Grab your knife and prepare to gorge on Shannon O'Malley's apocalypse cakes
SFBG Do you often have the name of the cake first and go from there?
SO It started with me having all these different names and themes. Some of the early ones included the Sodom and Gomorrah Fruit Cake — traditional apocalyptic myths from the Bible. But then I started to branch out and Keith and I would talk. He'd say, "A lot of people think that immigrants coming to the United States is apocalyptic — why don't we do an immigration cake?" So I came up with Immigration Mayhem Mexican Chocolate Cake. We started riffing off of each other and decided the recipe should be in Spanish, so honkies can't read it.
Now, either of us can have the original idea. I name them and do the write-ups and pay for the production, and on Saturdays, he comes over with his camera and we art direct the set together. He snaps the photos, and then I retouch them. We've done that for eight or nine months.
SFBG Do current events have a larger presence within the project than they did initially?
SO Definitely. Now it has become more overtly political. The Immigration Mayhem Mexican Chocolate Cake looks at certain people's fears of their world crumbling. In addition to a cake with a swarm of locusts, we also have President Palin Half-Baked Alaska. Some of them come from our political perspective, and some of them are just stupid and gross and fun. Like Whore of Babylon Fruit Tart. Science fiction is also inspiring. We have a meteorite cake, and one about insurgent robots.
SFBG What does your girlfriend think of the project now? Does she give feedback?
SO She loves it. She's been integral to it. When it was just a blog, a local art show had a call for entries and I thought, "Man, I wish I could enter a blog in the art show." I thought that maybe I could have a computer at the gallery so people could browse the blog. She collects vintage cookbooks and has all this retro cooking imagery, and she said, "Why don't you make old-timey recipe cards?" I don't know if you've seen this one: Jonestown Kool-Aid Cake.
Once I got started working with the cakes, friends would come up to me and say things like, "What about Jonestown?" An old roommate suggested that cake. You know one day they're going to build condos where the compound was in Guyana.
At a certain point I realized that every region has its apocalypse. The Seismic Haitian Mud Cake — that isn't the end of the world, but it's their fucking end of the world.
SFBG Do you find the format of a recipe lends itself to your sarcasm and sensibility?
SO The template has helped me. I know how long each write-up will be and that I have to make a recipe. But I'm apart from the text — when you make something that resonates with people, it sort of becomes its own thing. People get excited about it, so it's gotta be made.
SFBG What are some of your favorite cakes?
SO I really like the China World Domination Red Bean Cake. It was conceptual, it was easy to make — I bought the cakes at a Chinese grocery store — and it makes fun of people who are xenophobic.
SFBG Since you began working on this, has the apocalyptic materialized for you more often?
SO I've always been into the archetype of the murderous housewife — situations that seem so perfectly dainty and wonderful, but have something dark behind them.
SFBG Like John Waters' Serial Mom.