Unlike some brands that tell consumers anything less than complete masculinity (read: gayness) is something to be ashamed of, I think Butch Bakery in New York is taking a different tact. Specializing in cupcakes, the shop bills itself as “butch meets buttercream,” where masculine cupcakes run the show. That’s because, according to company lore, “Butch Bakery was born when David Arrick felt it was time to combine a masculine aesthetic to a traditionally cute product -the cupcake. When a magazine article mentioned that cupcakes were a combination of everything ‘pink, sweet, cute, and magical’ he felt it was time to take action, and butch it up.” But just because Aarick is pushing a masculinized product doesn’t mean these cupcakes somehow aren’t for the gays, or are a bitchslap aimed at them.
The former Wall Street securities attorney has received his share of press for baking the manly way. And with the cupcake market booming (some might say over-saturated), he’s still surviving, so he must be on to something. But while some wares out there are masc in a way that’s demonizing, I get the feeling Aarick’s are masc simply as an alternative to fem. Sure, he’s exploiting what he believes is a typical straight guy’s susceptibility to be afraid of eating a girly cupcake, but not at the expense of gays. After all, there are masc gay men, and masc gay women. There are masc trans people of both sexualities. And these cupcakes can be ours!
It’s possible to see a brand like Butch Bakery as perpetuating needless gender stereotypes. And that’s partly true — which explains why two gay friends I discussed this bakery with thought it was doing a disservice to our kind. I’m seeing the bakery, however, as a place where gender stereotypes are toyed with, made silly, and dramatized so much that we actually see how ridiculous they are … and then we get to eat sugar!
“That’s how Butch Bakery was born,” Arrick has said previously. “I thought [cupcakes were] all very feminine and pink and a lot of them are frilly with jelly beans and sprinkles, and I thought I wanted to do something very different, and I decided to something with a masculine bent to it and that’s how I came up with the idea.” That’s why he’s got creations like “a great banana, peanut butter with crushed bacon, so if you think about it, it’s kind of like the Elvis sandwich, you know, peanut butter, bacon, and banana, we’ve got a cupcake that has that. We’ve got a cupcake that has whisky. It tastes like a B-52. We’ve got a coffee flavoured, coffee-infused, which is with some Kahlua, so a nice coffee cupcake. That’s a huge hit for us.”
A stereotypically masculine spin on cupcakes would only be offensive if you thought cupcakes should exist only in a world where they’re treated as fem. That, and no matter how butch you think you’re making a cupcake, it’s still a cupcake.