Sugar Crush: The Colour Blast Photo World Of Stephanie Gonot

stephanie gonot insult cakes

I’m late to the Stephanie Gonot party as usual but darn it look at this hilariousness. I can seriously feel the toenail in my mouth, parsing it out with my tongue through gobs of thick oil-based whipped icing. Her Insult Cakes project with Max Siedentopf gave me such a chuckle – upending our forever-sweet memories of cake with a sociopathic icing scrawl of an unexpected message. The photos remind me of garish 1980s food photography (the kind you would find hanging in cheap frames on the walls of a 24 hour pancake diner). Cakes are ubiquitous with celebrations and special occasions, childhood dreams and slices of heaven. I’ve always loved the plasticky, brightly coloured hastily-piped frosting creations of the supermarket bakeries. I love how the Insult Cakes series grosses us out while still remaining appealing, childlike, hopeful and sad at the same time.

stephanie gonot insult cakes

The heart shaped cake that says I Love You in a very different way?? Makes me think of dogs. Perfect dog birthday cake. Yes I clenched my butt cheeks when I saw this picture.

stephanie gonot insult cakes

This Dairy Queen-esque beauty reminds me of the Raymond Carver story in his Cathedral collection – the disgruntled baker whose birthday cake goes uncollected for terrible reasons unknown to him… Also “You Are Average” goes against today’s parenting culture of ultra-coddling, raising our kids by saying everything they do is “AMAZING” and super special…

stephanie gonot insult cakes

The serial killer scrawl of Penisface on this otherwise churchly looking, ultra white sheet cake! The images are violently bright, hard to look at for too long – patterns against our eyes. The greasy slickness of those piped green leaves – it’s almost like my tongue has been coated in shortening-based bright green icing!

stephanie gonot edibles

I like the contrast of dream dessert vs totally-can’t-eat – prickly dink cacti mixed with pastel rainbow sherbet and a melty grotesque mountain of bubblegum ice cream. Sad/ouch/pain!

stephanie gonot edibles

Big old pile of junk fooooood! My teeth ache looking at this. Suddenly I am craving french fries to offset the sugar.

stephanie gonot edibles

This is so Grace Jones meets sandwich meat … The lunchbox sandwich deconstructed … the opposite of a foodie sandwich of crusty bread, cured meats and micro greens, laid flat splat against 1980s teal green, flash photography showing its shiny synthetic flavours. For more of Stephanie’s bizarrely brightly appealing work, visit stephaniegonot.com or check out her Instagram! Photog nerds will like this interview on Photo District News, too. 

 

Pretty Perfect: Milk Bar Life Chocolate Chip Cookie Recipe

milk bar life chocolate chip cookies recipe

COOOOKIES. I’m not blue and fuzzy nor am I a total maniacal pig monster but if you get me close to a pile of fresh-out-the-oven perfect chocolate chip cookies, I really do tend to tornado-devour ‘em. I can’t stop. It’s been a lifelong search for the superior chocolate chip cookie recipe. Crucial requirements: non cakey, non puffy, crisp at the edges yet chewy elements, not too crazy sweet with a generous salty vibe … and of course that melty creamy chocolate in every bite. I thought I had found it before … but these cookies… these cookies take the CAKE.

momofuku milk bar life cookbook

I was finally craving cookies on the weekend, and I even felt like baking… and Milk Bar Life got to me just in time (thanks Auntie for the book!) I had gotten through my first round of chemo in early April. It felt too surreal to be true, sitting there hooked up to an IV, my bags of drugs dripping down into a vein in my hand, sitting there as the clock ticked by (we were there 8 hours in total!). Me – a healthy woman with colour in my cheeks and muscle on my body, knowingly filling my body up with poison. It was like waiting for a bomb to go off as I waited for those dreaded side effects to kick in and they finally rolled in like dark clouds. A haze of achy discomfort – my body twitched in tiny spurts of inside-pain and I imagined all of those happy good cells dying off and floating away, drowned in drugs. I felt feverish, itchy all over – my face flushed red – I felt like I had eaten a poison apple in a fairy tale gone awry. I was bedridden but couldn’t get comfortable and my mind was a muddy fog, but I laid on my side and glazed through the Mindy Project, Say Anything, Beautiful Girls – shows and movies that felt light enough to watch. Teddy would jump on my bed and entertain me and show me silly things, and I’d read him stories before bed, one of my favourite things. However, by day 5 the side effects were subsiding – my energy was crawling back and the sun was out. My appetite came back, and my mind was on fire with all the things I wanted to eat but my stomach was saying “oh hell no, lady!”. Fried chicken, pizza, banana splits … after a week of Digestive cookies and watered down Gatorade, I was feeling pretty ravenous! So yeah. Making, baking and EATING freshly baked chocolate chip cookies – it was a good feeling all around!

milk bar life chocolate chip cookies recipe

I didn’t mess with Tosi’s wicked simple chocolate chip recipe much at all. I didn’t have chocolate chips (huh!) so I chopped up some Lindt “Surfin” (I always think of Weezer when I use this chocolate) dark chocolate pieces and I used good old flakey crystal-y Maldon sea salt because I love the teensy salty crunch it gives cookies… yum. The Milk Bar Life cookbook itself is an exercise in bonkers wacky wild supermarket ingredient fuelled recipes, from a Ritz cracker, grape jelly and Cool Whip icebox cake to fish cooked in pickle juice. The book pays homage to some grand old gals of middle America, and for a little Chinese Canadian Vancouver girl like myself, reading it is like an anthropological study of what white kids in America might’ve grown up eating… Fascinating. Milk Bar sounds like a fun place to work if you ask me! Jokes, snacks, cool ladies, blasting tunes, camaraderie, hard work and churning out wildly delicious products – good stuff.

Milk Bar Life Chocolate Chip Cookie Recipe

18 medium cookies

For The Cookies

  • ½ pound (2 sticks, also known as 1 cup) unsalted butter, melted and just warm to the touch
  • ¾ cup packed light brown sugar
  • ½ cup granulated sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 1 ¾ cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 tablespoons nonfat milk powder (crucial!)
  • 1 ¼ teaspoons Maldon salt flakes
  • ½ teaspoon baking powder
  • ¼ teaspoon baking soda
  • 2 cups chopped high quality semi sweet or dark chocolate pieces (or 2 cups of semi sweet chocolate chips!)

Make The Cookies!

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Prep baking sheets with parchment paper.

  1. In a large bowl, mix together the melted butter and sugars with a wooden spoon until mixture is combined and homogenous.
  2. Add the egg and vanilla, stirring until combined.
  3. Mix in the flour, milk powder, salt, baking powder, and baking soda until just combined – don’t overmix!
  4. Fold in the chocolate pieces or chocolate chips. The dough might seem a bit wet but it baked up nicely.
  5. Dole out the cookie batter using a 2 ¾ ounce ice cream scoop, or use your hands. Keep the balls 2 to 3 inches apart! Bake for 10 to 12 minutes, until golden brown. Cool completely on the pan (if you can wait that long to chow on them).

happy boy with lollipop

Teddy and me, Easter weekend in Victoria, BC. We walked by a barber shop and looked in and waved – and the owner came running out with a bowl of lollipops.

kid iron maiden tshirt

Teddy going Hulkamania on me in his Iron Maiden tshirt!

black and white photobooth vancouver

This past Sunday – some energy, and sunshine outside called for a little trip to River Market in New Westminster, where there is a wicked analogue black and white film photobooth! I’m totally into my bowl cut now – however, last night I noticed my hair was starting to come out! Wahhhh! Oh well. Being a bald lady will be an experience, hopefully a character building one. Chemo pretty much sucked a big hairy boar’s testicle – but I’m happy I’ve completed the first round and know what it’s like for the next one. And … I am praying it destroys every last trace of cancer in my bod and I will never ever have to deal with it again. I hope all my cake pals out there are doing well – thank you for the continued well wishes, emails, messages, prayers and thoughts! It really means a lot! xo Lyndsay 

Sweetapolita Circus Animal Cookie Recipe!

elephant sugar cookie recipe

If blog years were like dog years, I’d be an old lady blogger woofin’ away like a crotchety ancient pup. I’ve been blogging since 2008 – which seems like a century ago! But back in the early days, I met some pretty sweet (hehe) people online – including the one and only, frostingly gorgeous, ruler of spectacularly colorful cakes, Rosie of Sweetapolita! 

sweetapolita baking book

Rosie has just published her first book – a brightly hued, dazzling book bursting with colour and Rosie’s signature beautified vintage style. From watercolour cakes to gold flecks to edible chalk recipes and how to make your own sprinkles (Rosie is sprinkles-obsessed!), PLUS all of Rosie’s perfected cake and frosting recipes, this book will win you over with a rainbow unicorn sugar kiss. Plus, there are tons of cute projects you can make with your kids, or a gaggle of close girlfriends! Click here for a visual preview of The Sweetapolita Bakebook … and you MUST check out Rosie’s “blog hop” featuring a MEGA sweet giveaway of Rosie’s favourite baking goodies and sugary cute products.

elephant sugar cookies

Growing up in Canada, it was always a pretty BIG DEALIO for our family to go down to the States for little shopping trips or holidays. Driving down from our hometown of Vancouver to Seattle, Washington meant staying at the Doubletree Inn with its floral bedcovers and little soaps, which meant piles of BACON and pancakes for buffet breakfast, murky green indoor pool of FUN, and being right next door to Toys R Us. Extreme heaven for children. Plus – gas station stops meant eyeing out the hordes of colourful, chemical, waxy delicious candies, chocolates and extra salty chips we could never get in Canada. Cool Ranch Doritos was a BIG DEAL, guys! And … finding, and glomping on forever, to MOTHER’S CIRCUS ANIMAL COOKIES. Waxy! Sweet! Pink! Circus-y! We’d pop them into our mouths and crunch away til our teeth felt gritty from sprinkles and the tops of our mouths were coated in, well, coating.

elephant sugar cookies

When I saw this circus animal cookie recipe in Rosie’s new book, I knew I had to try ‘em. These babies are crispy and oaty, not too sweet (except i drenched them in glaze because I am a glaze-maniac – glaziac?) and generously splattered in non-pareil style rainbow sprinkles. Perfect for a circus party, sez me – or to sit around and crunch away on.

Frosted Circus Animal Cookies

2 dozen medium sized animal cookies

For The Cookies

  • 2¼ cups all purpose flour
  • 1 cup oat flour (I blended regular oats into flour using my food processor)
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 cup superfine sugar
  • 1 teaspoon lemon extract
  • 1 large egg

For The Glaze

  • 2½ cups icing sugar, sifted
  • 5-6 tablespoons of milk
  • pink food colouring
  • non pareil style rainbow sprinkles

Make The Cookies

  1. In a large bowl, whisk together the dry ingredients.
  2. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter and sugar on medium speed for 2 minutes.
  3. Add the egg and the lemon extract, beating until incorporated, about 1 minute.
  4. Reduce the mixer speed to the lowest setting and gradually add the flour mixture until just incorporated. Do not overmix.
  5. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap, pressing it into a large disc. (I divided the mix into two and had two discs).
  6. Refrigerate for 1 hour.
  7. Unwrap the chilled dough and put it on a large piece of parchment paper with a little flour for dusting if dough gets a bit sticky.
  8. Cut out animal shapes – I used elephant cookie cutters!
  9. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  10. Place cookies on prepared baking sheets about 1 1/2 inches apart. Freeze for 15 minutes.
  11. Bake until cookies are a light golden colour, about 18 minutes.
  12. Cool on baking sheets and let cool for 10 minutes.
  13. Carefully move cookies onto wire racks to cool completely before glazing.

Make The Glaze

  1. Place the icing sugar in a medium bowl.
  2. Slowly add the milk, one tablespoon at a time until you achieve desired consistency. I like my glaze a little thicker; if the glaze becomes too thin, add a little more icing sugar, a tablespoon at a time.
  3. Add a dab of pink gel colour if desired.
  4. Sprinkle away while the glaze is still wet!
  5. Let dry; cookies will keep in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 1 week.

circus animal elephant sugar cookies

Want to win your own copy of The Sweetapolita Bakebook? Leave a comment below with your FAVE GROCERY STORE JUNK FOOD! Winner picked at glorious random! CONTEST NOW CLOSED. Thanks to everyone who entered! You can also order Rosie’s beautiful book through a link on her website here! Congratulations, my sweet friend Rosie!! You rocked your cake book so hard, you are so inspiring – and you should be so very proud. xo Lyndsay

Donut Deny: Donut Sugar Cookies Are CUTE

edible flower donut sugar cookies

I forgot how to use my camera. I couldn’t find my mixing bowl. Did I even HAVE butter? Baking is my language and I stopped using it so I forgot how to speak. Goo goo gah gah? Where my mixing bowl at? Sprinkles, be damned – why are you buried under cereal and leftover maltballs and almond flour? Will my brain still work? Can I make something pretty?

donut sugar cookies recipe by coco cake land

It has been over two months since I’ve baked anything new! In fact I had no idea what I would bake, just that I had leftover cookie dough and an urge to get a little flour-y.

donut sugar cookies recipe by coco cake land

It’s kind of hard to resist the shape of a donut. Round perfect circles with that cute little life preserver hole. I made the cookies by using a large circle cookie cutter, and punching out the “donut hole” with the large circle side of a piping tip.

donut sugar cookies recipe by coco cake land

The weather has been fluctuating from spring-y sun blaster to torrential rain – yes, God – I get it – April showers bring May flowers n all that jazz… but the day I shot these donut sugar cookies, the sun was kind of perfect and it beamed through my white kitchen curtains, casting a soft glow. It was peaceful. I put on some tunes (ok, I ruined my mellow baking aura with some 90s bompin’ rap anthems) and started rolling out dough. Oven was on, baking sheets prepped. I looked through my cupboards for sprinkles and freeze dried raspberries.

edible flowers donut sugar cookies recipe

I found edible flowers in the herb section of the grocery store – so cute! So i bought a package. Edible pansies are really like eating lettuce. It is kind of weird to just pop one in your mouth. It’s neat that something so pretty and delicate and colourful is edible.

edible flowers donut sugar cookies recipe

It was fun dinking around with my camera again. And not caring that much but just going for it and having a little fun, making something pretty, sprinkling some stuff onto more stuff. Feeling a little more like myself and enjoying it. Donut deny the power of making. It beats sitting around feeling depressed (although I still have those days too!). The smell of sugar cookies baking and filling my kitchen – bottle THAT up and sell it, guys. Or dot it on your pillow for some sweet sweet dreams.

Simple Sugar Cookies

2 dozen donut shaped cookies

For The Cookies

Tried and true, this is Martha Stewart's recipe.
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for rolling
  • ½ teaspoon baking powder
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • ½  cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

For The Glaze

  • 2 cups of icing sugar
  • 5-6 tablespoons of whole milk
  • food colouring (optional)

Make The Cookies

  1. In large bowl, whisk flour, baking powder, and salt. With an electric mixer, cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in egg and vanilla. With mixer on low, gradually add flour mixture; beat until combined. Divide dough in half; flatten into disks. Wrap each in plastic; freeze until firm, at least 20 minutes, or place in a resealable plastic bag, and freeze up to 3 months (thaw in refrigerator overnight).
  2.  Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Line baking sheets with parchment. Remove one dough disk; let stand 5 to 10 minutes. Roll out 1/8 inch thick between two sheets of floured parchment, dusting dough with flour as needed. Cut shapes with cookie cutters. Using a spatula, transfer to prepared baking sheets. (If dough gets soft, chill 10 minutes.) Reroll scraps; cut shapes. Repeat with remaining dough.
  3.  Bake, rotating halfway through, until edges are golden, 10 to 18 minutes (depending on size). Cool completely on wire racks.

Ice The Cookies

  1. In a small bowl, mix the glaze, adding the milk a tablespoon at a time.
  2. If glaze is too runny, add a little more icing sugar – a little at a time. I like my glaze thick with a slow drip so mine tends to be heavier and less opaque.
  3. Add food colouring if desired.
  4. Using a spoon, spoon the glaze onto the cooled donut sugar cookie and using the back of the spoon, smoothing it along the cookie until completely covered.
  5. Add sprinkles, edible flowers and freeze dried fruit, or whatever dry ingredients you have around.
  6. Cookies will keep for up to 1 week in an airtight container at room temperature.

edible flowers donut sugar cookies recipe

PS – thanks to Craftsman and Wolves for the cookie inspo!

Cheetah Cake Cuteness + Children

buttercream cheetah cake by coco cake land

Meow mix! I made this buttercream cheetah cake for a sweet little girl named Shyloh, at her request of course. Man do I love kids. I’ve always thought they are hilarious. But maybe I actually love people at every age. The elderly fascinate me with their decades of stories, memory and history locked behind years of wrinkles and spotted hands. I envy innocent children and their outlook of the world, unbroken by shite or meanness or heartbreak, happy to run around and laugh or play with a rock or get dirty in a sandpit for hours. Teens with their awkwardness and gangly limbs and acne and can’t-keep-up acronym text-slang. Newborn babies even fascinate me with their ability to endlessly blast super gross poo into diapers and cry and NURSE from a mother’s breast.

Breastfeeding! It’s awesome. It’s free, it’s super nutritious, and those tender, going-mental 3 am feeds can be soothed by the gentle snuggle and quietude of a baby nursing, nourished by its own mother’s milk, gulping it down like a fat fish then conking out on top of you.

I could be mildly obsessed with breasts lately, forgive me – you think about what you might lose when you’re in the midst of breast cancer treatment.

buttercream cheetah cake by coco cake land

We have one beautiful, hilarious child and we had hoped for more. In fact, we had been trying to have another one for almost a year – Teddy was conceived very quickly, and my sisters are like fertile rabbits with no trouble conceiving – and I so wished to have a sibling for Teddy, as I grew up with two sisters and love them dearly.

Cancer’s been effing with me.

Once I start chemo my fertility will basically be fried. For some reason I imagine a sizzling frying pan of sunny side up eggs. Chemo’s going to fry up my egg follicles and I’ll be dry as a bone in the ovary department. Extreme bummer.

When I first got my diagnosis back in January, I was also given the news that due to the treatments I’d be receiving, it would be highly unlikely that I could have a baby later. So we frantically did a round of in vitro fertilization – IVF, they call it – science’s little miracle, with the incredible ability to help people who are having difficulty conceiving naturally to bring the sources together – egg and sperm – grow them into an embryo, and implant it surgically back into a uterus. Bonkers, right? I wasn’t going to have the embryo implanted of course, but we wanted to freeze embryos for later usage, after my cancer treatments were over. I was so hopeful! I imagined tiny little Teddys being created, stored on ice for five years, where we could retrieve those tiny babies and grow them later. Two weeks of injecting medication via needle into my stomach fat, debilitating fatigue and prayers for eggs. Egg extraction day arrives – and yes, they extract the eggs out of your lady parts. Then they fertilize the eggs with sperm and wait for them to grow. Every day you’re waiting on a phone call to see if your miniscule microscopic babies are still growing. By day four, only one embryo remained – and by day five, they had all seized. It all came crashing down on me – no more children. No more Teddys. It was such an emotionally painful experience. Maybe I had been too optimistic, too hopeful.

buttercream cheetah cake by coco cake land

In February I went through my surgery. Two weeks after my surgery, I met with my oncologist – and she felt that it would be ok to try IVF one more time – it would be the last attempt for me. So the results of this round will be very final. I may very well have no more biological children, which I admit is shattering. At the same time, having one little guy has been pretty great. Maybe we’ll get a dog in a few years and a couple of cats to fill out the house, or think about other options later. I’m crossing my fingers and knocking on wood for embryos to freeze – which is a very weird thought – I am living in an episode of Star Trek: Fertility Blaster right now. Infertility is pretty common – and a lot for women, their partners, and families, to deal with. It can feel shameful, or abnormal – but it needs to be met with openness, kindness, empathy and support.

This cute faced cheetah cake made me think of how hilarious kids are – an almost 5 year old kid being so specific and asking for a cheetah cake with a flower on its head? TOO CUTE.

Six months to Teddy’s third birthday and he’s already talking about his birthday cake. He said he wants a “brown bear cake” this year. His favourite colour is BROWN. His cousins sort of told him his favourite colour was brown a while back and he glomped on to it. He wants me to get a “brown motorbike and brown motorcycle helmet.” He asks everyone he meets – “do you like brown?” Also, he is obsessed with chocolate, and chocolate is brown … and he does love a good poo joke.

Yup. That’s my kid. Poo jokes and all…  xo Lyndsay

My Mom’s 70th Birthday High Tea Party

coco cake land high tea party

This is a belated post. This happened back in January but … if you are a reader of my blog you know that I’ve had a few things goin’ on lately! I LOVE going for high tea and so does my mom. Not that kind of high tea, guys. High as in… British! Fancy! Royal! Pinkies out and the sound of fine china tea cups lightly clinking against saucers, cream and sugar and steaming earl grey tea and plates and plates of small and sweet desserts and scones with clotted cream and raspberry jam and little tea sandwiches. I dream about going for high tea quite often… you only get one of each thing and you think, oh man, I could TOTALLY eat more than one lemon tart or open faced cucumber sandwich … but by the time you plow through the towers of dainty snacks, you are very satiated. So, in honour of my mom, we threw her a high tea party of her dreams!

raspberry sugar cookies

I made these crispy sweet and tart Craftsman and Wolves inspired sugar cookies – recipe coming soon!

macaron mania

I went wild making macaron – I was pretty much a crappy little novice at it but by the fourth batch I wasn’t doing too badly. I did a few fist-pumping booty shaking dance moves when these guys turned out like this, as above! Find my macaron mania post here with all the tips I found.

pink buttercream ruffle cake

I made a pretty in pink ruffly vintage look vanilla buttercream cake too – gotta have a CAKE for a birthday.

dessert table macarons cupcakes cake

Tower of dessert POWER slammed with three types of macarons, lemon tarts, cupcakes and cookies. My aunties also made hundreds of mini tea sandwiches to complete the high tea party feast.

high tea party

My beautiful mom, radiant at 70!!! I can hardly believe my mom is 70 years old. Then again, Asian genes dictate that us ladies will look good up until 80-ish, and then your looks plummet with a 1,000 foot drop. But hey – if I can look as good and be as healthy and strong as my mom at 70, I will be BLESSED, truly BLESSED. Up until last week I wasn’t sure if I would be making it to 40. Now, I am pleased to say that my surgery results came back and the tumour was fully removed, and the lymph nodes they took out tested negative for cancer, meaning it hasn’t spread anywhere. EFF YEAH! I still have chemo and radiation ahead but I am looking forward to blasting through that part of my treatment … and grab my life back by the gonads once this is all over.

To my mom: 70 years of making planet Earth a better place. I love you so much mom and am shooting-star lucky to have you in my life. PS thanks for giving birth to me too. Hehe! xo Lyndsay 

Still Coco Cake

fresh flower cupcakes - coco cake land

Kinda like “Still Dre” but with more cake – I am still me.

I am still here.

While it’s true that I have not had the energy or desire to bake in the last six weeks, I still think about it. I’m so used to shopping weekly for blocks and blocks of rectangular pounds of butter, flats of eggs and cartons of heavy cream.

I am recovering well from my surgery – and I am, to use a very strange and onomatopoeic word, utterly FLABBERGASTED at the amount of kindness, well wishes, sweet words, uplifting power vibes, love and good energy from so many wonderful friends, family, blog readers, strangers… it has truly lifted my spirits. I’ve watched more TV and Julia Roberts movies than I can bear right now (not quite – give me a more perfect movie than Pretty Woman please!?? No, you can’t)… and lying around has seriously started hurting my bum.

fresh flowers and berries - coco cake land

So yes. I am still here. I’ll be posting some cakes in the coming weeks too, ones I haven’t yet had a chance to post. Keeping the blog alive, a light sprinkle of blogging here and there. Right now I am SO keen to have this whole cancer bullshit over with so I can move on, regain my physical strength, and work up my mind, body and spirit to get back to my precious cake book!!!, to my life, to having a carefree picnic with my husband and son, a massive spread of delicious snacks and the sun on our faces. I am willing that time to come.

So thank you for being my crutches, my cane. The tender words to hold me up. I’m grateful for every word, every gesture!

Still Coco Cake – still Dre. Still here!

floral buttercream cake - coco cake land

In Memory Of My Poh Poh

pohpoh and lyndsay

I lost my beloved grandmother on Monday – she passed away peacefully, quietly, in her hospital bed, with my mom and dad by her side. She was 92.5 years old – sooo close to 100, poh poh! I would joke with her about reaching 100. “Come on, poh poh! Only 8 more years!” and she’d frown at me with a “Hell no!” expression.

2015 so far has been a real piece of work.

However, in between the piles of poo that my family has been swimming through, there is respite – we hang on to the side of the poo pool for a moment and there is still laughter, beauty, a pretty vase of flowers, a good snack. There is love and happiness. There is kindness from friends and kindness from strangers. There are jokes to be made and jokes to be laughed at. Then, we slip back in, front stroke, index finger first into the poo sludge, swimming upstream against tears and sorrow, fear and anxiety. But I know as we swim against the tide we will eventually get through.

I know not everyone is as close to their grandmother as I was. Sometimes grandmas live far away, in other countries or states or provinces. Or maybe they live in the same cities but their lives are far removed from ours – while we bustle around busy-bee style, cramming as much as we can into 16 hours of daytime, rushing from playdates to meetings to work to coffee with friends or out for a dinner at a new restaurant, the oldies are chilling. Tea time and entertainment at 3pm, dinner at 5pm. Turtle-stroll with walker back to the room, still able to undress and get into nightgowns and creak into bed while the sun has just set, leaving streaks of dusk in the sky.

I miss my poh poh so much.

She was born in a house just a few blocks from where I live now, in Vancouver. The house still stands – a few years ago it was painted a dark navy blue. I can walk by and look up and still see my grandma’s bedroom window, stained glass. It amazes me that this was her house and I always wish it was mine now – but it would be impossible to own at this point. My poh poh told me she always wished she lived in Chinatown, which was where all her friends were – instead she lived close to Commercial Drive, a mostly Italian-populated neighborhood. Her mother died when my poh poh was only four years old, and her dad eventually remarried a stepmother whom my poh poh was not close to.

Photos of my grandmother as a young woman – so tidily and smartly put together, so slim and pretty, ivory pale skin and a wry smile. My poh poh was a lover of books, and a librarian, and a writer in secret. She had written a 300 page book about her family but ended up burning it because she didn’t want to offend anyone. She was an incredible cook – Chinese dishes and “regular” dishes. Dinner at her house meant steamed pork and rice and vegetables and piles of hot noodles, or meat pie with peas and carrots and ketchup. She made lemon meringue pies, her famous Christmas time only chocolate chip butterscotch cookies and cherry flips. She also loved the ease of Jello and Cool Whip, and frozen raspberries and ice cream. She was a feminist before her time, quick witted and very funny beneath the graceful skirt-suit exterior. Deeply loyal and was not one to mince words.

She had one child – my mom, Linda. From Linda came her three granddaughters – my sisters and I – and subsequently, six great grandchildren. Not a bad haul. She loved each of us so much, in her own way. She tolerated my changing hair colours, piercings, tattoos and my changing views of the world. She bought me Doc Martens if that’s what I wanted, Archie comics, Sassy magazine. Nan Goldin books for my birthday. She tried teaching me how to sew (she was an amazing seamstress) but I sucked at it … but she showed me how to make cherry flips and how to use a mixmaster. She gave me my own mixer, my pink Kitchen Aid, as a wedding present in 2007. Without that Kitchen Aid, Coco Cake Land would not have become what it is today – (um, a tiny one woman operation of baking insanity)… She supported and accepted everything my sisters and I did and was so very proud of us.

She was a breast cancer survivor. I never told her I had breast cancer – she went into the hospital shortly after my diagnosis, and never came out. I visited her and held her frail hand while the sun streamed in her hospital room window. She died on her own terms with her daughter and son-in-law by her side. My sisters and I got there soon after she had passed and we sat with her body. It was very hard to leave. The sun was setting outside, glints of gold on the puffy cherry blossoms of the season. It seemed right that it had been a beautiful spring day. Death, rebirth of her spirit. Rising up and meeting my grandfather, I can imagine how tightly they hugged, reunited after 12 years apart.

I will miss my poh poh so much. But I was very lucky to have known such a cool woman, a woman who helped shape the person I’ve become.

raspberry buttercream birthday cake

pohpoh_lyndsay_cake

My poh poh and I, with the raspberry buttercream cake I made her for her 91st birthday – the last cake I made her, as we were away for her 92nd birthday.

Rest peacefully poh poh – I love you!