Burn-Away Cakes Have Engulfed Our TikTok “For You” Page—Here’s How They Work

These desserts are straight fire

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burn-away cakes trend: two hands lighting the top of a burn-away cake
Dasha Burobina for PureWow

Vintage cakes had their moment in the virtual sun as TikTok’s hottest dessert, but an even hotter treat has taken the spotlight. Hot like, on-fire hot. Meet the burn-away cake, a confection that’s a tasty cross between our collective cravings for customization, dramatic reveals and committing to the bit. Whether its top layer is burned to reveal a Pokémon evolution or a cheeky punchline, foodies everywhere are eating up the trend. Read on for everything there is to know about burn-away cakes, plus tips for making them at home, in case you’re feeling ambitious.

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What Are Burn-Away Cakes?

Burn-away cakes are the latest in edible innovation. They have a top layer of edible wafer paper adorned with a design that’s set aflame with a lighter. It burns away, revealing another design, image or message beneath. We see the trend as a direct result of experiential dining’s rise in popularity. While that encompasses everything from tableside service to dinner theater, burn-away cakes are a quick, visual performance that’s basically designed to be recorded and posted to your Instagram story. (Nothing goes viral like a reveal, no?)

The hashtag #burnawaycake has currently garnered 223 million views on TikTok. As Bon Appétit’s Carina Finn astutely said, the burn-away cake “feels like an evolution that could only be born of our collective obsession with short-form video, requiring a stunt for everything from pregnancy announcements to documenting your sad desk lunch.” (Case in point: this masterpiece by @cocobellycakes that reveals a photo of Rick Astley, essentially Rickrolling the viewer.)

Namaya Navaratnarajah, the Ontario-based baker behind @cakesbynams, is credited for skyrocketing the trend. But she got the idea from Denise Steward, @denises_delights_ on Instagram, who shared a New Year’s Eve burn-away cake to her account back in December. That said, Eater points out that a quick TikTok dive proves the dessert has been around for even longer.

How Do Burn-Away Cakes Work?

According to Bon Appétit, the cake is first topped with the bottom design (the image that will be revealed), which is printed on a thick frosting sheet that can be described as edible card stock. Its edges are then lined with a border of frosting. Finally, it’s topped with the primary design (the image that will be burned) that’s printed on thin wafer paper and an additional border of frosting or pre-piped meringue (which results in a toasted marshmallow-like flavor when burned, BTW) that conceals the surprise beneath.

Why don’t both designs go up in flames, you ask? According to paper2eat, wafer paper burns quickly and easily, since it’s made of starch and oil. (On that note, the wafer paper should be no more than .30 millimeters thick in order to burn in a timely fashion, per Tasting Table.) The thicker, sugar-based frosting sheet remains unaffected, thanks to its comparative durability—and the fact that the frosting (or meringue) border creates a crucial air pocket between the two layers that gives the top sheet space to burn. (FYI, The Daily Meal suggests chilling the cake before setting it ablaze to solidify the frosting.)

How to Make a Burn-Away Cake

It’s easier than it looks, but it’ll cost you. Edible ink printers can cost hundreds to thousands of dollars. While that may be worth the splurge for professional bakers, it’s not exactly practical for the rest of us. One cheaper solution is edible ink markers. You’ll still need to buy wafer paper and frosting sheets, but it’ll likely cost you less than $100 total, and you’ll have enough supplies to decorate multiple burn-away cakes. You can make the project even easier by opting for a boxed cake mix (or heck, a store-bought cake) over making one from scratch.

Peep the hashtag #burnawaycaketutorial on TikTok if you want some help. To simplify the shopping, look for a kit that includes wafer paper and a sugar sheet with a design of your choice, like this one from Ink4Cakes. Alternatively, you can choose to do no work at all and order a burn-away cake from a bakery instead. Angelina Bakery in NYC just launched a few for Lunar New Year and Valentine’s Day, as did Big Sugar Bake Shop in LA. And you can always peruse your For You page for independent bakers accepting orders as well.

taryn pire

Food Editor

Taryn Pire is PureWow’s food editor and has been writing about all things delicious since 2016. She’s developed recipes, reviewed restaurants and investigated food trends at...