If you scrolled through the Instagram feed of Oakland-based bakery Natty Cakes prior to this past week, you would have seen mostly photos of pretty, flower-topped wedding cakes — and very little, if anything, in the way of overt activism.
But Natalie Brown, the bakery’s founder, tells Eater SF that the news of George Floyd’s death changed everything for her and made her feel like she needed to speak out and find some way to contribute to the cause of fighting anti-black police violence in this country. So, this past weekend, she baked a cake with a gold Black Lives Matter raised-fist logo emblazoned on it and put it up for auction on Instagram, with all proceeds going to the Oakland-based Anti Police-Terror Project, which has been organizing protests and bailing out protesters who have been arrested.
To Brown’s surprise, the post went viral (with 1,530 “likes” as of publication time), and the cake — an eight-inch salted caramel cake frosted with black chocolate ganache — ended up selling for $450.
The donation is just one of many that local restaurants and other food businesses have made this past week in support of the protests and the broader movement to fight anti-black police violence in this country. In San Francisco, for instance, Elda, the Latin-American cocktail bar has been donating the proceeds from its cocktails toward Black Lives Matter-related causes; by donating 100 percent of its sales last week, Pinhole Coffee in Bernal Heights was able to raise nearly $12,000.
“I’m a white woman of privilege,” Brown says. “I think as a white person, I think our favorite excuse is we don’t want to say the wrong thing, we don’t want people to get mad at us.”
But given the recent news — and, as Brown explains it, the whole past 400-plus years of white people largely standing by doing nothing about the violence that’s targeted against black people in this country — she felt like the worst thing she could do would be to stay silent.
The coronavirus pandemic caused Natty Cakes’ wedding cake business to essentially dry up completely, so she had pivoted, in recent months, to running a meal delivery service out of her Oakland commercial kitchen — a business, Brown explains, that she recently shut down because it was losing money even though it had kept her very busy. When the black-led Oakland farming company Raised Roots put out a call for chefs with commercial kitchen space to help prepare meals for protesters, she saw a way for her to still put that kitchen to use. She wound up helping to prepare 100 meals that were delivered to protesters last Wednesday.
Still, Brown says that as a food producer, she feels the best way she can contribute to the cause is by raising money for organizations that are working to support protesters and enact police reform in this country. Toward that end, she’ll be making smaller, four-inch cakes that will also have some Black Lives Matter theme for around $100 each, donating the profits to one of a handful of related organizations.
As for the cake she auctioned off over the weekend? One of her wedding cake clients wound up making the winning bid and sent it to her friend — an activist who has been on the front line of these protests — for his birthday. “It ended up being really perfect,” Brown says.
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BLACK LIVES MATTER. UPDATE: the highest bidder has taken the cake, thank you for making this auction a success, we will continue the work and there will be more opportunities to help so your part!! There is always something more that can be done, and I want to use my platform and business to do my part to keep the momentum going forward on the Black Lives Matter movement. As a privileged white woman I am here to listen, learn and ACT. So many of us have sat silent in the background hoping things would get better for our black friends and family members, and it hasn’t. So it is up to us! This weekend I am auctioning off this cake with all proceeds going to @antipoliceterrorproject this is an 8 inch Salted Caramel cake that can feed up to 28 loved ones. To bid, please comment below, I will not start with a minimum bid. If you don’t have a need for cake this weekend, please donate to @antipoliceterrorproject @colorofchange @blklivesmatter or any charity doing the work to end racial injustice. **Bidding closes first thing Saturday morning!**Please help me spread the word! Let’s get this cake into a bidding war! #blacklivesmatter #auctioncake #charitycake #endracialinjustice #endwhitesilence #endwhitesupremacy #georgefloyd #breonnataylor #sandrabland