‘Depressed’ Cake Shop Will Cheer You Up

Gray sweets draw attention to chronic issue

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The Dainty Bakehouse / Emma Cakehead

The Dainty Bakehouse's Gloomy Grey Lemon Macarons

A new charitable project makes battling depression seem like a piece of cake.

The Depressed Cake Shop is a series of pop-up bakeries that sell gray desserts created by volunteer bakers to raise awareness about depression, then donate the proceeds to lesser-known local charities devoted to mental health issues. The first one popped up in London from August 2-4 and served up tasty treats like Swiss rolls that say “nutjob,” macarons decorated with rain clouds, and even a “fruitcake” — British slang for a crazy person. While the treats are uniformly gray on the outside, bakers have added splashes of color on the inside to signify that there is hope for the approximately 350 million people worldwide who suffer from depression.

“There isn’t a visual representation of mental illness, so we make the desserts gray, an ugly color, because not taking care of your appearance is a symptom of depression,” says Emma Thomas, a PR specialist and the mastermind behind the project, whose past charity bake sales have included cakes that look like sushi to raise money for victims of the 2011 tsunami that devastated Japan.

The next “depressed” pop-up will be held in Los Angeles from August 23-24 and will raise money for the West L.A. chapter of the National Alliance for Mental Illness. The confections will include white chocolate brains, sugar cookies shaped like Prozac pills, Rocky Road cheesecake brownies, macarons shaped like anxiety squiggles, and 30 gray cronuts — a new twist on the pastry that’s all the rage in New York City, filled with custard and topped with gray icing.

Depressed Cake Shop Los Angeles organizer Rebecca Swanner, a health and fitness writer, says baking has helped her manage her lifelong battle with depression. She started a sweets company called Secret Marmalade when she was 30, had just gotten out of a long-term relationship, and was struggling to make ends meet as a freelance writer. “Growing up, I never felt good enough, but anytime I bake, people love it,” Swanner says. “Baking itself doesn’t necessarily help with my depression, but the response I get from people trying the baked goods makes me so happy.”

Preparing for the bake sales provides a much-needed “focus” for depressed people, especially those who don’t feel like getting out of bed. People with depression, “suffer in silence, so these events, which can be done anywhere, in schools, in churches, take [depression] out of the darkness and allow people to start talking about it,” adds Swanner.

Cant make it to L.A. this week? Then feast your eyes on some of the gloomy-looking treats in the following photo gallery of “depressed” sweets:

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