Cake Pops for the Cause

This is the most important post I’ve written yet. Frosting for the Cause* is an amazing project, conceived and produced by the tireless Paula Kelly-Bourque, whose goal is to raise awareness and funds for fighting women’s cancers. For one year, bloggers from all over the world each commit to dedicating one post to her project, and for that post we bake a batch of something yummy and donate it to our local hospice. We also pledge to make a financial donation to a cancer organisation.

I signed up months ago, but had to wait for my ‘date’ to come up. Finally here, I baked up a batch of cheery chocolate cake pops and wrote a post dedicated to the memory of my mother and to the battle my aunt is currently fighting. The post is up now, so please head over to Paula’s fabulous site to read it and pass it on…*

* Update June 2013: It seems the Frosting for the Cause site is no longer up and running. I was unable to retrieve Paula’s fabulous introduction or the wonderful comments people left, but have included the content of the original post below:

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I found Frosting for the Cause via my blogger friend Lora the Mad Hausfrau, who is a repeat-contributor. Having lost my mother to cancer, I absolutely wanted to be a part of this.

My mom was 47 when she was diagnosed with malignant melanoma. My parents sheltered us ‘kids’ from the truth of the diagnosis – they let us believe that she had a chance of survival – but we were later told that the doctor had been brutally honest with her from day one. He told her, point blank, that she ‘would not live to see her next birthday.’ He may have been a bastard to be so blunt, but he was right. She died on March 26th, 1993, just two weeks before she would have turned 48.

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After she died I often wondered why she had put herself through the hell of chemo when she knew it wouldn’t save her. And I promised myself that if I ever got such a diagnosis, I would just try to live my remaining days as best I could. But I was young then, and very naïve. And I wasn’t yet a mom.

Fast forward 18 years and now I’m a 41 year-old mother of two. Every year that goes by, as I inch closer to the age my mom was when she died, I grow increasingly afraid. I understand even better the hell my mom must have endured, knowing she was going to leave us, and why she would grab at any chance they gave her to live just a little longer. And I am ever more aware of how very young 47 really is.

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I could write a book about my mom –an English ‘rose’ who married an Arab ‘prince’ and ran away with him to live in the desert for 10 years. About how brave and beautiful and funny and loving and generous and strong she was. About the emotional black hole she left behind her, that has repeatedly threatened to pull our family apart. About the day I ran out of a bridal shop in tears because all the other brides-to-be had their moms with them and I was alone. And about the most gut-wrenching pain of all, that literally brought me to my knees: when I had to take my babies to her grave to ‘introduce’ them to her.

One day I will. But not today. Because, sadly, I now need to talk about someone else.

Since signing up to do Frosting for the Cause, I learned that my Aunt Caroline has been diagnosed with breast cancer.

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Caroline is my young aunt – I was a flower girl at her wedding in 1971, having only just learned to walk. She used to dance ballet and is graceful, beautiful and vivacious. She’s a wonderful wife, mother and grandmother, and a whirlwind of activity – always doing things for everyone else, even now.

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She started chemo last month and, last week, after her hair starting falling, buzzed her head. She now sports the warrior’s ‘do’ and is ready for a fight. Luckily, although she has an aggressive form of breast cancer, her prognosis is optimistic. She’s got a tough road ahead but we have every hope that she’ll be fine, and we’re all walking it with her, even from ‘across the pond’.**

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I wanted to bake something special for this post, something that would be new for me. I also wanted it to be something fun, and would put smiles on the faces of the people who receive it. I settled on cake pops because, well just look at them. They’re almost annoyingly happy and peppy – the dessert equivalent of cheerleaders. Perfect.

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Little did I know how much work they are. There’s a very good reason most cake pop recipes (including the ‘original’ post from Bakerella, which I followed) suggest you use boxed cake mixes and store-bought frosting: baking the cake is nothing compared to what comes next.

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I did bake a cake from scratch, using my BFF Claudia’s recipe for Brazilian ‘Nega Maluka’ chocolate cake. It worked brilliantly, because it’s not overly sweet, is on the dry side (good crumbs) and the recipe makes a double-sized cake. I needed that much because I had 80 cake pops to make. Time to call in reinforcements, for both manual labour and quality control.

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It took us two days, from start to finish, and I will most likely never make these again. But the results were fabulously cheerful and I was happy to donate them to the folks at the Florence Nightingale Hospice at Stoke Mandeville Hospital in Aylesbury. I purposefully made enough for the staff as well as the patients, because the work they do is incredible and, although rewarding in many ways, undoubtedly very, very hard. I gave my £25 donation to Cancer Research UK, in the hopes that their work will help fewer people need hospice in future. If you live in the UK, please consider supporting them too. Thank you.

In closing, I’d like to leave you with a dual image, one that represents two faces of cancer. A daisy, my mom’s favourite flower, for remembrance and the famous pink ribbon for awareness and hope.

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** Update June 2013: Sadly, Aunt Caroline died last year, just a year after her diagnosis. She was amazing and ‘ran until she dropped’, squeezing every last drop out of life. We were lucky to have spent time with her last summer on the lake where she had lived since childhood, and where she eventually passed on peacefully in her bed, with a view of the water.

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