Kat Thek’s Brooklyn apartment looks like it came right out of a Wes Anderson movie. A pink flamingo and a golden skull sit on tables; vintage posters and bags of spices from all around the world hang on colorful walls. It’s from this place that she turns ready-to-bake mixes, chocolate chips, and colorful sprinkles into one-of-a-kind cakes that feature one essential ingredient—mean internet comments. She calls them “Troll Cakes.”
Each cake is frosted with a mean comment and then sent back to the person who made the comment.
“Yes, they are getting a cake, but they’re also getting this head trip of the internet showing up at their front door.” says Thek. She hopes troll cakes will remind people to be a little nicer to each other online. “We all live online and we’re all neighbors in this bizarre land.” says Thek
Anyone can order a cake from Thek, which she sells for between $30 and $60, and have it sent to a troll—even if they don’t know the troll’s identity or address. Tracking down the troller is the other part of Thek’s business.
“I think the internet has made it easier to find people. If you want to find somebody, you can get pretty far,” says Thek. But she believes there’s something face-saving about outsourcing it.
“You don’t want your troll to think that you’re staying up all night tracking them down. ” says Thek.
She says there’s nothing special about the way she hunts trolls down, though she gets better at it, the more she does it.
“I don’t want to spill my detective beans but a really good place to start is to use a reverse image search of whatever photo that person is using on their account,” says Thek. That way, she can see where else the image has been posted, and often, figure out the troll’s identity.
Thek started her business in April 2017 and has sent out around 75 cakes so far. Though customers pay for the cake, it hardly compensates Thek for all the time she devotes to the detective work. (She also has a full-time job as copywriter.) But Thek says it’s her passion.
“I’ve always been a little nosy. A nicer label for being nosy is calling myself a detective.” says Thek. “I love reading internet comments. It reminds me of being on a subway car and there’s a couple next to you that’s breaking up. It’s so tough to look away. And the internet is that in writing, infinity.”
Taking a peek into another person’s life can be fascinating, but it can also make her feel bad about sending the cakes sometimes. As she digs deeper into a troll’s personal history online and glimpses the real people behind those vague usernames, she gets more and more sympathetic. “It’s really humanizing in a way to see somebody who’s a bully online, and then you see they contested a traffic ticket in 2007.” says Thek, laughing.
Thek’s goal is not to condemn these people or cure internet trolling. She just wants to give them a friendly and funny reminder that, in her words, “We all have to be responsible for the shitty things we say.”
And since the beginning of Troll Cakes, Kat has expanded the service. People can now order a “Tiny Hands Special” service, and make Trump tweets or interview clips into a cake and have it sent to the White House. Thek has sent seven of those.
Customers can also pick a favorite troll comment, made by a stranger, and have it frosted on a cake and sent to friends. As Kat sees it, nobody is immune to being mean online once in a while. “I think everybody has been a troll,” says Thek. “You don’t have to be on your best behavior all the time. A troll cake is just saying this one time you’re a jerk and now everyone’s laughing at you because of the cake. Now have some cake.”
And speaking of the cake, Thek makes sure they’re delicious, (though she confesses her cakes always look like they’re “decorated by an excited child.”) She cares about the quality for a reason: “I’m adamant that the cakes are super good. Because it’s still a present. It’s just a weird present.”