If you've ever been depressed, and I mean truly depressed, you'll know how serious an issue it can be. Therapy can help. So can dessert. And so can your friends, among whom many of us number professional bakers. To this happy end, there is the Depressed Bake Shop, a pop-up bakery and art show coming the weekend of Aug. 23-24 to the Buckwild Gallery in Venice.
Part of a now-global series of events, which started in Britain, the first Los Angeles Depressed Bake Shop has been organized by Rebecca Swanner, owner and head baker of the online bakery Secret Marmalade, a locally based shop that specializes in brownies. The conceit of the pop-up is that the baked goods in question are not your average cakes and pies and cookies and doughnuts but special cakes and pies and cookies and doughnuts — we're told possibly even cronuts — painted gray on the outside yet colorful on the inside. Yes, this is a metaphor. See how much fun you can have with buttercream frosting and ganache when you're not depressed?
The Depressed Bake Shop pop-up will have loads of themed baked goods donated by local bakers, as well as visual art pieces donated by local artists, all to raise money and awareness for the National Alliance for Mental Illness (NAMI). (All proceeds from sales go to NAMI Westside, the Los Angeles chapter.)
Why depression? Why cakes? Because mental illness affects a quarter of the population and depression is both an extremely common illness and one that is often still stigmatized. Because if you can host a bake sale for a baseball team or your kid's school, you can host a global one for a really good cause.
The idea for these pop-ups came from the U.K.'s Emma Thomas, whose London-based agency, Cakehead Loves, benefits other good causes. (Check out CNN's piece on Thomas' movement.) To date, more than 30 Depressed Cake Shops have popped up (Scotland, San Francisco, etc.) since the beginning of August, with more to come.
Swanner says this is the first Depressed Cake Shop here in Los Angeles but, she hopes, the first of many. “I struggled with depression. It's very personal; I wanted to get involved,” Swanner says by phone. “The idea is to create awareness and allow people to start talking about it.” And what better way into the conversation than a cake or a cronut painted gunmetal gray. Or a “misfortune cookie,” a riff on the fortune cookie, also gray, with fortunes like “Snap out of it” inside. (Yes, this is meant to be ironic.)
As part of the pop-up, there will be an opening party on the evening of Aug. 23, from 7-11 p.m., which will include not only gray baked stuff but also cocktails and Champagne (sugar and booze both being great antidepressants when applied wisely). Swanner says all the booze will be complementary. So buy a gray cake and drink a free Gray Lady, happy in the knowledge that your money is going to a very good cause. The following day, Saturday, Aug. 24, the shop will be open from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. So far, Swanner has 10 local bakers signed up, many of whom she didn't even know beforehand.
“We're having a lot of fun with it,” Swanner says. “It's not a place where you're going to get therapy,” she points out, perhaps unnecessarily. But I suppose it all depends on what kind of therapy works for you, sugar and conversation and a good cause being sometimes almost as therapeutic as the real thing.
To RSVP, or better yet to volunteer, visit the Depressed Cake Shop L.A.'s Facebook page. For more information about the Depressed Cake Shop, visit their website.
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