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Bakes for Breast Cancer: Feel Good and Do Good While Eating Dessert

The Tides Beach Club-Maine Blueberry Crisp

Want to eat dessert and help a cause dedicated to fighting breast cancer?

Thanks to Bakes for Breast Cancer, a nonprofit founded by Carol Sneider in 1999, you can do just that this fall. Here’s how it works: Restaurants and bakeries from Massachusetts to Rhode Island commit to donating proceeds from the sale of a dessert–or all desserts–during the week of the event. You can go to a bakery, buy a cookie and enable doctors to launch research in the fight to end breast cancer. Desserts run the gamut from cookies to pie.

Carol Sneider (left), with her baking friends.

Carol Sneider (left), with her baking friends.

“We are doing a raspberry babka with a pink icing because we think it is the best match for the cause,” says Or Ohana, co-founder of Bakey Babka of Boston. “We bake it five or six times a day to give you that fresh out-of-the-oven experience.” Ohana, a big fan of Boston who is raising his family there, says, “I just want to donate from my DNA as a baker and as a business owner. And I think it is very important for me to give back and be a part of the community.”

Sneider, a longtime foodie and Needham, MA resident, came up with the idea for Bakes for Breast Cancer years ago after losing her mother, Eva Brownman, to the disease when she was only 16.

She and her sister, Marjorie Shapiro, started raising money through black tie events and fashion shows through the Eva Brownman Breast Cancer Fund (1990-99). But Sneider wanted to do something more accessible, so she pitched her baked goods idea to Mat Schaffer, a food editor at the Boston Herald. After he introduced her to the Pastry Guild of New England, the rest took off from there.

Now in its 23rd year, Bakes for Breast Cancer’s unique strategy has allowed them to include hundreds of participants in New England. Businesses choose a dessert they offer and can donate either 50 or 100% of the proceeds to the organization. In addition, anyone can host a bake sale or even take cooking lessons to support the mission.


Tarta de Santiago from Toro, Boston.

“I wanted to be more inclusive as a nonprofit,” Sneider said. “When I grew up, my fondest memories were baking with my mother. It was just a natural fit to do something with desserts and to build a way to raise money around that. I didn’t want a high-ticket price and I didn’t want everyone to have to go to one place. I wanted to do something where a simple cookie could make a difference—something that people were going to do anyway in their life.”

Money raised from donations enables prominent researchers such as Dr. Rachel Freedman of the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute to begin research. Bakes for Breast Cancer also funds a doctor for two years, which historically has led to major breakthroughs in the world of medicine, like Dr. Judy Garber’s research in Tamoxifen.

“I don’t realize sometimes the impact we make on people,” Sneider said. “I met one woman who was a breast cancer survivor that uses our event like restaurant week. She would go to several places with her group of other survivors and try restaurants they wouldn’t have tried before. I met her visiting one of our bakeries. Our sign was up and she said, ‘Do you know about this? This is the best thing.’ She had no clue who I was. To meet her was like another Tamoxifen moment, where it was like, pinch me.”

Parish Cafe

Ice Cream Sandwich from Parish Cafe, Boston.

“You don’t know what is going to make the difference, but to be able to know that we were there for part of it just makes me want to do more. Meeting and knowing these doctors and restaurant industry workers and realizing how hard they work, you just want to give as much as you can. You want it to be bigger. They push me to do more for them.”

Sneider shed a personal light on how food’s universality can bring people together for good.

“I’m a foodie. The center of the home is always the kitchen. People are always enjoying food. Whether you eat out, or dine in, the last thing you remember is dessert. If food doesn’t bring out the good in people, I don’t know what else does.”

To see a list of Bakes for Breast Cancer participating New England venues, click here. Participants in Maine, Cape & Islands will be offering desserts the first week of August while participants in Massachusetts and Rhode Island will be baking the first week of October.


Victoria Pardo

Victoria Pardo is a practicing historic preservationist for FEMA with a dual interest in food and architecture. She earned her master’s in Historic Preservation from Columbia University, and enjoys consulting with historic sites and house museums, finding ever-changing ways to interpret food history. She has worked in the restaurant industry since the age of 16. She spends most of her time between Nantucket Island, MA, and Maine, working on her website, Food and Architecture, sharing stories, recipes and travel recommendations.



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