iullustration by Meg Hunt

Any occasion is better with cake. According to the monosyllabically named Jen, the funny cake maven from cakewrecks.com, there's a reason for cake's celebratory supremacy.

"The appeal is so universal," she told me in a recent interview, "because cake is easy. There are so many different types. Everyone likes at least one type of cake, one flavor."

For those not in the know, Cake Wrecks is an online compendium of professional cakes gone terribly wrong. It's dedicated to cakes that are "unintentionally sad, silly, creepy," or "inappropriate." One fan-favorite wreck is a lovely white cake, with blue roses, that includes an inscription reading "Congratulations on Your Vasectomy."

"Nowadays people are coming up with any excuse to buy a cake," says Jen. In fact, cake is a necessary part of all milestone occasions: birthdays, weddings, bar mitzvahs, divorces....

"Divorce cakes are huge right now. There's usually a lot of fake blood on them," Jen notes. "I've even seen toppers where it looks like the bride's pushed the groom [off the top] and there's a little bloody trail down the tiers. Divorce cakes in general are getting very popular."

Jen has collected many of the cakes on her blog through diligent searching, but amused bakery customers have emailed many others to her. Though their cake misery adds to Cake Wrecks' collective mirth, the fact is most of these people weren't looking for a cake reading, precisely, "Best Wishes Suzanne and Under Neat That We Will Miss You."

So, before ordering your next cake for the post-vasectomy party, Jen has some simple guidelines to help you avoid purchasing a blog-worthy cake wreck:

1. TAKE THE TIME TO CHECK THAT CAKE

"Don't rush out right before the party starts and pick up a cake," says Jen. "Most of the submissions that I get start out with, 'The cake was sooo bad, but the party started in 20 minutes so I had no choice.' Give yourself time for plan B."

2. RESEARCH

Jen suggests that you at least check out the baker's website to know what you're getting into. No website: Go in and look at their portfolio. "If you're a betting person I guess you could order from a grocery store bakery," Jen says. "But you better like to gamble, because you never know what you're going to get."

3. DON'T BE CHEAP, UNLESS YOU WANT A CHEAP-LOOKING CAKE

It's clear that many of Jen's wrecks were the product of rock-bottom bakeries. It's good to remember that you get what you pay for. "Don't have unrealistic expectations," says Jen, noting that you can't spend $20 and expect it to look like it came out of Ace of Cakes.

Wreck or not, cake is that special item that's sure to set your shindig apart from those other lame, cake-less parties your guests attend during the year. As they say, cake makes everything better (yes, even vasectomies).

The award-winning bakers at Piece of Cake in Sellwood will treat you right. With cakes for all occasions, they probably won't blanch when you order up your extra-special divorce cake with extra blood. No wrecks here, that's for sure.

Piece of Cake, 8306 SE 17th, 234-9445, pieceofcakebakery.net

A cupcake is just a personal cake, and what's better than allowing your guests to choose what they want? Saint Cupcake has got the goods to make your peeps happy. Plus, cupcakes? Totally whimsical!

Saint Cupcake, 407 NW 17th, 3300 SE Belmont, 997-3674, saintcupcake.com

Everyone should have at least one vegan friend and should be willing to appease that vegan friend with a cake from Sweetpea Baking Company. This little shop with a big heart can bake up your heart's desire with 48 hours notice. If you don't tell anyone at the party, they'll never know the cake is vegan.

Sweetpea Baking Company, 1205 SE Stark, 477-5916, sweetpeabaking.com