Jewels: If you’re lucky, you have memories of baking with a family member that will warm your soul for a lifetime. As a child for me, it was my Auntie Vera. She made this time of year magical! It was a tradition I lovingly passed onto my own daughter. For Personal Chef Approach  member, Rachel Cree Lowe it was her grandmother Cree who made an indelible impression on her granddaughter, only this time a true cake artist was born!

Tatjana and Julie Anne Rhodes baking a cake

Tatjana and Julie Anne Rhodes, baking throughout generations of fond memories

Rachel: In a yellow brick farmhouse in Ontario, Canada was  the most wonderful kitchen in the world. The main room was large with a tall set of drawers for linens, a large table in the middle and a jet black wood burning stove on one wall. There was a little room off one side of the stove to wash dishes in and another little room on the other side for prepping. In the early 70s, there would be a plump lady with white hair tied in a loose bun and eyes the exact shade of ripe blueberries sitting in her chair by the window.

Grandma Cree

She encouraged me to take part in the meal preparations and many times I’d be found with an apron tied just under my arms, standing on a chair at the kitchen table mashing potatoes in a pot with her electric hand mixer or stirring gravy – telling anyone walking by that it was important not to have lumps. However, my favourite place to be was in the prep room or pantry (as she called it) behind a huge earthenware bowl pouring in all kinds of ingredients for my ‘cakes’.

Rachel spreading her wings along with the icing

Everything would go in…. flour, sugar, anything I took a fancy to on the shelves. Then she would pour it into a baking pan and put it in the wood stove. She would request a piece of her mother’s china for this ‘cake’ to be served in because she believed you ate with your eyes before your mouth so presentation was important. She always ‘tried it’ and would rave over the taste and texture making me feel like I was finest baker in the world. To her, food had to be taste good, be fresh and look like a piece of art. She passed when I was 5 but her lessons and encouraging words have stayed with me and there are times I feel that if I listened a bit harder, I could hear her emphasizing her belief that we eat with out eyes. To her, everything was colour and possibility.

Cake decorating away the pain

When my father died, I went off the rails for a while. I would do anything it took to just feel numb. At some point, an older lady I worked with gave me a book called “Talking to Heaven” by James Van Praagh and suggested taking some kind of art class. It became my anchor. This was before the cake shows appeared on the scene but cake decorating looked interesting.

Having a background in art certainly helps

The instructor made it look effortless. She taught us the old school methods but having an art background, it was all I needed. Practicing new methods, taking more classes in fondant, more practice at home… it was as soothing as painting had always been for me.

Creating outside the cake box

In high school, I once worked on a painting for senior art class all night to ease the pain of a break up with the person I was sure was the love of my life. Working on a cake started to be as comforting as painting had always been. The fondant and gumpaste are my clay, I can paint on the cakes and create outside the cake box.

The next Jackson Pollock of cake, daughter Ava

Now, as a mother of two little girls who have creativity glittering from their souls, I am able to share this with them. They are with me when I’m working and take part just as I took part in my grandmother’s kitchen. It’s so important to show our sons and daughters how to create… how to make things people will eat with their eyes before their mouths and to find a way to release stress by soothing the soul  No ingredients are ever really wasted because they are creating, learning and doing it for themselves and becoming their own version of Jackson Pollock.

Jewels: Thank you for sharing your grandmother and the origins of your baking history, Rachel! For those that were not lucky enough to have a family member in the kitchen with them growing up – you can have Rachel, me and a whole community of supportive members at your fingertips when you sign-up for premium membership. Our cyber living room (forum) means you are never really alone in the kitchen.

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  • December 16, 2011
    10:26 am

    Beautiful soul, spirit and person. Her baking is as brilliant, exquisite and as artistic as she is. Love it. Your Grandmother would be proud of you Rach. I know I am. ~K-dot xo

  • December 16, 2011
    6:25 pm

    Rachel, what an amazing post! Your cakes are so beautiful…. My kids want your Super Mario cake.

    You’re a true artist, I’m so proud of you!!

    I love the way you lovingly describe your grandmother, very sweet.

    And Ava is BEAUTIFUL!

    Jewels, that pic of Tatjana is adorable!

    • December 17, 2011
      7:01 pm

      One of my favorite pics of Tatjana.

      Don’t you feel like you’re in the room with them whenever Rachel writes about her family? Writing, one more skill to add to her already impressive list of talents. I especially love this one, because it did bring back fond memories of my own.

  • December 16, 2011
    10:39 am

    You lucky duck – you get to EAT what she bakes!

    • December 16, 2011
      10:54 am

      Someday Jewels…you will *HAVE* to try some. It’s hard though, because her baking is like art. It’s so beautiful that it’s almost a shame to eat it! But then when you do eat it…you’re glad you did!

      • December 17, 2011
        7:07 pm

        I know – the pics are enough to make me want to hop a plane to Canada! Save the reindeer for me, please.

  • December 16, 2011
    6:39 pm

    Thank you ladies… I’m blushing! It’s so important to pass these things along. I love the video of Julie Anne and Tatjana making the cookies too… what a great way to spend time together and pass down. Like I tell my girls… if you can create for yourself you can do anything.

    • December 17, 2011
      7:02 pm

      Rachel – you need to be videoing your baking and decorating with your girls too! They are so precious!

  • December 16, 2011
    6:55 pm

    I didn’t realize there was video!! I just watched…Rachel, Jewels, you ladies make me want to learn how to bake! I mess up Duncan Hines mix, lol!

    I have the utmost respect for your baking skills and artistic creations!! Very inspiring!

    • December 17, 2011
      7:03 pm

      Trust me, you’d rather eat Rachel’s baked goods. I drool when I see them. Cooking is more my strength.

  • December 17, 2011
    10:36 am

    Rachel just loved your guest blog post! Your cakes look amazing!!! Truly artistic creations! What lovely memories you have with your grandmother. :). Agree with Jodi…Ava is adorable!

    • December 17, 2011
      7:04 pm

      Now think of all the memories she will be making with Ava and Holly!

  • December 17, 2011
    6:54 pm

    Hi Jewels – Just a thought, and I’m sure by now, others have mentioned this to you as well, but, just in case . . . Recently while watching Larry King’s “Dinner with the Kings” Special on CNN, the thought occurred to me that a similar format could be absolutely perfect for a pilot for you. The format mixed fabulous food (in this case being prepared by Wolfgang Puck) and an informal dinner party, complete with an interesting mix of celebrity, athletes, entrepreneurs, or other interesting guests, laughing, and chatting around the dinner table. This type format seemed to lend itself perfectly to your brand approach (“taking you to VIP entrances in Versace to service entrances in my apron”), and with your colorful and eclectic mix of interesting friends (both past and present), it would seem to almost be a perfect match. I can just see you popping from the kitchen to table and having light, fun, bubbly, but interesting conversation with your guests along the way . . . In other words, in reality “Dinner with Jewels” might be very much like just another typical fun night at home with friends, and all you have to do is capture it on tape! (You could even start with video and post it on your blog and/or YouTube and begin to create a following that way, if you like . . .) Have been meaning to jot you this note for weeks, but my life has been a whirl since Thanksgiving! However, when I get an idea like this, unfortunately, it won’t leave me, until I pass it forward – so there it is! Enjoy the Holidays, Jewels! (AND your two girls, of course!) -R
    Link to “Dinner with the Kings” – Pt 1

  • December 17, 2011
    7:06 pm

    Are you psychic??? You posted this just as I was in the midst (well – still am) of editing a video from a Christmas Party I did at a friends’ house last Monday!

    • December 17, 2011
      7:27 pm

      HA! Maybe so, Jewels! After all, this has been on my mind for weeks now – so maybe we somehow transmitted it via the Cosmos through some secret law of attraction . . . LOL! SO happy to hear you already have this in the works! Really do think it’s PERFECT for you! -R

  • December 21, 2011
    1:39 pm

    Rachel, your post brings images to my eyes and I feel as if I am a little mouse hiding in the corner of your kitchen watching all the fun transpire. I envy everyone who has little ones in their lives to share the fun of cooking and baking. It’s much more fun to share cooking experiences with others than it is to cook alone. Memories of cooking with my own mother are so faint, she died when I was 7 and so I didn’t get the kitchen time that I would surely have had. But, I do remember that we had mother/daughter aprons brightly coloured pansies on a white background with yellow borders and ties. I’d give the world to have my apron to tuck in my memory box. I do bake fairly often and think of Mum every time. Rachel, thank you for a post that brought so much joy to my heart! You are an amazing mother and by taking the time to teach your daughters these lessons, you are building strong family ties, ones that will not only last your lifetime, but for generations to come.