This cake is so bright in colour, joyful, and I loved making it, hoping it would put a smile on the recipient’s face. But now when I look at pictures of it, I can’t help but have tears in my eyes. I made it for John, on his 41st birthday, just two and a half months ago. John passed away this past week on September 1st, one year after being diagnosed with a rare and aggressive form of cancer – sinonasal undifferentiated carcinoma. John was a dear friend of my sister’s, and the decades-long best friend of her husband, so I knew John over many years, but not closely – I’d see him at a party or at my sister’s house. It was only after his cancer diagnosis that we became friends via email, as those diagnosed with cancer often do – you tend to gravitate towards each other, grasping through the haze and daze of fear, strength, doubt, sickness, hope.
In our emails he would always ask ME how I was doing, even though I knew he wasn’t feeling well himself. I would check in with him and see how he was feeling, or try to send messages of encouragement. He once told me he was inspired by me and happy to see how strong I was feeling. I remember crying after reading this, just so hopeful that he would be okay.
The last time I saw him was just after he was diagnosed, and we ran into each other at the cancer agency. I was in for my daily radiation appointment and he was there with his wife Trixie. He was a tall man, dark haired, athletic, handsome, and I recognized him immediately through a sea of shell-shocked patients. We hugged, with tears in our eyes. Why us? A shared fear and a sense of support. The unknown can be a gutting place. I have always admired Trixie too – strong, blunt, funny and beautiful. John was such an awesome person, adored by so many. I remember him being easy going, incredibly likeable, the type of person you like to be around. He was a powerhouse athlete – a star basketball player, and in more recent years, a marathon runner – he qualified for, and ran the Boston Marathon only three years ago. He was an amazing husband, and incredible father to three growing boys.
Rest in peace, John. You will be missed by so many friends and loved ones. To read more about John, visit here. To support John’s family and contribute towards a fund dedicated to the future education and endeavours of his three sons, please visit Support John Dumont. xo Lyndsay
Have you ever finished decorating a cake and you step back and you SQUEAL LIKE A TEENAGED GIRL AT A SLUMBER PARTY because you’ve fallen deep in love with your own creation?? But then you CRY INSIDE when you have to give it up even though you wish you could shellac it, mount it on the wall, snuggle it like a favourite stuffie. Take it for a walk and feed it. Anyhoo. This cutie beauty drippy cake is certainly one of my new favourites, made for my sweet pal Phanie’s son Moses. I love her post about his party, and his birthday, and about him. I love the emphasis on simplicity, doing just what the kid wants.
I’ve always been a fan of vibrant colour – I sure love how the bright hue of that teal buttercream, and how the shiny crispy fancy candy shines on top of the cake!
I’ve been doing trades with Phanie for years now – cakes for photos. It’s my favourite kind of bartering. She did my recent set of photos and she also wrote this about me on her own blog – sheesh. What a lady.
Look at this sweetness – photos taken by Phanie. Sunny Spring day, green grass, fresh air and a gaggle of close friends, smiles and laughter. It is pure magic how a cake suddenly elevates anything into a celebration to remember.
Happy 7th birthday, Momo! And thank you Phanie for your friendship! I am lucky to know such a caring, hilarious and thoughtful soul.
On Monday I had my final herceptin IV treatment at the cancer agency. I had been counting down from 17 and it was finally the last one. For months prior, in my head I imagined what the day might be like – happy, jubilant, free. I had wanted to throw a huge backyard party loaded with balloons, flowers and cake. I had an idea for this “Fuck Cancer Cake” post, a companion piece to my breast cancer cakes. But then, when Monday rolled around, I felt altogether different. I was sitting in the chemo chair, trying to feel brave as the nurse counted to three before poking the needle into the port bump on my chest, my bionic body part. I kept looking at my husband for reassurance of some kind. The medicine began flowing in and my mouth filled with the taste of it – the last time I would taste that?? My last IV. But there was no feeling of joy or freedom that I had imagined. Instead I found myself feeling… numb. Then just… petrified all over again. A dam broke, and the tears came pouring out. It didn’t help that the two women also receiving chemo across from me were both in for recurrences. I held onto Rich’s hand and sobbed.
“Ijust want this all to be over. I don’t ever want to come back here.”
My IV bag emptied into the hole in my chest, the nurse pulled the needle out and I got a band-aid to cover it up. We got out of the cancer agency and I came home to beautiful white hydrangeas from Rich and carrot cake with cream cheese frosting, my request. When we pulled into the driveway, Teddy was waiting for us with his nanny Cor and his smile was huge – I scooped him up and told him mommy just had her last “special medication appointment!” and I tried to feel happy. We ordered dinner from our favourite pizza place and did a small toast between the three of us. My mom came by with pink peonies and my sister dropped off a bouquet and treat.
We put Teddy to bed at dusk. I laid in Rich’s arms while he allowed me to sob into his chest. I couldn’t stop crying. I think I had been keeping it together and feeling strong and good for a few months now. But now with the final treatment I could finally let go. I cried for those who weren’t finished treatment and might never be finished. I cried out of worry, fear. I felt so overwhelmed and inarticulate. I cried out of relief that I was finished but still uncertain of whether or not all of this treatment has worked. I cried thinking about how much I love my husband and son and how I never want to leave them. And then I just decided to let those feelings be. Sometimes I can’t wrap my feelings up into a succinct idea or thought or expression. I don’t know when I will feel whole again. So instead, for now, on a teensy minuscule piece of the internet… a Fuck Cancer cake. xo Lyndsay
Seniors Are Cool: Shako Club + Mini Cupcakes Decorating Workshop
I got new photos taken. Mostly because I felt like I was living a hair lie with the long and flowing locks in my old pics. And then also because I’ve been feeling like a fresh little daisy of life. Like perhaps I’ve been born anew lately. Things feel like they’re looking up as I veer along towards my final IV treatment for breast cancer. I filmed my first ever online cake class for Craftsy (a post on that coming soon!). I’ve been feeling healthy and fit with my once-a-day(ish) gym regime. I’ve been getting more fun little work projects which involve my favourite things – baking, styling and photographing. Life with Rich and Teddy feels loving and good. One final needle poke into my chest, where my ugly bump of a port is, while they pump in medicine that is hopefully tracking down and murdering any stray cancer cells. Please God let it be over. Please Goddess let it be done.
But no more talk of that, because look: I’m sprinkling lil sprinklies onto a cake!!
I’m so happy with these photos. My beautiful pal Stephanie of The Pauhaus took them. She is a breath of fresh air, a starburst of talent and creativity. Plus she is an incredible mom to three little turds (she calls them the shitstains) and I’m in awe of that. She wears and writes her heart deeply raw on her sleeve and that’s been inspiring to me – the insane ups and deep downs of motherhood, family and relationships. Like I wish I had the balls to splay it out there as openly and honestly as she does. The photos were taken in my home kitchen where I work and create all of my cakes.
FROZEN IN TIME CANDY PLACEMENT.
WHY SO SERIOUS!?? WHY BE NORMAL!?? (you gotta love that Why Be Normal bumper sticker.)
BECAUSE I LIFT WEIGHTS I could do this photo. This is not for the weakling-armed. This is some Chinese Lady Popeye spinach-munching business.
I’m a serious baker. I’m a serious person. I am actually the opposite of both of those things. But I’m wearing my favourite apron, that is the truth.
K. You’ve looked the other way for a bit. Look THIS way now. Yes, look!
Because you went to art school, hold up this vase in front of your face. ART!!! (I love these gorgeous wild and wonderful flowers by Our Little Flower Company!) But seriously I love a good flower face pic.
Moody cakey times.
If your face resembles a Chinese Pumpkin, you may as well laugh about it. FLAUNT THE PUMPKIN. Thank you so much Phanie for snapping these pics for me! You are a magical unicorn and I truly admire you! xo Lyndsay
Oh, the glorious beauty of the drip. My first experience with the drip was years ago, seeing this beautiful dark chocolate raspberry cake by Rosie of Sweetapolita. What makes the drip so appealing? I love its artful streaks, and the drama of the drip – it certainly has a painterly quality, a nod to modern art. And of course, the Australians brought the drip to worldwide attention – Katherine Sabbath (have you read my interview with Kat? It’s a goodie!) and Nikki of Unbirthday Bakery are two of the women who helped kick off the drip cake revolution – I swoon over their insanely colourful cakes, bursting with chocolate shards, meringues, buttercream dollops, sprinkles and fresh flowers in a rainbow of colours.
I’ve made a few drip cakes in the last few years too – notably this birthday beauty, which was my homage to Katherine Sabbath, and then this chocolate peanut butter and jam drip cake! I hadn’t ever coloured white chocolate ganache before – I had tried it once and my ganache completely separated and looked like barf- white chocolate ganache behaves differently than my usual ganache recipe, I have since learned! I made this vanilla bean buttercream pink drippy ganache cake for my wonderful friend Phanie of the Pauhaus! I loooove how she styled the party for her mom’s 60th birthday!
Here are my top tips for how to make a drip cake:
1. Treat your ganache gently. Use high quality white chocolate such as these white chocolate “wafers” – set 1/2 a cup of them in a small, shallow bowl. In a small sturdy saucepan, heat up 1/4 cup of heavy cream to a low boil, being very careful not to scald it. Carefully pour the hot cream over the white chocolate, making sure the chocolate is covered by the cream – let this sit for ten minutes undisturbed. Then, using a small wire whisk, slowly mix together until a creamy ganache forms. Add a tiny amount of gel food colouring to achieve a coloured ganache – I used Americolor electric pink.
2. You want to cool your ganache down enough to make it “drip-able.” If you used it straight away, it would be too hot and would melt the buttercream, plus it would be way too runny. You want the consistency to be thick enough to drip but not too thick that it’s set and won’t drip at all. I like to power-chill my ganache in the freezer for about 15 minutes.
3. Once your ganache has cooled down, test out the dripping consistency using a small spoon. If it’s still very runny and warm to the touch, chill it for a few more minutes until it’s cooled down.
4. Work on a cake that has been chilled. This way, the buttercream is set and you avoid any chance of a warm ganache melting your buttercream.
5. If you want to have more controlover your drips:apply the drips first, one by one, with a small spoon. Using a cake turntable might be useful here – turning the cake as you go around it applying the drips. LESS IS MORE when first applying the drips – start with a tiny amount, say 1/4 teaspoon, and watch how far the drip travels – if you want a longer drip, add a little more ganache to the top of the drip – if you want a shorter drip, use a smaller amount of ganache on your spoon for the next drip.
6. Once you’ve applied each drip with a spoon, then you will want to cover the top of the cake with ganache. Pour the ganache a small amount at a time to the centre of the top of the cake, carefully using an offset spatula to gently coax the ganache to the edges without dripping down.
7. Love the wildcard look of ganache drips falling wherever they may? Simply pour the ganache on the top of a chilled cake, and use your offset spatula to spread it to the edges – and let the drips fall over the sides of the cake! Beautiful chaos!
8. Before you add anything on top of your drippy top, make sure the ganache has set first – you can set it by power-chilling it in the fridge or freezer for 15-20 minutes. Once your ganache is set, you can pipe little blobettes of buttercream on top, add fresh edible flowers (such as garden pansies, pictured!) and fresh fruit. The decorating possibilities are endless!
Are you on the drip cake train?? My favourite drip cakes:
I love Cakes by Cliff - SO artfully pretty, he is an office worker by day and a cake designer by hobby – he was the first person I saw doing an upside down drip! Clever!
My pal Jenn of Bakedown Cakery – her drips are the most symmetrical I’ve seen and she loves loads of colour, chocolate and florals for toppers.
Balance. A tense, tip-toe walk on a tight rope pulled taut, between two buildings, holding onto a pole. Working through the changes in my body, the build up of white chalky pills disintegrating down my throat, tiny particles floating and clinging to invisible cells, maybe doing their job, maybe not. I feel like tamoxifen is drying me out like leathery old skin left to bake in the sun.
Balance – I had a spurt of creative energy last week. I baked macarons, this crazy rainbow cake, and stayed up late icing rainbow and ice cream cone sugar cookies til my eyes blurred. I have so many projects to work on, yet I just needed to make something purely for fun.
The balance between expending energy for work projects or purely creative pursuits or DRUMMING (I’ve become obsessed with drumming these days – just the urge to bang on things and play loud music too) and making meals, grocery shopping, keeping the house tidy-ish and giving all my love to my son and husband and trying to stay mentally well and physically moderately-fit, plus social friend times or family celebrations or dinners, and then that continual messy house thing… which always makes me want to Marie Kondo the crap out of our house and just purge, purge, purge, and give away 80% of my son’s toys… Wanting to do more in every aspect of my life. And then always, in the back of my mind, continually conscious of the fact that my cancer could recur. Every day I come to the acceptance that I can’t do enough or everything or do all the things I’d like to do for my home, family, work and self. It’s a daily reminder, a daily acceptance.
Balance. I’ve been continuing to lace up my pink runners to sweat it out at the gym. I’ve been kale-ing up my diet (along with handfuls of gummy candy, sheesh). I’ve been reading lots (Lucky Peach, Barbara Pym, I read the first Elena Ferrante Neopolitan novel…) and just trying to keep the laughs alive. Balance – how do you achieve it? How do you keep from going mental? xo Lyndsay
Cupcakes and Shadows
by tag - not 0, greater than 1
Fun and Easy Birthday Cakes: Playful Animals – Gettin’ Craftsy!
The days are long but the years are fast… isn’t that what they say about having kids? My little Teddy is growing up so fast. I think it’s a pain in every mother’s heart to watch it all go by so quickly, yet still so painfully, fatigue-inducingly slow. I remember when my sweet nephew Brody was born – the first grandchild of our family – the love! I never knew you could love a nephew or a niece like that. It’s after Brody was born, and he was such a sweet cool little dude, so easygoing … when I thought – well geez, maybe I could have a kid, too!
Want to see the first fondant cake I ever made? Well it was for Brody’s 1st birthday party, a Totoro themed mega bash. My sisters and I, and my husband Rich, spent days preparing, creating felt backdrops and mini Totoros and banner, and I made a Totoro themed cake and many cupcakes to match. That cake was made with lots of love – but holy crikey, looking back at it – deep pain! I remember being so nervous covering the cake with fondant, my first time doing so. Now I’ve got it down to a mild science – but I remember those sweating palms, and tearing the fondant, and shouting a lot of expletives. But that’s the beauty of starting somewhere!
Sixth and seventh birthdays I can’t remember, oops. Hehe! My intention this year was to make him something a little more spectacular but my energy can plummet like a valley from hell so I went with simple, sweet and cute light blue buttercream vanilla lightly based on Super Mario Kart cupcakes…. and a few kawaii star paper toppers. Plus this fat puffy yellow star with the kawaii eyes…
My sis Leanne aka Gyoza Girl Eats is an amazing mama. Three kids, and I remember when she had Brody, Tanner and Piper three children under the age of 3. Bonkers. But she works so hard, and has raised three super cute, sweet, thoughtful and smart (ok, also occasionally wildly insane) children. One day hopefully those little monkeys will look back and think, damn, I had a cool Auntie who loved me! Both my sisters support me in everything I do, and have been here for me through the ups and downs of life. I’m so lucky to have my sisters! xo Lyndsay
We all gathered for Chinese food for my mom’s 71st birthday last week at New Town Bakery, where the bau sits nestled and warm in huge steamers, the staff run around in bright orange shirts (that matches the decor) and the jook runs freely, piping hot. You can peek into the kitchen to see 6-8 Chinese cooks in white paper hats standing at stations, the clang of giant utensils against woks mixed with the hot steam of frying in the air.
I brought this cute and frilly pink cake to New Town and we sang happy birthday amongst the cluttered dishes and balled up soiled napkins and general chaos of having six kids under 7 out for dinner. We sang Happy Birthday loudly and proudly, the server brought a set of mismatched plates from the 80s and a giant serrated knife for the cake.
A few days later, my husband and I celebrated our 9 year wedding anniversary on January 13th, also marking 15 years together as a couple. WHAT!? Yes, our relationship is like a pimply teen, stretching its gangly legs towards adulthood. A decade and a half and its flown by like changing channels, these are the days of our lives. Naturally, we went to see Star Wars: The Force Awakens to celebrate.
Here are my thoughts, which I’ve decided to randomly share like a teen YouTuber doing a reaction video, on my cake blog. STAR WARS SPOILER ALERT, nerds! Back away! SPOILER ALERT!
Rey. Damn, she is awesome. Whip-smart, powerful, strong – the one scene in the whole movie that made me choke up is when she hears the young child crying, and she follows the voice down the stairs and discovers it’s her own memory of being abandoned as a young girl. Since then, she’s fended for herself in the dry desert landscape of Jakku, spending full hard-labour days scavenging metal and parts from old ships to trade for meal portions. I love the look of that space-future vacuum-packed food portion she receives, and you feel her hunger, her thirst. PLEASE PLEASE don’t have her captured and chained up in a Jabba the Hutt-induced slutty slave costume in future movies. PLEASE JUST LET HER BE COOL and feminist and not sexualize her.
Man, Star Wars has a lot of sadness. Dead parents, abandoned children, children taken from families to be trained to kill as storm troopers. I asked Rich afterward, how are storm troopers not totally depressed? What do they have to live for, why do they even get up every morning? Or do they live out of fear? Do they have any teensy glimpses of happiness at all? I guess they’re basically suicide bombers, their only reason to be is to kill. In the movie, they do get blasted and pegged off like swatting flies and their lives are shown to be meaningless. I hate how easily and non-chalantly people (even the bad guys) are killed in movies.
Finn. Love it. A deserter, and he steps up to be a rad character. Also, he’s not white. The whole movie is racially diverse (and creature-diverse!) and gender-diverse, everyone just chit-chatting away with each other and flying X-wing fighters and dinking around behind computer screens – gals, guys everyone competent. From a very base level approach, if I were a young girl or boy watching this movie, it would appear to me that anyone and everyone can do anything – the women can annihilate, fly planes, slide down giant sand hills, kick serious storm trooper ass and it’s natural and normal for either gender. Of course Han Solo has some incredulousness towards Rey’s abilities but it’s sort of like new order trumps old order – in this Star Wars, it’s the white gal, the black guy and the giant furry oversized bear-dog that cruises off into the galaxy as the heroes.
I liked how the dialogue wasn’t boringly serious but had some real zingers. Overall the movie had a campy feel, almost veering on Spaceballs – like when Kylo Ren loses his MIND after Rey escapes and is slashing the place up with his glowing red man-stick and it shows the hallway with two storm troopers about to come into the room and then realizing Kylo Ren’s having a spazz attack and being like – Oh hell no, and backing away…
Leia. Sadly, General Organa kind of sucked. I didn’t feel her General-ness, and I found Carrie Fisher’s acting to be stiff as a board; her acting was so glaringly bad against Harrison Ford’s effortless Han Solo. Yes, older woman can be powerful (She’s a General!), sexy (Han’s love interest), strong (General!), motherly (aching for the loss of her son, also motherly to Rey). I was getting a community amateur theatre vibe from her bad acting and to me it stuck out like a sore thumb.
Han Solo. SPOILER ALERT, nerds! I’m still in shock! Nooooo! Why kill off the coolest vintage character? Every time he’s on the screen, there’s some jazzy funny dialogue or he’s goofing with his main squeeze Chewie or just being altogether charismatic. Now who is going to stop horrible Kylo Ren? Wood board Leia?? Kylo Ren is beyond a jerk to me now! I felt some empathy for him when he removed his helmet for Rey. But not now. Argh. Also, as my friend Steph and I noted: THE BRIDGE. DON’T GET ON THAT CRAZY ASS SKINNY BRIDGE WITH THE 1000 FOOT DROP AND NO SIDE RAILINGS.
Chewbacca. Guy can do a lot with howling. I felt like he should’ve been a LOT more sad and in deeper pain after Han. Same with Leia!! The love of your life is gone! One forlorn look off in the distance is not good enough!
Poe Dameron. Dude’s voice is like smooth chocolate by a warm fireplace spread with a bearskin rug. I feel like he was lit BEAUTIFULLY like a matinee idol in those first scenes! I clapped when his character came back. Obviously I knew he couldn’t be dead yet but still, the clap came. Side note: I’ve come across some very interesting fan art featuring Poe and Finn smooching and more. LOVE IT!
BB-8. Thank GOD for this cute little guy! The round and chubby little droid that could provides some cuteness relief from all the terror. He’s the loyal dog.
C-3PO. As annoying as ever! I’ve never liked him. He’s the Big Bird of Star Wars! His only redeeming quality is that he’s shiny gold in colour.
The orange wrinkly fish faced lady Maz Kanata. I get that she’s supposed to be the wise black reggae free-bird lady, a motherly figure, a strong female presence to encourage and guide Rey. Yoda-ish? Her and Yoda could get married and have babies, some green, some orange.
Captain Phasma. A terribly boring character with a wickedly cool outfit, and a bummer that she is relegated to a trash compactor joke…
The big freaky hologram Tales From The Crypt guy. Ugh, just ugh. Pure evil! Andy Serkis has certainly pigeon-holed himself as far as roles. Gollum gone giant and WAY more evil.
The entire set design and production was so amazing, so 80s, so perfectly in line with the original Star Wars movies. All I remember about The Phantom Menace etc was the booooring long over-explanatory dialogue and the lack of good story. The Force Awakens was just simply a FUN movie with a good old fashioned story with characters you can glomp onto and invest in and fall in love with. I know, I know – it’s also a bloated capitalist BILLION DOLLAR MARKETING POT BELLIED PIG MACHINE and it’s disturbing how omnipresent it has become in our culture, product and merchandising ram-jammed down our throats. But if you go into it with open arms, a child’s heart and the hope that you might simply be entertained, you certainly will be.
And back to my beloved mom… She babysat Teddy for us so Rich and I could sneak off for a night of romance a.k.a. go to Metrotown to see the new Star Wars in 3-D. I was even too full to get popcorn. Every year on our anniversary, I like to bring out our wedding photo albums and guest book, and look through the stack of photo booth pictures Rich and I have taken through the years – from our first photo strip, as smooth baby-faced early 20-somethings, through a range of haircuts, styles, facial hair, glasses, no glasses, wrinkles, grey hairs and present day ones with the addition of Teddy. I had read our guest book earlier in the day and noticed that my mom had never signed our wedding guest book! So she signed it when we were at the movies, and here’s the last line:
“Love you both! Happy happy anniversary, Love Mom!