On January 21st 2017, the day after Donald Trump was sworn in as the new President of the United States, a news item came out about The Inaugural Cake.
The celebrity baker Duff Goldman, owner of Charm City bakery in Baltimore, and the star of the television show Ace of Cakes, took to Twitter for a look at President Trump’s inaugural cake. Apparently, it looked suspiciously like a cake that Goldman himself had made 4 years earlier, for President Obama’s inauguration.
The tiers were the same, ever-so-slightly tilted to give the cake a contemporary feel, so were the silver stars that adorned the top. The American flag coloring, the gold-encrusted edible presidential seal on the middle layer, the retro-style bunting decorations made out of fondant— it was all the same. In fact, it appeared that someone had tried to copy Goldman’s cake down to the last detail. Could one actually plagiarize a cake?
In response to Goldman’s tweet, the representative of the Washington bakery (and only in Washington do bakeries have “representatives”), the Buttercream Bakery, followed with an explanation for the seeming plagiarization of Goldman’s cake design. They said, “While we most love creating original designs, when we are asked to replicate someone else’s work we are thrilled when it is a masterpiece like this one. [Duff Goldman] originally created this for Obama’s inauguration 4 years ago and this years committee commissioned us to re-create it. Best part is all the profits are being donated to [Human Rights Campaign], one of our favorite charities who we have loved working with over the years. Because basic human rights are something every man, woman and child~ straight, gay or the rainbow in between~ deserve!”
Upon investigation, it turned out that the Trump campaign had taken a photograph of the Obama cake to Buttercream Bakery, and demanded an exact replica. When the bakery suggested they use the original cake as an ”inspiration” and make a new one, they were told to copy the Goldman cake exactly. EXACTLY! Down to the last crumb…except for one crucial detail. The cake would not be cake at all, but rather a cardboard and styrofoam frame, with just one slice of actual cake that the President and Vice President could ceremoniously cut. This was no cake for celebrating. No. No crumbs would be left. This was a prop, a pompous prop.
Now stories about pastry may be seem idiotic to most. But a prop is a prop and not a reality. It is stage setting for a democratic celebration. The serious question that the copied, crumbless-cake leaves us with is; what else will President Trump copy? What else will he suggest is real when in fact it is copied, or worse, fake?
These questions are significant in light of the fact that Trump’s counselor, Kellyann Conway took to the airwaves on Meet the Press, a day after the cake fiasco, to claim that the White House press secretary Shaun Spicer had offered the Press Corps “alternative facts” to explain the smaller crowds at the inauguration of President Trump compared to that of President Obama. This was a fabricated crisis by the President as he sought to inflate the size of his crowd in defiance of all data. Alternative facts, as Chuck Todd, the host of Meet the Press rightly pointed out, don’t exist. There are facts and interpretations. Or as its more popularly known, fact and fiction.
Fiction, Replication, Inflation, Copying, Faking, Hiding, Lying. These are all the strategies of dictatorships who seek to keep an alternate reality afloat, to garner and abuse power.
But the reality in this fiction was that Counselor Kellyann Conway used techniques honed in America. Where courts of public opinion are less for uncovering the truth and protecting the weak, but as a stage filled with fake props for hiding dirty deeds. Where we expect a President to “pivot” in a campaign, to tell his base one thing, and the country another. Where we deny that a singular truth exists, rather we are more comfortable with shades of grey, that often fade into black.
Kellyann Conway merely blurted out the unpalatable, inedible truth. A truth as indigestible as President Trump’s cake.