Cakes are versatile desserts suitable for nearly every occasion. Serve them up for birthdays! Celebrate a marriage with a wedding cake. Apology cakes are even a thing, but if sorry isn't good enough, maybe it's time to bake up a breakup or divorce cake.
When it comes to cake trends, the rising popularity of gender reveal cakes, well, takes the cake.
In recent years, some new soon-to-be parents have announced the assigned gender of their unborn baby with "gender reveal parties," featuring a cake filled with blue or pink filling — signifying the assigned gender of the unborn baby.
A video featuring a party where parents opened an envelope containing a baby's gender was posted to YouTube as early as 2008, and currently, there are more than 84,000 search results for "gender reveal cake" on YouTube.
But one "gender reveal" style cake riffs on the trend of gender reveal cakes in the best way possible. Feast your eyes on this cake with "It's a they/them" scrawled in frosting on top.
This gender neutral cake is the wokest way to celebrate a human
Plot twist: Though the cake is styled like a gender reveal cake, it was actually created for a 26th birthday party.
Katie O'Sullivan, who describes herself as a queer femme artist living in Brooklyn, New York, made the cake — homemade yellow cake with vanilla sour cream frosting — for her friend Kyle's birthday party, she said in an email. A "recent convert" to baking, O'Sullivan loves whipping up cake for birthdays.
"My friend Kyle is a non-binary femme meaning they do not identify as either male or female and use they/them as pronouns," O'Sullivan noted. Femme "essentially means a queer person who presents as traditionally feminine or girly without necessarily adhering to gendered archetypes about women," she said, explaining that she and Kyle both enjoy cute items like bows, ruffles and teddy bears.
"I think queerness lends to creating things, even in jest, that are by their very nature political and radical." - Katie O'Sullivan, artist
"[Kyle's] partner thought it would be fun if I made the kind of cake you would see at a baby shower. I loved the idea and suggested eschewing the traditional 'it's a boy/girl' motif but writing 'it's a they/them' acknowledging both their nonbinary gender identity and their penchant for cute femme-y innocence. It was not made as some political statement but I think queerness lends to creating things, even in jest, that are by their very nature political and radical," O'Sullivan said. "I'm surprised but very pleased that people have liked it so much."
Gender reveal cake etiquette, revealed
Is it acceptable to announce someone's gender with food? "I think it is okay for food to announce someones gender if they have consented to that gender descriptor," O'Sullivan said. "Frankly, I'd be thrilled to get a pizza that said femme in pepperoni."
But a "femme" pepperoni pizza is a far cry from most gender reveal cakes, which reinforce gender stereotypes on cakes for unborn babies. The "tutus or touchdowns?" cake below makes it seem as though a baby's genitalia dictates what kinds of activities they'll pursue. Essentially, it's setting up gender-role-inspired expectations for children even before they're born.
Not all parents are eating up the gender reveal cake trend. "My kids will live their whole lives in a world defined by gender binaries, so do we really have to start enforcing those stereotypes on a fetus?" writer Emily Senger wrote in Today's Parent.
Celebrating the idea that a baby will be born either female or male "reinforc[es] binary gender roles" and excludes people who are intersex, Everyday Feminism noted, explaining that the cakes and parties wrongly echo the idea that gender is determined by sex aka genitalia.
Even Miss Manners of the Washington Post does not condone throwing a party to announce someone's gender. She called the concept "farcical" and noted that parents might get more joy from "revealing" a baby's gender to friends one by one.
And as Senger pointed out in Today's Parent, elaborate gender reveal cakes might have "less to do with celebrating with family and friends, and more to do with a splashy spectacle made for social-media affirmation and one-upmanship."
O'Sullivan understands why parents might be excited to celebrate that a little one is on the way, but thinks that parents shouldn't obsess over gender and instead let kids explore the world as individuals.
"Every person should be able to discover their own identities naturally and without prejudice and fear of the outside world," she said. "I didn't come out until I was 21 because I believed if I couldn't lead a heteronormative life I wouldn't have a life at all. And now I'm a queer weirdo surrounded by the greatest, most supportive freaks and I couldn't be happier."
Isn't cake about happiness when it all comes down to it? Let us eat cake no matter whether we're expecting or not, and no matter our gender identities.