How a ‘Transgender’ Ken Doll Cake Sparked a Controversy Online

A Sacramento bakery thought nothing of baking a custom cake that featured a Ken doll wearing a dress. Then the comments accusing them of being "perverts" and "sick" started rolling in.

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Aug 27 2016, 5:00pm

Why is it that cakes so often lead to controversy? Just when we thought the gay wedding cake fiasco of 2015 was dead and buried, a Sacramento bakery has recently found itself under attack from angry Facebook users after it posted a picture of a "transgender Ken doll cake" featuring Barbie's Ken wearing jewelry and a dress.

A customer recently asked the popular Freeport Bakery to bake a cake featuring the doll wearing a dress. Freeport got to work and made one hell of a masterpiece, with Ken looking fantastic in an elaborate dress, sash, tiara, and earrings atop a buttermilk cake with an apricot buttercream filling.

"It was beautiful. The customer loved it, the customer's family loved it, the person the customer gave it to loved it," Freeport's co-owner, Marlene Goetzler, told MUNCHIES. "I thought the buttercream on the sash was just beautiful, so I posted a photo of it on Facebook." The photo carried the tagline "Ken's looking good."

There was a lot of positive feedback—most people loved the cake. But others deemed the cake offensive, taking the cake as some sort of commentary on transgender issues that have sparked controversy in places like North Carolina. Goetzler said she didn't even think the cake was depicting a "transgender" Ken—she thought it was more of a cross-dressing Ken—and that some people just interpreted the cake that way.

Goetzler deleted the offensive comments, then posted a message about what happened only to get hit with more negative comments. People began un-liking Freeport's page on Facebook.

Some commenters wrote things like "Ken cake is sick," "So I'm a bigot if I don't agree with your chosen lifestyle? Go away little pervert," and "I will never call you for a cake ever, again, and I am throwing your cards to the garbage." But Goetzler says that for every negative comment, there were about 40 supportive comments, and business has been booming since.

"There are people coming by and buying a cookie who say, 'I came by just because I want to support you,'" Goetzler said. "People are emailing, saying, 'If I didn't live in Taiwan,' 'If I didn't live in New Zealand, I'd be there.'"

This particular Ken cake wasn't even the first of its kind. Goetzler has had other customers request cakes that featured a dragged-up Ken doll in the past—and thanks to the recent controversy, she's now making a lot of them. "We had one order for a Ken cake yesterday, and a couple orders for this weekend," she said.

For something as celebratory and seemingly innocuous as cakes, they seem to stir up a lot of trouble. Earlier this year, a woman cancelled an order for a wedding cake after she found out the baker she ordered from was Muslim. And over the past few years there has been nationwide controversy stemming from bakeries that refuse to bake cakes for gay weddings.

Goetzler doesn't understand how controversy can stem from something designed to make people happy. "It's really interesting, isn't it?" she said.

"Somebody ordered a Barbie cake, and she asked specifically if she could bring in a Ken instead of a Barbie, and we said, 'Of course,'" Goetzler said. "We're in the business of bringing people joy."