Lemon Cake for Three

My mother, in her infinite wisdom, has always said that people will come and go in your life in times when you need them most.


If you really think about who your friends were during certain stages of your life, it’s true. For whatever reason, the universe sends them your way for a period of time, and even if you’re not the best of friends forever and ever, you still appreciate them being there for at least a little while.


Then there’s friends who were always there, but life suddenly makes them even more important. Things like having babies or going through break-ups really allow these people to step up to the plate for you. You appreciate the universe more than ever for sending them your way.

Ever since my cancer diagnosis, I’ve had a lot of friends like that. Real life friends who are by my side when I need some girly hang outs. The kind of friends who are more like family and know me well beyond my diagnosis. Then there’s online friends. Yes, online friends! The ones who I can e-mail or text about anything at any time of day and I know they’ve got my back somewhere on this big continent of ours.

There’s also new “cancer friends” I am making through the magic of the internet. Those who have been or are going through the trenches with me. Who send an e-mail saying “yeah, the side effects from that drug are awful,” and they just get it.

Screen shot 2011-08-22 at 8.40.33 AM.png

And then there is a friend like Kayla, who I’ve been connected to for years now, and suddenly find myself connecting with now on a weekly, sometimes daily basis. We no longer live in the same city, but she was the first one I told about my cancer diagnosis.

You see, I knew she’d understand.

When Kayla went through cancer and chemotherapy three years ago, I was horrified. For so many reasons. She had been trying for a baby, but instead ended up on chemo. I wrote about her experience, which you can read here.


It’s clear to me now why Kayla is still in my life. The universe knew I’d need to keep her around.

So what does this have to do with cake?

Well, when she came to visit me over the weekend, I had to make her something! Kayla is a Newfoundlander with an, ahem, “picky” sense of taste. But she is a girl who knows what she likes, and lemon cake with white frosting is what she has every year for her birthday. Lucky for me, her birthday is next week, so I got to bake her a cake!

The base of the cake is this Martha Stewart recipe. When it comes to things like cakes, I know I can never go wrong with Martha.


I made a few slight changes. I didn’t include a layer of frosting in the middle because I was too lazy to cut my cake in half. Next time though, I would include it!! My palate is a little off from chemo and I’m quite sensitive to sour and citrus flavours. I found the syrup that I soaked the cake in was a little strong, but everyone else who tried it said it’s what brought out a natural lemon flavour to the cake. The cake itself is dense like a pound cake, but soft and sticky because of the syrup soaked throughout.

Really though, the icing is the most important part here.


I made boiled icing!

I mentioned boiled icing in a previous post and was surprised by how many people commented they’d never heard of it. I’m sure there are variations of it you’ve probably tried, but perhaps my idea of traditional boiled icing is a regional thing?

I used this recipe from Zesty Cook because he’s a Maritimer, and if it is indeed a Maritime tradition then he’d know how to do it best.


Boiled icing is just made by reducing water, sugar, and corn syrup on the stove and mixing it with beaten egg whites. It results in a sweet, sticky, and incredibly fluffy icing that tastes just like marshmallow fluff. The Martha Stewart recipe recommended adding lemon juice to the icing, but I thought it made the whole thing too tart. Instead I stuck to the classic sweet version, and it offset the sourness in the cake wonderfully.


As for Kayla and I, we had a great visit on Saturday, including an outing for lunch. There is no doubt she is a cancer superhero after her ordeal, but even more amazing is that she produced one healthy, super-smart baby boy shortly after treatment. And get this – is now pregnant with twins!


The universe certainly works in mysterious ways, and I’m happy Kayla now has an excuse to eat cake for three.

Posted on August 22, 2011, in Baking, Cancer, Recipes and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 36 Comments.

  1. She’s preggers with twins!? That is incredible! I agree with you that people come into our lives for a reason. I’m sure she is a huge comfort to you and you to her. I mean anyone that bakes a friend a cake from scratch is obviously a great friend!

  2. The universe, and its spiritual realm, are truly amazing, and exacting miracles of all shapes and sizes all the time. This is one of them.

  3. Life truly is a funny thing, isn’t it? I’d like to swim in a vat of that frosting.

  4. Aww! I’m glad she was able to have kids after all that, and your cake looks delicious! Glad you had fun with your good friend!

  5. Wow!! That story gave me chills. I am so happy for your friend and you are right, every person you meet or cross paths with is someone you are absolutely meant to meet. I learn that every day, almost, from those I’ve met recently, reconnected with or have always been there. Amazing. And that cake also looks amazing! As do you! Great post…

  6. I adore you. Not just because you make delicious lemon cakes; but because you light up my life with your gorgeous smile and infectious laugh; because I always learn new things from you and am constantly inspired by the way you live your life. Let’s never drift apart. We have too many more years of potential side-by-side close-up photos to take. Imagine 40-50 years from now, Susan and Kayla in old women sweaters, maybe a perm (or not!), with a crib board and a cup of tea. It’s going to be awesome!

    When I was going through my ordeal, it meant so much that you cared to ask about the details, and were sympathetic. The piece you wrote meant a lot to me and the other women I met who went through PGTD and beyond. I’m happy to be there for you. I feel lucky that you let me in. Knowing, in part, what’s it’s like – as our experiences are different – and seeing you handle it with such grace and even emotions, makes me adore you even more. I’ll always be there for you, whether it be at some crazy New Year’s party in the sticks, or through major life changing events like cancer.

    I shared a small-ish piece of cake with Scott (couldn’t part with too much). He loved it as well. It was just incredible. My normal box cake version may never taste the same. Hmm… wonder if Chris will be into baking a scratch cake? We both know the answer to that.

    There are many other things I want to say that ran through my head while reading this post. I’ll just have to relay them over time. You know how I feel about you. There is nothing I appreciate more than strong, inspiring, highly intelligent women friends. You are the very best kind of friend.


  7. I love this post. I am sharing it with my forever friends :) I know EXACTLY what you are talking about! I have also recently met another girl who had two healthy and beautiful children after treatment and it really is a wonderful thing to hear!

  8. I love your heartfelt posts. It’s interesting how I can read an entire post about a friendship I know nothing about, and be touched by it. Thanks for giving me one of those moments when I temporarily put all other thoughts to a halt in order to appreciate what I’ve got.

  9. That’s awesome. This just made me smile! That cake looks fantastic too!: )

  10. pregnant with twins … OH HELL she’ll need two pieces of cake then MMMMMMmmmm ;)

  11. I too loved this post.

  12. You did a great job bringing your friend’s story to life! I’m so glad to see she has recovered and has a baby and twins on the way! What a happy ending! :)

    I adore lemon cake. Yours looks amazing and I must try that icing!

  13. Susan, I think you can consider yourself in the same way as those friends are to you – to them.

    I love how people float in and out of lives. Good friendships never really die, they just evolve.

  14. Oh man! Lemon cake! And boiled icing! (My Nana always makes boiled icing for birthdays). And good friends to boot? So much joy in one post!

  15. Congratulations to Kayla! :)

  16. The cake looks lovely! I’ve actually liked lemon MORE during chemo. In fact, I’ve been drinking Crystal Light lemonade almost exclusively.

    BTW, just requested a few of the cancer books you mentioned from the library.

  17. Susan that cake looks…amazing! the frosting, the lemons placed on top, the perfect slices (you could get a job as a cake slicer…so perfect and not messy which is my usual pitfall!)…mmmm, I want this!

  18. Congratulations to Kayla! What a wonderful follow-up to her cancer experience!

  19. The cake looks amazing. I had no idea chemo changed your tastes. Do you find this frustrating or are their things that you really enjoy that you used to pass on?

    • I would compare it to how something like a cold or being pregnant would change your tastes maybe? Things like chocolate all of a sudden sound sickeningly sweet to me, and I crave foods that are a lot more simple (like toast! lots of toast!). Because the chemo causes nausea, a lot of my food choices are made based on what I think I’ll be able to digest easily and keep down.

  20. So awesome that you kept in touch with Kayla. I have found so many friends that I just know I’m “meant” to be close to and have in my life forever. It’s eerie at times!

    That cake….holy crap I want a slice so bad!!!! I love pound cakes and the way you described it made me hungry. If only I could figure out how to make it gluten-free!

  21. A wonderful post & wonderful that you have such a great friend that really can understand all you go thru! I love the pics & the cake looks amazing!

    As for your taste buds, yes, my mom had the same issues….. I guess it means you can enjoy other foods that maybe you did not like before… ;-)

  22. What a great story :) And that cake looks amazing!

  23. I cannot for the life of me make a proper boiled icing. I ruin it every time. Can you send me some? ;-)

  24. Congrats to Kayla (I am laughing at “old women sweaters”!)
    You both look wonderful, as does that cake!

  25. Sweet, sweet post.
    I think ever woman can relate to
    certain friends being there when
    they are needed the most.Some of us have
    been through trauma,and some have not yet in life
    but we will all need those special treasured
    buddies who we can lean on and spill our hearts
    out to.
    Made me smile and congrats to your buddy on
    expecting twins!!! :)

  26. That cake looked good do you mind if I sprinkle some fresh black rasberries on it :-) Kayla is definitely a keeper Susan, it’s inspiring to see your sisterly bond!

  27. barefootgirl27

    I love this post.. and I’m inspired by you! Rock on girl!

    *giggle* old woman sweaters…. that’s awesome :)

  28. Finally, the famous boiled icing recipe! Does anyone know if that’s the same thing as white mountain icing? The lemon cake is something I’ll definitely have to try, looks yummy!

  29. I loved this post!!

    I definitely think boiled icing is a Maritime thing.. I moved from Nova Scotia to Alberta and no one knows what it is out here..

  1. Pingback: Things I Learned In 2011 « The Great Balancing Act

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