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Forget ASMR and Power-Washed Rugs: Vintage Cakes Are Our TikTok Happy Place

vintage cake tiktok trend: illustration of a vintage-style, three-layer pink cake topped with cherries, with three women climbing it to decorate it
Dasha Burobina

Which TikTok trend scratches your brain in juuust the right way? Is it ASMR videos featuring the sounds of chewing, whispering or the tapping of acrylic nails? Maybe it’s impressive (and lowkey revolting) footage of a filthy area rug being power washed until it looks like new. We won’t yuck anyone’s yum, but our favorite is no doubt videos of bakers—professional and amateur alike—decorating vintage-style cakes. We’re talking extravagant confections with all the ruffles, pastels and cherries of your fairy-princess-loving-childhood dreams. Read on for a breakdown of the dreamy baking trend, plus tips for getting in on the fun at home.

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What Is the Vintage Cake TikTok Trend?

Bakers are taking to the app to showcase over-the-top cakes that have all the hyper-feminine bells and whistles you could imagine. We’re talking sugar pearls, glacé cherries, edible sparkles and a ton of buttercream—think the opulence of the Marie Antoinette aestheticcrossed with the playful nostalgia of the early aughts, a full 180 from the unadorned naked cakes of the past decade. The cakes are purposefully gaudy and serve as blank canvases for bakers to reveal their personalities and interests.

The trick to many of these viral videos is filming them to showcase the fluidity with which the icing is piped; most show a close-up of the baker adding ruffle after ruffle or shell after shell in one steady stream as the cake’s turntable revolves. (We’d say that’s where most of the brain-scratching magic truly lies.) Many viral vintage-style cakes are heart-shaped, while others play off other popular TikTok trends and topics, like zodiac signs, balletcore or cottagecore.

When Did Vintage Cakes Originate?

There’s something inexplicably old-fashioned about all the ruffly icing on these cakes, but what era does their look actually come from?

According to Lucy Cocoran, who delved into the history of these trending treats for ELLE Australia, the lavish confections date back to 1700s France, a century that birthed the rococo period (also known as late baroque), an excessively dramatic style of architecture, decor and art that brought about floating cherubs, over-the-top dresses, luxurious chandeliers and, oddly enough, fancy cakes.

It wasn’t until the early 20th century that Joseph Lambeth, a British pastry chef who wrote Lambeth Method of Cake Decoration and Practical Pastries, ushered over-piped icing into the baking world, Cocoran says. (FYI, the Lambeth method uses royal icing to create multiple intricate layers, consequently creating depth.) After briefly becoming wildly popular again in the 1970s and ’80s, the cake style made its way onto our For You pages in recent years, thanks to Japanese and South Korean bakeries that garnered a cult following amid pandemic-induced boredom.

Tips for Making Vintage Cakes at Home

Sure, lots of the viral cakes we see on TikTok are made by professional bakers. But there are plenty made by amateurs. (In fact, some even claim that their shockingly gorgeous Lambeth-style cake is their first attempt at decorating a cake—ever.) Here are a few pointers for trying the trend at home, no matter your baking experience.

  • Invest in piping bags, a cake turntable and an assortment of icing tips. While you could use a snipped Ziploc bag, this decorating style really requires the precision of piping tips. (You could still use the Ziploc bag to pipe icing between layers of cake, if you’d like.)
  • If you can’t find a heart-shaped cake pan, use this viral hack. To no one’s surprise, these pans continue to sell out. If you want to get the shape without waiting for it to come back in stock, use @ivoryventura’s trick: Bake two round cakes, cut the edges off of one of them, place them atop the second cake at the bottom to form a point, slice through the bottom cake using the pieces on top as a guide, stick the cut pieces to the top of the pointed piece with frosting to form a heart, then frost and decorate the entire cake.
  • In this case, more is more. Treat yourself to all the sprinkles, food dyes, edible pearls, sparkly cherries and decorative accessories you desire. We’re talking fondant mushrooms, metal butterflies—the limit does not exist.
  • Experiment with themes. Just because the go-to design is a pink-on-pink heart cake crowned with cherries doesn’t mean that yours needs to be. There are plenty of mermaid- and fairy-inspired cakes out there to get ideas from, as well as toadstool-topped cottagecore cakes, celestial whimsigoth cakes and even goth-inspired cakes, complete with black frosting and candy skulls. The piping bag is your oyster, friends.

Taryn Pire is PureWow’s associate food editor. A former bartender and barista, she’s been writing about all things delicious since 2016, developing recipes, reviewing restaurants and investigating food trends at Food52, New Jersey Family Magazine and Taste Talks. When she isn’t testing TikTok’s latest viral recipe, she’s having popcorn for dinner and posting about it on Instagram @cookingwithpire.