Actually, Everything Is Made Out Of Cake

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Crocs, a Rubik’s Cube, a roll of toilet paper, a scented candle, a can of White Claw, a cup of coffee in a dainty floral mug, a heavily tattooed human arm. What do all of these things have in common? Well, they’re all secretly cakes. If you’ve spent any amount of time at all on the internet recently, you’re probably aware of this viral trend — and the many increasingly hysterical tweets and memes it has spawned, wherein everything in our collective orbit is potentially just a deceptively well-crafted piece of pastry. If not, take a nice long scroll through your favourite social media platform, and you will soon be familiar. Or, you could just read about it in the New York Times
It’s easy to dismiss the sudden popularity of these cake fakeouts (cakeouts?) as pure escapism. After all, this year has already seen: a massive global pandemic, an economic shutdown, soaring unemployment rates, an historic uprising against police violence, a nationwide reckoning about race, forest fires, countless conspiracy theories about everything from fireworks to Britney Spears, something called murder hornets, and Donald Trump’s continued existence as our commander in chief — and it’s only July! So, like, yeah, not weird at all if people wanna kick back and look at some cool-looking cake or whatever. But, what if our newfound cake obsession goes deeper than mere escapism? 
Obviously, tweets about “cutting into your wife only to discover that she is, in fact, made of cake” are made in jest, but the sentiment behind them — that we are living in a world where nothing is what it seems — belie a collective anxiety and sense of being unmoored from reality. Every day, we wake up uncertain of what the news will tell us about our ever-shifting reality. Things we once took for granted, like our ability to have a meal at a restaurant, a hug from a friend, or just a walk down the street without a mask covering half our face, are often no longer available to us, and we don’t know when they will be again. Many of our plans, goals, and dreams have been rendered inactionable for the foreseeable future. Essentially overnight, people have lost their careers, incomes, homes, sense of freedom, and things they once thought were stable. The world is a radically different place than it was mere months ago. In a way, we have all just discovered that it’s not that our wives are made of cake, but rather our lives are. 
People have been making hyper-realistic object-lookalike cakes for years, and while these pastries always been conducive to social media’s highly visual, often bizarre nature, they’ve never gone viral on this level, nor have they inspired their own genre of memes. 
“I guess the way I look at memes, and not everyone agrees on this, but it’s sort of the same way that certain movies become popular at certain times in history because of the political issues or societal issues — the same is true for memes,” says Matt Schimkowitz, a senior editor at the website Know Your Meme. “I think that, in this case, it’s happening because the news is really just two things right now: racial justice protests and coronavirus. And suddenly, everything is cake, too? That absurdist kind of slant on what’s happening right now is something that people are really connecting to.” 
There’s also the fact that, over the past few months, as people have spent more and more time in their homes, baked goods have risen to new social media prominence. At the height of nationwide coronavirus quarantines, baking banana bread quickly became shorthand for the old-fashioned, purposely time-consuming pursuits of a nation suddenly trapped indoors. Baking as a way of relieving stress became a popular concept, as we quickly delved into sourdough, then lemon-turmeric cake, then something aptly called “aggression cookies.” And, perhaps because we’re all amateur chefs now and perhaps because we just need something to talk about that isn’t impending societal doom, we’ve also been a lot more plugged into food world dramas, like the one involving Alison Roman — once dubbed the “prom queen of the pandemic,” and the originator of the aforementioned lemon-turmeric cake — dissing Chrissy Teigen and Marie Kondo in an interview. And then there’s the new story about Instagram-favourite LA restaurant Sqirl allegedly having mould-filled jam buckets in a “secret kitchen.” Looking at this timeline, it makes sense that, sooner or later, cakes shaped like pickles and bags of Doritos would make their way onto the docket. Or perhaps the Instagram algorithm, sensing our hunger both literal and figurative for something sweet, surfaced these cake videos on all of our Discover pages at once. 
Schimkowitz, who comforts me greatly when he says “I would never tell anyone they’re reading too much into a meme,” also likens the cake memes to so-called “darkest timeline” memes or memes about living in a simulation, which have been around for a while, but have recently gained steam for… obvious reasons. “It’s a bit of a They Live or a Pod People kind of thing, where it’s just like, ‘what is happening? This can’t be reality.’ Which is kind of a common refrain online.”
And no wonder: None of us have ever lived through a year like 2020, when everything feels both totally fucked and surprisingly possible all at once — kind of like what it feels like to see a plastic shoe cut open and revealed to be a chocolate cake. But maybe the most important questions a lot of people are asking themselves now are: Have we just not been paying close enough attention this whole time? Has everything always been like this and we’re just now beginning to see it? Was everything just cake this whole time?
In a particularly surreal attempt to answer these questions, many people on Twitter have posited that perhaps French queen Marie Antoinette — who allegedly, and infamously, uttered “let them eat cake!” before being guillotined — was, in fact, herself made of cake. It’s a joke, yes, but at a time when we’re all essentially being told to eat cake by a government that prioritises economic recovery for corporations over literal human lives, it’s one that has a lot of layers. Just like… well, you know.

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