Unless you live under a rock, you will likely recall a certain Elsa cake that went viral last year. The rather unfortunate looking cake was shared thousands of times online; universally mocked and criticized, the cake was referred to as a “Cake Wreck”, and a “Caketastrophe”. This now infamous cake solidified its place in sugar history as one of the ugliest cakes ever made.
Publications across the globe were quick to jump on this faux story; initially posted to Reddit, the cake photo was titled, “the cake that was ordered and the cake that arrived.” The “Story” on Reddit was that a little girl had ordered a beautiful Elsa cake and received this “hideous monstrosity” in its place.
However that ‘story’ was not the real story.
The Reddit post was a fabrication and the truth behind this ‘ugly’ Elsa cake is something that, until recently, was hidden beneath vast amounts of misinformation, poor reporting and bogus stories. The reality was something more heartwarming than anyone could have anticipated. The cake was actually created by sugar artist Lisa Randolph-Grant for the charity Icing Smiles. Those who are not familiar with Icing Smiles should know that this charity connects philanthropic cakers with critically ill children. Bakers from all over the country donate their time, talent and resources to create celebration cakes for ill children. Randolph-Grant was one such baker; having answered her “call to action” she was eager to create a dream cake for a, princess loving, little girl. Like all sugar angels who answer the call, her intention was heartfelt, she wanted to create something to bring a smile to the face of a child. To that end, she succeeded, because the charity reported that the little girl was thrilled with the cake- and who wouldn’t be!
Randolph Grant said that the week the cake was due, her mother was very ill and she spent time caring for her, however this left her with very little time to complete the order to the standard she had hoped. Rather than disappointing the little girl, and the charity, at the last minute, she did what many bakers and cake makers do – she hustled- she pulled out a sculpted cake in little more than a couple of hours and then rushed to deliver it in the rain. I consider myself to be a pretty competent baker but I would struggle to decorate a simple cake in a few hours, let alone carve and cover an Elsa cake. Randolph-Grant followed through on her commitment to create a special cake; it was a beautiful, selfless, gesture. Her reward however was criticism and derision. Her business reputation was shattered overnight. She went through something that very few of us could endure – complete humiliation – and yet, her strength and compassion taught many of us a valuable lesson.
Recently Randoph-Grant was given a unique opportunity for redemption in the form of new Food Network show, “Caketastrophe“. The show gives bakers, like Randolph-Grant – bakers who have seen their work the subject of online criticism – the opportunity to prove themselves. Lisa teamed up with Internationally known and award winning cake artist, Karen Portaleo to re-create the “Elsa” cake and hopefully silence her critics for good! Portaleo was on hand to coach and mentor Randolph-Grant, sharing her years of experience and teaching Lisa the tricks of the trade.
The results are startling- and proving that a picture is worth a thousand words- this shot (above) of Lisa, Karen and the Icing Smiles team with the “redemption” cake shows us all what can be accomplished when, instead of tearing others down, we extend a helping hand- we give them an opportunity to learn, to grow and to shine. The cake they created is just as good, if not better, than the McGreevy Cakes “Elsa” cake of which her original Icing Smiles cake was based.
This story really resonated with me; as a sugar angel, I received my call to action in early 2014. I created a cake for a little girl in Virginia with a heart defect. The cake was a 3 tier Minnie Mouse inspired creation. I remember how excited I felt. I cherished this unique opportunity and like all Sugar Angels, I really worked hard to create a dream cake; covering heart shaped tiers, cutting hearts in pink and purple and making Minnie Mouse ears and giant fondant bows. Was this the greatest and most professional looking cake of my career? No, it wasn’t – looking back all I see are flaws. However, I poured my heart and soul into that cake and I can still recall, with vivid detail, the huge smile on the face of the family when I walked through the door with that 3 tier cake. I cannot imagine seeing the cake circulated online as a “Cake Wreck”. So when the Randolph-Grant story broke last year, I can only imagine how palpable the pain was for the baker, the family and the charity. It should be noted that Lisa Randolph-Grant has answered the “call to action” no fewer than 6 different times, which is an achievement to be extremely proud of.
It thrilled me to see the caring and defensive reaction of our community, coming out in force to protect a loved and valued member. It thrills me even more to see how Lisa Randolph- Grant has embraced this experience and use it as a platform to educate others about Icing Smiles. Most of all, it thrills me to see her improvement as a baker- there is value in never giving up, there is tremendous value in mentorship. Lisa has shown us what we can all be capable of, against all odds – through a love and passion for baking.
By Rebekah WIlbur