THE END?! IS IT REALLY OVER?! FINAL SUGAR HIGH: ROUND 50 – GOOD LUCK NEW YEAR’S CAKE

me, katy, & anna

cake decorations courtesy of dean & rita

model friends russell & mary claire

kathleen’s 1st cakebarring !

djs sparkle city

cake takers from flagstaff & san diego

ginny & john toast the new year

For this final cake of 2013, I found a recipe for vassilopita, a Greek New Year’s cake that includes a coin for good luck– whoever ends up with the piece containing the coin is supposed to have a lucrative year. My friend Erin dissuaded me from including an actual coin in the cake to eliminate the possibility of an unknowing stranger choking on it. This was wise; it would have been a terrible way to go out with an otherwise positive project.

A bunch of my wonderful Nashville friends and I met up at The Stone Fox on New Year’s Eve to celebrate my 50th round of cakebarring. Katy, my cakemate for Round 1 and so many rounds since, was there, along with some of my oldest friends: Kathleen, Rita, Russell, Mary Claire, Anna, and Ginny and John, who unknowingly hosted Round 2 at their moving away party back when I was too nervous to let people on to what I was doing. Rita and her sweet boyfriend Dean even brought 50th cake decorations, with a tiny “50″ tiara for my head. The Stone Fox was the perfect place to spend New Year’s, a cozy converted house with booths, big tables, a twinkly bar, and a stage for that night’s DJ special Sparkle City. But between the dancing and the drinking and the running into people we all seemed to know from growing up, there wasn’t actually that much cake given out. I gave one giant piece to a friendly group visiting from Flagstaff and San Diego, and a few pieces away to friends from elementary and high school. I tried to catch a group in the middle of an impromptu photo shoot on the stage, assuming they were my kind of people. “We’re alcoholics,” the guy said, “so we really can’t have any cake.” The pretty girl with him told me she was getting married in 12 days and had sworn off sweets. “You look amazing!” I told her. “Thanks, girlfriend!” she said, and high fived me.

Katy turned to me, somewhere before or after midnight. “It doesn’t even matter that we didn’t give out that much cake,” she said. “It’s that all these people know about the blog and wanted to join you.” For someone who spent a lot of my growing up time feeling excluded and eccentric, this was a very very sweet thing to say. Maybe this is why cakebarring has turned into more than just a boy baiting project; Chrissy has referred to it as more of a hospitality movement.

It’s definitely been one sugar high of a time, y’all.

I started this project on this day of last year hoping I might find a boyfriend by baking a cake every weekend and taking it to a bar. To say it didn’t work wouldn’t be totally accurate. There’s no boyfriend, but it’s not like nothing came of all this craziness.

cake number who knows…

This baking caking barhopping mission has forced me to evolve into this kind of grown up who’s more confident, a better writer, and hopefully more culinarily inclined. Before last year, I had never felt comfortable in bars. I was just this person who loved baking birthday cakes for my friends and wanted to write. And I was also really tired of being single. So 50 cakes, 41 bars, and 5 billion calories later, I’m proud of myself for making an effort to take my dating life into my own hands by embarking on this insane baking spree, willing myself into bar after bar, and approaching people I was interested in talking to. I went on almost as many dates as I have in the past 26 years combined, building up an impressive collection of phone numbers and text messages from guys I met in bars while making small talk over cake. This so-called strategy was the means of facilitating so many new relationships and experiences. I never would have guessed that the blog, the majority of which I wrote around 7 in the morning before heading to my reality TV job, would lead to amazing opportunities like writing for the Huffington Post and chatting with Ryan Seacrest and Rachael Ray. 12 months ago I would have been at home writing thank you notes. I still write thank you notes– I just spend more time with people my own age.

On a more serious note, I can’t not mention how necessary and comforting the routine of this project became to me and my best friend Chrissy in the aftermath of her cancer diagnosis back in June. Cakebarring brought a certain brightness into our apartment, buoying us along during moments of uncertainty. I am forever grateful to her for suggesting I try this, and insisting I keep going with the project when I felt like putting it on the back burner in May; we had just been told she had serious inflammation in her brain, and the boy I was dating had told me in so many words we couldn’t be together. “It will be so good for your writing,” she said. “It will lead to something.” I’m so glad I listened.

I could never have gotten through this year without so many people– especially everyone who reads the blog, and especially all my mom and dad’s friends who send me nice messages about it. I have to thank Chrissy first and foremost, my in-house cake decorator and most encouraging champion, who spent so much of this year taking care of me when I should have been taking care of her; there would be no cakebarring and no fun without her. My other amazing/kind/loving best friend Katy was with me for round 1 and round 50, and so many of the cakes in between, a round the clock cheerleader for the project, who would drop everything just to go buy sprinkles; she’s a treasure. I am so very grateful to my best and only sister Madeline, who provided above and beyond help with everything from coaching me at bars to baking second cakes to doing my hair for the Rachael Ray package– she always gives me the best notes of all. I owe everything to my sweet sweet parents for not only their bottomless well of love and support and deep rooted chocolate inclinations, but for teaching me by example the most meaningful lessons of all: to live your life as a kind and generous person. And then there are all of my incredible, selfless, funny, and sweet friends from LA and all over the place who would stay up so very late to join in the boy baiting mission. My utmost thanks to Ginny, John, Dave, Emily, Marcella, Alex, Elizabeth, Ashley, Stacy, Savannah, Jen, Kristen, Sean, Andy, Nick, Monica, Vlada, Katie, Katie 2, Georgia, Chris, Sarah, Emily, Andra, Carrie, Natalie, Sam, Becky, Vin, Petra, Katie O., Liz, Michelle, Ashlei, Val, my cousins Jobie, Laura, Lindsey, Amy and Emily, my sweet Nana Myrna, Emma, Jenny, Annabeth, Connor, Mike, Emily, Justine, Jen, Lauren, Mara, Tobie, Anna, Mary Claire, Rita, Dean, Christine, Hunter Claire, Adam, Ziona, Mallory, Neely, Anna, Nikki, Dani, Lauren, Kathryn, Peter, Heidi, Stephanie, Emily, Jalika, Rachel, Allison, Kathi, Monica, Marco, Ashley, Alicia, Christiana, Jonathan, Iliza, Mike, Jennie, Avery, Hannah, Claire, Elizabeth, Meagan, Kelly, Russell and Kathleen. This list is purely chronological. Thank you to my bosses– Rabih, Chris, Fernando, and Michael– for believing in me, and especially Chris for so much free therapy. Thank you to my writing klub– Savannah, Hannah, Tobie, Joel, Ethan, Annabeth, and Alex– for all your huge and valued help. Thank you to Sarah and Brian for all their notes, suggestions, and kindness, and to Sarah for so much other help– you are the most raised right person I know. Thank you to Bo for eating my cake, and turning me in to Ryan Seacrest. Thank you to Anna at the Huffington Post for making so many things possible by giving me the opportunity to write more about this project. Thank you to Lauren and Hettie at KPCC, Fidel at the Daily Dot, Jennifer at the New York Post, Tracy Moore at Jezebel, and my friend Sarah for interviewing me for the LA Times. So much gratefulness to all my other friends who asked thoughtful questions and sent encouraging emails– Valerie, Cindy, Judy, Chris, Susan, Miranda, Natalie Nicole, Gina, Adam, Sherry, Ms. Howerton, and everyone I’m forgetting. I’m so appreciative for my creative and clever aunt Christi who made my beautiful business cards, and my other creative and clever aunt Stephanie who sent me so many of the baking supplies I used to lure boys around Los Angeles. Thank you to my incredible friend Mrs. Lewis for so many uplifting and reassuring phone calls this year, which always ended with me feeling a zillion times better. And last but absolutely not least, I have to thank my surrogate family in LA, who has fed me, emotionally and literally, over the past five years. Thank you thank you thank you, Melanie, Larry, Evie, and Henry, for “adopting” me into your incredible (albeit sugar shunning) warm, caring, and creative family. I am so lucky to have you.

Thank you most of all to the guys who ate the cake– those I fibbed to about why I had it, and those who I was honest with about my cakebarring scheme. I really appreciate you eating into it.

This really isn’t the end, although I don’t know what’s next for the blog. My dad has suggested cakeplaning. I’ll have to figure it out.

me & katy, together for round 1, round 50, and so many in between

This year I went to St. Nick’s, Golden Road Brewing, Mohawk Bend, Bigfoot Lodge, Crown and Anchor, Bar 107, the Surly Goat, the Happy Ending, Lola’s, 1642, Bar Lubitsch, One-Eyed Gypsy, Villain’s Tavern, Good Luck Bar, Thirsty Crow, Edendale, Sassafras, HMS Bounty, SPiN LA at the Standard Hotel, Oldfield’s Liquor Room, the Pikey, the Red Door, Hinano Cafe, Hemingway’s Lounge, the Phoenix, the Woods, the Brickyard Pub, the 3rd Stop, Wellesbourne, Basement Tavern, La Poubelle, Village Tavern, The Daily Pint, and The Griffin. I also went to Yellow Jacket Social Club in Austin, Texas, Dusty Fry in Oklahoma, a wedding in Wisconsin, No. 308 in Nashville, and tried cakebarring at the Hollywood Bowl and a food truck on Venice Boulevard. My last four cakebarring excursions were carried out in Nashville, Tennessee, at Santa’s Pub, Paradise Park, The Pinewood Social, and The Stone Fox.

ROUNDS 48 & 49: SOUTHERN TIMES CALL FOR SOUTHERN LIVING CAKES

southern comfort coconut cake

For someone who loves Nashville so blindly, I haven’t really lived here in eight years. I usually have no idea how to get anywhere and haven’t heard of anything. Salem Town? Riverside Village? What do you mean there’s a restaurant with a bowling alley inside? After spending a few more nights outside of the comfort of my parents’ home that’s currently doubling as a praline factory, I know this much to be true: Nashville is full of the nicest people you’ll ever meet, even if the city has slowly but surely been infiltrated by hipsters from other major American cities during my absence. I really don’t know what to do about it besides let them eat the cake. You know what I mean?

me, jennie, katy, madeline

My sweet LA friends Christiana and Jonathan came through earlier this week, and I was super excited to tour them around the city. They were up for cakebarring when they landed, so after devouring some barbecue at Jim and Nick’s, we headed to Paradise Park downtown, my friend Cameron’s very favorite bar in Nashville. Paradise Park is on the main strip of Broadway, surrounded by honky tonks and boot stores. The bar has arcade games and live music and scratched up picnic tables, an oddly nostalgic mash up of decor. My precious friend/Nashville native Katy and her equally precious sister Jennie had stopped by to join us, in addition to my own sister and a bunch of her high school friends. Claire, who will one day run our country, was raring to go. “How does this work? Who should I talk to? Can we start?”

nashville natives / cake eater friends

The music got louder and the crowd got bigger, with more and more of the bargoers turning out to be people I slowly recognized as my sister’s classmates, their child faces visible in their grown up bodies. Gosh, they grow up so fast… We met a guy who’d just moved to Nashville from Tuscaloosa, and another visiting from Miami who gave me a kiss on his way out. “I’d love to stay and hang out with you girls, but my cousins are making me go to Honky Tonk Central.” All of us kept asking our cake eaters if they were from Nashville, something I don’t think we were even conscious of; I guess we’re just always looking to catch other natives.

Jennie gets a gold star for her first and only cakebarring mission of 2013, cheerfully hacking away at the Mississippi mud cake I’d made from Southern Living, which while delicious proved extremely difficult to cut into with its crispy marshmallow layer. She performed surgery on almost the entire cake, with the last pieces going to the band.

jonathan & christiana, relaying boy wisdom

cake surgeons jennie & katy

cakebarring champs

thumbs up from the band

Sunday’s cakebarring was planned as a kind of high school reunion with friends who ended up all coming down sick. My friend Meagan was the only healthy one who came through, powering through the cold and remnants of a cough to drive us to the Pinewood Social, where I had changed our reservation from 6 to 5 to 4 and then back to 5 after my sweet sister and our friends Hannah and Elizabeth said they would join us. The Pinewood Social just opened, a giant lofty lounge, bar, and restaurant designed for optimal socializing with a flipping bowling area in the back. The hosts, hostess, and waiting staff seemed friendly and flustered, vaguely available to us for all our needs, serving us poetic cocktails and cool appetizers that were explained upon delivery. We took in our options, the place quiet and calm at about half full. “That guy wants some cake,” said Meagan, as some dude in a sweater vest danced his way in. The group in the booth next to us looked like they were most definitely famous, and probably in a band. And now they were eyeing my bourbon brushed coconut cake, a super involved Southern Living masterpiece my aunt Pam had recommended to make my mom for her birthday. It is a gorgeous, airy, butter brimming cloud, just maybe the best cake I’ve made all year.

“Would you like some of our cake?” we asked the rock stars. And then we were friends.

presumed rock stars

These folks weren’t actually in a band, but artists and aid workers who help Syrians in Jordan. “Are you a celebrity?” I asked one of the beautiful girls, who was sweet and smiling. “No, I’m no one. I mean, I’m someone, but I’m no one,” she said. She looked like an Urban Outfitters model but so much nicer. One of the guys, a friendly artist named Fancy with a black goatee and bleached blonde hair, shook my hand after I pitched the table my project. “I love you and what you’re about.”

I gave cake to a Vanderbilt grad student and his friend from Alabama while Hannah and Elizabeth made offers to the bachelor party near the bowling alley. I peeked into a tiny side area with an open curtain and made out two guys sitting with a blonde girl. “Should l offer cake to them?” I asked. “They’re sitting off to the side,” Madeline said. “I don’t think you should.” “But I’m offering cake to everyone,” I said back, and forgot about it as soon as our second order of fried cheese curds arrived. Meagan and I were making a circle around the bar when I ran into my dear friend Kelly, who I met in eighth grade when we were assigned to be piano duet partners. bachelor partyShe and I had made plans to see each other that morning that had fallen through, so it was the loveliest surprise that she was suddenly participating in cakebarring. (Of the two of us, she’s the far superior baker; she actually does it for a living, which entails waking up at 4AM on a regular basis.)

“Did you see Ke$ha?” she asked. “She was in that room off to the side over there.”

YOU GUYS. I ALMOST OFFERED THE MUSICAL ARTIST KE$HA SOME OF MY COCONUT CAKE.

elizabeth, hannah, and madeline

me & meagan

happy waiter

tennessee state piano duet winners, 2005
don’t even worry about it

ROUND 47: TORNADO TRAILER CAKE

the best caramel cake you’ll ever eat

So I was driving to Santa’s Pub last Saturday with a caramel cake tucked safely in the back seat when tornado sirens started going off. (I didn’t even know Nashville had tornado sirens.) I pulled over and called my dad to ask whether he thought I should keep going; as important as it is that I hit 50 cakes before the end of the year, I also need to stay alive in order to finish them. We decided I should head over to my friend Iliza’s house and wait out the storm.

iliza and mike and their crafty tree

Iliza and her husband Mike greeted me in their front yard as the wind nearly knocked us over, and we proceeded to watch the lightning of the oncoming storm from their back porch. (Being academics and all around creative people, they were, of course, interested in studying the weather.) I’ve known Iliza since I was 12 years old. We met at the beginning of seventh grade when I was at my peak unattractiveness, a period that coincided with my peak friendlessness. I had inch long bangs and zero friends at school thanks to a weird hierarchy system of Judaism and knee socks, so I was more than grateful to meet her and our other friend Carrie at a modern dance class full of girls from other schools. Iliza is now getting her Ph.D in neuroscience research and just got married; I write reality show treatments about rappers and am running around with cake trying to find a boyfriend. With the exception of the rapper writing, this would actually have been an accurate prediction of our lives back in 1999.

After it seemed like the storm had passed and the weather had dropped 15 degrees, we headed over to Santa’s, a trailer turned bar near the fairgrounds run by a man who looks like Santa. It’s a cash-only karaoke bar, the kind of pieced together place that people who aren’t from Tennessee probably think of when they picture how us locals spend our recreational time. The last car was pulling out when we arrived, and the lights were all off; they had closed for the bad weather. Iliza and Mike, who’d braved work and Christmas shopping and even baked a turkey that day, were still alert and determined to keep going. “Let’s go another place,” they said, and Mike hopped in the front seat to drive. We were all ready to go to the Taproom when the lights at Santa’s turned back on and they reopened the bar– a true Christmas miracle. We walked inside to find the place completely empty with the exception of a friendly blonde bartender. I bought Iliza and Mike beers for a whopping $6, and we set up shop, Mike advertising “Free Cake!” on its container. We had been sitting at our table for a total of 50 seconds when an entire party bus arrived, unloading a never-ending stream of drunk 25-year-olds, mostly graduates of a private high school here in Nashville. They were all wearing intentionally bad sweaters accompanied by intentionally pretty girlfriends. karaokeEvery time I looked up a new wave of them appeared, slightly too-young-for-me southerners with good manners and sweet little accents. “I apologize in advance for all of us,” they took turns telling us, the only other people there. “Let us know if we get too loud.” Guys in their group had started singing NSync karaoke and dancing in front of the bar. Despite my best efforts, none of them wanted any cake, and they were so gosh darn nice about it. “You are so sweet to ask, but we’re full,” they all said. “I really appreciate the offer, but we just had a huge dinner, if you can believe it,” one told me, indicating his drunk compatriots with a wave of his hand. “Thank you so much for asking anyway, though.”

A quick word about the cake: my mother bought me this cake just for cakebarring. She loves this cake that much, and I now love this cake that much. Dessert Designs is a Nashville-based cake company that makes the best cakes you’ll ever eat, specializing in wedding cakes. My mom bought 5 for Christmas, and I’ve eaten 3 pieces a day for the last week. (I now weigh 800 pounds.)

bmw friends

The only cake takers we managed to find were another group not included in the party bus, 4 nice guys who work at the BMW dealership. They agreed to take a few small pieces even though they’d also just eaten; it probably helped that Iliza is pretty cute. After some small talk and a few pictures, my iPhone ended up in one of their hands, and he started scrolling through my photos. “Are you a grandmother?” he asked. “These are all pictures of cakes.” Why, yes. Yes, I am.

As the end of this project approaches at an alarmingly fast pace, I do occasionally remember there’s still no boyfriend. But I do know that if I had found someone already, the momentum behind this whole mission– the hunt, the fun, the will-I-actually-find-someone– would have totally petered out. As much as I want in on all the life practice that comes with having an I’ll pick you up at the airport kind of boyfriend, this writing is pushing me forward towards something. Being single– always always always– is finally working in my favor. It’s given me so much ridiculous material.

There isn’t time for a boyfriend right now, anyway. I have 2 cakes left to make in the 3 days before the end of the year.

me, iliza, carrie – pre-hanson concert, the year 2000

ROUND 45 & 46: PEPPERMINT CAKE FOR KATHRYN & BIRTHDAY BANANA CAKE FOR MONICA

peppermint cake

sorry not sorry – partially store bought cake

I didn’t know it at the time, but thanks to a nasty cold that wiped me out last week, these two rounds were my very last ones in LA for the year. (But don’t fret– I’ll hit 50 cakes before December 31st using the Nashville circuit.) These cakes were celebrating actual legitimate occasions, which was a nice way to wrap things up in a city where I’ve offered hundreds of people pretend leftovers from parties that did not happen. It was kind of nice not to have to fib.

class act

Friday night was cakebarring at the Daily Pint in Santa Monica, where our friend and cakebarring teammate Kathryn was holding a going away party before she moves to New York. (Like, so lame.) Katy and I had just been at the Depressed Cake Shop fundraiser in Venice, for which I had made two bittersweet chocolate and (dis)pear cakes the night before, leaving me a little sleep deprived and lacking the adrenaline necessary to make a third one for cakebarring. So I did it again– I totally bought a cake, this time a Danish butter cake from Albertson’s and sorry I’m not sorry, it was delicious. I had managed to throw together some chocolate peppermint frosting that morning to disguise its store-boughtness, and applied it in Katy’s car with an apron draped over my legs, guerrilla style.

The Daily Pint is the kind of pub with pool tables and grown-ups. It’s a sweet narrow little space, and they had made up the bar to look super cute for Christmas. There was actually an older couple with Santa and Mrs. Claus hats, who recognized that I had a cake concealed in my little carrier immediately. “Can we have a piece?” the Santa asked, not wasting time on a hello. I assured him I’d come back after I gave some to all of our friends, a huge fib since we didn’t actually know anyone at the party besides Kathryn and her boyfriend; we’d never met any of her other friends. (Going to a party where you don’t know anyone is actually an excellent opportunity for cakebarring– guests have most likely been pre-screened for charm and good manners.) Kathryn’s friends were friendly/lovely industry people, from Chicago and New Mexico and Pennsylvania and abroad. The girls were especially excited to eat cake after hearing aboutsanta and me the blog, but most of the guys really had to be convinced to take some– no one seemed quite hungry enough. Katy and I extended cake offers to strangers nearby, like a nice LA native named Tony in the music business and a friendly architect and his private pilot friend. There was Kathryn’s friend Dan who ate a piece towards the end of the night– his mustache is really the only thing I can recall about him– and then there was her friend who refused cake, but told me I should watch for him biking around my neighborhood, which is also his neighborhood. “I’m the only Asian guy riding a bike with leg tattoos. I have huge calves.” Amazing. My last pieces went to Santa and his girlfriend on their way out of the bar.

banana cake

belated birthday banana cake success

monica, alicia, and ashley

Then Saturday night was belated birthday cakebarring for my sweet friend Monica. We’d chosen The Griffin in Atwater Village off the referral of someone I can’t remember, and it turned out to be the perfect place for us to go; they have tons of seating but plenty of space to move around. (It also looks like a Harry Potter ski lodge, a vision made only more convincing by its current holiday decorations.) Monica had specifically asked for a banana cake when I asked her what she’d like, a nice excuse for me try it out again after a flavorless attempt in March. This time I used my family’s dear friend Nina’s recipe, and as expected, it was better. Leaps and bounds better. Monica had brought along her friends Alicia, Ashley, and Marco, and my friends Christiana and Jonathan had driven over to join us after Christmas party hopping for most of the day. “I feel like I’m on covert affairs,” Christiana kept saying. “Tell me how this all works.” I made a loop around the bar before I invited some guys over for cake who were standing nearby, there to celebrate a girl friend’s birthday. They all came back to our table to eat a piece and chat, wishing Monica happy birthday and getting a lot of gold stars for politeness. griffin guysOne turned out to be a graphic designer for a toy company and another was a freelance camera operator and editor. They even went back to find their girl friend with the birthday and brought her back for a piece, as no one had thought to make her a birthday cake. (Who raises people??) Meanwhile, Alicia had been scoping out the rest of the bar. “That guy’s hot, but he’s sitting alone,” she reported back. “Is he sitting by himself in a cool way or sad way?” Ashley asked, (who also happens to be her sister). But the table behind us ended up being our last cake takers, a nice bunch of actors who went to USC, and who had almost stopped at the very same party Christiana and Jonathan had just come from on the other side of town. One of them even offered to buy us drinks– which never ever happens. It was a really nice way to go out.

birthday girls

monica and our other birthday girl

usc friends

sugar monster, christiana, and jonathan

It is worth mentioning that Jonathan proposed to Christiana the very next day at her gingerbread house party. I’ve met Christiana 4 times, and Jonathan twice, and I still cried almost as much as Christiana’s sweet father.

ROUNDS 43 & 44: FORECAST READS ORANGE CAKE FOR EMMA & FROSTED FORGERY

orange cake / snowball cake

FRIDAY, DECEMBER 6th. NOISY WITH A CHANCE OF CAKE. HIGH 60˚, LO 42˚F.

happy with a chance of tears

Emma’s birthday party rapidly unfolding at Sassafras bar in Hollywood… Expect unusually chilly wind and a line outside the door… Bouncer warns that anyone entering with a cake carrier will only be allowed entry unless they “clean it all up,” not realizing girl he’s addressing cleans up cake in bars on a regular, unrelenting basis… Past the entrance of the bar, heightened volume of live music and density of the crowd present a threat to singing happy birthday over cake and serving it with ulterior motives… It is advised to wait out the storm… Take note of Emma the birthday girl crying happy tears… She’s enjoyed several drinks and has become overcome with emotion… Once guests can be safely served orange cake, the variety of which Emma has requested, orient yourself with the surrounding groups at the bar to seek out more cake takers… The heightened volume may impede engagement with others… Refrain from screaming in strangers’ ears… Disregard looks of suspicion… Should someone stop you on your way out the door after all supplies have been packed up, make an offer to cut a piece… If stranger says don’t worry about it, use your own discretion.

SATURDAY, DECEMBER 7th. TOO COLD TO GO TO THE DEN. HIGH 59˚, LO 44˚F.

Flurry of drink options, mozzarella sticks, meatballs, and chocolate chip cookies appears at Liz and Ale’s holiday party… Party guests wear terrible sweaters and door prizes are available… Guests convince the girl with the cake carrier the weather is too cold and the hour is too late to take her cake to a bar, and to retrieve it from her vehicle and serve it inside… A piece is offered to the delivery man at the front door on her way back into the party, and he says no, thank you, most likely following company policy and safety precautions… It is revealed upon serving that the cake is only half homemade, pudding cake from an area grocery store with homemade cream cheese frosting to mask the evidence… There are no serious repercussions associated with this confession… The girl with the cake carrier serves a piece to someone she recognizes as her former neighbor and his friend, who shares her last name… The resulting pictures are evidence of her new acquaintances and co-workers enjoying the spoils of this unintentional snowball cake.

perfect storm

christmas card

ROUND 42 – FBI CAKE

worth investigating

cakebarring fbi pg 1

cakebarring fbi pg 2

ryan gosling bouncer

a. from la, k. from germany

usc fans

usc fans

r. from philly, e.g., and a.s.

rochester conspirators

fbi [cake] team

This recipe comes at the suggestion of my Miranda friend. You can find it here.

For those of you in LA this weekend, I am honored to be participating in the Depressed Cake Shop fundraiser tomorrow (Friday) night, December 13th in Venice @ 6pm. All proceeds are donated to St. Joseph Center and NAMI to help those suffering from mental illness and their families. For more information, click here.

ROUND 41 – LEMON POPPY SEED CAKE

lemon poppy seed cake

unseasonal yummyness

Even though I would call this cake slightly unseasonal (lemon = picnics = summer = sunscreen), in LA there are no seasons, so this felt like something I could get away with serving so close to the holidays. This recipe was also the only one I liked that would use up the ludicrously expensive can of poppy seed filling I purchased at a weak point during some kind of baking adrenaline high or nostalgic Prague pastry spiral awhile ago, and I had discovered it was very close to expiring. I know myself– I really had to use it up, or I was going to start eating spoonfuls straight out of the can.

decorator heidi w/ basil leaf & cinnamon additions

I made the cake on Saturday night and drove over to my friend Heidi’s magical house in Franklin Village that’s about to be demolished for a parking lot. She was hosting a reunion party for the 11 girls I recently spent a weekend in Lake Arrowhead with, who are all sweet and hysterical and very much pro-dessert. I thought a few of the single ones (and even not single ones) might be interested in hopping over to a bar later on in the night after some quality catch up time. A few new girls had been invited, and one of them interrupted me when I started talking about taking the cake to a bar. “Oh my god,” she said. “I’ve heard about you!” It turns out one of her guy friends had been caked, part of the birthday group I offered my sweet potato casserole cake to back in July at the HMS Bounty. “He told me this cute girl came up and offered them some cake, but she was really doing it to meet guys. He thought I should start doing it.”

Yesss! Free word of mouth advertising! I was also lucky enough to be interviewed for the LA Times’ Daily Dish. Maybe someone has a cute nephew they can set me up with?

emily, mara, rachel, heidi, kristin, jalika, emma, and stephanie

The next time I looked up at Heidi’s clock it was past midnight. We had been eating our weight in cheese and crackers over a (real!) fireplace and I had lost track of the time. I turned to my friend Stephanie and said maybe cakebarring was not meant to be– it was already so late, and girls were starting to drift out the door. “I’m down!” she insisted. (She’s one of the girls with a boyfriend, and still wanted to go.) “Let’s do this!” And so it was that 7 of us mustered up the energy to walk over to bougey La Poubelle, where I once had a very hard time getting change from our waitress upon paying for brunch– so much so that she suggested I head over to the Gelson’s nearby and make change for myself. Luckily, I’ve put this unpleasant incident behind me and never ever talk about it…

mississippi men

mississippi men, john and brad

A friendly southerner gave us his table when we walked in, and when I found him later to give him a piece of cake, he and his friend gave me poetically thoughtful reviews on how much they liked its texture.  (But then again, they were southerners. And musicians.) When I told them about the blog and asked if I could take their picture, they said only if they could have a second piece. I agreed, and told them I’d come hear them play music some time in Hollywood.

We also offered cake to the table next to us, met with an exuberant cry of “ONE HUNDRED PERCENT ABSOLUTELY YES!” Meet Jesse, the most vocally appreciative person I’ve ever given cake to. “This is the nicest thing anyone’s done for me in LA,” he said. (Granted, he’s been here for 2 weeks.) Then he said it was the nicest thing anyone’s ever done for him period. (That is, a stranger giving him a piece of cake at no charge in a bar.) “I should hire you to come with me from now on,” I told him. “Do you work in PR?” (He does.) I told Jesse I thought he would be really good for someone I work with who looks closer to his age. “Wait, are you not available?” he asked me. “Because I’m very interested in you.” I was a little thrown by how bold this was, but flattered. I gave him my number, and he sent me what he announced as a “mild” text message, which I read when I got home: Don’t forget about me! But I think Jesse has actually forgotten about me, as I have not heard from him again. Which is totally fine.

jesse, me, and la natives at bougey central

Maybe I’ll see you on the cakebarring circuit, Jesse? I could sure use your enthusiasm for this last leg of the cakebarring marathon. I have 9 cakes to go…

Lovely Heidi gets full credit for thinking to sprinkle cinnamon on the cake, and tastefully added a pop of color with basil leaves from her plant. This recipe is from the amazing Deb Perelman’s Smitten Kitchen blog, adapted from the one that used to be served at Cafe Sabarsky in the Neue Gallerie in New York, a museum I have been to and like very much. Hashtag meant to be. Hashtag not meant to eat poppy seed filling out of the can like a crazy person.

ROUNDS 39 & 40: LADY BALTIMORE CAKE AND BIRTHDAY CARROT CAKE FOR CHRIS

glammed up / undressed

Sitting In Bars With Cake, Episode 39. Starring Audrey, Katy, and their childhood friend Kathryn who hasn’t seen them in almost 10 years (except for that one time they ran into each other buying boots at the Century City Mall). A lot has changed in 10 years; Audrey can carry on full conversations with people she’s attracted to and no longer takes prescription medicine for her sweaty hands; Katy has become a senior television producer and lives in the coolest neighborhood in LA; Kathryn just came off working on movies like Iron Man 3 for Marvel Entertainment and her hair looks flipping amazing. The girls collectively and unapologetically eat a grilled block of brie cheese at Brick + Mortar in Santa Monica before moving on to their real mission for the evening: baiting single westside dwellers with some cake. Kathryn’s sweet boyfriend Peter makes a guest appearance around act two when he meets the girls at Basement Tavern on Main Street, a magical little speakeasy hidden underneath The Victorian. Audrey starts talking to a sales guy in a Huskies hat on her way to the bathroom and invites him back to their table, and soon enough his friends appear, a polite triathlete and financial analyst. No one seems to notice the frosting on the Lady Baltimore cake did not turn out, and looks more like someone melted a bottle of Pepto Bismol on top; they all eat it anyway. They play guessing games like old friends. When Audrey decides to tell the guys about her cakebarring scheme, the financial analyst asks if she’s been taking cakes to bars as a way to test out recipes, and her cold heart melts just a little bit. She doesn’t even mind when their smashed friend shows up and asks her to feed him a piece of cake; he won’t stop saying, “This is so us.” Unfortunately, the sales guy in the Huskies hat does not seem very happy to hear he was part of a ruse. Audrey finds him at the bar to make amends. “You could have just come talked to me,” he slurs. “I’m maaad.” She tries to justify the need for cake as an ice breaker, but then realizes he’s probably not actually upset. She thinks they hug it out. She wonders if he would ask for her number if he lived in LA. She thought he and his friends were pretty adorable.

Featuring: Amy Sedaris’ Lady Baltimore Cake recipe from her hostessing bible I Like You.

the kathryns and audrey

huskies friend

new bffs

Sitting In Bars With Cake, Episode 40. Starring Audrey, Chrissy, and recurring guest star Sarah from Texas as they compete with live music and a thirsty crowd at Villains Tavern in downtown LA to cakebar for their friend Chris’ birthday. Chrissy is stopped by a man named Ashes Wednesday who has dollar bills pinned to his shirt and asks if he can start photographing her. Meanwhile, Audrey makes fast friends with a girl named Lauren in the drink line bonding over the mysterious hold up and only later realizes they are both there for the same birthday gathering. A table of kindly LA natives lets Audrey set down her cake carrier on their surface space, and Audrey manages to work in some shameless self-promotion while saying thank you. The friendly construction worker in the group tells her she should try bringing a cheesecake to a bar– he’ll send her his recipe. Once Chris and all of his nice friends have been served a piece of the birthday cake, Sarah and Audrey come to the realization that everyone else at the bar is starting to look suspicious– like an actual villain– and they should probably be getting home. None of the band wanted cake, anyway. They head to the car with one piece of cake left, and decide it should go to the valet. Audrey scrapes the last of the cream cheese frosting up with the cake server, and the valet interrupts her to lick it right off, turning his back to the girls. Audrey warns him one of the edges is serrated and hopes he doesn’t cut his mouth open. It has since been disinfected.

Featuring: Super Moist Carrot Cake from Sally’s Baking Addiction

new cheesecake friend

birthday chris and friends

at villains / amongst villains

ROUNDS 37 & 38: ROOT BEER CAKE & PUMPKIN 2.0

courtesy of the brilliant savannah dooley

“We ahr not into ze pumpkin,” said the German exchange students I offered cake to last Thursday at the Wellesbourne bar near UCLA.

“Aw, man. We just spent three hours at Soup Plantation. Wish we weren’t so full,” said the Asian crowd when I moved on to them.

“Are you serious?” asked our barback, after bringing us a knife to cut a cake he couldn’t eat. “I’m allergic. Pumpkin and tomatoes.”

justine and ze pumpkin cake

Cake Rejection: My Salted Caramel Tears. A one woman show starring Audrey Shulman. The Wellsbourne might be a lovely bar, but it super failed us for cakebarring. My sweet and talented actress friend Justine and I had met up here for a visit and some cake distribution only to realize that everyone around us was on a date. The place has a few booths and a handful of high tiny tables, making it very conducive to couples and less conducive to anyone else. I decided to order us some Moscow Mules while we waited things out (maybe lots of young single grad students would appear!) and came back from a mostly losing game of trying to get the bartenders’ attention to live music so all consuming that Justine and I couldn’t hear ourselves scream into each other’s ears. But we persevered, enjoying the deafening music and the cake, a recipe from the Magnolia Bakery cookbook for pumpkin bars that I just didn’t cut up. (We can’t flipping get enough of pumpkin.) The people we did manage to offer cake to in between songs– everyone listed above, and a few other dudes who were not in the middle of dates– were not interested. Justine is such a champ– she even has a boyfriend and was excited to come anyway– so I really owe her a fantastic cakebarring outing, like, where we are literally beating boys off with a stick. (In my mind, bacon cake = beating boys off with a stick.)

girlz at 3rd stop with root beer cake

The Monday before this was cakebarring at 3rd Stop near West Hollywood, leaps and bounds more successful, even if it meant most of the cake went to our handsome, friendly waiters. 3rd Stop is a really lovely restaurant and bar right by Cedars-Sinai, with a nice staff and plenty of outside tables. I had made a root beer cake from the amazing Baked cookbook with my gleaming new bundt pan! My work girlfriends and I had met up with some friends from Vh1, who were excited to join in on our ritualistic cake baiting ploys. When we glanced around to scope out our options, I actually recognized the person sitting in front of us, who was reading a book with a glass of wine. I couldn’t figure out if I had offered him cake before. Then I remembered that he (Adam) actually works at a restaurant in Culver City where he seated me once, and that I had actually told him about the blog. (I’ve become a shameless self-promoter even in my off hours.) He was happy to take some cake.

ben and vince – right before i revealed the ruse

I called the two guys sitting behind us, while Sam took the two guys to our side. My guys, a CAA assistant and a travel writer who have known each other since they were little kids here in LA, were real winners. They were talkative and sweet– so much so that I decided to tell them about the blog, and they wanted to know all about it. They marveled at how easily I had offered them fake leftovers. Oh wait, they said. You’re a seasoned liar. You do this to guys all the time. By the time I made it over to Sam’s table, her guys actually seemed scared. They did not want any cake, and it probably didn’t help that Sam was trying to shame them into eating some. Despite any aforementioned rage I might feel over cake rejection, force feeding is not quite the goal of this project. Sam gets major points for trying.

I’ve probably offered cake to hundreds of Los Angeles residents this year, but I still manage to forget sometimes that this is about finding a boyfriend. It’s become more about going to new places and catching up with friends, approaching guys I would never have been able to muster eye contact with before, and eating boatloads of sugar. It makes being single a real pleasure. My incredible friend Catherine, who I met in a taxi in Prague five years ago, sent me this message last week after reading my latest entry for the Huffington Post:

I love you, Catherine! Come cakebarring in America after you finish your Ph.D!!

justine and me, post wellesbourne time

root beer cake close-up

me, adam, and adam’s book

ROUNDS 35 & 36: HALLOWEEN CAKEBARRING

frosting/wardrobe malfunctions

These are rather unusual rounds– not my typical cakebarring ventures– but sometimes I manage to remember that I make up the rules of this dating baking sugar-centric sport as I go, and offering cake up is still offering cake up. That being said, Round 35 occurred at a Halloween party full of strangers, and no outside party was offered cake during Round 36. Here we go:

After an invigorating viewing of The Craft at the Hollywood Forever Cemetery last weekend, our amazing visiting friend Sarah was determined to come cakebarring with me, having fallen asleep for Round 34. We thought about walking down the street to somewhere nearby, but the lure of the (live) Disney music coming from our apartment’s garage was just too appealing to resist: we decided to take the cake to the fete already in full swing outside, and offer it to a bunch of party guests we didn’t know.

cake bandit and tiki ghost

Sarah and I threw together costumes in about 70 seconds– she a Tiki Ghost, and I a Cake Bandit. I took the 60% of a leftover coconut birthday cake I had made and put it on a serving plate, and off we went, masked and unfamiliar into this party full of masked and unfamiliar people. “Would you like some cake?” we asked, like hired caterers for the event, (which some people surely thought we were). We met a friendly mad scientist named Nathan, some smoking nuns, a light up stick figure man, and a lot of scantily clad girls hoping to win big in the party’s sexiest costume contest. A friendly graphic designer in a Superman costume guessed immediately that I was a Cake Bandit, which was kind of a magical miracle. Then there was the Australian lifeguard, who insisted I take a picture in his inflatable pool while he blew his whistle. We met a Peter Pan and Pocahontas couple, which was confusing because she looked more like Tiger Lily, who is the assumed counterpart of Peter Pan should there be no Wendy present. Sarah was an excellent PR rep, insisting I tuck business cards into my bra (no pockets), and tactfully mentioning my blog to most of our cake eaters. Pocahontas said, “Oh. Did you guys know anyone here?”

“Yes,” I said. “We were invited,” I affirmed, pushing my sudden and unwelcome middle-school era feelings of exclusion to the bottom of some emotional drain pipe. “Can we take your picture?”**

is it just me, or do you look like tiger lily?

The funniest moments happened when Sarah and I approached single guys with cake, and girlfriends quickly and eerily materialized, tugging at their boyfriends and holding them sideways. It was way strange, making me realize just how spoiled I am that all my girlfriends must be of some rare and trusting tribe where they don’t hang over the people they’re romantically involved with. Maybe it was just touching that these girls felt the need to get territorial after spotting a masked (fully clothed) bandit and a second androgynous person wearing a white sheet offering sweets to their men.

Thanks for inviting us, Rob!

And then came actual Halloween, for which Chrissy has been planning our cake costumes for many weeks. She found this idea on Subtle Revelry and translated it for our adult bodies (and child minds). After many trips to crafting stores and a lot of hot glue gunning injuries, we had a lavender, pink, and mint cake made up for Katy, Chrissy, and me, with LCD birthday candles tucked in for top tiers.

full frontal

full frontal cakes

If you haven’t been to the West Hollywood Halloween parade before, all you need to picture is something akin to World War Z: more people than you’ve ever seen on blocks and blocks of closed-off streets, frightening, previously unseen levels of traffic, and unheard of parking difficulties. Everyone wears costumes, and for someone who doesn’t love crowds, I somehow really enjoy it.

Hard to miss on our trek up to the parade in our bright and wide costumes, we were honked at, waved to, and serenaded with the happy birthday song about seventeen times, prompting me to call us “happy birthday cakes,” as opposed to just regular ones. We were super delighted to pose for pictures for about 50 people, including a sweet Asian man who had us pose with his parents. Another photographer wanted a picture for his baker friend, and I managed to give him a business card should his friend ever want a business partner.

After an hour of parading, we swung home to grab the pumpkin cake I had made, and crammed back into the car with all our cake pieces. We headed to the West Third Street bars, and it was there that we were defeated. There was no one in 3rd Street Station. Goal Bar was closed. And when it looked like we could finally make it into El Carmen, the doorman told us we wouldn’t be allowed to eat our cake inside. “That’s it,” I said. We had walked miles in our cake costumes, aerobically balancing our cake tier hats on our heads, so patiently enduring parking troubles. It was 12:30am on a school night. And we had tried three different bars. “We’re taking this home and eating it. It still counts.”

pumpkin cake

pumpkin cake

I’m about to embark on a cakebarring flurry, determined to finish the 50 cake mark by the end of the year, so I don’t feel in any way discouraged or set back by this lack of third party cake consumption. It doesn’t matter that no one ate the cake but us on Halloween. As I keep preaching to people who are probably sorry they asked– it just matters that we’re trying.

The coconut birthday cake recipe came from The Barefoot Contessa, Ina Garten, and the pumpkin cake recipe came from Cooking Light. Both were EXQUISITE.

**I had been invited to the party, by the way, by my building manager. This was not cake crashing. Hashtag notraisedbywolves.

mad scientist cake

mad scientist cake

cake bandit

cake bandit

no diving