At the beginning of my sophomore year of high school, I passed out one morning before going to class. That marked the beginning of a long and challenging chronic illness that kept me at home for nearly three years. I spent the rest of high school in and out of the Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital at Stanford University, trying countless treatments in search of a diagnosis.
One can accomplish a lot in three years of down time, even when confined to one’s house. That time allowed me to develop a closer relationship with my parents and with my cats. I read hundreds of books and was able to work my way through all of my school material from home. I developed a love for cooking and baking and was charmed by the joy that the gift of food brought to my friends and family. Despite the seemingly endless days spent in bed, I knew that I wanted to attend a four-year college, and I was confident that I would be able to complete the prerequisite materials even though I was unable to attend class. That said, one piece of my college application remained missing– my illness prevented me from going out into the world and devoting my time to volunteer work. While many of my peers volunteered at our local hospital or at our county’s animal shelter, I spent most of my days too ill to leave the house.
During one of the many drives between Stanford and my hometown, my dad came up with a solution. He proposed that I combine two of my great loves: baking and animals. We spent the rest of that drive devising a way that I could use what I had learned in the kitchen in order to help animals in need. Throughout the rest of high school, I made and sold baked goods and donated the money that I collected to the Butte Humane Society, and Kat’s Cakes was born. I started out small at first, selling individual pastries to my friends and my parents’ coworkers. My mother, a graphic designer, put together my first business cards with pictures of my simple desserts. As time passed, I became more and more adept in the kitchen and began to pursue more complicated projects. I developed a love for cake decorating and began taking custom orders for special occasion cakes of all types. Throughout high school, I was able to raise and donate $1,000 dollars to the animal shelter with the endless support of my friends and family.
Since then, my health has improved and I am able to manage my illness in order to live a normal life. I am fortunate enough to attend UC Berkeley and to be member of the Best Damn Band in the Land. Kat’s Cakes still exists today, and I continue to take custom dessert orders from my bandmates and professors with the money now going towards the cost of tuition and living expenses. I still learn every time I bake and am always excited to try new things in the kitchen. Since coming to college, I have been hired for my skills and now bake and decorate cakes and cupcakes at an artisan cake shop in Berkeley. Though I no longer have as much time as I would like to devote towards personal baking projects, nothing makes me happier through the stress of school and marching than making desserts for the people that I love.
-Kat White, Bass ’14