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

HULK SMASH GENDER ROLES AND LOOK BEAUTIFUL!

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.

More

Disney has come under fire for problematic portrayals of non-white and non-western cultures in many of its older movies. They aren't the only one, of course, but since their movies are an iconic part of most American kids' childhoods, Disney's messaging holds a lot of power.

Fortunately, that power can be used for good, and Disney can serve as an example to other companies if they learn from their mistakes, account for their misdeeds, and do the right thing going forward. Without getting too many hopes up, it appears that the entertainment giant may have actually done just that with the new Frozen II film.

According to NOW Toronto, the producers of Frozen II have entered into a contract with the Sámi people—the Indigenous people of the Scandinavian regions—to ensure that they portray the culture with respect.

RELATED: This fascinating comic explains why we shouldn't use some Native American designs.

Though there was not a direct portrayal of the Sámi in the first Frozen movie, the choral chant that opens the film was inspired by an ancient Sámi vocal tradition. In addition, the clothing worn by Kristoff closely resembled what a Sámi reindeer herder would wear. The inclusion of these elements of Sámi culture with no context or acknowledgement sparked conversations about cultural appropriation and erasure on social media.

Frozen II features Indigenous culture much more directly, and even addressed the issue of Indigenous erasure. Filmmakers Jennifer Lee and Chris Buck, along with producer Peter Del Vecho, consulted with experts on how to do that respectfully—the experts, of course, being the Sámi people themselves.

Sámi leaders met with Disney producer Peter Del Vecho in September 2019.Sámediggi Sametinget/Flickr

The Sámi parliaments of Norway, Sweden and Finland, and the non-governmental Saami Council reached out to the filmmakers when they found out their culture would be highlighted in the film. They formed a Sámi expert advisory group, called Verddet, to assist filmmakers in with how to accurately and respectfully portray Sámi culture, history, and society.

In a contract signed by Walt Disney Animation Studios and Sámi leaders, the Sámi stated their position that "their collective and individual culture, including aesthetic elements, music, language, stories, histories, and other traditional cultural expressions are property that belong to the Sámi," and "that to adequately respect the rights that the Sámi have to and in their culture, it is necessary to ensure sensitivity, allow for free, prior, and informed consent, and ensure that adequate benefit sharing is employed."

RELATED: This aboriginal Australian used kindness and tea to trump the racism he overheard.

Disney agreed to work with the advisory group, to produce a version of Frozen II in one Sámi language, as well as to "pursue cross-learning opportunities" and "arrange for contributions back to the Sámi society."

Anne Lájla Utsi, managing director at the International Sámi Film Institute, was part of the Verddet advisory group. She told NOW, "This is a good example of how a big, international company like Disney acknowledges the fact that we own our own culture and stories. It hasn't happened before."

"Disney's team really wanted to make it right," said Utsi. "They didn't want to make any mistakes or hurt anybody. We felt that they took it seriously. And the film shows that. We in Verddet are truly proud of this collaboration."

Sounds like you've done well this time, Disney. Let's hope such cultural sensitivity and collaboration continues, and that other filmmakers and production companies will follow suit.

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