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🍰 Pittsburghers baking a difference

Yuzu macarons, matcha strawberry shortbread, lavender honey cupcakes, and chocolate tarts with miso caramel and sesame — these are just a few of the latest creations from the Bakers for Change group, a local organization that strives to “enact change through baking” by hosting virtual bake sales for social justice campaigns.

Since July, the group has raised nearly $16K for voting rights organizations and more than $7K for Black Lives Matter. And it’s just getting started; their next bake sale is going to be the biggest one yet.

This Thursday, March 25, you can order a sweet treat for a good cause — your money goes to support the Asian Americans Advancing Justice, or AAAJ — an Asian Law Caucus founded in 1972. It’s the nation’s first legal and civil rights organization serving low-income Asian Pacfic American communities.

To purchase, you have to follow @bakersforchange on Instagram, watch their story posts to find a baker near you, and then buy directly from the seller through their account. Some bakers will raffle off a bake, others let customers bid to win, and many sell baked goods and treat boxes at a fixed donation price.

“Hate is a virus,” a message in royal icing. (📸: @sopheating)

“What’s important to us is that we fight for all marginalized communities,” co-founder Sophia Chang said. Sophia, or better known as @sopheating on Instagram, said that they’ve been planning to hold this fundraiser for AAAJ since January due to the rise in violence against Asian Americans, but the recent attacks in Georgia make this bake hit a little closer to home.

“In Pittsburgh, where there isn’t much diversity, it’s important to continue to champion people who don’t have a voice,” Sophia said. “ We can use our platform to advocate for change and raise awareness that these are experiences that everyone faces, and it starts on a small level.”

The other co-founders of Bakers for Change include pre-k teacher Kait Wakefield (@kait_bakes), wedding/portrait photographer Sarah McClosky (@sarahjeanette_), psychiatry resident Camille Tastenhoye (@ctastypastry), and Nashville-based pastry chef Jessica Bedor (@jessicabedor).

It all started with Kait posting “message cakes” on Instagram when COVID-19 hit the United States.

“I’d write things like ‘let’s stay home’ or ‘wear a mask,’” she said. Or some of my personal favorites: “Make Good Trouble,” “I shouldn’t have to tell you to care about other people” and “Love you…But From Like 6 ft. Away.”

“But then as things started getting worse and worse, I got angrier and angrier… so I posted in my stories asking ‘who wants to rage bake with me?’”

Flour, eggs, sugar — these simple ingredients became a recipe to soothe the complex, pandemic-era worries and, quite literally, bake a difference. Since starting in July, Bakers for Change have had participants join their virtual fundraisers from all over the United States and even Canada.

Camille said that these bake sales have resonated with so many because “people have felt powerless, and it’s really hard to watch communities suffer… it has been cool to see people come together through this community.”

This community includes the founding bakers themselves, who have all become friends at a time of social distancing. Through Zoom, social media, occasional masked neighborhood walks, and bake swaps, they’ve created a kinship of sweet activism.

“How Many Aren’t Filmed?” a cake for Black lives. (📸: @sarahjeanette_)

“This group has helped me learn and grow and do my own education,” Sarah said. “A good way for people to learn what’s going on is to step out of your own bubble and into someone else’s shoes… I’m glad more people are paying attention.”

In the future, Bakers for Change plans to raise money for mental health organizations for underserved youths, water access on Native American reservations, environmental justice, reproductive rights, and organizations reuniting migrant families.

In addition to the virtual fundraisers, Bakers for Change is selling merch designed by Sophia, with 100% of the proceeds going to the charity of choice, as well as hosting occasional decorating classes. If you’d like to whip something up for their next sale, find out more info at bakersforchange.org.

“We’ve been so lucky to have such a great turn out of Pittsburgh bakers,” Kait said. “I love the community we’ve built, and I love having this creative and political outlet.”