News outlets across the country have been reporting that a tiny, black-owned Portland bakery called Fat Cupcake—with locations in Oregon City and the Woodstock neighborhood—is being blasted with accusations of racism after they made a cupcake called "Mr. President" that contains an Oreo cookie.
But for the record, Fat Cupcake owner Anjelica Hayes—who is herself biracial, with one black and one white parent—says the cupcake's name had nothing to do with race, or even with President Obama.
"Normally that kind of cupcake, it's called a tuxedo," Hayes tells WW. "But we already had one called a Suit and Tie. We thought, 'What's a job where you'd wear a fancy suit? Oh… Mr. President!"
Hayes said she never considered the possibility that customers might interpret the Oreo in the cupcake as commentary on President Obama's racial identity.
To read the reports on Fox News and in the Associated Press, you would believe the Mr. President cupcake had stirred up a firestorm of racially charged protest and outrage.
"A black-owned Oregon bakery is being accused of racism after selling an Oreo cupcake the [sic] named 'Mr. President,' Fox News reports. "The Oregonian reported Monday that outraged customers have been blasting the bakery on Yelp criticizing Fat Cupcake for its 'Mr. President' treat. The cupcake is described as an Oreo Cookie baked inside white cake with cookies n' cream buttercream."
"The Oregonian/OregonLive reports that customers have been leaving Yelp reviews criticizing Fat Cupcake for its "Mr. President" pastry," reads the story in the Associated Press.
But the Oregonian did not, in fact, report that the bakery was receiving accusations of racism. It was an accusation—singular.
Hayes tells WW the "Mr. President" cupcake had been on the menu at her Oregon City location for around two years without complaints or issue. She says the Yelp review is the first complaint about the name of "Mr. President" she's ever received.
Multiple people did ask her about the derivation of the name over the years, however. "A couple people asked, and we told them," says Hayes. "Usually, they'd say, 'Oh, that's really neat.'"
Another customer told her that Oreos were in fact President Obama's favorite cookie—perhaps because the other ones don't dunk right.
But when she received the feedback in September, Hayes says, she changed the name quickly to avoid any future misunderstanding.
By the time she spoke with the Oregonian, Hayes tells WW, the cupcake had already been renamed "The Professional" for the better part of a month.
The Oregonian's Lizzy Acker points out to WW (disclosure: she was previously our Web Editor) that the name "Mr. President" has not yet disappeared from paper menus (picture here) although it's been changed on the website and display case.
Hayes received no other complaints about the cupcake since the Yelp review, she says.
We reached out to the Oregonian to see if others besides "Don P." had complained about the cupcake's name, and were told that the paper had been alerted to the "Mr. President" cupcake by someone else before the paper saw the Yelp review.
WW could not find evidence there had been any other public protest.
"The Oregonian declared a controversy (racism! politics! oh my!) centered on a local cupcake bakery, Fat Cupcake," writes blogger Peter Forsyth. "The source for their story? Wait for it…a Yelp reviewer. Not a group of Yelp reviewers…just one. Not even somebody they interviewed and named…just somebody who took a few minutes to hammer out their thoughts on some web site."
Though no other public protest of the Oreo cupcake seems to have emerged, more and more news outlets are reporting the existence of the critical Yelp review each hour—Us Magazine, most recently—and the bakery's Yelp page has begun filling with so many out-of-state commenters and strange bedfellows the Fat Cupcake page been declared a construction zone by Yelp's site administrator.
Sample "review" from Kristen C. in Boston, who seems not to understand that the business owner herself identifies as black: "Not sure why the cowardly owner changed the name of this great cupcake just because militant black liberals threatened her and her business. The Chelsea cupcake was weird because it seemed entitled and fat and tasteless."
(The Chelsea cupcake doesn't exist.)
Meanwhile, ever since the national news picked up the Oregonian's story, Hayes says she's received a torrent of e-mails, phone calls and cupcake orders from Portland and elsewhere. Almost all have offered support for the bakery.
"We've had tons of e-mails from people across the country, phone calls saying 'We want to support you.' People are saying, 'Why would you change the name [of the cupcake]? Stand strong.' They gave us a bad Yelp review because we changed the name, bowing down to political correctness."
Only one caller has been hostile to her bakery so far, Hayes says. Apparently the caller believed Hayes lied about the etymology of her cupcake.
There's been only one major downside to the distracting amount of attention the bakery received as a result of reporting on the Yelp review, says Hayes. She's been so busy answering phone calls and e-mails that she hasn't had time to make a planned donation of cupcakes to the homeless.
For the past two years, Hayes has helped families in need with Christmas and Thanksgiving dinners, and she's also begun a program called Peace of Cake in which she donates cupcakes to houseless people.
"I'm not complaining," she says, "But normally today would have been the day I was planning on doing that. Maybe on Sunday I'll get the opportunity—when we're closed—to donate cupcakes."
Hayes says she's looking forward to returning to business as usual.
"I don't feel frustrated or mad or agitated [by] any media that's going on," she says. "Things like this happen. If anything, I'm hoping we'll be able to go back to what's important. Obviously, I'm certainly against racism. I hope the attention will go back to how we can serve our community."