Why a Bogus Boston Bakery Served Cupcakes Made With Nails and Razorblades

Raising awareness for Celiac disease

Most cupcakes are bad for us. Given all the fat, sugar and empty calories, eating enough of them over time can do a body harm.

But these special cupcakes, baked by ad agency Hill Holliday, are much, much worse. Just one bite could tear up your insides and send you screaming to the hospital. 

Nails, razorblades, thumbtacks, antifreeze and other nasty ingredients were baked into such goodies at Celenia's, a faux pop-up shop at Boston's South Station. The installation was created as part of a campaign designed to illustrate how painful it can be for celiac disease sufferers to eat foods containing gluten. 

"They eat it, and they're dealing with extreme pain, vomiting, etc., for the next day or so," says agency group creative director Rich McHugh. "It's hard. We wanted to show people, in a visceral way, how differently food with gluten looks to people who suffer from this disease." 

Supporting the Celiac Disease Foundation and Beyond Celiac, and timed to coincide with Celiac Awareness Month in May, the effort includes bogus recipe videos, shared on BuzzFeed and other channels, that show chefs prepping scorpion pizzas and other disturbing dishes:

Mmm, we'd like extra venom on ours. And anchovies, please!

Jokes aside, according to recent studies, celiac afflicts about 3 million Americans, many whom suffer for years before being properly diagnosed. Left untreated, it can lead to Type 1 diabetes, multiple sclerosis, anemia and even intestinal cancer. 

"We want people to understand the seriousness of this disease," says McHugh. "Unfortunately, most people mix up gluten-free fad diets with celiac. They aren't the same. By seeing the videos and the pop-up shop, they are shown in a simple way just how difficult it is to live with this disease. We also want people to feel a little compassion for suffers." 

At South Station, Boston's busiest rail terminal, thousands of commuters and travelers passed by the pop-up shop, which attracted lots of attention during its two appearances this month. 

"The reactions were mostly really good," says McHugh. "The funny thing was that a decent amount of people still wanted the cupcakes, even with the dangerous ingredients."

As keepsakes, we hope, rather than snacks. 


Client: Beyond Celiac & Celiac Disease Foundation

Agency: Hill Holliday
CCO: Lance Jensen
GCD/Art Director: Kevin Daley
GCD/Copywriter: Rick McHugh
VP/Media Director: Jeff Zanella 
Digital Production: Enrique Graber

Production Company (video & stunt): Hill Holliday Brigade
Head of Production: Khari Streeter
Executive Producer: Gretchen Taipale
Director: Benjamin Gibson
DP: Jeremy Ramirez

Director of Technology: Steve Callan
Creative Technologist: Adam Carroll
VP Associate Director – Experience Design: Maggie Foley
Senior Interface Designer: Samantha Catoggio

Editor: Kevin Boyle, Michael Quartulli, Mike Grasela, Liz Colanto
Assistant Editor: James Dunoyer, Chheangkea Ieng
Music House: Premium Beats
Studio Producer – Director: Cristin Newkirk
Studio Design: Matt LaBarge, Wes Cowles, Patrick Beyer

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