Gender-Reveal Disasters on Cake: 47,000 Acre Wildfire

Welcome back to my “Gender-Reveal Disasters on Cakes” series! Every gender reveal that’s for a baby is a disaster, but I like to memorialize the most impressive “gender reveal fails” through the medium of dessert.

Reminder: gender reveals for babies are inherently transphobic, and you cannot participate in gender-reveal parties, cakes, etc. and claim to be feminist or an “LGBT ally.” Don’t come at me with those pride cakes and pronoun cookies if you’re doing gender reveals. See FAQ below.

 

47,000 Acre Wildfire Cake 7
Image: 47,000 Acre Wildfire Cake a three-layer spicy chocolate cake frosted in orange, red, and yellow Swiss meringue buttercream frosting swirled to look like flames. There are orange and red flame-shaped candies pressed into the sides and top of the cake to look like flames. A mini-banner hangs between two skewers stuck into the cake. The banner is made of circles in rainbow colors reads, “Congrats, it’s a 47 thousand acre wildfire!!”
IMG_3130
47,000 Acre Wildfire Cake 2: a three-layer spicy chocolate gluten-free vegan cake. The cake has white coconut frosting between the bottom two layers and orange frosting on top dripping over the edges. There are orange and red flame-shaped candies pressed into the sides and top of the cake to look like flames. A mini-banner hangs between two skewers stuck into the cake. The banner reads, “It’s a gluten-free vegan wildfire!!”

Special thanks to Robin for their work color-correcting these photos!

“47,000 Acre Wildfire” is not one but two cakes commemorating one of the most impressive, most destructive, and, dare I say, worst gender-reveal disasters in recent history.

In April 2017, an off-duty border patrol agent planned to “reveal” the “gender” of his baby at a party by shooting a target that would release blue or pink smoke. The target contained Tannerite, a highly explosive substance, and the resulting explosion set the brush on fire. The fire then spread to Coronado National Forest in Arizona. The Sawmill Fire burned 47,000 acres and required 20 firefighting agencies to fight the fire for a week. 

Congratulations! Your baby’s gender is FIRE!

This gender-reveal disaster is such a bingo card of toxic masculinity and white supremacy. You’ve got not just the usual cisheteronormativity and violence, as many gender-reveal mishaps seem to involve, but also immigration, guns, and ecological destruction. We decided to honor Dickey’s profession with Border Patrol by donating the proceeds from our extra pomegranate prints from the Kickstarter to the Washington Immigrant Solidarity Network (WAISN). Outsider Comics bought them from us so we could make the donation, so if you’d like to support Outsider, WAISN, and us, go get a print!

Amir Vera, writing for CNN, ends one article with “Dickey [the father] has not revealed the gender of his baby, KGUN reported.” 

Friend, did you read your own article? The gender has revealed itself to be fire! HOW MUCH MORE DO YOU NEED?

About the cakes

Image: 47,000 Acre Wildfire Cake 1 shot from above: a three-layer spicy chocolate cake frosted in orange, red, and yellow Swiss meringue buttercream frosting swirled to look like flames. There are orange and red flame-shaped candies pressed into the sides and top of the cake to look like flames. A mini-banner hangs between two skewers stuck into the cake. The banner is made of circles in rainbow colors reads, “Congrats, it’s a 47 thousand acre wildfire!!”
Image: 47,000 Acre Wildfire Cake shot from above: a three-layer spicy chocolate cake frosted in orange, red, and yellow Swiss meringue buttercream frosting swirled to look like flames. There are orange and red flame-shaped candies pressed into the sides and top of the cake to look like flames. A mini-banner hangs between two skewers stuck into the cake. The banner is made of circles in rainbow colors reads, “Congrats, it’s a 47 thousand acre wildfire!!”

The first cake, “Congrats, it’s a 47,000 Acre Wildfire!” uses Heather Baird’s recipes for Chocolate Cake and Swiss Meringue from the SprinkleBakes book as the base. I use this cookbook 90% of the time when I’m making buttercream or wheat-based cakes, and I highly recommend it. I added 1 Tablespoon of cinnamon and ¼ tsp of cayenne pepper to give it some heat. The frosting is dyed with Wilton icing colors, whom I definitely didn’t call out/in below, and the filling is the same frosting.

Image: a shot from above of the 47,000 Gluten-Free Vegan Acre Wildfire Cake: a three-layer spicy chocolate gluten-free vegan cake. The cake has white coconut frosting between the bottom two layers and orange frosting on top dripping over the edges. There are orange and red flame-shaped candies pressed into the sides and top of the cake to look like flames. A mini-banner hangs between two skewers stuck into the cake. The banner reads, “Congrats, it’s a gluten-free vegan wildfire!!”
Image: a shot from above of the 47,000 Gluten-Free Vegan Acre Wildfire Cake: a three-layer spicy chocolate gluten-free vegan cake. The cake has white coconut frosting between the bottom two layers and orange frosting on top dripping over the edges. There are orange and red flame-shaped candies pressed into the sides and top of the cake to look like flames. A mini-banner hangs between two skewers stuck into the cake. The banner reads, “Congrats, it’s a gluten-free vegan wildfire!!”

The second cake, “It’s a gluten-free vegan 47,000 acre wildfire,” is, as the name suggests, both gluten-free and vegan. The recipe is based on “Gluten-Free Birthday Cake (Vegan)” from Minimalist Baker. The frosting is coconut cream-based, and the cake uses almond flour, gluten-free baking flour, and oat flour with flax “eggs” and applesauce as the binder. This was super easy to make, tasted great, had a great texture: moist and structurally sound, when gluten-free desserts can tend toward being dry, gritty, or falling apart. Like the wheat cake, I added 1 TBSP of cinnamon and ¼ teaspoon of cayenne, which gave the chocolate a hint of heat. I also refrigerated the cake for about an hour before transporting it to help the coconut frosting solidify a little and stuck skewers in it for the drive.

Close up of the candy work on the 47,000 Acre Wildfire Cake.
Image: Close up of the candy work on the 47,000 Acre Wildfire Cake.

The flames on both cakes are candy; I used the “Freeform Lollipop” recipe from Sprinklebakes and made roughly flame-shaped designs without the lollipop sticks. You heat corn syrup and sugar to the “candy crack” stage and then shape the candies on greased parchment paper. I broke some of the pieces apart to make them smaller and spikier. Since I didn’t have time to get flavored oil for the recipe, I used a vanilla-flavored corn syrup. People really seemed to like the candy as well, which surprised me because sugar work, like fondant, isn’t usually something people I know like to eat. 

Sources

Suggested Reading and Ways to Help

 

  • Gender Reveal Podcast: What the heck is gender? Molly Woodstock (they/them), host and resident gender detective, amplifies the stories of nonbinary and transgender individuals as well as providing the show free educational tool for folks seeking to learn more about gender. If you’re new to gender issues, there are Gender 101, 201, 301, etc. episodes.

 

  • Intentionalist: (Seattle, Portland OR, and Phoenix) A database of small diverse businesses. You can search by businesses/services owned by women, veterans, families, LGBTQ folks, people with disabilities, and/or social enterprises.

 

Do you have trans issues/organizations you’d like me to highlight here? Leave a comment or send me an email at illmakeitmyself[at]gmail.com. (Please note that general “LGBTQ” organizations must be bi+, trans, intersex, and nonbinary inclusive. Don’t send me HRC nonsense.)

And, as always, you can support me, a nonbinary bisexual person, by sending your cash dollars to my Ko-Fi (one-time donation), my Patreon (monthly donations – get rewards!), Etsy (buy my zines), and by hiring me to write about queer food.

This series was inspired in part by the works of Protest Cakes, The Sweet Feminist, and Pies of Resistance.

FAQ

Why are you making food political?

Food IS political; I didn’t make it this way. What part of food isn’t political? (What part of anything isn’t political?) Here is a non-exhaustive list of political items regarding food:

  • Who has access to food
  • What kind of farms and crops are subsidized by the government
  • How workers in the service industry, factories, retail, and agriculture are treated in terms of working conditions, pay, and unionization, including wage gaps in marginalized populations, workplace harassment, etc.
  • What safety standards and practices exist for food-workers and consumers
  • The exploitation of migrant workers, individuals with disabilities, undocumented workers
  • The impact of colonialism on Indigenous and native foodways

But in terms of cake, why politicize it? To echo that wrote in my post on that NYT gender-reveal cake post, it’s not that “cake is asked to do so much” as much as cake (and dessert, and food, and most things, honestly) is also used as a tool for hegemony of all kinds. With food media reinforcing this hegemony, politics and food turns into an ouroboros. For example, what mainstream food-media outlet would decide to stop publishing recipes and articles for Thanksgiving in favor of publishing pieces by Indigenous authors on subjects like food sovereignty, access to food on reservations, seed-savers, and recipes for pre-colonial and contemporary Indigenous food, etc.? What major food-media outlet would skip Christian holiday foods in favor of other religion’s holidays and not have it turn into Sandra Lee’s Kwanzaa and Hanukkah cakes debacle? 

The questions I’m asking in these posts about gender-reveal cakes are as follows.

  • What food media, bakeries, or cake-decoration suppliers will openly denounce gender-reveals (except for adults coming out)? 
  • Who will actively support their LGBTQIA+ customers without capitalizing on both Pride and gender reveals? 
  • Who will actually tag rainbow cakes as #pride on Instagram instead of pretending rainbows, unicorns, the bi-pride ombré, and such are just fun “birthday” cakes? (LOOKING AT YOU, WILTON)* 

 

A screenshot of Wilton Cake's Instagram. There is a cake decorated with rainbow frosting on the outside and between the layers and white frosting rosettes on top. The text reads, "A beautiful pair of rainbows and rosettes! 🌈💕 This colorful cake with a rainbow surprise inside would make a memorable addition to your birthday celebration! Link in profile 👆 #wiltoncakes #cakes #cake #cakedecorating #cakeideas #instacake #cakesofinstagram #birthday #happybirthday #birthdayfun #birthdayparty #birthdaycake #rainbows #rosettes #rainbow #color #colorful"
Image description: A screenshot of Wilton Cake’s Instagram. There is a cake decorated with rainbow frosting on the outside and between the layers and white frosting rosettes on top. The text reads, “A beautiful pair of rainbows and rosettes! 🌈💕 This colorful cake with a rainbow surprise inside would make a memorable addition to your birthday celebration! Link in profile 👆 #wiltoncakes #cakes #cake #cakedecorating #cakeideas #instacake #cakesofinstagram #birthday #happybirthday #birthdayfun #birthdayparty #birthdaycake #rainbows #rosettes #rainbow #color #colorful”

These companies, which I’m going to guess are staffed with mostly cisgender heterosexual white folks, won’t take a stand because they are afraid of losing their bigoted customers. Binary gender and cissexism, in the end, boil down to capitalism. Those who control the means of production in food and food media control how mainstream food culture is shaped. Look at any rainbow dessert on Wilton’s Instagram (or any Nice White Cishet Lady’s Instagram), and you’ll see it labelled as a birthday cake. I could make 100 cakes using Wilton colors, for Pride and for other events, but Wilton is never going to acknowledge its queer fan base or celebrate the work we create with their products.

So, food media and suppliers, if you’re reading: the bare fucking minimum is acknowledging that rainbows and unicorns are queer and NOT making gender-reveal cakes. How hard is that? 

*It’s not like I just blew a shot at doing an Instagram takeover on Wilton’s account, because for that, they’d have to hire an openly queer person.(!)

Back to the FAQ.

But I had to get genetic testing to make sure my baby didn’t have a chromosomally-based hereditary condition so I definitely know the sex of my baby!

Modern technology is great! However, all you know is your baby’s chromosomal makeup, not their gender!

But the ultrasound showed the sex of my baby, not the gender! Those are different!

Perhaps you, like I, learned that sex and gender are different. At the time (roughly the 2000s), it seemed like a decent explanation of sex= “biology” vs. gender=“social construct,” but we’ve moved on from that third-wave feminist model to the idea that “gender is gender.” Until baby tells you their gender, there’s simply no way to know!

But there are only two genders!/But biology!

“Fractals, not pyramids: Why ‘8th grade biology’ isn’t enough”

“Gender Identity 101: The Definitive Guide To Discussing Gender”

We’re just having fun!

Great, maybe you can explain what fun is to all the murdered queer and trans folks this year, or to those of us who are harassed on the streets, in our workplaces, in our activist groups, and by our significant others. If you’re queer and and you participate in gender reveals, fully knowing how gender norms are used to discriminate against LGBQ folks, including yourself, what exactly are you accomplishing?

Well how am I supposed to know what to buy for or how to treat this baby if I don’t know their gender?

Have you considered treated them like a small human person?

But this is the only thing expectant parents can know about the baby!

Why? So you can start the gender socialization early?

What am I supposed to tell my pregnant friends throwing a gender reveal or gendered baby shower?

Being an ally means standing up to injustice, not staying silent and playing along so you can continue to “enjoy” problematic things. If your friend said something homophobic or misogynistic, would you stand up to them then? Well, why not now? Send them a note explaining you don’t do gender parties and send a donation in their name to Trans Lifeline.

Have hope: Realizing you messed up in the past is part of growing as a person. Did you participate in a gender reveal and want to make amends? Stand up for trans and nonbinary people in your offices, your homes, and your schools—be a REAL ally.

(end of post)

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