MEET CHRIS CARDINAL, THE MAN BEHIND THREADCAKES!
Well, all you Threadless bakers, sugar-lovers, dessert-aficionados, cake-lovin’ fools, your favorite time of year has arrived: the Threadcakes Annual Competition is live! That’s right; it’s high time to dust off your mixing bowls and spatulas, measure out the flour and icing, scour Threadless for every confectioner’s dream design, and transform that print into a mesmerizing Threadless cake of pure design delight. To kick off this year’s competition, we reached out to the Threadcakes founder Chris Cardinal to learn more about him, the contest, and some of the best Threadcakes he’s seen yet. Give it a read, check out the Threadcakes Facebook page for more info, and then get your cake-bakin’ on, kids!
The Threadcakes 2013 3-D Grand Prize Winner, “Tea at 2,000 Feet”, by Elizabeth Marek (original design by artist Eric Fan)
Yay for Threadcake time! Why don’t you tell us a bit about yourself to get started?
My name is Chris Cardinal. I’m 29 and I run a software shop called Synapse Studios in Tempe, Arizona. I dig photography, music, traveling, and good design. I’m also married and the wife and I just picked out two golden retriever puppies to add to our home!
How in the world did you come up with the super awesome concept of Threadcakes?
I used to run a fan blog where I wrote about Threadless designs and such. I earned a bunch of street team credits at the time, and came up with giveaways to have fun with the site. I had amassed a bunch and figured a cake contest would be a weird interpretation of the designs, and a lot of fun.
The Threadcakes 2013 2-D Grand Prize Winner, “Sounds of the Ocean”, by Megan Matsumoto (original design by artist Alex Solis)
How has this contest evolved since its launch in 2007?
The original contest was people manually emailing cake photos to my inbox. It was… rough. I was manually compositing each design onto the cake photos. Threadless awarded me an awesome Bestee for “Best Community-Run Contest”. The next year, I couldn’t deal with that many cake photos direct to my inbox, so I didn’t run the contest. Charlie Festa, a past Threadless employee, reached out and asked if I’d do it the next year, and so I built out the actual site.
What are the rules for participating in Threadcakes?
The rules are simple: Your cake MUST be a printed Threadless t-shirt design. It must be cake, but sugar glass, fondant, etc., are allowed. Cakes can include structural components, but they have to be mostly cake. You must bake the cake yourself, and show a picture of the baking process and of the eating process. Full rules are here, and all entries must be submitted before midnight MST, November 3rd, 2014.
The Threadcakes 2012 3-D Grand Prize Winner, “Hooded”, by Elizabeth Marek (original design by artist Diego Fernandez)
Does taste have anything to do with it, or is it entirely the reproduction of the design?
Sadly, no. I can’t have people shipping me cakes, though I wish they would. We’re looking for creative interpretation of the designs. A lot of them tend to be nearly pixel-perfect and amazing, but some are really clever and different in their approach.
How many Threadcakes have you yourself created? Of those, which is your favorite? Feel free to share a pic if you have it!
Ha. I baked one the very first year. I’m not a baker though, and it wasn’t eligible to win of course. I have a pic, but… no.
The Threadcakes 2012 2-D Grand Prize Winner, “Your Love Keeps Lifting Me (Muppets)”, by Lauren Babis (original design by artist Chris Gerringer)
If you had to pick, what’s the best Threadcake you’ve ever seen? Again, feel free to share a pic!
Oooooooh, this is hard. Reallllllly hard. They keep getting better. Elizabeth Marek has won the last two years’ with two completely breaktaking entries: Tea at 2,000 Feet for 2013 and Hooded for 2012. The Communist Party was truly incredible as well, by Neli Josefsen, and I also really loved Your Love Keeps Lifting Me (Muppets) by Kate Lau.
The Threadcakes 2011 3-D Grand Prize Winner, “The Communist Party”, by Neli Josefson (original design by artist Tom Burns)
The Threadcakes 2012 3-D Second Place Winner, “Your Love Keeps Lifting Me (Muppets)” by Kate Lau (original design by artist Chris Gerringer)
One of my favorite 2-D cakes (we have 2-D and 3-D categories) was Lisa Frankenstein by CorrieRasmussen.
The Threadcakes 2013 2-D Second Place Winner, “Lisa Frankenstein”, by Corrie Rasmussen (original design by artists Dan Elijah G. Fajardo, Jen Lemasters, and Jerry Maninang)
You mention that you actually know of a now married couple whose first date involved a Threadcake. What other great stories do you have?
A lot of people did fun things like bake cakes with their kids. Someone baked one for their friend’s deployment party as he was being deployed to Afghanistan, which I thought was really neat.
Do you have any expert tips or tricks when it comes to creating Threadcakes?
Bake for fun. My motto for Threadcakes is “even if you lose, you still win cake.” Try something new and daring or outside of your comfort zone, even if you’re a relative novice. It’s such varied, fantastic subject matter that there are all manner of ways you can interpret, bake, and decorate. Also, give yourself a bit more time than you think you’ll need. The contest ends on a Monday to fully encompass the final weekend, since most people bake on the weekends.
What types of baking tools or other items are must-haves for creating Threadcakes?
I asked the Threadcakes Facebook page last year and the overwhelming answer was their KitchenAid Mixer!
The Threadcakes 2011 2-D Grand Prize Winner, “Meow Remix”, by Megan Matsumoto (original design by artist Kat S. Moon)
What flavor would a Threadcake have to be for you to get the uncontrollable urge to eat the entire thing in one sitting?
If it’s cake, I’ll likely eat it, except for pineapple-upside down cake. Momofuku Milk Bar’s birthday cake is insanely good, though. Like, insanely good. (It’s “birthday cake” flavored, and it is sooooo good.)
Which Threadless design do you think is the ultimate cake design?
I wouldn’t dream of handicapping the contest by picking an absolute favorite! You could say that design-wise, I’m fond of CTRL + Z, as I have this in my office (Jake Nickell and I both own that design in this form, funny story).