This NYC Bakery Is Making 'Feminist Tarts' for Valentine's Day
This NYC bakery's limited-edition box of desserts includes The R.B.G, The Malala and The Hils.
"Feminist tarts" might sound like an oxymoron, but they're a real thing.
In fact, this year, Once Upon A Tart—a bakery in New York City's Soho—is serving them as maybe the most socially progressive Valentine's Day dessert ever. With flavors like The R.B.G., named for fiery Associate Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg (and described as "even more than chocolate and caramel, a completely irreplaceable part of our history; finished with a healthy pinch of salt"), and the Malala, in honor of the Pakistani activist and Nobel Prize Laureate, ("an absolute breath of peppermint fresh air covered with bracing dark chocolate truth"), these tarts are shutting down all the V-day tropes.
In an era where everything feels politically charged—in recent months, we've seen everything from anti-Obama burgers to Trump-themed food trucks—desserts are clearly no exception. We talked to Chef Alicia Walter about her fired-up feminist sweets, what a Hillary Clinton-themed tart tastes like, and which women she'd like to honor in pastry form next.
Hi, Alicia. Your bakery, Once Upon A Tart, isn't succumbing to any gooey clichés this year. Where did the idea for feminist tarts come from? We were brainstorming Valentine's Day, and we were like, "Instead of putting chocolates in a heart-shaped box, let's put mini tarts in a heart-shaped box." We started thinking about flavors, and we wanted some cool ones, like hibiscus, and rose, and chocolate (of course). Then it came time to think about why we were doing this, what exactly brings meaning to this project. At that time, the Women's March was just starting to percolate, and we thought, Wow, this is something we feel really strongly about… why don't we name the tarts after feminists?
And you named each flavor after a different feminist icon? Yep. We went kind of backwards, thinking of the flavor and then choosing a person to attribute it to. We sell a lot of apple tarts, and people love them. So [for those], the first thing I thought of was Hillary's "scandalous" emails that were released; one of them was about New York State apples, how she thought they were so good. It was pretty absurd, so of course, it's a little tongue-in-cheek that we named the apple tart after her: The Hils.
When we named one tart after Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie's Purple Hibiscus, I went out to buy the book and I read it all in one night. I'm hoping that other people will read up and become more curious about all the stuff that's going on right now.
We had this one tart left, after naming all the others, and we wanted to have a male on the list, so my right-hand woman came up with the Justin Trudeau No Wrong. It's everything we dream about… chocolate, espresso, strawberries, and boozy pastry cream. So dreamy.
Do you think these tarts are especially necessary this year? I feel like it's a little more dangerous to be reserved than to speak out about what you believe in. Next to our kitchen, we have a little sign that just says, "Give a damn." That, to me, is what matters. Especially when it comes to food, in particular, because it's nourishing, and people ingest it and take it around with them for the rest of their lives. Saying what you believe in—that's what fuels us behind the scenes every day.
There's a lot of people in varying stages of grief right now. Either still sad, or feeling empowered and hopeful. But wherever you lay on the spectrum, I hope this is the perfect gift to give to someone who wants to feel supported right now, and maybe needs a little back rub to help get them there. Valentine's Day is just a great excuse to be gushy and honest and more vulnerable than usual. I think they're perfect for anyone, really, but especially women who have either supported you, or women who you'd like to support. It's just to give them a little chuckle. And a little chocolate.
Will you keep making feminist desserts after Valentine's Day? Now I'm like, "I need an Elizabeth Warren tart! I need a Coretta Scott King tart!" The list is endless. There are so many strong, courageous people, and I want to keep bringing that to the front of people's minds, even if it's through something as simple as buying a snack at a bakery.
Thanks for speaking with us.