— by Emily Whynott MFA ’23
Emily Whynott MFA in progress installation of cake sculptures displayed on a table

My Apologies (2022)

Materials: Ceramic, Mixed Media

Dimensions: 8’ x 4’ x 4’

Cake sculptures on a table

The kitchen is often understood as a site of sacrifice and devotion, one where a person prioritizes care-work over their own desires. This labor extends far beyond the kitchen. It includes grocery store planning, shopping, consideration of nutritional needs and taste preferences, as well as the actual preparation of a meal. Once the meal is assembled there are the additional tasks of setting the table, orchestrating conversation, and the clean up throughout. These actions are rigidly structured by the dos and don'ts of domestic femininity. Although the rules are unstated, they often dictate a socially-acceptable relationship for a person to have with food. Within these parameters, self-care and love are often neglected.

Through creating this body of work, I am exploring the intention behind baking and decorating a homemade birthday cake. I wanted to craft a narrative of a resourceful home baker trying to make the perfect cake for another person. These attempts were doomed to fail from the start, as the four cakes are decorated with sardines and deviled eggs. You can’t even say, “Oh, well at least they’ll taste good.”

closeup of fish decoration on a cake sculpture

These cakes are about trying and failing, and the pure love behind the gesture of baking someone a birthday cake. Each attempt becomes a little more hurried and desperate, as the baker runs out of strawberries and strives to make the perfect cake. 

The birthday card message reads: 

Happy Birthday

I wanted to make you the perfect birthday cake. It started off well. I didn’t have the frambouise (framboise?) soaked raspberries. Or the salted caramel truffles. And I definitely didn’t have chocolate quail eggs. But I figured it’s like they say, if at first you don’t succeed… I tried and tried again.