History of Women Jumping Out of Cakes
From the Romans to Marilyn Monroe, the history of women jumping out of cakes has evolved into a pop culture tradition.
Drinks, laughs and bow ties. It’s your last night as a single man. Your fellas took you out to celebrate and say goodbye to the old times. It’s getting late and the alcohol is starting to hit. People dancing and joking around. Suddenly the music stops and your friends look at each other as if trying not to laugh. Everyone turns their head towards the door as a giant cake comes in while Cabaret music starts playing. At this point, every single person in the room can imagine what’s going to happen: all of the sudden, the cake explodes and a scantily-clad and attractive young woman burst out of it, dancing and moving to the beat.
Women jumping out of cakes are part of bachelor parties and have been a part of pop culture for a very long time. We’ve all seen women jumping out of cakes on screen, wearing a Marilyn Monroe costume (best case scenario) or surrounded by fireworks, confetti and all kinds of party utilities, but few of us have stopped to think when this exotic practice started and where it came from.
Records going as far back as the Roman Empire show the use of food as a recreational tool in their known bacchanal parties made to worship Baco (known by greeks as Dionisio), the god of wine and a symbol of ecstasy and madness among other things like theater. In these gatherings, in which they lived and experimented the excess pleasures, animals were stuffed and arranged so they looked alive to amuse the guests.
After some time, in the medieval era, this trend kept growing and animals were put in costumes and arranged to look funny (picture a lamb with chicken wing). Around the 16th century, it became trendy to put living beings inside of food. To surprise diners, people started baking animals inside pies, particularly birds. These “flying cakes” became very popular in Italy and England as people rejoiced over seeing the birds coming out of the cake.
“Sing a song of sixpence a pocket full of rye,Four and twenty blackbirds baked in a pie.When the pie was opened the birds began to sing,Oh wasn't that a dainty dish to set before the king?”
That well known British nursery rhyme of uncertain authorship was printed around the year 1780, but curiously enough, there is proof of an earlier version that goes: “Sing a song of sixpence, A bag full of rye, Four and twenty naughty boys, Baked in a pye.”
But it wasn’t until the 16th century when humans were directly involved in this practice. A paper written by Jesse D. Hurlbut for the Symposium on Medieval Studies at Indiana University tells the story of Philippe Le Bon, a famous French engineer who threw a party in which “eight and twenty musicians, baked in a giant meat pie” came out a pie playing their instruments (yep, 28, you read right) and in 1625 the Duke and Duchess of Buckingham presented Sir Jeffrey Hudson, “the queen’s dwarf,” to King Charles and his wife served in a giant pie. Doesn't sound as sexy as women jumping out of cakes.
Young and Beautiful
Since the 1800s, the practice of women jumping out of cakes became exclusive to attractive, young women at decadent parties. In 1895, wealthy New York City architect, Stanford White, hosted a party for about 50 prominent gentlemen and socialites, such as Edward Simmons, Nicola Tesla, and Charles Dana Gibson. The night would forever be remembered as “The Pie Girl Dinner.”
In the book Evelyn Nesbit and Stanford White: Love and Death in the Gilded Age by Michael Mooney, there’s a very elaborate description of the atmosphere the night of "The Pie Girl Dinner:"
“The room soon hung heavy with acrid smells--the combination of wines, too much food, a fog of cigarette smoke, the sweat of the men mingled with the streaming sweat of the girls that mixed with their powders and perfumes… Then a whistle sounded and through the swinging doors a file of Roman slave girls reappeared, their bodies streaked with sweat, bearing a huge trestle, six girls on each side of it. Upon the trestle was what appeared to be a monstrous pie, the crust a meringue of ermine white and the base surrounded by banks of red and blue flowers....They began to circle the pie and to sing to it, their voices now heavy with wine and passion and incipient catarrh. And at the cue, the top of the pie rose up, and birds--doves, canaries, and nightingales--began to fly everywhere in the room....As the birds scattered a shining blonde child rose from the center of the pie, making graceful weaving motions with her arms”
The shining blonde girl, sixteen-year-old Susie Johnson, who wore a skimpy one-piece suit and a stuffed black bird on her head and, who some people say, became one of the best known models in the city.
Showgirls and Pop Culture
In the 1950s, sexily clothed showgirls jumping out of giant cakes became a mainstream entertainment for men in office gatherings, bachelor parties and other social event,s like conventions. Around the 1970s, with the rise of the feminist movement, they lost popularity and became exclusive to bachelor parties and more underground environments. However, it became such a part of the pop culture, that even the astronomer Sir Fred Hoyle used it as a metaphor to describe the beginning of the universe as a "party girl jumping out of the cake."
References from such times can be found easily in numerous books and press articles, from Marilyn Monroe jumping out of a giant cake with a machine gun in “Some Like it Hot” to the more recent examples, like Mariah Carey’s 2001 “Loverboy” music video or even parodies like when Bill Murray popped out of a cake on David Letterman's retirement episode from The Late Show. Even the video game The Sims has them in their House Party edition and, if you’re wondering, you can still hire women jumping out of cakes if you feel like it.
Giant Cakes Today
Initially, the cakes were real. In 1975, the AP newspaper published an interview with a baker that worked making them for a small fee of $2,000. They were built around huge cylinders that could house an adult. At the time, a girl supposedly charged around $50 for the performance. Nowadays,most “cakes” are built from cardboard and can be bought for very low prices on the internet and there’s even DIY tutorials. What we can find is a mere representation of what once was, a characteristic version of it.
Some ads for the cakes read, “You know you've always wanted to jump out of a cake, here's your chance! Surprise your friends and family at the next event by jumping out of one of our specially designed PopCakes! Our giant cakes are perfect for parties big and small. Whatever the occasion our PopCakes are sure to make it a party to remember!”
From the cheapest looking to the more elegant ones, pop up cakes can be ordered and brought to your own house. Some even come with instructions and are apparently very easy to assemble, but if you’re not ready to compromise, you can rent one, woman included. And if you are wondering how the women jumping out of cakes get into one, they tend to have a hole in the bottom.
Mermaids, Marilyn Monroes, you name it, and the internet will make your dream come true. For some, the dream is to be the one popping out of the cake. In an article of the Las Vegas Weekly, Maren Wade speaks about her experience being “the girl:”
“Believe it or not, this was one of my lifelong dreams. It always looked so glamorous, the way they wheeled out that giant work of edible art into a full room of people. Then, surprise! Out popped a stunning, glittery showgirl for that very special birthday boy. Now, that stunning, glittery showgirl was finally going to be me! I couldn’t contain my excitement”
So whether you're watching women jumping out of cakes or being the woman yourself, one thing for sure is that it is a fad that isn't losing steam. From the Romans to Mariah Carey, things, and women jumping out of cakes has an appeal that many can't resist.