How 1 mom challenged a world of gender stereotypes with a single birthday cake

It's time for the world to know how to make a Hulk princess cake.

Photo via Lainie Elton, used with permission.


The Elton family has been getting a lot of attention for this awesomely gender-stereotype-busting and fabulous DIY cake design.

Even Mark Ruffalo, Mr. Incredible Hulk himself, gave the cake an Internet high-five.

Lainie Elton, mother to twin girls who requested the princess hulk cake, designed the whole thing herself — even though this was the first time she'd ever made a birthday cake!

"I had the music blasting and I was just dancing around the kitchen trying to figure out how to do this." — Lainie Elton, creator of Hulk Princess cake

Obviously, we had to get in touch and find out the details.

Are you ready for an epic no-expertise-needed DIY? Let's get started.

You'll need:

  • A cool family
  • Cake ingredients (details below)
  • A Hulk doll, preferably one that's about a foot tall
  • A piping bag and attachments for icing
  • Two 9x13 cake pans and one 9x9 cake pan
  • A lazy Susan
  • The "Kitchen Karaoke Classics" playlist from Songza
  • Determination and a willingness to experiment!

Step 1: Have twin daughters. Ask them what kind of cake they want for their birthday while you're driving home one day.

Two daughters. Cool parents. Hulk princess can't lose. Photo via Lainie Elton, used with permission.

Your twins don't even hesitate.

"I asked them what they wanted for a cake. Completely out of nowhere, one of them said 'Hulk princess cake!'"

Ask yourself: Does it pass the giggle test?

"We're a family that values comedy above most other things and the idea of the hulk wearing a dress was just too funny for us to not go for it."

Step 2: Contemplate just having someone draw this hybrid hero on a sheet cake.

"They're just really into the Hulk! And of course they're definitely girls who love princess-y things."

Image via vagueonthehow/Flickr (altered).

But then you go ... no. I wanna do this thing.

You begin your research. You are Lainie, coolest mom. You're doing this.

Step 3: That's right. You're doing this. Find the cake recipe of your destiny on the Internet.

You find Rosie of Sweetapolita, who has a great recipe for both cake and icing ... yes! It's for her "classic 3-layer vanilla bean cake with pink vanilla buttercream."

Double the recipe even though you're not exactly an expert cake maker. You got this.


Make a last minute choice to make the second layer green!

Bake that cake in the three cake pans you have in your house: two 9x13 pans and one 9x9 pan. Sure, it might've been easier with round pans, but you had square and rectangular ones! You're living your best DIY life and nothing can stop you!

"I said 'Are you sure that's what you want?' and they said 'Yeah, Hulk princess cake!' and I said 'OK! Let's do that! Sure!'"

Step 4: Stir in some chill parenting and some deeper thoughts on the gender stereotypes your project is busting.

"It didn't occur to us for a second that they shouldn't be interested in Hulk ... and if they were interested in Hulk, why shouldn't she wear a dress?"

HULK LOVE THIS.

"It doesn't have to be a thing. It doesn't have to be a question. It's just like 'Yes I like princesses and yes I like Hulk' ... They don't get it, and I just love that they don't get it.

And they shouldn't have to get it."

Step 5: Have your husband make the icing because he once got really into bread-making, so he knows how to do this icing thing.

Lainie's husband initially posted the picture of the cake online, which began the Internet's love story with it. And he was a big supporter of the whole process, including reminding Lainie to put icing in between the layers of cake. (She almost forgot.)

Next, decide that purple is the obvious choice for the Hulk's dress. Add purple food coloring for the perfect shade of delicate lavender. Add more food coloring for the sweetheart neckline bodice.

I asked Lainie why purple was her choice for the dress color:

"Well that's kind of an obvious one. The Hulk's pants are purple. If it's his ball gown … it must be purple!"

Makes perfect sense.

Step 6: Get a Hulk doll from the toy store and say "yes" to the Hulk dress.

Not "She-Hulk." No. THE HULK.

"[Google] kept turning up She-Hulk stuff, and there was this one picture of a She-Hulk cake that was just a Barbie doll painted green. And I was like 'Well, it's OK, but I really want a proper Hulk action figure.'"

Get that proper Hulk action figure. Wrap his lower half in plastic wrap because he's got moving parts and you want your girls to be able to play with this toy later and not have it be all sticky and have weird cake goo in his leg joints.

How to do this oh-so-architectural cake-stacking ... it's about seven steps:

  1. Prepare your layers. To do this, cut off the tops of the cake to remove the dome that happens when cakes rise. You want the tops of the cakes to be very flat so the layers lie flat. BUT! Save the dome slice that you cut off ... you're going to need it later for the "CRUMB LAYER" (stay tuned).
  2. The first two layers are the 9x13 cakes. Lay one down and note the imprint of the Hulk's footprints. Cut holes for the Hulk to stand in. Do the same for the second layer.
  3. Ice the two bottom layers together.
  4. Stick the plastic-wrapped Hulk down in those iced layers.
  5. Cut the 9x9 cake in half. Cozy it up to the side of the Hulk. Cut a half circle that could go around the Hulk's hips. Do the same for the other side.
  6. Ice the top 9x9 layer to the other layers.
  7. Trim off corners. Stack them on the sides in a stairsteppy way (pictured above).

Step 7: Begin sculpting the layers and the dress.

Get out your lazy Susan and your serrated bread knife. It's time to get all Michelangelo up in here!

Photo via Lainie Elton, used with permission.

You're going to want to reduce the ridges as much as possible from the outset. Just cut diagonally along the edge of the dress to make it as smooth as possible.

Then, it's time to learn a new technique — the "crumb layer."

The crumb layer is what gives the cake that smooth look. It's crumbs and icing put together to form a molding paste.

Take the cake bits you cut off when you were making the dome, crumble 'em up, and mix with some icing until you have a nice paste going. You want it to be somewhere in between Play-Doh and rubber cement — but more delicious!

Start with the dress waistline. Make a slope with your crumb layer that goes up to the Hulk's natural waist.


Lovely. Flattering. Crumb layer.

Now fill in any other gaps with your crumb layer. Then, apply a thin layer of icing all around the Hulk's skirt!

Put your Hulk into the freezer for around an hour. You want the crumb layer to get firm. Then, it's time to get icing!

Step 8: Full-on ice the dress. Time to get all Project Runway and make it werk!

For the skirt, ice as normal. Then take the back of a spoon and make beautiful diagonal ripples. What movement!

Hulk swoosh. Hulk werk. Photo via Lainie Elton, used with permission.

Now, get out a piping bag with a star attachment to make the bodice. You might've forgotten that the bag needs chilled icing in order to form perfect stars, but what is perfection anyway???

"I contemplated putting a tear in the dress … but why shouldn't he be beautiful? Why shouldn't he have a dress that fits him?"

Sure, the Hulk is known for his torn-up clothing.

GIF from "The Avengers."

When he gets all Hulk smash, he doesn't have time to change, so he never gets the chance for that Old Hollywood glamour! Well, that ends here. This Hulk dress fits!

Step 9: Contemplate how the Hulk would accessorize. Say yes to a tiara, no to the necklace.

Photo via Lainie Elton, used with permission.

Find a hot pink tiara from a Rapunzel doll and attach with a hair elastic. Now for the jewelry debate:

"He almost had a necklace, but I thought that would be too much. I wanted to show off the sweetheart neckline! I was just thinking, what would I do with myself here? I would wear dangly earrings. But I couldn't make that happen on The Hulk, so I decided to go bare.



A timeless, classic look."

:)

Step 10: Give the cake to your kids, who are excited. And kind of amazed.

Photo via Lainie Elton, used with permission.

They've known their mom for four years. They just didn't know she was capable of this.

Step 11: Eat the cake and celebrate your cool family being so darn cool and making fun DIY cake art that makes people smile AND think!

Even Mark Ruffalo (yes, Mark Ruffalo) took time out of his busy "being the coolest Earth-advocate on Earth" schedule to show the Hulk princess some love.


So, there you have it. Adorable, right? No wonder the Internet is in love. But there's more!

As soon as I was done talking with Lainie, she sent me a photo. The girls' grandparents decided to get involved in the DIY game and made the girls .... a Hulk princess doll!

HULK SqueeeeeeeeeeEEeEeeEeeeeeee! Photo via Lainie Elton, used with permission.

Lainie's hoping to see a line of Hulk princess Halloween costumes this year.

But first, here's hoping we see many more [insert superhero here] princess cakes. So cool.

Courtesy of Amita Swadhin
True

In 2016, Amita Swadhin, a child of two immigrant parents from India, founded Mirror Memoirs to help combat rape culture. The national storytelling and organizing project is dedicated to sharing the stories of LGBTQIA+ Black, indigenous people, and people of color who survived child sexual abuse.

"Whether or not you are a survivor, 100% of us are raised in rape culture. It's the water that we're swimming in. But just as fish don't know they are in water, because it's just the world around them that they've always been in, people (and especially those who aren't survivors) may need some help actually seeing it," they add.

"Mirror Memoirs attempts to be the dye that helps everyone understand the reality of rape culture."

Amita built the idea for Mirror Memoirs from a theater project called "Undesirable Elements: Secret Survivors" that featured their story and those of four other survivors in New York City, as well as a documentary film and educational toolkit based on the project.

"Secret Survivors had a cast that was gender, race, and age-diverse in many ways, but we had neglected to include transgender women," Amita explains. "Our goal was to help all people who want to co-create a world without child sexual abuse understand that the systems historically meant to help survivors find 'healing' and 'justice' — namely the child welfare system, policing, and prisons — are actually systems that facilitate the rape of children in oppressed communities," Amita continues. "We all have to explore tools of healing and accountability outside of these systems if we truly want to end all forms of sexual violence and rape culture."

Amita also wants Mirror Memoirs to be a place of healing for survivors that have historically been ignored or underserved by anti-violence organizations due to transphobia, homophobia, racism, xenophobia, and white supremacy.

Amita Swadhin

"Hearing survivors' stories is absolutely healing for other survivors, since child sexual abuse is a global pandemic that few people know how to talk about, let alone treat and prevent."

"Since sexual violence is an isolating event, girded by shame and stigma, understanding that you're not alone and connecting with other survivors is alchemy, transmuting isolation into intimacy and connection."

This is something that Amita knows and understands well as a survivor herself.

"My childhood included a lot of violence from my father, including rape and other forms of domestic violence," says Amita. "Mandated reporting was imposed on me when I was 13 and it was largely unhelpful since the prosecutors threatened to incarcerate my mother for 'being complicit' in the violence I experienced, even though she was also abused by my father for years."

What helped them during this time was having the support of others.

"I'm grateful to have had a loving younger sister and a few really close friends, some of whom were also surviving child sexual abuse, though we didn't know how to talk about it at the time," Amita says.

"I'm also a queer, non-binary femme person living with complex post-traumatic stress disorder, and those identities have shaped a lot of my life experiences," they continue. "I'm really lucky to have an incredible partner and network of friends and family who love me."

"These realizations put me on the path of my life's work to end this violence quite early in life," they said.

Amita wants Mirror Memoirs to help build awareness of just how pervasive rape culture is. "One in four girls and one in six boys will be raped or sexually assaulted by the age of 18," Amita explains, "and the rates are even higher for vulnerable populations, such as gender non-conforming, disabled, deaf, unhoused, and institutionalized children." By sharing their stories, they're hoping to create change.

"Listening to stories is also a powerful way to build empathy, due to the mirror neurons in people's brains. This is, in part, why the project is called Mirror Memoirs."

So far, Mirror Memoirs has created an audio archive of BIPOC LGBTQI+ child sexual abuse survivors sharing their stories of survival and resilience that includes stories from 60 survivors across 50 states. This year, they plan to record another 15 stories, specifically of transgender and nonbinary people who survived child sexual abuse in a sport-related setting, with their partner organization, Athlete Ally.

"This endeavor is in response to the more than 100 bills that have been proposed across at least 36 states in 2021 seeking to limit the rights of transgender and non-binary children to play sports and to receive gender-affirming medical care with the support of their parents and doctors," Amita says.

In 2017, Mirror Memoirs held its first gathering, which was attended by 31 people. Today, the organization is a fiscally sponsored, national nonprofit with two staff members, a board of 10 people, a leadership council of seven people, and 500 members nationally.

When the pandemic hit in 2020, they created a mutual aid fund for the LGBTQIA+ community of color and were able to raise a quarter-million dollars. They received 2,509 applications for assistance, and in the end, they decided to split the money evenly between each applicant.

While they're still using storytelling as the building block of their work, they're also engaging in policy and advocacy work, leadership development, and hosting monthly member meetings online.

For their work, Amita is one of Tory's Burch's Empowered Women. Their donation will go to Mirror Memoirs to help fund production costs for their new theater project, "Transmutation: A Ceremony," featuring four Black transgender, intersex, and non-binary women and femmes who live in California.

"I'm grateful to every single child sexual survivor who has ever disclosed their truth to me," Amita says. "I know another world is possible, and I know survivors will build it, together with all the people who love us."

To learn more about Tory Burch and Upworthy's Empowered Women program visit https://www.toryburch.com/empoweredwomen/. Nominate an inspiring woman in your community today!

Gage Skidmore/Wikimedia Commons

Wil Wheaton speaking to an audience at 2019 Wondercon.

In an era of debates over cancel culture and increased accountability for people with horrendous views and behaviors, the question of art vs. artist is a tricky one. When you find out an actor whose work you enjoy is blatantly racist and anti-semitic in real life, does that realization ruin every movie they've been a part of? What about an author who has expressed harmful opinions about a marginalized group? What about a smart, witty comedian who turns out to be a serial sexual assaulter? Where do you draw the line between a creator and their creation?

As someone with his feet in both worlds, actor Wil Wheaton weighed in on that question and offered a refreshingly reasonable perspective.

A reader who goes by @avinlander asked Wheaton on Tumblr:

"Question: I have more of an opinion question for you. When fans of things hear about misconduct happening on sets/behind-the-scenes are they allowed to still enjoy the thing? Or should it be boycotted completely? Example: I've been a major fan of Buffy the Vampire Slayer since I was a teenager and it was currently airing. I really nerded out on it and when I lost my Dad at age 16 'The Body' episode had me in such cathartic tears. Now we know about Joss Whedon. I haven't rewatched a single episode since his behavior came to light. As a fan, do I respectfully have to just box that away? Is it disrespectful of the actors that went through it to knowingly keep watching?"

And Wheaton offered this response, which he shared on Facebook:

Keep Reading Show less

Images courtesy of Mark Storhaug & Kaiya Bates

True

The experiences we have at school tend to stay with us throughout our lives. It's an impactful time where small acts of kindness, encouragement, and inspiration go a long way.

Schools, classrooms, and teachers that are welcoming and inclusive support students' development and help set them up for a positive and engaging path in life.

Here are three of our favorite everyday actions that are spreading kindness on campus in a big way:

Image courtesy of Mark Storhaug

1. Pickleball to Get Fifth Graders Moving

Mark Storhaug is a 5th grade teacher at Kingsley Elementary in Los Angeles, who wants to use pickleball to get his students "moving on the playground again after 15 months of being Zombies learning at home."

Pickleball is a paddle ball sport that mixes elements of badminton, table tennis, and tennis, where two or four players use solid paddles to hit a perforated plastic ball over a net. It's as simple as that.

Kingsley Elementary is in a low-income neighborhood where outdoor spaces where kids can move around are minimal. Mark's goal is to get two or three pickleball courts set up in the schoolyard and have kids join in on what's quickly becoming a national craze. Mark hopes that pickleball will promote movement and teamwork for all his students. He aims to take advantage of the 20-minute physical education time allotted each day to introduce the game to his students.

Help Mark get his students outside, exercising, learning to cooperate, and having fun by donating to his GoFundMe.

Image courtesy of Kaiya Bates

2. Staying C.A.L.M: Regulation Kits for Kids

According to the WHO around 280 million people worldwide suffer from depression. In the US, 1 in 5 adults experience mental illness and 1 in 20 experience severe mental illness, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness.

Kaiya Bates, who was recently crowned Miss Tri-Cities Outstanding Teen for 2022, is one of those people, and has endured severe anxiety, depression, and selective mutism for most of her life.

Through her GoFundMe, Kaiya aims to use her "knowledge to inspire and help others through their mental health journey and to spread positive and factual awareness."

She's put together regulation kits (that she's used herself) for teachers to use with students who are experiencing stress and anxiety. Each "CALM-ing" kit includes a two-minute timer, fidget toolboxes, storage crates, breathing spheres, art supplies and more.

Kaiya's GoFundMe goal is to send a kit to every teacher in every school in the Pasco School District in Washington where she lives.

To help Kaiya achieve her goal, visit Staying C.A.L.M: Regulation Kits for Kids.

Image courtesy of Julie Tarman

3. Library for a high school heritage Spanish class

Julie Tarman is a high school Spanish teacher in Sacramento, California, who hopes to raise enough money to create a Spanish language class library.

The school is in a low-income area, and although her students come from Spanish-speaking homes, they need help building their fluency, confidence, and vocabulary through reading Spanish language books that will actually interest them.

Julie believes that creating a library that affirms her students' cultural heritage will allow them to discover the joy of reading, learn new things about the world, and be supported in their academic futures.

To support Julie's GoFundMe, visit Library for a high school heritage Spanish class.

Do YOU have an idea for a fundraiser that could make a difference? Upworthy and GoFundMe are celebrating ideas that make the world a better, kinder place. Visit upworthy.com/kindness to join the largest collaboration for human kindness in history and start your own GoFundMe.

Chris Evans is playing the lead role in the upcoming Pixar film "Lightyear."

Chris Evans was already skilled at squeezing hearts on social media, cavalierly sharing sweet pics of his adorable dog and piano-playing videos on Instagram, as if we could just casually watch him be a near-perfect man without swooning. And now he's being even more delightful with his gushing giddiness over getting to play his dream role.

The guy is already best known as the studly Marvel superhero Captain America, so what could possibly top that? Pixar, apparently. Evans' ultimate acting dream is being in a Pixar movie. And now that dream is coming true, the most eligible of the Chrises could not be cuter in his expressions of joy.

Sharing the new trailer for "Lightyear"—Pixar's origin story about the astronaut the Buzz Lightyear toy was based on in the "Toy Story" universe—Evans wrote on Twitter:

"I'm covered in goosebumps. And will be every time I watch this trailer. Or hear a Bowie song. Or have any thought whatsoever between now and July cause nothing has ever made me feel more joy and gratitude than knowing I'm a part of this and it's basically always on my mind."

Keep Reading Show less

The Schmidt family's Halloween photoshoot has become an annual tradition.

Two of Patti Schmidt's three sons were already well into adulthood when her daughter Avery was born, and the third wasn't far behind them. Avery, now 5, has never had the pleasure of close-in-age sibling squabbles or gigglefests, since Larry, Patrick and Gavin are 28, 26 and 22, respectively—but that doesn't mean they don't bond as a family.

According to People.com, Patti calls her sons home to Point Pleasant, New Jersey, every fall for a special Halloween photoshoot with Avery. And the results are nothing short of epic.

The Schmidt family started the tradition in 2017 with the boys dressing as the tinman, the scarecrow and the cowardly lion from "The Wizard of Oz." Avery, just a toddler at the time, was dressed as Dorothy, complete with adorable little ruby slippers.

The following year, the boys were Luke Skywalker, Han Solo and Chewbacca, and Avery was (of course) Princess Leia.

In 2019, they did a "Game of Thrones" theme. ("My husband and I were binge-watching [Game of Thrones], and I thought the boys as dragons would be so funny," Schmidt told TODAY.)

In 2020, they went as Princess Buttercup, Westley, Inigo Montoya and Fezzik from "The Princess Bride."

Patti shared a video montage of each year's costume shoot—with accompanying soundtracks—on Instagram and TikTok. Watch:

Keep Reading Show less