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‘Do you take this cake ...’

Courtesy photos Sara and Drew Van Ess wanted their wedding cake to look as it appears on the left. The cake on the right is what they were delivered, which led to an outpouring of empathy on social media.
Jamie Lusch / Mail TribuneSara and Drew Van Ess share a moment together at their home in Grants Pass on Tuesday. They can now laugh at the memory of their wedding cake mishap.
Grants Pass couple find TikTok sympathy after wedding doughnut snafu

A moment of therapeutic comic relief — after coming to grips with a wedding day cake debacle — landed new bride Sara Van Ess a spot on the Yahoo News home page last week and chuckling over some 1.5 million views and social media comments after posting her experience on TikTok.

Social media users reached out to commiserate, laugh and offer advice after the December wedding mishap. For complete transparency, Van Ess admitted it took her at least a few days to find humor in the situation.

Planning her own wedding, Van Ess was looking for a budget-friendly alternative to an expensive multitiered wedding cake. When she found a “doughnut cake” concept on Pinterest, complete with a small cake atop three tiers of simple glazed donuts, garnished in greenery and flowers, she took to social media for bakery recommendations.

Van Ess, a member of a Facebook group dubbed Southern Oregon Foodies, received several referrals for an at-home baker in Grants Pass.

“We didn’t want to go into thousands of dollars of debt for a wedding. We were trying to focus on being married, so we were cutting costs and looking at alternative cake decorations,” she said.

“We wanted something to cut at our wedding, but we knew that a really fancy tiered cake would be way out of our budget. We thought that what would be something totally unique and budget-friendly would be this doughnut cake, and this one baker was recommended by several people.”

Van Ess perused photos of cakes the baker had made and thought she’d found her match.

“I looked at about a year’s worth of photos of her work, and it helped that she said she had been doing doughnut cakes for other weddings,” she said.

“There were a lot of really nice photos, and I got good vibes from her … but apparently my vibe-meter was malfunctioning.”

In the weeks that followed, “radio silence” ensued. Sending a copy of her wedding schedule, which showed the expected cake delivery time, yielded no response.

“I got a bad feeling about a week before the wedding when I hadn’t heard from her since I paid the deposit,” she recalled.

“So I texted and was like, ‘Hey, did you need anything else from us? So excited for the cake!”

On her big day, Van Ess briefly heard back from the baker, offering assurance she remembered the gig.

“She texted and told me she was icing the donuts,” Van Ess said.

Following the ceremony, the newlyweds were outside taking wedding photos when the baker “peeled into the parking lot” in sweatpants and Crocs.

“She showed up an hour-and-a-half late with a broken three-tier cake stand and ended up trying to assemble the cake in front of all the guests, who were at that point seated for dinner. It was supposed to be a centerpiece decoration in the reception, so it was on a raised platform,” Van Ess said.

“She didn’t decorate the cake with the greenery like she was supposed to, and she brought the wrong kind of doughnuts.”

Van Ess later learned her bridesmaids, who finagled a display with the cake and mismatched doughnuts, had a “backup plan” to grab a cheesecake from a nearby store if needed.

As to the disappointment with her baker, she decided to shake it off and move on.

“I just had to look at my brand-new husband and take a deep breath. I was like, ‘She’s super late.’ He just kind of hugged me and was like, ‘It’s OK.’ So, I decided, ‘Yeah, ‘it’s OK.’ We decided it was not worth the upset.”

Van Ess asked for a refund, and the baker, who she declined to identify, acknowledged she had not delivered as promised.

Van Ess found some solace in commiserating on social media. A regular TikTok user (just.a.sara), Van Ess posted a video using a recent trend, with an audio clip of a woman laughing hysterically while showing photos of “what I asked for” vs. “what I ended up with.”

TikTok user reactions ranged from demands for justice to shared stories of wedding day mishaps — from botched cakes and failed dress alterations to bridal party no-shows.

“A stack of tortillas surrounded by some bagels would have made me happier,” one user quipped. Another described the cake display as “a (macaroon) with donuts around it.”

Van Ess said the incident was a chance to practice forgiveness and grace, when both are often lacking in today’s world and on social media.

“She did end up issuing us a refund, and I did not let the botched cake ruin my day. … And now 1.5 million people have laughed with us,” she said.

Husband, Drew Van Ess, said the cake situation was a tiny glitch on an otherwise perfect and happy day.

“Our wedding was perfect, and the cake mishap is now just a funny story,” he said. “I got to become the husband of my best friend, and I wouldn't change a thing about our day.”

The happily married bride concluded that humor — and a little grace — were the best course of action.

“We need to normalize not freaking out over every little thing that goes wrong in our lives. I know it’s become really common for people to go on and bash a business because they did them dirty, and then thousands of people flood that business and ruin them,” she said.

“But maybe it was just a situation like this. Maybe someone had something going on in their lives or they were having a really bad day. Nobody knows what someone else is going through. … And she did make it right.”

Reach freelance writer Buffy Pollock at buffyp76@yahoo.com.

Watch for yourself

See the cake mishap at tiktok.com/@just.a.sara/video/7076565113704123690?is_copy_url=1&is_from_webapp=v1