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Cake, Carbs and Cream Cheese: A Love Story, Memoir and Iron Cupcake Entry

Bagel and Cream Cheese Cupcake
Letter from the Head Spy

Dear Cakespy Readers,

When people meet me, they're commonly surprised by my small stature. "Do you actually eat cake?" they ask. The answer is yes. Yes, I do--nearly every day. And this month, for an entry to Iron Cupcake, the internet's coolest cupcake competition, it made me reflect upon something that has really shaped my attitude toward eating.


When I was in high school, I was overweight--and as a result, always on a diet. Of course, periods of intense deprivation inevitably would end dramatically, with me raiding the freezer for ice cream, cookies, candy, chips...anything. A vicious cycle.

When I was a senior in high school, I came across Geneen Roth's book When You Eat at the Refrigerator, Pull Up a Chair. In it, she recounts how one day she said "enough!" to the yo-yo of constantly starving oneself and asked herself what it was that she really wanted to eat. In her case it was chocolate chip cookies, so she ate them--and only them--every day, every meal, until her body was crying out for a veggie. Over time, what happened was that she learned how to actually listen to her body and respect its desires and needs.
Bagel and Cream cheese cupcake
What was it that I really wanted, I wondered? The answer was immediate, and consisted of two things: cake and bread. And so, for the next several months, I rotated a menu consisting almost completely of bagels with a generous spread of cream cheese, gooey grilled cheese sandwiches, and cake--mostly vanilla cupcakes with pink frosting and crumb cake.

Certainly at this point you're saying "but you must have blown up!". Strangely though, it was quite the opposite. I found that once I gave myself permission to eat these things, I was no longer subject to the furtive style of eating wherein I would inevitably cram more cake into my mouth--and after a while, I would sometimes even leave a bite uneaten, if I was no longer hungry (understand that this was a very big deal).
Like Roth, after a few months my body began asking for other things, and I realized that I too had cravings for what had previously tasted of dull suffering in the diet days: carrots, spinach, apples--even brussels sprouts. Paired with moving to New York City for college and subscribing to the walker-friendly lifestyle there, I began to slim down gradually, and in a natural way; I have remained small ever since.

Grilled Cheese Cupcake
While I can't say that I never worry about eating too much sugar, I (as well as the other Cake Gumshoes) live a generally very healthy lifestyle. However, we also do allow ourselves the joy of full-fat, no holds-barred desserts. We have no delusions about these foods being good for our bodies, but we know in our hearts they're good for the soul.
And so in that spirit, here is the Cakespy entry to the Iron Cupcake: Cheese theme. We followed our cake-and-bread theme by making an extra-carby, dense cake, and topped it with a cream cheese frosting--and topped them with our favorite carby icons--including a marzipan "bagel" dipped in poppyseeds and a sweet little "grilled cheese". And so, in closing--Viva la carbohydrate!--and here's to just letting yourself eat cake.


Head Spy Jessie

That's not a cupcake
PS--For those of you who thought there wasn't nearly enough mischief in this post, here's a fun way we messed with some friends (who happen to be vegan): we made "cupcakes" out of a slightly sculpted slice of soy cheese, topped with Tofutti cream cheese "frosting". Muhaha! That cupcake wasn't sweet! Haha, messing with people is funny.



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Reader Comments (38)

THANK YOU for this post--I'm attempting to follow Geneen's advice from that same book but it can be a daunting task and so hearing your experience makes it all the more easy (and sweet) to follow fearlessly.

Also I just love your website--I'm a newbie to it!

October 24 | Unregistered CommenterAmy

Oh Jessie. What a great post. Really. And those cupcakes? Brilliantly defiant in their own way!

October 24 | Unregistered CommenterEB

Wonderful read. I am sure lot of us can relate to you.
I just think I am always in one or other diet.
Wish I was courageous enough to let it go and eat water ever i wanted.
That mean eating as much pastries, cakes and fried food for me :-)

October 24 | Unregistered CommenterHappy cook

I gave up on dieting long ago! I just can't bear to miss the good things in life! Just eating them in moderation is the way to go!

October 24 | Unregistered Commentercakewardrobe

Congratulations on your healthy lifestyle!
I'm still working on Geneen's philosophy, which never seems to quite stick long enough to make a permanent difference! But I do adore those mini bagels and grilled cheese--absolutely perfect!

October 24 | Unregistered CommenterRicki

This is a great post. While I would like to try this, it seems as though these things don't apply once you get to a certain age. I'm just afraid I'd continue to expand.

I'm an everything in moderation kind of girl. I've tried diets, but if you love food, they just don't work!!

What great cupcakes!

October 24 | Unregistered CommenterDeborah

wonderful post~
lovely cupcakes!
you are so damn cute.

October 24 | Unregistered Commenterbonnie

In a way that is very much "the same but different", I grew to love seets all the more, after my body bullied me into paying better attention to my eating habits.

I never gained an ounce no matter how crazily I ate, so I never had the incentive that typically strikes teenage girls--weight gain and body image--prompting me to change my habits. I ate loads and loads of any old crap I felt like, with no moderation.

Then, in my mid-20s I got really sick and realised after wrangling with holistic modes of healing, food was the root of the problem and if I ever wanted to feel good again, I had to change...thin had nothing to do with fit, in other words.

The excellent up-side is, when you're moderate about treats, you appreciate things like marzipan bagels instead of going for the econo-size carton of lard-based cupcakes!

October 24 | Unregistered CommenterAmanda

Great post!! Food is my weakness in life and I always fall off the bandwagon on diets.

Rosie x

October 24 | Unregistered CommenterRosie

Cake, carbs and cream cheese are definitely my friends. I'm not huge though people (especially my mother) wonder how I stay so slim. I suppose my body just likes 'em :)

October 24 | Unregistered CommenterSharon

diets are so depressing, esp when we're all cupcake-heads at heart!! Could you imagine what poor Cuppie would look like on a diet! Scary!!
Have a great weekend!

October 24 | Unregistered CommenterSuzanne

I have that book but she changed the title recently. I read it with a whole heap of 'AHA' moments. It's a really good read.

Those little cupcakes look fabulous.

Thanks for sharing your personal story. x

October 24 | Unregistered CommenterChantelle


I think that part of what happens when you finally eat "forbidden" foods is that you deactivate some of their power over you.

Lately I have been eating dessert, purposefully, after dinner every night, and loving every bite. The trick for me, to not obsess over sweets, is to let myself have them and to be fully aware of them as I eat them -- no distractions, no TV, no newspaper, just the food in front of me. By actually having and eating my cake, I find that I can let it go afterwards, and I don't spend as much time sneaking to the refrigerator for a second or third helping.

What a great website! I was directed to it by a reader of my blog, and am glad to make its acquaintance.

Ai Lu

October 24 | Unregistered CommenterAi Lu

Holy adorable!! I love bread and I love cupcakes what a perfect marriage of the two!

October 24 | Unregistered CommenterStef

Jessie, if it's possible, I love you even more after this post :) bread and butter lovers unite!

October 24 | Unregistered CommenterAmanda

Your posts are always so smart.
Love it. You rock!

October 24 | Unregistered CommenterBakerella

I just discovered your blog today. I am a lover of all things sweet that are beautiful. I have also spent the last year and a half of my life losing 85 pounds. I believe your philosophy makes a lot of sense and it's how I want to live my life.
Now, if you'll excuse me, I'm off to check out this Iron Cupcake thing.

October 24 | Unregistered CommenterAmanda Daybyday

Very inspiring! I wrote in my own blog recently about how dieting stats are declining. Perhaps people are catching on to what you and Roth have known for years?

October 24 | Unregistered CommenterDana McCauley

These cupcakes are absolutely adorable, and the little carb-inspired cupcake toppers make me want to flip out. And I mean that in a good way. :)

Anyway, I feel that I tend to eat the way you do...if I want cake for dinner, I eat it. And if I crave just a bowl of veggies for dinner, I'll just have that. And really, it all evens out in the end, right? :)

October 24 | Unregistered CommenterPatti

jessie, i can't get over how creative cakes are. i was overweight for a long time too and i'm still learning how to listen to my body. slowly but it does work.

October 24 | Unregistered CommenterKrysta

love this story!!! What a great life it is to eat what you want - listening to our body.

October 24 | Unregistered Commenterveron

I want to thank you for writing this post.

I suffer from anorexia, and I used to make cupcakes and eat them whenever I wanted. I loved thinking up the perfect flavour combo or decoration. Then, as my life began to unravel, I stopped eating any of the foods I wanted. I would buy diet versions of everything, and then those would just sit on my shelf until they went bad. After several months of this, I was admitted to the hospital. After a while in nutritional rehabilitation and group therapy, I am proud to say that I am in recovery and fixing my life.

Now I hate the word 'diet', because I think that everyone should just eat. It is just food. Enjoying treats like cupcakes is an important part life.

October 24 | Unregistered CommenterCecily

THANK YOU - I know, I'm not the first to say that, but you put into words the sort of problems I have had and occasionally still have. In the end, I think I'll just have a cookie :)

October 24 | Unregistered CommenterEngineer Baker

Thanks for sharing your story! As lover of sweets who is recovering from an eating disorder, it is great to hear that you were able to find balance and happiness in your diet.

October 24 | Unregistered CommenterKatie
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