As any six-year-old will tell you, the power of cake is undeniable. So it makes a lot of sense that BFF bakers Tess Wilson and Leah Rosenberg decided to use the versatile dessert to make bold political statements. The Instagram feed for the duo’s Protest Cakes project features pic after pic of frosted deliciousness, each with a different theme, like their Climate Change cake (“baked at ever-increasing temperatures and submerged in 2.6 inches of saltwater”) or their Mexican Hot Chocolate Rice Krispies Treat Wall (“to be torn apart and eaten by the handful until it is no more”).
Wilson came up with the project while flying from her home in Illinois to visit Rosenberg in California right after President Trump’s travel ban was announced earlier this year. “I was thinking about all these things we do—sign petitions and call our reps and go to marches,” says Wilson. “That’s all super important, but I’m not really the organizing marches–type. I asked myself, ‘What am I good at that means something to me?’” For Wilson and Rosenberg, who met while working at Miette bakery in San Francisco, the answer was clear.
Less than a week later, the two were at a #NoBanNoWall protest handing out slices of their Seven Nations Cake, which incorporates ingredients from each of the countries included in the original travel ban (xawaash spice blend for Somalia, mastic from Yemen). They now make an average of five or six cakes a week, offering up pieces at protests, giving them away to folks who help them research and track down hard-to-find ingredients, or donating them for consumption at fundraisers, like the recent pink cupcakes they made for a party benefitting Planned Parenthood. “We never made a plan for how long we were going to do this, it was just really reactionary,” says Rosenberg. “It was important to have something to focus on in which I was able to learn more about what was happening.” Their creative process differs with each cake. Sometimes one comes up with the concept and the other does the baking; other times they go back and forth about each step—often via text, since they live in different states.
There’s a quote from comedian Samantha Bee that the pair finds especially inspiring—it even showed up on one of their earliest creations. Bee said the Women’s March was “like waking up from a nightmare to find that the monster was real, but all your friends were there with sticks and torches and unflattering hats to beat back the darkness.” Wilson says that’s exactly how the Protest Cakes project makes her feel: “I’m not only doing it with my best friend, but also with all these people that we’ve met via Instagram and at events who are with us—with spatulas, beaters, and fierceness.”
“Coal Is Not the Goal” Cake
Want to do your own resistance baking? Try this dark chocolate vegan cake that Wilson and Rosenberg made to protest Trump’s decision to pull out of the Paris climate accord. It’s made with black cocoa powder, which is extra-roasted so it tastes fantastically toasty (it’s also what gives Oreos their magic flavor!), and activated charcoal. Think about how delicious a future based on clean energy could be with every bite.
Black Cocoa Cake
Adapted from Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World by Isa Chandra Moskowitz and Terry Hope Romero
1 cup soy or almond milk
1 tsp. apple cider vinegar
¾ cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup canola oil
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 cup all-purpose flour
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Prepare a 9" x 9" (or 9" round) baking pan with spray oil. Whisk together the non-dairy milk and vinegar in a large bowl, and let curdle for a couple of minutes. Add the sugar, oil, and vanilla extract to the milk mixture and whisk until foamy. In a separate bowl, sift together the flour, cocoa powders, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. Add dry ingredients to wet by the cupful while beating with whisk until no major lumps remain. Pour batter into prepared pan (pan should be about 2/3 full) and bake for approximately 35 minutes (until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean). Once cool to the touch, remove from pan and chill in the refrigerator.
Adapted from Bake and Destroy by Natalie Slater
2 Tbsp. maple syrup
½ tsp. maple or vanilla extract
2 tsp. activated charcoal (available in capsules at health food stores and Amazon)
2 cups powdered sugar
¾ cup room temperature vegan margarine (Earth Balance is best)
½ tsp. sea salt
Stir together maple syrup, extract, and charcoal in a large bowl until completely incorporated. Add all other ingredients and beat with an electric mixer until fluffy.
Black piping gel
Once cake has chilled, frost with buttercream (either just on top or covering the sides as well, depending on how thick you like your buttercream). Place frosted cake in fridge for approximately 30 minutes, until buttercream has firmed up. Pipe “Coal Is Not The Goal” on top of the cake, leaving room for a border of chocolate coal, rock candy, and/or coal candy rocks.
*Chocolate coal can be hard to find if it’s not Christmastime, but broken-up black rock candy is an excellent substitution. Black coal chocolate candy nuggets are another awesome option!
By Julia Herbst
Top photo: NO Cake: To be sent to reps considering voting to defund Planned Parenthood
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