Nervous Recs: Cake-Making Videos Ease My Tension With Each Swirl of Frosting

Watching people quietly decorate cakes on YouTube feels like a form of meditation, but you get to stare at cake.
April 9, 2020, 11:00am
Screenshot via Benny Cake베니 케이크/YouTube
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I've had too many cups of coffee, and it feels like everything in me is rattling. The boiling tea kettle that is my mood is sputtering from being overfilled with news, work, and all the other commitments that don't end even though the world is paused, and it hisses at me. This is what every day feels like now.

There are obvious things to turn to, like exercise, meditation, online shopping, and junk food. Lately, though, I've been finding my relaxation on YouTube, watching cake instead of eating it. With influencers seeming desperate, ASMR a little heavy-handed, and home café clips of dalgona coffee now way too trendy, it's the cake decorating niche that's bringing me joy, making my tired mind feel like it's getting a massage as each swirl of buttercream is gently smoothed with an offset spatula.

Not just any cake decorating video does the trick, though—you can't really zone out to instructional videos with talk-through steps from a chirpy narrator. Instead, it's the quiet, ASMR-esque baking videos, many of them from Korean YouTubers, that give my brain its well-deserved break. Watching the frosting be plopped, scraped, and shaped onto a plain, dry cake provides a slow-building sense of satisfaction as it takes the cake from nondescript and unfinished to something eye-catching and complete. As frosting flows out of the piping bag, so, too, does some of my tension.

Of this niche, there are many styles. Many are minimal and pastel like the ones above, but my favorites are the more garish designs from YouTuber Benny Cake베니 케이크, which are like a maximalist funhouse mirror rendering of Disney nostalgia and vintage American cookbooks. Absolutely laden with thick, brightly colored frosting, these cakes feel like they exist solely for my vicarious pleasure through the screen rather than for anyone's actual eating enjoyment.

The appeal of the cake frosting video goes beyond the gustatory. I'm a frequent frosting scraper, known to discard it into colorful smears at the edge of my plate. In video format, though, frosting is entirely fantasy. Even without tasting the sugar, its texture is thick and visually pleasing, and seeing the decorating process from start to finish offers a sense of having completed something as well. The sounds are hushed, but present enough to capture my attention. And at no more than 10 minutes, the videos are perfect little bites for a quick, mid-workday break.

There's a bit of a philosophical lesson in cake decorating, too. At some point in the cake decorating process, you have to know when to stop—when the frosting is as smooth as it can possibly be, or when the piping at its edges is enough. Some imperfection has to be accepted, and that's a good lesson for all of us right now.