Is It Cake? Is Something I Wanted to Hate—Before I Binged It

Netflix has a new hit show. The baking competition Is It Cake? is currently the platform’s number one series. I planned to write an angry tirade about how awful it is. My arrows were sharp, my bow taut, and my hands steady as I prepped my shot. I would take aim at the show’s vapidness, its sheer idiocy, its rage-inducing audacity to be so vapid and idiotic. I pictured myself hammering away on my keyboard: How dare Netflix bait what’s left of our Covid-addled attention spans with this catnip. You see, dear reader, Is It Cake? is based on a popular Instagram video from 2020 that depicted someone cutting into what appeared to be a Crocs sandal but was, in fact, cake. As my colleague Justin Kirkland wrote at the time, the viral video was symbolic of our collective undoing. But where others saw insanity, Netflix executives saw $$$, so they took the two-second meme and stretched it like Laffy Taffy into an eight episode baking show. The nerve! The naked opportunism of it all! That could’ve been the headline: The Naked Opportunism of Netflix’s Is It Cake?

You bet your mirror glaze I would bring up how repetitive each episode is, how there are no stakes involved in the competition, and how un-fun it is to watch someone mold a cake into a bowling ball. The mystery is what makes cakes that mimic real-life objects appealing! Showing us how it’s done ruins the fun. What’s next? A docuseries that explains how a magician pulls a rabbit out of his hat? I would’ve devoted 250 words at least to the way Is It Cake? manages to ruin both cake and things that aren’t cake. And I would’ve budgeted another 50 words for complaints about the show’s design. Is It Cake’s set looks like an Ikea kitchen showroom on display in the middle of a gigantic black box theater. Also, why must the set pieces move? Does the “cake wall” really need to rotate? This isn’t The Price is Right. Finally, after putting Is It Cake? in its rightful place alongside other national embarrassments like Flavor of Love and The Apprentice, I would call for a restoration of sanity and a return to the prestige drama era of television. Picture me politicking from the podium: This is the nation of Mad Men and Breaking Bad!

Yeahhh, I was really going to let Is It Cake? have it.

But then, something truly regrettable happened. Towards the end of the first episode, the show’s host, Saturday Night Live cast member Mikey Day, made me laugh. I had not planned on experiencing joy during this idiotic series. “Ohh, that’s fondant!” he exclaimed in feigned enthusiasm while reading a “How to Bake” book upside down. Silly, stupid bits like this get me every time. No biggie, I thought to myself, one funny moment can’t save the entire series. But Day proved himself to be a charming host on multiple occasions. He’s funny, kind, creative, and— best of all—well aware of just how outrageous Is It Cake? is. The manic energy he brings to the role of the emcee is oddly relatable. It’s as if he also can’t believe you are watching this show. Is Day just great at playing a comedian on the verge of a nervous breakdown? Or are Is It Cake? viewers actually watching a comedian try and smile and laugh his way through a nervous breakdown? The question turns Is It Cake? into riveting, must-see TV.

The contestants do, too, now that I think about it. They are so sweet, especially Andrew, the Iowa baker with swirly, neon green hair. He looks like the Grinch but has the personality of Santa Claus. Also, is it just me or does the set grow on you? The rotating stage isn’t campy; it’s festive! Not every baking competition has to happen in a tent. I’ll tell you one thing: I bet the soundstage was at least air-conditioned. And you know what? Some of these bakers are pretty impressive. I would eat the sewing machine April baked on the series finale, even if it wasn’t cake. Everyone gets along too! They’re so supportive. They even have inside jokes with each other! I love how the competing bakers take time to explain the essentials, like the differences between modeling chocolate and fondant … Wait a minute. What is happening? What is this feeling? Do I love Is It Cake? Damn you, Mikey Day, you opened the floodgates! What once was a fountain of rage has morphed into a tsunami of joy. I can’t believe that beach ball isn’t cake! How did she make that cheeseburger bun look toasted? Who have I become?

One of the millions of people who love Is It Cake? I guess. And you probably will, too—for better or worse.

Watch ‘Is It Cake?’

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