-)

Laura Moffitt said...

The last cake looks like a cheap horror film prop. So nasty.

Leslie said...

You never know...we can't tell because of the black and white but that could have been a pink tank with fuchsia rosettes around the treads - in which case manning it up with a nice bayonet might have truly been called for.
As for the Oprah cake, now I know why she gained weight again...she had to hide the evidence.

Mary Ellen said...

Oh my that doggie cake was pretty gross..... till I saw the oprah head. that really was worse!

Jamie said...

The one that looks like stacked donuts is called Baumkuchen...a very difficult cake to make, you spin a spit and drizzle layers of batter until it forms a many layered cake...like tree rings.
Jamie

Half Assed Kitchen said...

Oh, if only I had a cake made of my likeness. Then I'd know I'd really made it.

Angie (from over at www.HalfAssedKitchen.com)

drgns4vr said...

Ah, Jen, all in one blog you managed to go from the historical to the hysterical.
I was okay until the dog cake but the Oprah one was way too much.

Nulono said...

The donut thing looks like a chocolate fountain.

miss jacobs if you're nasty. said...

it looks like hot dogs in dog food. or hamburger meat. there is nothing that resembles cake in that picture at all. *shudder.

and i've always found eating cake that is human shaped to be a little cannibalistic. unless you're at a zombie party and everyone is dressed the part. on another note, i would be so sad if someone though i looked like that.

anadandy said...

Am I the only one who saw that Oprah cake and thought "Face of Bo"? Ok then...

Meg said...

What is Oprah's head supposed to be sitting on? A tree stump wearing a string of pearls? How horrible!

miss jacobs if you're nasty. said...

oops. i should read everything. at least i know that now there is a reason it looks like dog food.

Kate said...

The Baumkucken, as it seems to be called by other commentators, also looks like a Norwegian wedding cake covered in frosting. I'm actually submitting a picture of one as a wreck, in an of itself (Tradition be damned!, it's ugly!)

Lisa said...

Nulono said what I was thinking: the baumkuchen looks like a frozen chocolate fountain. With ferns. Very pre-Martha Stewart, those ferns.

I Love Baby Quilts! said...

Look at how high that bottom part of the tank cake is! When they serve it, the pieces will be like two feet high. They'll have to cut a piece, then cut it in half horizontally.

word ver: toropedi = When you paint a bull's toenails.

Amy said...

Awww...let the guys in the military have their fun! Stress relief and cake-can't get much better. LOL

As for the ferns and donut thing? I have no idea...

~Amy B.

Anonymous said...

it's obviously a chocolate fountain

Jenny said...

#3 - bayonets detach. :)

Andrea* said...

I think that's Condoleeza Rice... LOL!

FreedomFirst said...

My parents cut their wedding cake with my Dad's dress sword. He was an officer in the U.S. Navy at the time. On their 30th anniversary a friend made them one of her spectacular (but rather messy) cheesecakes, and they attempted to repeat the cutting. It was pretty funny since cheesecake and swords just don't mix. But we all got a good laugh which was the most important thing.

Snowberry and Lime said...

Yep, I was only going to agree on the 'Baumkuchen'. It tastes quite nice, but I am not sure how he is intending to cut this....

Veronika

Sabra said...

That USS Wisconsin cake was cut with a sword. Just sayin'. My ex-husband has pictures of his CO at the time cutting a "Happy Birthday USS Oklahoma City" cake with a sword. It's what they do. Gotta add testosterone to the cake somehow!

I Love Baby Quilts! said...

And another thing...did anyone else look at the sign in the back of the tank cake, see the word "comm" (probably short for communication) and think ".com" until they realized what century this was taken in?

Also, that guy with the bayonnette is hot. Well, not anymore I mean, but 60 some years ago: hot.

Deborah Godin said...

So, are those real weiners (struggling to keep a appropriately serious face) or are they made of frosting??

Jena Marie said...

My husband cut our wedding cake with a Japanese sword... it started as a joke (I was registering for our cake serving set, he says "forget that, I'm cutting it with a ninja sword", I said "sure, you do that") and ended up being pretty funny. He's a black belt and it was a very nice ceremonial katana, but still. The phrase "my husband cut our wedding cake with a ninja sword" still has an amusing ring to it.

Kate said...

The last one is reminiscent of John the Baptist. Kinda creepy.
Kate H

Elvira said...

That last Oprah head cake made me audibly gasp. I'm sure my cow-workers are wondering what I'm doing now. Good googly moogly that's a wreck and a half! Thanks for the history lesson!

Sagey said...

I believe it is military tradition to cut wedding cakes with the officer's sword. I know my husband and I did it and all our friends. It is actually a gorgeous picture.

Herbee said...

I said, "Bring me Oprah's head on a platter!"

Sccccccccccary!

nowaks nähkästchen said...

Definitely Baumkuchen, with chocolate in this case. It's that long when they make it, but normally it's cut up in shorter pieces (like two "rings" or so) before it's sold.

Juliet said...

In the 1950s, people seemed to eat hot dogs with everything. Hot dogs enjoyed a much higher status in the food world then than they do now.

But the hot dogs in the cake just reminds me of cigars put out in piles of raw ground beef (think "Better off Dead", when Laine Meyer gets a job at Pig Burgers.)

exidemn: ezcema cream

Anonymous said...

yes, it's a Baumkuchen... and German Chancellor Konrad Adenauer is doing the cutting.
-What a birthday cake.

Ana

Jessica T. said...

I don't even know where to begin!

I think the brown stack is just a bunch of moon pies.

When I first saw the title of the post I thought you were forgetting about cakes for the day and focusing on people who have failed at life.

wow_just_wow said...

I think the dog photo-cake is a pre-cursor to "Cake Wrecks" (i.e. Don't do this)

Alicia said...

i believe that the weird donught-cylinder thing is a suspension spring. Like in a car. probably for ford motors or something at a big celebration thing. but still, the ferns? i have no frigging idea.

Amy Jo said...

Holy crap! THat dog cake is unbelievable!

Knitty said...

The head cake reminds me of the Golden Girls episode where Rose wanted them all to have their heads frozen upon death so they could later be brought back to life when cures could be found. In a funny dream, Blanche, Dorothy and Rose are all just heads on the table while Sophia is still up and about.

Anonymous said...

OK, that Oprah head scares me! :P

WV: sequast - some of these cake wrecks should be kept sequast!

El Comodoro said...

Short answer, yes, we men DO have to "man it up" using swords, bayonets, etc. If it were possible, and if they were sharp enough to cut a cake, we would use a bazooka. No one can definitively say why. It's just the way of things.

And I believe "Comm" is short for "Command," folks, not communication. Or commie... Nice post!!!!

Meg said...

I agree with Pez - I see an insulator from an electric distribution system. I'd say a power company celebration, but the bottom doesn't make any sense.

Debbie said...

I should have swallowed my drink before I saw the Oprah cake. Now it's splattered all over my keyboard.

Lucy S. said...

The last one looks more like Nichelle Nichols than Oprah.

Corbie said...

Gah! My eyes!!

And just a reminder, as if anyone needed one:

Vote, vote, vote, vote!

CraftyLzrd said...

For what its worth, DH suggested we cut our wedding cake with a KBAR. Sad to say, we actually did. LOL I *think* someone got a picture of it, but wouldn't have any idea where to get a copy...

gryphondear said...

Took one look at the disembodied head and thought "Eartha Kitt."

;^O Jan the Gryphon
http://gryph-wotd.blogspot.com/

wv: mularros - not sure, but it has something to do with mariachi bands in marabou high-heeled slippers

dameruth said...

Holy hopping crud. I mean, I'm not a big Oprah fan, but I wouldn't go around demanding her head on a platter, either! o_O

Agree with the above poster who says she looks like the Face of Boe, too.

Judy said...

Here's what I found on the net for the Baumkuchen. I've been a cake decorator for over 30 years and I've never heard of this before. I'm absolutely fascinated and would love to tasted one done the traditional way.:

Baumkuchen -- the King of Cakes!

A true test of a pastry chef's skills, the Baumkuchen has earned its reputation as the "King of Cakes." This labor-intensive specialty gets it name, which translates literally as Tree Cake, from the many thin rings that form as layer upon layer of cake is baked. For more than 200 years German bakers have been producing this treat by placing a thin spit over a heat source, originally a wood fire, then evenly brushing batter over it, giving each new layer a chance to bake to a golden brown before brushing on the next. When the cake is removed and sliced, each layer is divided from the next by a golden line, resembling the rings on a crosscut tree. Skilled pastry chefs have been known to create cakes with 25 layers, weighing over 100 pounds and measuring more than 3 feet long. The recipe here is adapted for the home baker and uses a springform pan instead of a spit. Of course the ring effect won't be exactly the same, but the taste is still worth the effort and you won't have to spend your Christmas holiday cleaning drips of burned batter off the oven.

Ingredients:
*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*

2 sticks butter
3/4 cup sugar
8 eggs (separated)
2 tbsp rum
grated lemon rind
1 pinch salt
1/3 cup minced almonds
1 cup plus 2 tbsp flour mixed with
1 cup plus 2 tbsp starch
1/2 cup apricot jam, melted
almond paste, powdered sugar, or chocolate icing (optional)

Cooking:
*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*

Whip butter and sugar well until creamy. Gradually add egg yolks and the remaining ingredients to the butter-sugar mixture until a light, foamy batter forms. Beat egg whites until very stiff and stir gently into the batter. Pour about 2 tablespoons batter (a thin covering) into a 8-1/2" springform pan greased with butter. On the uppermost oven rack, bake (or broil!) in a preheated oven at 450° F for 2 minutes or until golden brown. Watch carefully, this browning can take place very quickly. Repeat until all the batter is gone -- you should have about 14 to 16 layers. When the cake is done, let it stand a few minutes before running a sharp knife along the sides of the pan. Remove the cake from the pan and glaze with melted apricot jam. Once the jam is set, you can add an additional glaze of thinned almond paste or immediately finish the cake with a thin icing made from powered sugar or the highest quality chocolate available (use your favorite chocolate).

kahara said...

I agree that the second one looks like an electricity plyon. Maybe it's a celebration of the rural electrification project way back when?

Cassi said...

I'm not sure how manly a tank covered in puffy buttercream swirls can be...
And that dog cake is inexcusable. I think I threw up in my mouth a little.

GM said...

This website is so educational! I had never heard of Baumkuchen or Norwegian wedding cakes before.

Re the dog cake: According to the Life website, it is a birthday cake somebody make for a dog -- i.e., real hotdogs stuck into a glob of dog food.
That answers the "what?" question. As to "why?" . . . I have no idea.

Bibi said...

Do you think that petrification is what happens to dogs after eating that wiener extravaganza?

Notice how still the two pooches next to it seem to be.

HunBun said...

My first thoughts about the hot dog cake was the LOLDogs!! ihasahotdog.com! LOL!!

Great photos...thanks!

Glory von Hathor said...

Oprah Cake Analysis:

45% Face of Bo
45% Mombi (Dorothy GAAAAAAAAAAAALE!)
10% Oprah

Tatersmama said...

I enlarged the dog cake (big mistake at 6:30am on an empty stomach) and those are REAL hot dogs sticking out of that mess!
*URP*

And Oprah's head? Wouldn't you put the pearls on her neck and not circling a tree stump? She must be soooo proud, nevertheless!

wolfmom said...

Great photos! Please tell me the rest of Oprah is under the table.

Thanks to Judy for the Baumkucken recipe...I'm thinkin' rotisserie on the outdoor BBQ...maybe?

WV: remmobli: getting mmobli again after sitting too long.

Jennifer said...

Before I read the comment I thought the Oprah cake was Condy Rice!

MammaDucky said...

That tank cake weighed 350 lbs! Yes, bayonetts detach, but where is the fun in that?!
If we had actually had a real wedding (and not eloped in a tiny closet) I would have totally wanted to cut our cake with hubby's sword (or Kbar, lol).

Lanna said...

Cutting cake with a sword is a long tradition in the military. It happens at every Marine Corps Ball and at many weddings that involve a Marine. I haven't seen it in the Air Force, so maybe it's just a grunt thing. Love the blog! The dog cake is more than slightly disturbing; as is the Oprah cake. Ew!

Audrey said...

Hmm, I never thought I would hear about bayonets, kabars, and ninja swords here on cake wrecks! My husband and I cut our cake with a Marine NCO sword. I'm glad the thought of doing with a bayonet or kabar never crossed his mind. We did have GI Joes on the groom cake though!

Anonymous said...

It's military tradition to cut the cake with a sword - every year at the Marine Corps Ball the cake is cut with a sword.

flavolgal said...

OK, the hot dog cake does look like something my mom would have made in the early 60's. But then again, we would have had a cigarette sitting somewhere nearby and her plaid thermos, that I found out years later was filled with many Tom Collins. (Is the plural Tom Collinses?) Ah, those golden childhood memories...tobacco, booze, coffee and meatlike products as the mainstay of any meal. I still dry heave at the smell of a tuna noodle casserole which was poured down our Catholic throats every freeking Friday. The dogs on corned beef hash cake would have been a sin, literally.

Years later, I did marry a military academy graduate and it is a tradition to cut the wedding cake with his sword, which is much more gentile than straffing it with small arms fire. That may have come later if my mom brought her above mentioned thermos. Probably the sword was an excuse for him to whip out something long, stiff and used only on special occassions at the reception.

Anonymous said...

I'll have your head on a platter....poor Oprah....I don't think this is how she would want to be um...honored????

Anonymous said...

Well as the spouse of an Army Officer, we cut our wedding cake with his sword. Roll eyes all you like but it is tradition at military Balls for cakes to be cut with swords. I say Kudos to the person who made the Tank cake.

Lynne said...

When my husband retired from the Navy. They gave him a sword and yew oh yes he was supposed to by tradition.... cut the cake with it!

cocilian said...

The "odd" donut looking cake looks they got ahold of some extra moon pies on sale!!

Nara said...

My brother got married at the Ranaissance Faire, and I find myself saddened that they didn't cut the cake with a sword. Then again, their wedding toast was given by Henry VIII and Ann Boleyn, so sharp objects may have been tactfully removed.

JustMeCopper said...

Do you see the sparse refreshments on the first table with the Wisconsin cake? Now-a-days the table would be filled with every sort of finger food imaginable. Back then it was sufficient to have cake ... and mints and nuts. Times have changed and I am not sure (in this case) they have changed for the better. We all eat too much.

Fun Mom said...

Can I add a link of your site to my blog at http://momsjustwannahavefun.blogspot.com? I find your site very funny...and I think others will too!

Sport's Mom said...

3-2-1........... HURL!!!!!!! :(

WV: Solaca These cakes so laca any ounce of good taste.

Heidi said...

What I want to know is, whose head do you think was on the cakeboard to the right of "Oprah"?

wv - belogs, as in that wreck belogs in the garbage can

Diamond said...

Serious question....

If I went into a professional cake shop and asked them to make me a cake of brie rounds with Purple Haze chevre icing, do you think it would be reasonable?

Stephanie B said...

I don't think the dog cake is that repulsive- I actually think it is a cute idea. I remembering doing something similar for my former dog when I was little. I know my puppy would LOVE it!

Lindsey said...

I think that tank cake looks REALLY yummy, for some reason.

Anonymous said...

"oh no they di'int"? Could that be a Stanley from The Office reference?!!

kathryneliz said...

I didn't read through all the comments so, I'm sorry if I'm repeating, but it's traditional to cut the cake at military functions with the bayonet or a sabre/sword.

You can Google "Military Cake Cutting Ceremony" for more info, and tons more pictures on it.

Anonymous said...

My Brother in Law cut his wedding cake with the very sword used to kill the Grand-cestor of his best man, back in the 17th Century, when neighbours knew how to feud properly...

Megumi said...

The oprah cake got me. No really thank you Jen, I was about to go to sleep lol.

Hyena Overlord said...

Great history lesson.

Head cakes are so Futurama, and creepy.

wvotd: Alestra...Multitask, take Alestra for gastric upset and erectile dysfunction.

Virginia said...

Wow, when I get a dog, I will totally celebrate that dog's birthday with a cake like that!

Anonymous said...

Everyone should try some Baumkuchen...it's soooo good!

The Small Town Girl said...

The "dog cake" will forever haunt my dreams...

April said...

I actually prefer that to the real Oprah.

alivicwil said...

I made the mistake of showing this to my military historian other half.

He wants me to make him a tank cake for his next birthday!

(I made two round chocolate cakes for his birthday last week. I put them together on a large tray, then realised they looked a bit like boobs. Oh well. Boobs it was!)

Angela said...

Dog cake...I gagged (i'm currently eating a burrito LOL)

Oprah cake..I thought it was Condoleeza Rice.


or however you spell it.

Calantha said...

Must....not.........laugh...out loud.....people in the building will think I´m nuts....

Anonymous said...

Wow! Did anyone see "Gary Unmarried on Wednesday night at 8:30? The little girl in the show made a bust of Mia Angelo that looks alot like the Oprah cake! I couldn't believe it when I saw it...what's up with busts?

Calli Arcale said...

I've actually cut a cake with a sword before, so it's not just a guy thing. (My X chromosomes insist on that, as does my hubby!)

The hot dog cake looks like something out of James Lileks' wonderfully hurl-inducing book "The Gallery of Regrettable Food". Folks in the 50s apparently had a thing for inventive (but nauseating) methods for presenting hot dogs. Outtakes are available on the web here: http://www.lileks.com/institute/gallery/index.html

Becca B. said...

Finally! I'm so glad this was posted! I was afraid that it was rejected! This is my lucky day!

Charlie Trotter said...

The number is blocked by that guy's elbow, but I think it's 12th Armored Division in that tank cake photo. That was my grandfather's division, I'll have to send him a link to this post.

AnotherMichael said...

To be quite precise (we Germans are known to be precise *g*), the guy cutting the Baumkuchen is Konrad Adenauer ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Konrad_Adenauer ), if that picture is from a post war Life magazine it shows him in his role as mayor of Cologne (you can tell that buy the design of the cake decorations as these little black comma shaped drops at the base of the cake are part of the coat of arms of Cologne: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cologne . He later became the first chancellor of post-war Germany.

The cake was probably made by "Cafe Fromme" in Cologne which is still existing and known for their good "Baumkuchen" and other cakes.

Marissa said...

It's really pretty surreal how much that cake looks like Oprah. This astonishing fact does not, however, make me want to eat the cake.