Though it doesn’t sound like a happy place to order a birthday cake, The Depressed Cake Shop has a very positive mission. It's an international network of pop-up bakeries aiming to help people understand others with mental illness.
The shops make grayscale goodies filled with all the flavors and colors you’d expect, but like life can be for someone with depression, they’re hidden beneath a gloomy fog.
“There is no common experience of depression. The grayscale was meant to simply evoke a feeling of glumness, and at the same time juxtapose that with the beauty and subtlety we were able to tease out of the grayscale,” Shannan Rapoport, co-organizer of The Depressed Cake Shop in San Francisco said. “The colorful insides and colorful flavors were an attempt to demonstrate the complexities and sometimes seemingly contradictory feelings and experiences people have.”
Saturday, 11 bakers produced more than 200 items and sold them to benefit Queer LifeSpace, an LGBTQ counseling center in San Francisco’s Castro District. The pop-up shop there, which organizers say will return again, is associated with the project of the same name begun by Miss Cakehead in the U.K. to give artists a creative platform to address and discuss mental health issues.
Rapoport, like others involved in the project, has dealt with depression personally.
“Since 2010, I have nursed both my parents through illness and death due to cancer, and I have struggled with infertility,” she said. “These experiences drew me to the idea of The Depressed Cake Shop and gave me an opportunity to experiment with cake as art and baking as a therapeutic process.”
Cakes as Therapy, Passion, and Outreach
Depressed Cakes SF co-founder Jane Reyes has been battling Charcot Marie-Tooth disease, a condition that causes loss of function in the limbs. It took her away from her favorite creative outlet as a trained jeweler and brought about her depression.
While pregnant with her now four-year-old son, Reyes tried her hand at baking, something she learned at the side of her mother and grandmother. The success of these early endeavors gave her a sense of accomplishment and the motivation to continue, despite her illness.
“To someone disabled with mental or physical disease, these things are rare and precious. I had always been a great baker, if I do say so myself, but now I could express myself artistically, culinarily, and give people amazing gifts and make them feel special,” Reyes said.
Winston Chuchill called his own depression “the black dog that would visit.” For that reason, a black dog is one of the mascots of the Depressed Cake Shop.