Cakes topped with everything from scissors and well-placed blueberries to fondant sperm have become a social media sensation as bakers across the U.S. promote photos of baked goods decorated to celebrate the procedure.
What generated buzz most recently was an Instagram post by Signature Desserts in Nolensville, Tennessee, showcasing a buttercream-frosted cake with "100% JUICE NO SEEDS HAPPY VASECTOMY!" written on top. It featured lemons hand-painted on edible paper and cost the client who conceived of it for her husband $30.
That 6-inch red velvet cake went viral. The business has since gotten requests for hysterectomy cakes, too.
"It's not every day that somebody wants a humorous, edgy cake," said Nate Clingman who owns the business with his wife, Jillian, and makes about 50 cakes a month. "It blew up very quickly, and I was surprised."
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For small bakers, offering up cakes for offbeat occasions is a way to increase profits, as the traditional model of birthdays-weddings-communions-graduations grows stale. Finding alternative occasions to drum up business is very similar to what the greeting-card industry has tried to do. About 500,000 vasectomies are performed in the U.S. each year, according to The Journal of Urology.
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"Cake is just a combination of eggs, flour, sugar and butter, but what you can put on it (makes) possibilities," said Ashleigh Evans, director of operations analytics for the global restaurant consultancy firm Aaron Allen & Associates. "If there’s a Hallmark card for it, there can be a cake for it."
Other vasectomy-themed cakes by bakers around the country include a copyright-infringing 3D Mr. Peanut with a bandage on his groin, messages like “Snip Snip Hooray” and “I just retired the swim team” written out in frosting and anatomically correct male genitalia with chocolate sprinkles serving as pubic hair.
The vasectomy cake Lynn Light made was graphic; it had small testicles, made of fondant, with a black bow in the center of a flesh-colored 8-inch chocolate cake.
“I definitely didn’t know what to think at first,” said the owner of Wicked Cakes in New Riegel, Ohio, recalling how she reacted to her customer’s request. “I thought it was a great way to show your appreciation for what a partner is going through.”
The $65 masterpiece-for-the-mister wasn’t the first time Light was called on to make an unusually-themed dessert. She’s also done divorce cakes, corset cakes for 18-year-old boys’ birthdays and a large beer-bottle-shaped cake for a bachelor party.
“There’s definitely a market for it,” Light said. “People are finding different ways to find the humor and celebrate some of the more awkward things in life.”
That's why Whitney Reinhart, 34, of Fenton, Michigan, ordered that cake for her husband Donnie, 40. They have two sons – ages 2 and 5 months – and are done having children, so she threw him what she called a "ball voyage" party in February and invited close to 30 people.
"He was really nervous about it, and I thought, 'I’m going to capitalize on that," she said. "He was nothing but smiles and laughter, but he was so embarrassed. You could tell he was like, 'Oh, my God.' He looked at me and said, 'You’ve got to be joking,' and I said, 'No. Happy vasectomy day.'"
To his credit, Donnie Reinhart took it in stride. "I was surprised," he recalled. "It was great. It was hilarious. I even posed with it."
The robust, post-recession robust economy has left many people ready to spend on little pleasures, like novelty cakes.
"Anytime there's more discretionary income floating around, more of that can be allocated to food," Evans said. "Plus, millennials spend more on food than other demographic."
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Heather Finch’s vasectomy cake was $50 with white buttercream sperm around the green sides, an homage to the client’s husband’s favorite college team, Michigan State University. The owner of Finchy Cakes in Milan, Michigan, credited Pinterest and the popularity of TV shows like “Cake Boss” and “Cake Wars" for the trend.
“Some of that helped open their eyes to more than just birthdays,” she said. “People think, ‘I can do all this fun themed stuff now.'… They want more control of what they’re eating. Some people want to be able to post it on social media and say, 'Look at this crazy cake I got.’”
It takes a certain personality to even order such a cake, though. Reinhart, who'd bought the testicles cake for her husband, emphasized that he has a great sense of humor and said that she isn't afraid that he'll take revenge on her.
"I don’t think he's going to do anything like 'Happy clear Pap smear day!', because he’s not creative like that," she said. "But I’d welcome that."
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Vasectomy cakes are a thing