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.

True

2020 was difficult (to say the least). The year was full of life changes, losses, and lessons as we learned to navigate the "new normal." You may have questions about what the changes and challenges of 2020 mean for your taxes. That's where TurboTax Live comes in, making it easy to connect with real tax experts to help with your taxes – or even do them for you, start to finish.

Not only has TurboTax Live helped millions of people get their taxes done right, but this year they've also celebrated people who uplifted their communities during a difficult time by surprising them with "little lifts" to help out even more.

Here are a few of their stories:


Julz, hairdresser and salon owner

"As a hairdresser and salon owner, 2020 was extremely challenging," says Julz. "Being a hairdresser has historically been a recession-proof industry, but we've never faced global shut down due to health risk, or pandemic, not in my lifetime. And for the first time, hairdressers didn't have job security."

Julz had to shut down her salon and go on unemployment benefits for the first time. She also had to figure out how she was going to support herself, her staff and her business during this difficult time. But many other beauty industry professionals didn't have access to the resources they needed, so Julz decided to help.

"My business partner and I began teaching basic financial literacy to other beauty industry professionals," she says. "Transitioning our business from behind the chair to an online academy was a challenge we tackled head-on so that we could move hairdressers into this new space of education, and create a more accessible curriculum to better serve our industry.

Julz connected with a TurboTax Live expert who helped her understand how unemployment affected her taxes and gave her guidance on filing quarterly estimated taxes for her small business. "I was terrified to sit at a computer and tackle this mess of receipts," Julz says, so "it was great to have some virtual handholding to walk me through each question."

In addition to giving Julz the personalized tax advice she needed, TurboTax Live surprised her with a "little lift" that empowered her to help even more beauty professionals. "When my tax expert Diana surprised me with a little lift, I was moved to tears," says Julz. "With that little lift, I was able to establish a scholarship fund to help get other hairdressers the education they deserve."


Alana, new mom

Alana welcomed her first child in 2020. "I think my biggest challenge was figuring out how to be a mom, with no guidance," she says. "My original plan was to have my mom by my side, teaching me the ropes, but because of COVID, she wasn't able to come out here."

She was also without a job for most of 2020 and struggled to find something new.

So, Alana took it as a sign: she decided to launch her own business so she could support her new baby, and that's exactly what she did. She started a feel-good company that specializes in creating affirmation card decks — and she's currently in the process of starting a second, video-editing business.

TurboTax Live answered Alana's questions about her taxes and gave her some much-needed advice as she prepared to launch her businesses. Thanks to their "little lift," they provided her with a little emotional support too.

"I got my mom a plane ticket to finally [have her] meet [my daughter] for her first birthday," Alana says. "I was also able to get a new computer," which helped her invest in her new business and work on her video editing skills. "It's helped my family and me so much," she says.


Michael, science teacher

When schools shut down across the country last year, Michael had to learn how to adapt to a virtual classroom.

"As a teacher, I had to completely revamp everything," he says, so that he could keep his students engaged while teaching online. "At the beginning, it was a nightmare because I had no idea. I had to go from A-Z within a couple of weeks."

Michael's TurboTax Live expert answered his questions about how working from home affected his taxes and helped him uncover surprising tax deductions. To top it all off, his expert surprised him with brand new science equipment and supplies, which allowed him to create an entire line of classes on YouTube, TikTok, Instagram, and Facebook. "Now I can truly potentially reach millions of children with my lessons," he says. "I would never have taken that leap if not for the little lift from TurboTax Live."



Ricky, motivational youth speaker

As a motivational speaker, Ricky was used to doing his job in person, but, he says, "when COVID-19 hit, it altered my ability to travel and visit schools in person [because] schools moved to fully virtual or hybrid models."

He knew he had to pivot — so he began offering small virtual group workshops for student leadership groups at middle and high schools.

"This allowed me to work with student leaders to plan how they would continue making a positive impact on their school community," he says. He wasn't sure how being remote would affect his taxes, but TurboTax Live Self-Employed gave him the advice and answers that he needed to keep more money in his pocket at tax time — and the little lift he received from them has helped him serve even more students.

"[It] has been a major blessing," he says "There will be multiple schools and student groups from across the country that I can hold leadership workshops with to empower them with the tools to be inspirational leaders in their school, community, and world."

Plus, he says, it was great knowing he had an expert to help him figure out how being remote affected his taxes. "I felt confident and assured in the process of filing my taxes knowing I had an expert working with me, says Ricky. "There were things my expert knew that I would not have considered when filing on my own."

Filing your taxes doesn't have to be intimidating, especially after a year like 2020. TurboTax Live experts can give you the "little lift" you need to get your taxes done. File with the help of an expert or let an expert file for you! Go to TurboTax Live to get started.

The battle between millennials and older generations isn't exactly a generational war—it's more a case of mistaken generational identity. A decade ago, whining about millennials being young adults unprepared to make their way in the world at least made sense mathematically. But when people bag on millennials now they end up looking rather foolish.

A marketing researcher with a doctorate in social psychology wrote an op-ed for the Chicago Tribune titled "Post-pandemic, some millennials finally decide to start #adulting." And when the Tribune shared it to Twitter, their since-deleted tweet read, "Writer Jennifer Rosner predicts COVID-10 lockdowns will force easy-breezy millennials to grow up."

Hoo boy.

Interestingly, the writer of the op-ed is a millennial herself, but she repeats generalizations about her entire generation that seem like they mainly apply to her own social circle. Read it yourself to decide, but regardless, the tweet of the op-ed itself set off a firestorm of responses from millennials who are tired of being painted as irresponsible young people who don't know how to "adult" instead of what they actually are.

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True

2020 was difficult (to say the least). The year was full of life changes, losses, and lessons as we learned to navigate the "new normal." You may have questions about what the changes and challenges of 2020 mean for your taxes. That's where TurboTax Live comes in, making it easy to connect with real tax experts to help with your taxes – or even do them for you, start to finish.

Not only has TurboTax Live helped millions of people get their taxes done right, but this year they've also celebrated people who uplifted their communities during a difficult time by surprising them with "little lifts" to help out even more.

Here are a few of their stories:


Julz, hairdresser and salon owner

"As a hairdresser and salon owner, 2020 was extremely challenging," says Julz. "Being a hairdresser has historically been a recession-proof industry, but we've never faced global shut down due to health risk, or pandemic, not in my lifetime. And for the first time, hairdressers didn't have job security."

Julz had to shut down her salon and go on unemployment benefits for the first time. She also had to figure out how she was going to support herself, her staff and her business during this difficult time. But many other beauty industry professionals didn't have access to the resources they needed, so Julz decided to help.

"My business partner and I began teaching basic financial literacy to other beauty industry professionals," she says. "Transitioning our business from behind the chair to an online academy was a challenge we tackled head-on so that we could move hairdressers into this new space of education, and create a more accessible curriculum to better serve our industry.

Julz connected with a TurboTax Live expert who helped her understand how unemployment affected her taxes and gave her guidance on filing quarterly estimated taxes for her small business. "I was terrified to sit at a computer and tackle this mess of receipts," Julz says, so "it was great to have some virtual handholding to walk me through each question."

In addition to giving Julz the personalized tax advice she needed, TurboTax Live surprised her with a "little lift" that empowered her to help even more beauty professionals. "When my tax expert Diana surprised me with a little lift, I was moved to tears," says Julz. "With that little lift, I was able to establish a scholarship fund to help get other hairdressers the education they deserve."


Alana, new mom

Alana welcomed her first child in 2020. "I think my biggest challenge was figuring out how to be a mom, with no guidance," she says. "My original plan was to have my mom by my side, teaching me the ropes, but because of COVID, she wasn't able to come out here."

She was also without a job for most of 2020 and struggled to find something new.

So, Alana took it as a sign: she decided to launch her own business so she could support her new baby, and that's exactly what she did. She started a feel-good company that specializes in creating affirmation card decks — and she's currently in the process of starting a second, video-editing business.

TurboTax Live answered Alana's questions about her taxes and gave her some much-needed advice as she prepared to launch her businesses. Thanks to their "little lift," they provided her with a little emotional support too.

"I got my mom a plane ticket to finally [have her] meet [my daughter] for her first birthday," Alana says. "I was also able to get a new computer," which helped her invest in her new business and work on her video editing skills. "It's helped my family and me so much," she says.


Michael, science teacher

When schools shut down across the country last year, Michael had to learn how to adapt to a virtual classroom.

"As a teacher, I had to completely revamp everything," he says, so that he could keep his students engaged while teaching online. "At the beginning, it was a nightmare because I had no idea. I had to go from A-Z within a couple of weeks."

Michael's TurboTax Live expert answered his questions about how working from home affected his taxes and helped him uncover surprising tax deductions. To top it all off, his expert surprised him with brand new science equipment and supplies, which allowed him to create an entire line of classes on YouTube, TikTok, Instagram, and Facebook. "Now I can truly potentially reach millions of children with my lessons," he says. "I would never have taken that leap if not for the little lift from TurboTax Live."



Ricky, motivational youth speaker

As a motivational speaker, Ricky was used to doing his job in person, but, he says, "when COVID-19 hit, it altered my ability to travel and visit schools in person [because] schools moved to fully virtual or hybrid models."

He knew he had to pivot — so he began offering small virtual group workshops for student leadership groups at middle and high schools.

"This allowed me to work with student leaders to plan how they would continue making a positive impact on their school community," he says. He wasn't sure how being remote would affect his taxes, but TurboTax Live Self-Employed gave him the advice and answers that he needed to keep more money in his pocket at tax time — and the little lift he received from them has helped him serve even more students.

"[It] has been a major blessing," he says "There will be multiple schools and student groups from across the country that I can hold leadership workshops with to empower them with the tools to be inspirational leaders in their school, community, and world."

Plus, he says, it was great knowing he had an expert to help him figure out how being remote affected his taxes. "I felt confident and assured in the process of filing my taxes knowing I had an expert working with me, says Ricky. "There were things my expert knew that I would not have considered when filing on my own."

Filing your taxes doesn't have to be intimidating, especially after a year like 2020. TurboTax Live experts can give you the "little lift" you need to get your taxes done. File with the help of an expert or let an expert file for you! Go to TurboTax Live to get started.