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Parents swap sonograms for gender-reveal cakes

Wednesday - 11/14/2012, 8:50pm  ET

As family and friends anxiously watch, Dan and Lisa Ramish slice into their gender-reveal cake to find out if they will have a boy or girl. Gender-reveal parties are becoming a popular new trend for expecting parents in the D.C. area. (WTOP/Stephanie Steinberg)
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Stephanie Steinberg,

WASHINGTON - Lisa Ramish's family and friends crowded around a yellow cake topped with a pink and blue sugar booties. The words "It's a…" held everyone in suspense.

The small party whipped out their iPhones and laptops to FaceTime and Skype with relatives and friends in other states who couldn't be there in person to witness the moment. Lisa tilted the cake toward a laptop on the table so her brother-in-law could see what the dessert looked like from Nashville.

Once everyone was called in, Dan wrapped his left arm around his wife, already showing a bulging belly, and grabbed the silver cutter Lisa held with her right hand.

Everyone held their breath as the couple slowly sliced into the icing.


The Ramishes are just one of the many expecting parents in the D.C. area who are choosing to learn the gender of their baby in a non-traditional, and arguably more creative, way. Instead of learning the news in a sterile hospital room from a doctor, couples are gathering in the comfort of their homes with family and friends — their eyes glued to a cake rather than a sonogram for proof that it's a boy or girl.

"It's nice to do with friends and family instead of with a doctor," says Dan, 32, who lives with Lisa in Anacostia in Southeast D.C. and is eagerly awaiting the arrival of his first child. "Some people are closer to their doctors, but certainly, when you can invite anyone you want, you make sure people who are important to you find out when you find out."

These baby gender-reveal parties typically involve a cake or cupcakes with generic baby decorations on the outside. The inside has pink or blue icing or batter to indicate the gender.

The parties are a newer trend in the D.C. area, says Randi Brecher, who's managed a bakery the past 30 years and is owner of Creative Cakes in Silver Spring, Md. Brecher says her first request came about a year ago, and she's made six reveal cakes since then.

"It's a different twist to something we've been doing for many years … it just adds more excitement to an everyday party," Brecher says.

While some reveal cakes hide a bright blue or pink hue center, Leslie Poyourow, owner of Fancy Cakes by Leslie in Bethesda, Md., only colors the inside icing. Otherwise, the batter just doesn't look right.

"You'd have to put a ton of blue in the cake to make it look good, and with the butter, it can almost turn green," she says.

Poyourow has received about one baby gender-reveal cake order a week in the past few months. While she's used to making extravagant cakes in the shape of Redskins helmets - and even a replica of the Vatican for the Pope's 81st birthday - these cakes are more subdued, with simple baby blocks, pacifiers and teddy bear decorations that are gender-neutral.

"They haven't been ‘wow' cakes," she says, explaining that most of the orders are for small parties with family and friends who are more interested in the inside than the outside.

Sophie LaMontagne, co-owner of Georgetown Cupcake with her sister Katherine Kallinis, wrote in an email that they started making gender-reveal cupcakes when they opened their business in 2008. The cupcakes are filled with blue or pink buttercream and topped with vanilla frosting and a fondant yellow duck.

"When people bite inside, they will see either the baby pink or baby blue buttercream and immediately know if it's a boy or a girl," LaMontagne says.

In the last few months, LaMontagne says she's received about 50 orders a week for gender-reveal parties. Her sister, who is expecting a baby, will have the gender-reveal cupcakes at her baby shower and plans to share the reveal moment with the world since it will be filmed for their reality television show "DC Cupcakes" on TLC.

Though they were unheard of to local bakers a few years ago, these parties are certainly catching on across the country. A New York Times article from April states that 1,800 gender-reveal videos were uploaded to YouTube by parents all over the United States in the previous six months.

"It's really becoming the new trend. A lot of parents are opting to find out this way," says Maurice Holmes, co-owner of Sweet Themez in Adams Morgan in Northwest D.C.

Holmes' wife and co-owner Adrienne baked and decorated the reveal cake for the Ramishes and has made several in the past few months. One looked like a baby face while another was in the shape of a onesie — half-pink, half-blue — with a question mark on top. A third had a gift box with the words "He? She? Open to see!"

In most cases, the parents already know the gender and order the cake to surprise their family and friends, Adrienne says. But couples sometimes drop off an envelope with the gender written inside from the doctor.

The Holmes say there's more pressure to make the cake right than with a typical wedding or birthday cake.

"They're depending on us to tell them what the gender of their baby is going to be, so that's a huge responsibility," Maurice says.

It's a responsibility Lisa didn't take lightly. She called several local bakeries that didn't understand her request before she found Sweet Themez.

"You don't want to ask someone to do it who would mess it up and tell you (the wrong gender) by accident," she says.

Lisa, an eighth-grade math teacher at KIPP DC AIM Academy, went all out for her party — baking mini tacos and serving baby deviled eggs, along with raspberry and blueberry punch.

"Ice Ice Baby" played in the background. Pieces of paper with various gender-related facts were posted on the yellow walls. A paper taped to the TV said: "Brad Pitt was the first man to star in a Chanel #5 ad." A half-pink, half- blue vote board was propped in the living room for guests to pin their names on and vote for the gender.

One of the guests joked this vote was more important than her vote in the presidential election.

Lisa guessed it was going to be a boy, since her husband's family has a slew of them. (Dan has three brothers, his father has two and one of his brothers has a son.)

Lisa's sister Ruby Sabina, 25, a nursing student at Montgomery College, was on the fence.

"I think that it's just time for another girl. I really do. Also because Dan is so convinced that it's going to be a boy, I think I have to root for a girl," she says, after biting into a mini-Hostess cupcake Lisa made with pink or blue icing inside. It was blue.

After playing games like listing as many gender-neutral names as they could in one minute, a bubbly Lisa proclaimed it was time.


Lisa and Dan pulled away the silver cutter to reveal flakes of bright blue cake batter. The room erupted in cheers, clapping and camera flashes as Lisa and Dan beamed and then exchanged a kiss.

Soon-to-be grandmother Ann Ramish, 59, of D.C., thinks it was a creative way to find out the boy streak would continue and that she was having a grandson.

"That blue is pretty predominant," she says. "There wasn't any question after the first cut."

Becky Edmonds, Lisa's 15-year-old sister, was convinced it was going to be a girl, since the rest of her family was predicting a boy. But she's not disappointed.

"I don't care which one it is," she says, her tongue a bright blue from the cake. "I'm so excited because I'm going to be the best aunt no matter what gender it is."

Lisa and Dan couldn't stop smiling.

"Up until the child has a gender, they're a lot more abstract," Dan says.

"It will be an adventure," Lisa adds. "I don't know a lot about boys."

"But I know a lot about boys, so it will work out," Dan teasingly responds. As for the cake, Dan compared it to a red velvet — only blue — cake and devoured every morsel.

Lisa, on the other hand, didn't have a bite. The baby boy has repressed her dessert cravings the past few weeks.

"I just don't like sweets anymore," she admits, looking down at her belly. "I used to love them."

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