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Video Essay: The Joy of Rage Baking | Sweet Potato Cupcakes

A Personal Canons Cookbook (Video) Essay by Maya May
Video Essay: The Joy of Rage Baking | Sweet Potato Cupcakes

Maya May is an LA-based stand-up comedian known for her smart, fun, and socially conscious brand of humor, featuring at some of the country’s best independent comedy shows. She’s performed at dozens of colleges and has been featured on CNBC, Fox, ABC, and iHeartRadio. Her comedy is just like she is: a healthy balance of optimism and rage, mischievous, and deliciously over-the-top. A high-energy and positive performer, Maya keeps audiences engaged with carefully crafted jokes that layer her life experiences (including 8 years in Argentina) with observations on race, politics, class, and gender. Maya has performed everywhere from the Laugh Factory Chicago to the Hollywood Improv. But her favorite place to perform is wherever you are. Awwwwww. Unless it’s a 3-hour drive from a major airport. She hates that.

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Maya’s Sweet Potato Cupcakes

This is a flexible family recipe for sweet potato cupcakes.

Get the Recipe: PDF, Google Doc

Video Transcript

Maya: This is my grandmother. She’s the reason I bake.

This is my fancy-schmancy Kitchen-Aid mixer. It’s been collecting dust for the last six months. My mom got it for me for Christmas.

[Instagram Reel labeled Christmas 2022]

Maya: I used to bake a lot. And now—[high-pitched zooming noises as she moves the mixer box into and back out of frame]—my mom got me a mixer for Christmas! Which means, if I wanna eat cupcakes, I gotta make my own. Time to start rage baking. Again. That’s what got me through 2020. And I’m not saying there’s gonna be reason for rage in 2023—I’m just, this is like a preventative measure. Very excited.

Maya Voiceover: I have always had a very positive relationship with cake. No, seriously. I really love cake. How much do I love cake? [Photo of a young version of Maya in front of a cake, looking intense] This much. I even get birthday cake when it’s not my birthday. Like, I’m literally always buying cake. My God, I really do love cake.

But also, I’m full of rage. Look at me: So. Much. Rage.

Maya: Rage baking—that’s how I get through tough times, bad news cycles, the election—and I wanted to make my Granny’s yellow cake, which I was hoping to get the recipe from my mom. It went a little bit… awry.

Maya’s Mom: So Granny used to bake her cakes from scratch. But as she got older, she got lazy—as she says—and she started using Duncan Hines yellow cake mix to make her cakes.

Eve: I’ll be honest, it’s super embarrassing that my grandmother just called out her late mother like that, so I guess when I’m old, to return the favor, I’ll just have to tell everybody what she uses to make her cornbread for Thanksgiving.

Mom: [gasp] Hah! Hah, hah. All I can say is, hah. I did make my cornbread from scratch, but yeah, okay, so I cheated too, as I got older, and started using Jiffy cornbread mix, so, young lady—and it still tastes good, because I doctor up my Jiffy cornbread mix to make my cornbread seem like it was made from scratch. And I had no complaints at Thanksgiving, around my cornbread.

Maya V/O: Without Granny’s recipe, I had to come up with my own recipe: a modified cupcake, with sweet potato.

Eve: Do you want us to help you, or anything?

Maya: No, I do want you to help me!

Maya: It’s a group effort now.

Eve: Just a little bit.

Maya V/O: The thing about baking is it’s an immersive activity. You can’t really do anything else while you’re doing it.

Eve: So the brown sugar would please like to be referred to as “the sugar of color”—

Maya V/O: Wait, what did she say?

Maya: Pouring the butter in—I don’t know—shit. Goddammit. This is one of my favorite t-shirts and I just ruined it. [laughter] Rage baking! D’awww—there’s really no way, I think. Actually, if I put laundry—I think if you put, do the spray shit—

Mom: Just spray Shout on.

Maya: Uh, no no, it—fuckin’ takes out grease.

Mom: Oh.

Maya: The, uhh. Where is it.

I am now doing this in a bra.

You’re never supposed to crack an egg over a thing, in case shells get in it, but oh well. Inaugural use of the mixer. Okay. Hmmm—oh no, that’s what I was supposed to do, but that’s what I just did. This is pretty amazing, though. I feel the power. This is like the—[inaudible under voiceover]

Maya V/O: And just like that, I forgot about every single thing I saw in the news in the last week that has pissed me off. It works. Just like that. Simple. I’m immersed in baking.

Maya: Now for the sweet potato!

Grandma’s recipe for sweet potato pie, mixed with a cupcake recipe!

I don’t believe I have any allspice in here. Got sesame seeds—what is allspice, even? This—every Black household has to have Lawry’s.

We’re making our own allspice, with cloves.

Maya V/O: I have no idea if these are going to be good. But that’s not the point.

Mom: Hm. Not bad! Not bad at all.

Maya V/O: With that stunning review, on to the frosting. The point is to improvise. To make it up as you go along. Because that’s what Granny had to do: You make do with what you have. You make quilts out of old clothing. You make cakes with the ingredients that you have at hand.

I actually don’t know how Granny made her frosting. I don’t know if it was from scratch. I know everything she did was full of love. And she always put pink food coloring in it.

Eve: Perfectly fluffy. Sweet but not too sweet. Very light. Forgot one of the other things I was thinking. Not thick. But like, not thin. Perfect.

Maya V/O: By this point I’ve forgotten all about politics. I’m ready to start my own bakeshop. That’s what baking does for me.

Maya: I did it! Baked with rage. Which is just as good as baking with love.

Eve: No—

Maya: No no.

Eve: Take one!

Maya: Take a bite, just take a bite.

Mom: Delicious.

Maya: No, seriously though.

Mom: Delicious! The frosting is really good.

Maya: The mixture is amazing.

Mom: You made it from scratch?

Maya V/O: Is she freakin’ kidding me? Wasn’t the whole point of this to make it from scratch, Miss I Make Stuff From Jiffy Mix?

Mom: Granny would be proud!

If you’d like to own the Personal Canons Cookbook ebook, which collects all these essays and recipes in easy-to-reference, clickable format—plus loads of bonus recipes from me!—join the Stone Soup Supper Club. The ebook is free for subscribers, who will get the download link in their inboxes in the first Supper Club email of 2024!

Remember: Care for yourself and the people around you. Believe that the world can be better than it is now. Never give up.