Sisters Combine Their Passion For Baking With Feminism In New ‘Empowdered Sugar’ Cookbook

We don’t normally associate feminism with the kitchen, and in fact they have often been at odds with each other, the latter symbolizing a form of oppression of women designed to keep us quiet and “in our place”. But these associations are today considered quite outdated and stereotypical, with more intersectional and expanding definitions of feminism recognizing the nuance of choices in a woman’s life.

In other words, cooking or spending time in the kitchen should not be considered antithetical to feminism, and two sisters with a passion for baking are showing us how. Karen Cuneo and Grace Cuneo Lineman have put together a collection of sweets, treats, and female feats in a book that combines feminist wisdom with recipes inspired by the greatest female icons!

“Empowdered Sugar” is a cookbook that celebrates strong, influential women of different cultures, religions and races throughout history by weaving their names and feats with familiar, simple dessert, baked good, and beverage recipes. From Jane Goodall Monkey Bread to Eleanor Roosevelvet Cake to Missy Elliot Shoopa Dupa Fly Pie, each of the recipes found in this women’s empowerment cookbook is complemented by a short biography of or quote by the heroine, to inspire readers as they create “powderful” treats to share with the important women in their lives.

This book includes more than eighty simple and fun baked good and sweet beverage recipes inspired by the names and mottos of women who have impacted what it means to be a strong and confident woman. Not just another cookbook, “Empowdered Sugar” incorporates wordplay, inspiring quotes, funky fresh illustrations and hints at the irony of feminism in the kitchen. Written by two sisters, each recipe is written as if your sister, or friend, is alongside you in the kitchen. We got to speak with the authors and bakers about their recipes of resistance and the message they hope to share with readers.

Karen Cuneo and Grace Cuneo Lineman

How did you come up with the idea for Empowdered Sugar? 

Karen: Like all good things, it started with Beyoncé. Grace came up with the idea for a Beyhive Honey Cake and it spiraled quickly from there. 

I can remember staying up late and making a list on my iPhone of recipe ideas and spending my commute researching all these amazing women. Once we had a list of about 50 recipe ideas, we decided we would really try to make it happen.

Grace: It was Karen’s idea to focus the recipes around inspiring women and their achievements. We grew up in a family surrounded by strong women and have tried to reflect that strength in our lives and now through the cookbook. Karen’s background as a food scientist allowed us to bring the idea to life. Getting to work with my sister on this project made it extra special and personal.

How do you combine feminism with your love for cooking throughout this book?

Karen: We incorporated some of our favorite females’ names with those of some of our favorite recipes, like Frida Kahlua Cupcakes, Judy Blumeberry Muffins, and Kathraisin Bigeloaf. Alongside each recipe we also have a quote from or a short history of the female highlighted, so that every page has a little bit of feminism. 

The book opens with the famous quote from Hillary Clinton where she talked about rejecting the idea of baking cookies in favor of working as a lawyer. Why did you decide to include this? 

Grace: We wanted to include this quote because it highlighted the irony of a cookbook, specifically a baked goods cookbook, inspired by feminism and women’s empowerment. The quote emphasizes the need and desire for women to pursue roles outside of the domestic sphere. The quote recently resurfaced with the 2016 election and though decades old, remains relevant in its reminder that women have the right to make their own professional decisions.

You have over 80 recipes featured in the book named after iconic women from around the world and throughout history. What was your process of choosing both the women and the recipes? 

Karen: The main focus of the book has always been women. The women came first and then we thought of familiar, approachable recipes we could weave into their names. 

There were two things we tried to keep in mind when creating the book. Firstly, we really wanted to be inclusive and representative of all women. Although most of the women in our book are American, it was important for us to feature women from all different cultures, religions, sexual orientations and professions. Secondly, we wanted to make recipes that people would actually bake. I didn’t want a book full of fancy tools, unfamiliar ingredients and hard to pronounce words. I wanted the recipes to be inclusive too, so that anyone, in any kitchen, could make them. 

Food has always been a way for people to connect and come together despite differences. Are you hoping this book will inspire conversations about what is happening today politically?

Grace: When creating the cookbook, we knew we wanted it to serve as more than just a cookbook but as a conversation piece. It was important to us to highlight the achievements of each of the women included in the book. We hope the book inspires more conversations on the important role women have played and continue to play in policy and activism.

What are each of your favorite recipes and women featured, and why? 

Karen: Since this book is all about women’s achievement, I would say my favorite recipe is the one that was the greatest challenge for me in the kitchen-Billy Jean King Cake. King Cake is a long recipe that requires equal parts patience and skill. 

When I was around my third attempt at perfecting an easy, delicious king cake recipe, I was inspired by Billy Jean Kings work ethic. Keep learning, keep practicing, don’t back down and eventually you will have sweet success-and in my case a sweet brioche! 

Grace: The Beyoncé inspired honey cake is my favorite recipe included in the cookbook. It is where the idea started and one of the first recipes Karen crafted and I tested. Beyoncé has always been a favorite feminist icon of mine and has served as inspiration throughout the book. Karen and I have attended several of her concerts together and every time are amazed at her immense talent. Her work continues to highlight both the strength and vulnerability of women.

Can you talk about the irony of feminism in the kitchen and your message about this?

Grace: The feminist movement and women’s liberation, almost at their core, were established to demand more space for women outside the kitchen. The chauvinistic idea that women belong in the kitchen prevents women from pursuing ambitions outside the household, yet every recipe included within this cookbook is inspired by a woman who did just that. Ironically, through time spent in the kitchen, our cookbook is meant to inspire women to pursue their own ambitions both in and outside the kitchen.

What do you hope will be the reaction from readers who buy the book and try out the recipes?  

Karen: What I enjoyed most about writing this cookbook was the opportunity to learn about all the amazing women featured in the book and then talk excitedly about it with Grace-especially the details, like how Kathrine Switzer ran the Boston Marathon before the first women’s running shoe was ever created, and quotes, like Cher’s “Mom, I am a rich man.”

I hope everyone who reads the book finds something that leaves them inspired and running to share that thing with the important women in their life-and I hope they share some baked goods too!

You can purchase a copy of ‘Empowdered Sugar’ on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Indiebound.

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