Depression can be a hard topic to digest. Now some bakers are making discussing it more palatable.
In a Seattle version of a global pop-up experiment, a one-day “Depressed Cake Shop” will open on Capitol Hill on Saturday, Oct. 5. Sales of cakes, brownies, cream puffs & more will benefit the Seattle branch of the National Alliance on Mental Illness. The catch — all the baked goods will be colored gray, to “represent the feelings of depression and other illnesses.” Some will have brightly colored creams or cakes inside, representing hope.
The project began in London in August, and has inspired some 30 follow-ups in other cities and countries. The Seattle version is scheduled from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Sole Repair Shop events space, 1001 E. Pike St. It was set up by Melissa Riddington, a marketing and events consultant with a sweets sideline, who recently came to Seattle from London, where she had seen the response to the original cake shop.
“I think the whole idea of symptoms of mental illness masking what’s inside somebody is a great metaphor,” said Christine Lindquist, executive director of NAMI of Greater Seattle.
The fund-raiser idea is “absolutely fabulous. It’s an opportunity for us to connect with people who normally would not be drawn to mental health and mental illness,” Lindquist said.
Both home bakers and pastry chefs are contributing to the cake shop, Riddington said, “providing us with gray goodies,” from big layer cakes to cake pops to subdued hues of vanilla-bean cream puffs.
Stumptown has donated coffee, and there will be a silent auction with prizes like a gift basket from Seattle writer Megan Seling, who once took on the challenge of baking her way through 106 Martha Stewart cookie recipes and then wrote about the deeper struggle behind the goal.
Riddington has supported a variety of charities through her business, but said what she’s learned through this one, the high percentage of people affected by mental illness, has been sobering.
“The statistic of one in four — that’s a high number…” she said. “Everyone either knows someone (who has an illness) or has an illness themselves or can relate to it… it touches people in different ways, and it is still a stigma that people don’t talk about it and people suffer in silence.”
People don’t find the gray pastries too strange, too playful for a dead-serious subject?
“It’s absolutely been the opposite,” Riddington said. “It’s been so positive. It actually has raised awareness, it has opened up the conversation in kind of a light-hearted way.”
Here are some pictures of creative sweets from past events.