The internet loves a reveal: a Princess Diaries-esque makeover scene; a home renovation; a gender reveal, for better or worse. It’s no wonder then that burn-away cakes, in which the top layer of a cake is burned to reveal another image beneath it, have quickly taken over social media in the past month.
Burn-away cakes have gotten over 174 million views on TikTok since they gained traction on the platform earlier this month (for comparison, the longer-established #genderrevealcake has over 505 million). Not only does the trend offer an immediate sense of drama — a cake on fire is a scroll-stopping social media hook — but the reveal also lends itself to all kinds of occasions, including birthdays, New Year’s, and, yes, gender announcements. If you aren’t seeing them already, expect to see burning cakes all over your feeds soon.
How did burn-away cakes get so popular?
Namaya Navaratnarajah, an Ontario-based baker who creates content as @CakesByNams, popularized the trend on TikTok, although she clarifies that she didn’t invent the decoration style. Navaratnarajah first saw the idea from cake maker Denise Steward, who made a New Year’s-themed burn-away cake for a partnership with the edible ink and paper brand Paper2Eat in mid-December. Other videos show that the technique has been around for at least a few years.
As of this writing, however, Navaratnarajah’s cakes lead the trend. Her cakes revealing a Josh Hutcherson meme and another teasing Taylor Swift’s yet-to-be announced Reputation (Taylor’s Version) re-record have over 20 million views each. A Pokémon cake with a double reveal that goes from Charmander to Charmeleon to Charizard has over 36 million views — wild numbers for food content, even on TikTok. “Honestly, I am in disbelief,” Navaratnarajah says.
An appearance at Ellen DeGeneres’s birthday earlier this week helped earn the burn-away cake trend earn even more attention, including a write-up in People. DeGeneres’s cake was made by Helda Cobian, who shares her bakes as @myfairycake. That being said, DeGeneres’s cake reveal is pretty anticlimactic for the genre: The image simply goes from a birthday greeting to the name Ellen. But hey, it’s also pickleball themed?
How do burn-away cakes work?
The frosted cake is first topped with an image that’s printed onto a white icing frosting sheet. This is the image that will be revealed. The cake is then piped with a frosting border and topped with a thin sheet of rice paper or wafer paper, onto which the primary image is printed. This two-layer design allows the reveal to unfold: Wafer paper burns easily because it’s made of starch and oil, while the thicker, sugar-based frosting sheet remains unaffected, as explained in a blog post from Paper2Eat.
The frosting border between the two layers not only attaches them to each other but also leaves a slight gap so that the wafer paper has room to burn. This gap is also why burn-away cakes tend to have an additional ring of decorative frosting on the outside of the cake, since that frosting fills the gap in.
Many bakers, including Navaratnarajah, have since posted tutorials for anyone who wants to replicate the trend on their own. And since most people likely don’t have an edible ink printer, the company Ink4Cakes sells a customizable edible image kit. That way you can — just like Usher said — let it burn.