Up until a month ago, if you would have asked cake artist Livnat Cohen what was the most bizarre cake she was ever asked to bake, she would have said a toilet paper roll-shaped cake.
"Some lady ordered the cake for her husband, for his 40th birthday. She said that he spends a lot of time on the toilet, which became a sort of a calling sign for him. Next to the toilet paper roll, I placed a pile of 'poop' (chocolate-flavored, naturally)," she says.
The 43-year-old cake designer from Kfar Ma'as (A moshav east of Tel Aviv) also received one cake request that broke the internet — a cake shaped like a grave.
"I got a call from a guy called Ruby," she says. "He told me he and his brother were planning a surprise party for their mother's 60th birthday and they want a grave-shaped cake. I thought they were putting me on, but they were dead serious.
They said they're known for their dark sense of humor and their mom would laugh right along with them. They also asked that the cake would say she 'died' in 2082, which means she would have lived to be 120."
Did you agree?
"It was a bit hard for me because I was worried the mom wouldn't actually see through the humor, or what if something happened to her as she saw it. I tried to dissuade him from the idea," she says.
"We got his younger brother on the line, and he was even more adamant. Eventually, my husband told me to stop badgering them about it and give them what they want, so I made it as realistic as I could."
How did you make it?
"I tried to find some inspiration online but no examples came up. So for the first time ever, I googled actual tombstones. They also wanted a Star of David on the 'tombstone' but it just felt too weird so I said no."
Did you expect the cake to go viral?
"No way. I was scared to upload a picture of it. I'm pretty conservative and I was worried about how people would react to it. Later, I got the idea to upload it to 'Mamatzhik' (a popular Facebook group for mothers, the name is a portmanteau of the words 'mama' and the Hebrew word for 'funny', lumped together into a question) because the women there are known for their sense of humor," Cohen says.
"First, I asked the mom for permission, she loved the cake, just like her boys predicted, but I couldn't have foreseen the admiration it got. It only took it 20 minutes to go viral.
The problem is, people won't stop calling me asking for the same thing! A woman just asked me to make one for her 25-year-old friend who jokingly says she wants to die. I told my husband I might just change my occupation and build actual tombstones, but truthfully, I still mostly enjoy more traditional cake requests, like unicorns."
The birthday girl Yael Sayag, a clinic administrator and mother of three, says she loved the cake. "I laughed because I know my children's dark sense of humor. While I don't share it, I still occasionally enjoy it."
Still, don't you get a bit anxious watching your name on a tombstone?
"I'm naturally optimistic and I know we're all going to die one day. People live as long as they have to, so I'm not anxious about it. At first, I noticed the word 'grandmother' on the cake, but I have no grandchildren. My boys said that's the point because it's meant for the future. Then I noticed it said I 'lived to be' 120, so I was on board."
How did the party guests react?
"They laughed, mostly after they saw me laughing at it. My brother was shocked, though. He said he wouldn't have reacted as I did."
How did it taste?
"Very good. The top part, with the inscription, was left in my fridge two weeks later. I couldn't eat it anymore, but it still made me smile every time I saw it."
Olla Arad, a cake designer from Giv'atayim, got a request to bake a cake shaped like a coffin three years ago. "Someone called and asked if I do unconventional designs. At first, I thought she was referring to a sex-themed cake, and was about to turn her down.
"Then she said she was turning 31 and wanted a coffin to symbolize the death of her youth. I wouldn't want that because I'm superstitious, but I honored her wish and was very happy to do it. It was a nice challenge."
The client was Alla Turchyna, now 34, a single Tel Aviv-based hi-tech worker. "I'm a sarcastic girl and I got an idea that would make my friends laugh and also convey what society expects from a 31-year-old woman. Namely to be married and have kids. I asked for the writing to say, 'Here lies Alla's youth, happy 31st'".
How did people react?
"I spoke to other cake designers beforehand and most were taken aback by the concept. Friends at work were also surprised. They expected a birthday cake and got a coffin. They laughed when they saw the writing. The cake was delicious, so that helped."
Olla Arad then got a request from a man to design a cake like a bottle of bleach. "His girlfriend is obsessive about cleaning. I really enjoyed working on it so I was very detail-oriented about it. The size of the 'bottle' needed to be lifelike, and the sticker was a nice touch.
"I just changed the writing a bit to reflect the greeting. It even said 'non-edible' on the side, though in hindsight I should've written that it was edible. The frosting was sugar dough and it was a layered chocolate cake."
The client was Itzik Azuz, a 67-year-old pensioner from Giv'atayim. "My partner Shuli is obsessed with cleaning. When we go to the supermarket and I place two bottles of bleach in the shopping cart, she always says it's not enough, so I got the idea of making the cake shaped like bleach. It wasn't even her birthday. I just did it for the laughs."
That's a pretty elaborate joke.
"Olla exceeded my expectations. It was so detailed it looked like the real thing. I picked it up Friday afternoon. Shuli was busy cooking. I put it next to her and she told me to put it back with the cleaning supplies. She didn't notice it was a cake. When I told her, she didn't believe me.
"When she finally cut it, she realized it actually was [cake] and was shocked. After dinner, all the children and grandchildren ate from it."
Cake designer Inbar Manor, who lives in Ramat Gan, also received a weird request recently. The client wanted a cake inspired by the TV show Wednesday, a coming-of-age supernatural comedy horror show, for her daughter's 10th birthday. "The mom said her daughter loves the show."
"I never watched it but I told her it shouldn't be a problem so I googled it. I sent the mom a picture of the main character and she said it was perfect. She told me she'd get back to me with a more detailed description after her daughter got back from school.
"The daughter asked for the cake to have the mock blood, knives and Wednesday's character. The mom knew it was a pretty weird request, but I went with it. She just wanted her daughter to have a happy birthday."
How did you make it?
"It was non-dairy since one of the girls in her class is lactose intolerant, but it contained some goodies like Oreo cookies. The knives were made from sugar and the blood was strawberry mash."
Did you ever refuse a request before?
"No. I'm a designer, not an educator."
The client was Odelia Bashani, a 29-year-old nursing student and divorced mother of two from Tel Aviv. "I was planning on a regular cake, but a few days before her birthday, my daughter said she wanted a Wednesday cake. I asked her what she meant and she told me about the show she's been watching.
"The designer asked me which character to place on the cake so I asked my daughter. I admit I was apprehensive about the whole thing. I didn't know what the designer would think of me or my daughter, but ultimately, I respected my daughter's wishes, mostly because she didn't celebrate her birthday last year due to personal reasons."
But still, blood and knives on a cake... that's a lot of violence.
"There's a context to it. When I later watched the show with my daughter, I got it. It contains violence but a lot of kids watch it. I'm always watching to see if what my daughter is exposed to affects her in any way. I always want my daughter to be open with me."
What were the reactions?
"Her classmates were naturally enthralled. I was scared about what other parents might say, but they thought it was really original."
Shimrit Attias, a cake designer from Ashkelon, mostly receives the standard "Bob The Builder" sort of requests, but 15 years on the job means she's gotten her fair share of exceptional asks.
"Five years ago, someone asked me for a cake shaped like a cockroach. It was from a 17-year-old whose mother had entomophobia. He thought it would be funny to see his mom's reaction.
"Someone also asked for a brain-shaped cake for her younger brother, because he's the family genius. Even weirder than that was a request for a cake shaped like a vagina from a woman celebrating her friend's birthday. I found it disconcerting and almost refused but I did it eventually. I just stayed emotionally detached throughout.
"Another request was a cake shaped like an ear because the client's wife had an ear fetish. Originally, he wanted a cake with a lot of smaller ears on it, but I thought it would be too disturbing so we agreed on one big ear."