Food

Instagram Creators Launched Zine That Explores the Wealthy Historical past of Cake


The pandemic introduced with it a growth in buttercream. As pastry cooks shifted to social media-dependent micro bakeries, and artists modified their mediums from ceramics to cake, and amateurs picked up piping baggage as pastimes, social media feeds crammed with extra cake than ever. And not simply extra cake: extra fascinating cake, extra considerate cake, extra experimental cake, extra cake as meme, extra cake as artwork. Instagram grew to become the best solution to play with the thought of what cake might be.

Instagram can also be how author and editor Aliza Abarbanel, previously of Bon Appétit, and baker Tanya Bush of @will.this.make.me.happy obtained their intro, later assembly up in individual when Bush had further cookies to share. In December 2021, they organized a vacation bake sale at Brooklyn’s KIT, which benefited the mutual help teams Breaking Bread NYC and EV Loves NYC. While assembling pastry packing containers, they brainstormed what their subsequent inventive challenge could be, till they landed on cake.

Months later, meet Cake Zine, Abarbanel and Bush’s self-published interrogation of cake and all its complexities and contradictions. Cake Zine’s first difficulty, Sexy Cake, now out there for pre-order for $22 plus transport, considers cake via the lens of intercourse, gender, and want, and permits creators from throughout the cake world to situate their baking in a broader context.

Across its pages, Sexy Cake ranges from barely esoteric (baker Lexie Smith’s meditative essay on the historical past of phallic pastries), to provocative (a retrospective interview with former-professional cake-sitter Lindsay Dye), to seductive (poet Annika Hansteen-Izora’s Recipe for a Nude), to downright smutty (excerpts from Literotica). Here, Abarbanel and Bush clarify why cake is right for this type of exploration.


Eater: What drew you to cake as an space of interrogation, and the way is that associated to your particular person cooking practices, if in any respect?

Tanya Bush: I’m a baker and a grad scholar. I used to be all for fascinated by dessert extra critically and creatively, as one thing past the chew on the finish of the meal. I additionally work for a corporation known as Tables of Contents; it explores the connection between meals and literature, and that’s formed the best way that I method meals. Cake has this extremely wealthy historical past and large symbolic energy. It’s a rallying level for communities for celebration, and it’s one thing that I make on a regular basis. There’s savory cake, there’s faux cake, there’s austere cake; my Instagram feed is rife with opulently frosted, multi-tier desserts. I used to be all for peeking past the visuality of the factor.

Aliza Abarbanel: I’m a contract meals author and editor, although I write about different issues as effectively. I’m positively anyone that enjoys cake however I take into account myself extra a house cook dinner than a house baker — once I make a cake, it’s in all probability not a cake however brownies as a substitute. Like Tanya and lots of people which can be consuming meals content material on-line, I used to be noticing plenty of the unconventional, opulent, maximalist, or frankly, sort of bizarre desserts that come up on Instagram however are additionally pushed by real-life curiosity. I felt like [cake] was in all places and had so many alternative meanings that had been fascinating to discover.

As you write within the intro, society has come to equate “a piece of cake” with issues which can be simple, and even by extension, easy. Why do you suppose that, traditionally, we’ve seen cake with this type of dismissive method?

TB: I really feel like meals and dessert and intercourse had been typically linked as a discussion board for male seduction; a cake was designed for optimum husband enchantment. It was packaged and offered to girls as a approach of prescribing their function within the family, and clearly, that dynamic has continued in numerous types over time. Some of what our zine is attempting to do is flip these tropes on their heads and endorse baking for our personal hedonistic pleasure, as a substitute of fascinated by it because the type of easy factor to be supplied as much as a husband or as a mode of seduction.

AA: That phrase is sort of targeted on the consumption of cake, prefer it’s simple to eat a slice, and it’ll be a enjoyable, mild factor. One of the numerous issues we had been all for was focusing not simply on the consumption a part of cake however on the method of creating it. [That] might be very difficult, whether or not that’s within the sense that baking is chemistry and it will probably go unsuitable, or that the motivation behind baking might be extra difficult than simply the expertise of consuming.

In phrases of these complicating elements, why do you suppose there may be such a powerful connection between cake and intercourse?

TB: Both meals and intercourse are primary wishes; you’ll be able to’t actually keep away from them. The act of consuming is commonly in comparison with the act of getting intercourse: Both are endowed with the facility to arouse want, to fulfill a craving, and I believe the arc of the expertise is analogous. There’s the anticipation of meal, or an attractive time. There’s the foreplay main as much as the end result of the ultimate occasion; you’re smelling the cake baking within the oven. Then, there’s the actualization of the entire thing: the hopefully euphoric expertise of consuming it, and the pleasure and satisfaction on the finish of all of it.

AA: Something that involves thoughts for me is one thing Lexie Smith wrote about in her essay about phallic pastry: marriage ceremony desserts. [They’re] an enormous factor in case you’re speaking about cake and sexuality, particularly within the conventional cis-heterosexual Western marriage ceremony the place, in principle, there’s presupposed to be a purity part, after which the marriage mattress and all of that that occurs afterwards.

You additionally write within the zine’s intro that your analysis started with newspaper archives and taking a look at recipes and adverts. I’d love to listen to extra about your analysis course of and the way you determined to hone in on taking a look at cake in that approach.

TB: I studied historical past in undergrad, so I take into consideration cake traditionally. I used to be studying cookbooks from the mid-Twentieth century and fascinated by the ways in which girls’s sexual roles might be prescribed via meals: the place making meals is just not solely a home responsibility, however a metaphor for the proper of sexual habits. There are all these recipes for a cheerful husband, or “this is the cake that’s gonna please your man.” I used to be all for meals, and dessert particularly, as laden with all these gender roles and conventional sexual roles. I went to Bonnie Slotnick Cookbooks within the East Village and began paging via all these cookbooks with hyper-sexualized girls on the covers presenting these opulent desserts. That felt like one thing we would have liked to be contending with contemporarily.

AA: It was so wealthy to undergo the Library of Congress archive, or one thing like that, and see the ways in which media was framing cake and recipes. Historically, corporations like Jell-O or Betty Crocker would run an commercial with a recipe in a newspaper or {a magazine}, to include their very own product that was, in principle, simplifying the method of baking and the duties that plenty of girls had, to be offering a cake at a meal. [I was interested in] the best way that [media was] speaking to girls and promoting. There’s a collage on the entrance of our zine that [includes] an commercial that claims “I’m shameless the way I hold my men… with cake appeal!” It’s promoting this fantasy that you simply get the man with out having to spend hours baking one thing.

In your dialog with Lindsay Dye about her cake-sitting performances, she mentions that she most well-liked when individuals had a preconceived concept concerning the expertise, after which left feeling a distinct approach. How would you like this zine to vary individuals’s preconceptions of cake?

TB: Lots of people that wish to purchase this in all probability already spend plenty of time fascinated by cake in numerous methods, however I do hope that individuals will suppose extra concerning the intentions behind eager to have cake and marking an event within the first place. Maybe in case you’re anyone that solely bakes cake for the individuals in your lives’ birthdays — which is one thing that I do love to do — you can also make cake for your self. Or you’ll be able to work together with cake differently, or take into consideration cake extra generally, not [only] as one thing you wish to eat however as one thing that may include a lot within it.

You touched on social media earlier, so I’d love your ideas on the way you see on-line areas, and particularly Instagram, altering the best way individuals carry out and current cake.

TB: I spend plenty of time taking a look at desserts on Instagram, which does really feel to me type of like culinary seduction — like I’m always taking a look at these unusual, maximalist, wacky creations and craving to attempt them. There’s this current historical past of very sexualized close-ups of meals, which [offer the] vicarious thrill of indulging in that approach. I believe it’s giving solution to extra inventive exploration. We’re not tasting all the pieces that we see on Instagram, so it’s extremely visible, which I believe is an thrilling, empowering mode of expression for lots of people and a beautiful solution to share creations in a really supportive house.

AA: After engaged on the zine for the previous three months, it’s like my Instagram is barely cake. As not a reluctant baker however positively an rare baker, I’d suppose [at first] that I’d be extra intimidated to make a cake after seeing so many individuals do it professionally and have such a novel perspective on it. I believe on the flip facet, I’m extra empowered to bake a cake and to not give it some thought having to appear to be a brilliant high-finish, buttercream-frosted, multi-layer cake that you’d see at a bakery on Fifth Avenue, however that I might completely simply go loopy with it.

What do you see because the enchantment of pursuing this challenge as a self-published zine? What can we count on for the longer term?

TB: One of the issues that I used to be actually lacking [before this project] was a discussion board for younger creatives — people with multi-hyphen bios — to have the ability to discover meals in a extra conceptual, essential approach. I believe that this challenge has actually given us that. Our writers are probing cake’s wealthy historical past and there’s fertility traditions and gender roles and ritual and all of that, however we did finally wish to make one thing that mirrored the pleasure of dessert and the climax of the night. The independence and collaborative setting of a zine was the proper place to try this.

AA: We’re planning on doing a counterpart within the fall that will likely be Wicked Cake, one thing on the darker facet. I needed [the themes] to distinction. [For this first issue,] we had been actually hopeful that in spring, all the pieces could be blooming and other people would wish to be exterior, and it felt like attempting to construct a headspace for individuals to consider meals on this lush, indulgent, and hopefully thrilling approach. It felt like we are able to do a Cake Zine that’s Sexy Cake, and there will likely be extra intercourse and extra cake in all of our lives — and who doesn’t need that?

This interview has been edited and condensed for size and readability.





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