To effect change, some people march, some sign petitions and some boycott. Becca Rea-Holloway bakes cakes adorned with snappy protest slogans, like “Immigrants make America great,” “Abortion is healthcare” and “Families belong together.”
“Living in D.C. in the era of Trump, it’s easy to feel very frustrated and helpless,” says the 26-year-old, who lives in Mt. Pleasant. “I was trying to figure out ways to channel all this energy I had. I decided to use baking as a platform to voice my opinions and connect with other people.”
The self-taught baker, who also blogs about her other baking projects at Flours in Your Hair and works as a sales and marketing manager for Baked & Wired and A Baked Joint (“Basically, my whole life is baked goods,” she jokes), started whipping up the cakes this May. She posts them on her Instagram account @thesweetfeminist, which has already earned more than 2,000 followers. Her first cake featured a quote from Frida Kahlo, “I am my own muse.”
"I felt it was important to start with something positive,” she says.
Cakes may seem like an odd form of protest, but Rea-Holloway sees her work as continuing a larger, longer tradition.
“Creative arts have always been these sites of community and resistance, especially for women,” she says.
Since she’s more concerned about the message, she uses boxed cake mix as the base of her edible billboards.
"They’re an art medium, the flavors are less important," says Rea-Holloway.
Coming up with a slogan that both fits and strikes a chord is the most difficult part of her work.
“You have to keep it simple and use it as a jumping off point for conversation,” she says.
Inspiration comes from everything from current events (“Hey Kirstjen Nielsen: You can’t sit at our table”) and Resistance figures (“Maxine for prez”) to Beyoncé (“OK ladies now let’s get in formation”) and Janelle Monáe (“We got the pink”).
“I try to mix in pop culture references that are really accessible to everybody with some more powerful, serious messages,” says Rea-Holloway.
Sometimes she’ll use props to make a point. One cake has a doughnut followed by “tell me to smile.” In other words, “Don’t tell me to smile.” Other ideas come from crises close to home. She made a cake emblazoned with “Abolish ICE” after a dozen people, including some in her neighborhood, were arrested by the agency in D.C. in July, an event she calls "devastating and awful."
So far, her “Immigrants make America great” cake has proven to be most popular.
The pastry protestor fills a notebook with thoughts for future edible billboards. To make sure she’s ready to go at a moment’s notice, Rea-Holloway keeps a few frozen cakes on hand.
After she snaps a good picture of her latest creation for Instagram, she gives the cakes away.
“My friends eat a lot of cake,” she says.
The politically active baker has gotten a number of requests from followers, who want one of her cakes for their birthday, but she isn’t properly licensed to sell her food yet. As it stands now, she bakes all of them in her home kitchen.
"It’s my favorite room in the house," she says. "I have tons of cookbooks everywhere and a huge wooden hutch that displays my bowls and cake stands."
Revolutions have been started in stranger places. Though Joseph Stalin once said, "You cannot make a revolution with silk gloves," Rea-Holloway is trying to prove that you just might be able to start one with an oven mitt.