When baker Kylie Allen, owner of Kylie Kakes Dessert Bar & Cafe in Princeton, West Virginia, posted a TikTok about a dispute she had with a dissatisfied customer over a rainbow birthday cake, she thought other small business owners might empathize. What she did not expect was for the sprinkle-covered situation to blow up into something now known as #CakeGate.
It all started on April 7, when Allen (known as @kylieraeallen on TikTok) posted a video about a disagreement she had with a customer over a layered rainbow cake she made. The video quickly went viral, and when the customer, a woman named Ashleigh Freeman responded on TikTok, the conflict took on a life of its own — and #CakeGate was born.
“Today I had one of the worst client experiences I’ve ever had since opening the storefront,” says Allen in the original video, which has amassed 5 million views as of publication.
As she makes a similar cake in the video, Allen explains that a customer (later revealed to be Freeman) reached out to her through the shop’s Facebook page and wanted to order one of the bakery’s six layer rainbow cakes. “I started doing these even as a home baker. I’ve been doing them for a really long time,” Allen says.
Allen says that Freeman went with a 8-inch cake, which serves 18 and retails $75.99.
“Upon arrival, she seemed to be really surprised that the cake was covered in sprinkles. We explained to her that all of her signature rainbow cakes are decorated this way,” Allen says.
“She then got super defensive and very rude about the price of the cake, although this is exactly how we decorate all of our rainbow cakes,” Allen continues. “She even bashed us and put us on her Facebook page. Also a reminder that we don’t individually place each sprinkle onto the cake, so they may look slightly different in pictures.”
Comments on the video are now turned off, but that didn’t stop many folks from duetting the video to weigh in on the drama, including Freeman herself, who posted, deleted and then reposted images of the cake at the center of this dessert dispute.
“Im an idiot. I didn’t want to ruin her business, tried to squash the beef and she said no,” Freeman (@afreebird on TikTok) wrote in a video from April 11. “She wants to be tiktok famous, not a bad idea. But I can actually make decent content.”
Freeman's video shows the cake as she says she received it: sprinkle-covered, with “Happy Birthday Trilby” — her mother's name — written in black icing atop a swoop of white icing.
The video concludes with screenshots of an interaction Freeman and Allen had via Facebook Messenger, which TODAY.com was able to review via screenshots provided by Allen. During this conversation, Allen wrote, “If you wanted it decorated a specific way than what how we do them here, that’s something that would have had to be discussed.”
“Look at it. That’s the problem,” Freeman responded. The next message, which Freeman did not post in her TikTok, read, “If it looked nice, if it looked like quality work, I would gladly pay 90. But if it looks like s---, no ma’am.”
After a bit of back and forth, where Allen said to Freeman, “You are not welcome to come in my establishment anymore,” Freeman responded, in part, with, “You’ve lost a very good customer,” attaching a screenshot of Facebook comments decrying the cost of the cake.
Comments under Freeman’s TikTok video pulled no punches either, to say the least.
“Idk how I got on Cake Beef Tik Tok but I love it here,” commented one TikToker.
“That cake looks like she dropped it after she finished decorating it, but tried to salvage it because she didn’t want to bake another one,” wrote another.
“Saw her video and felt so bad for her yesterday,” commented yet another. “Immediate regret now that I’ve seen the cake. I can’t even.”
“Here for the cake drama,” said another TikTok user in a comment, to which Freeman replied, "#CakeGate2023." Under the hashtag on TikTok, there are endless recaps, explainers and other bakers making their own versions of the rainbow sprinkle cake.
This buttercream bonanza has caused a reviewers to flood Kylie Kakes' Yelp page with mostly negative reviews, so much so that it's now being monitored by Yelp’s support team because of "increased public attention."
“Yeah, it honestly, it honestly felt awful,” Allen tells TODAY.com about all the negative attention to her business. “I didn’t expect her to make a response video, because I didn’t feel like my video was attacking her. But she purposely made a video to attack me and my business, which worked.”
Internet sleuths quickly found Kylie's Kake's Facebook page and the photos she uses (from Pinterest and other bakers) to promote the classes she teaches, and some have accused her of trying to pass other bakers' work off as her own.
“Gotta post a picture of someone else’s cake? What, you don’t like your own?” one person commented on a photo she posted of a unicorn cake.
“The freeds logo is in this pic lmao,” commented another, referring to the origin of the unicorn cake image, Freed’s Bakery. The Kylie Kakes account responded with a screenshot of the caption, circling the text, “Picture for inspiration.”
All of this has led Allen to post a follow-up video addressing her critics.
“Since you guys just love to talk about me, and make viral videos about me honestly it’s very funny to me,” Allen says in a video from April 17. “There’s now a viral video going around about how I use other people's work and that’s not true. I have cake decorating classes in my hometown and I’ve been doing this for years and I use inspiration photos as to what we’ll be creating.”
“I have worked extremely hard to get where I am … you guys have nothing going on with your life and yourself have so much to say about a situation that you don’t know the full backstory on,” Allen says in conclusion. “I would just keep your mouth shut because it’s not doing anything.”
For Freeman, speaking up was a matter of principle. “I complained because $84 is a lot of money to me, and I felt ripped off,” she tells TODAY.com via email.
“I tried not to worry about the video but it eventually provoked a response from me. After posting a response, I reached out to her waving the white flag,” Freeman says. “I urged locals to continue supporting her small business, because I realize that she has children and needs to be able to provide. She refused to accept my truce.”
Freeman even decided to make her own version of the cake, joining in on the trend many others have taken part in on TikTok, and garnering 1.5 million views on her version of the cake heard 'round the world.
“The cake TRILBY deserved," Freeman wrote in the video's caption.
Both Freeman and Allen say that the attention that #CakeGate has attracted greatly outweighs the pounds of frosting spread in its name.
“I feel like there are many other bigger, more important issues happening in the world today, all this debate over cake is pretty silly,” Freeman says, echoing this sentiment in a Facebook post from April 12.
“I didn’t do this to bash anyone, it was just my experience,” Allen says. “I wish that people wouldn’t just jump on bandwagons on TikTok when they actually really don’t know all that went on, you know? it can be really hurtful, especially to a small business, I’m not a corporation, I’m a small business and this is how I feed my family.”
CORRECTION (April 21, 2023 at 10:57 a.m. ET): A previous version of this story stated that Freeman left a negative Yelp review for Allen's business; Freeman claims it wasn't actually her.