CakeGate: The TikTok dessert drama sprinkled with twists - explainer

When Kylie Allen complained about a bad customer, the customer fired back, slamming an allegedly overpriced and ugly rainbow cake. And that was the spark of this story of frosted dama.

 Rainbow cake: The pricy dessert that sparked a social media phenomenon (Illustrative). (photo credit: PIXABAY)
Rainbow cake: The pricy dessert that sparked a social media phenomenon (Illustrative).
(photo credit: PIXABAY)

A new controversy has taken the world by storm. But it isn't about Israeli judicial reform or QAnon or the Russia-Ukraine War. Rather, this social media brouhaha starting from TikTok is focused entirely on one thing: Cake.

The controversy in question has become known as CakeGate, or #CakeGate as it's been referred to on social media, and it is raising important questions on US retail etiquette, businesses' use of social media and what not to do when hit by bad PR.

It also is a story of intrigue and dramatic plot twists, topped with the amusement and schadenfreude of a person's downfall all in front of an audience of hundreds of millions of people across the world.

But what is this CakeGate drama? What caused it and who ended up getting their just desserts?

Here is everything you need to know about this delicious deep dish drama.

TikTok app logo is seen in this illustration taken, August 22, 2022. (credit: REUTERS/DADO RUVIC/ILLUSTRATION/FILE PHOTO)TikTok app logo is seen in this illustration taken, August 22, 2022. (credit: REUTERS/DADO RUVIC/ILLUSTRATION/FILE PHOTO)

What is CakeGate?

The short version of the drama is that someone made a very ugly cake and charged almost $84 for it.

Now, for all the readers here in Israel, that may not seem like such a big deal. After all, with the high prices in this country, that may seem somewhat reasonable.

But suffice it to say, that's only scratching at the frosting on the surface of this issue.

The real story all began on TikTok.

On April 8, West Virginia bakery owner Kylie Allen of Kylie Kakes Dessert Bar & Cafe shared a video on TikTok that began as a simple "storytime" video that is so popular on the social media platform. 

@kylieraeallen Worst client experinece so far #cake #cakes #cakedecorating #cakedecorator #rainbowcake #fypシ #fyp #sprinkles #cakesoftiktok #karen #badclient ♬ original sound - Kylie Allen

Mentioning that it was one of her "worst client experiences," Allen explained that a customer had contacted them via Facebook and ordered one of their "signature six-layer rainbow cakes." This is a cake that's essentially a bakery staple and something Allen said she has started baking even back when she was just a home baker. This cake was supposedly made in the store's signature style, which consists of six distinct layers and buttercream covered in rainbow sprinkles. This particular cake was eight inches, enough to serve 18 guests, and costs $75.99 before taxes. 

"Upon arrival, she seemed to be really surprised that the cake was covered in sprinkles," Allen explained in the video, which is told over video footage of someone making a six-inch six-layer rainbow cake.

Allen explained to the customer that this is how all of their signature rainbow cakes are made or decorated this way, with buttercream on top to add any phrases such as "Happy Anniversary" or "Get Well Soon," depending on the occasion.

"She then got super defensive and very rude about the price of the cake," she continued, adding that the customer "bashed us and put us on her Facebook page."

The video, accompanied with #Karen and #badclient and which has managed to accumulate over 6.5 million views at the time of writing, is itself nothing particularly new or outstanding on the platform. Social media sites like TikTok and Reddit are awash with long stories about beleaguered employees dealing with unreasonable customers.

It has become such a niche and relatable experience that entire content creator brands can be centered around just telling other people's stories, such as the popular Rslash YouTube channel which has over a million subscribers just from reading Reddit stories written by other people.

No, what makes this story so special is that the supposed nightmare customer fired back.

CakeGate 2: Second serving – a customer fires back

The customer, Ashleigh Freeman, took to Facebook to describe the issue with the cake, which seemed to be very ugly. Later, it seems she also uploaded a video to TikTok but deleted it. However, she then uploaded another video to TikTok, responding to a user asking "Why did you delete the cake video?"

@afreebird Replying to @sarahkaitlyn9 #cakedecorating #cakedrama #rainbowcake #kylie #cakeandtea ♬ Titanic flute fail - Funny/Awesome Vids

This new video, which has since amassed over 1.1 million views, first began with the same beginning as Allen's video. However, it then transitioned into a picture of the cake in question, which shows an arguably haphazard attempt at coating in buttercream before messily writing something that may be illegible but which other sources confirmed says "Happy Birthday Trilby." 

Accompanying this was the caption "I'm an idiot. I didn't want to ruin her business, tried to squash the beef and she said no. She wants to be TikTok famous, not a bad idea. But I can actually make decent content."

The video then transitioned into screenshots of the Facebook exchange between Allen and Freeman. Here, we can see Allen expressing confusion because "this is what all our standard rainbow cakes look like," to which Freeman replied with a picture and said "Look at it. That's the problem."

According to a report by Insider, Freeman further said "If it looked nice, if it looked like quality work, I would gladly pay 90. But if it looks like s***, no ma'am."

This is something Freeman later confirmed in an interview with, saying "I complained because $84 is a lot of money to me, and I felt ripped off."

Allen, though, seems to have disagreed.

"The price and time that I do the work for doesn't change just because it's not what you THOUGHT it should be," Allen wrote, the TikTok video showed, adding "I have never decorated the rainbow cakes or advertised them to look any other way than what you received."

Allen would also accuse Freeman of being disrespectful, to which Freeman replied "It's not disrespectful to expect quality."

"You keep saying that but it's literally the same exact rainbow cake I serve EVERYONE," the baker said. "Do you think you're one sour attitude toward my cake will shake my business? Absolutely not."

According to Insider, Freeman replied "I hope you do go outta business. Princeton deserves better than subpar boxed cake from an unprofessional, dirty-fingernailed 'baker.'"

"I hope you do go outta business. Princeton deserves better than subpar boxed cake from an unprofessional, dirty-fingernailed 'baker.'"

Ashleigh Freeman

To add some both metaphorical and literal icing on the cake, Freeman then made a third video responding to a comment asking why she didn't just make a cake herself. 

@afreebird Replying to @selenahernandez608 The cake TRILBY deserved. PS - Ik the handwriting is rough! I’m rusty. #kylieraeallen #happybirthdaytrilby #karen #badcustomer #homebaker #rainbowsprinklecake #cakebeef #thatsideoftiktok #doubledown #cakedecorating ♬ Originalton - Neymar fan page

The result in this video was a cake that seemed a lot nicer than the $84 dessert, though Freeman admits that her handwriting with the buttercream is still a bit rough.

But the video itself doesn't just show a still image of the cake. Rather, it shows her going through the entire process of making the cake.

How does this CakeGate scandal get worse?

At first, many social media users were keen to side with Allen, having been all too familiar with the experience of an unreasonable customer. 

That changed once Freeman's video came out and people saw this scandal about a multilayered cake was, in fact, multilayered itself.

After this, people began taking a look at Allen's other videos, and some people seemed to notice a pattern.

These users accused her of using a boxed cake mix rather than making her cakes from scratch, as well as not wearing gloves while making the cake. Some others even accused her of stealing other people's ideas.

But all that aside, the real impact has been the seemingly unrelenting stream of harsh criticism directed at Allen's cakes overall, with some social media users even making videos bashing the apparently unartistic and unaesthetic designs of her cakes, such as @Hauned_Hem_Herald's series "Kylie's Disaster Pieces."

This has also been seen on her Facebook and Yelp pages.

On Facebook, the baker's posts have been bombarded with harsh comments and reviews. 

 How much money would you spend on a sprinkle cake? (credit: PEXELS) How much money would you spend on a sprinkle cake? (credit: PEXELS)

"You don't cut into the icing for a quilted design but rather put the little candy pieces in after you've drawn lines on with either the frosting or a cake dye and done evenly placing the candy pieces at the evenly spaced intersections. You do not cut into the icing for that. I am not a cake maker nor am I a cake decorator however I do know better," the commenter said.

"I cannot believe somebody who does this professionally would sell a cake that looks like that. What I should say is a cake that looks like that for the prices that she charges."

This can be seen on the bakery's Yelp page too. 

"She charges professional baker prices when she is not a professional baker; you are better off spending your money elsewhere," said a one-star review.

"They put an extremely low amount of effort into their cakes while demanding such high prices. The owner is condescending and believes that her eyesore cakes are worth $80. If that wasn't bad enough, she does not use gloves while handling the cakes and spreads the sprinkles with her bare hands.

This woman also sips on beverages while mixing cake batter, and I mean directly above the batter. Imagine how much of that accidentally gets in the mix. Yuck! Walmart and Costco cakes are better and cheaper, so please either go there instead or find someone who actually gives a damn about their customers and doesn't do a half-assed sloppy job," another said.

For her part, Allen has been wholly unapologetic about the entire thing, and rather she has maintained that she has been doing this for years, has cake decorating classes and said that "I have worked extremely hard to get where I am," adding "I would just keep your mouth shut because it's not doing anything." This is something business analysts have noted, saying that Allen's response is absolutely not how to tackle a PR disaster.

Why do people care so much about CakeGate?

According to crisis management and PR expert Molly McPhearson, fiascos like this are so popular because "It gives people a temporary escape from their own lives, allowing them to indulge in the thrill of someone else's conflict without actually being directly involved. It taps into our innate desire for justice and our fascination with human conflict. It's like watching real-life reality television play out in front of our eyes, and people can't help but follow along in their feeds to see how it all unfolds," USA TODAY reported.

For her part, Freeman seems to have a least somewhat regretted an incident that spiraled out of control. In a since-deleted Facebook post, Freeman wrote: "I would love for everyone to continue to buy and support Kylie's Kakes, it was delicious," adding "The customer service is usually good, and we all have bad days," USA TODAY reported.

However, amid all this, Allen still seems to have a lot of support, with many people online actually finding her to be an inspirational figure, albeit one who may need to work on her handwriting and customer service skills.

"This woman has 4 children to feed and had her first baby when she was just 13. Talk about overcoming adversity," one commenter said. 

"She is an entrepreneur whether you like it or not, and wouldn't be open if people didn't buy her cakes as they must taste better than they look. It takes time to perfect your craft. You're not the ones buying her cakes!"

Allen seems to be trying to make the best of it, too. After one Facebook comment asked if a celebrity chef like Gordon Ramsay will get involved in the CakeGate drama as a chance to make millions, the bakery replied "As long as I'm in the equation."