SALT LAKE CITY — Most of us find purpose in different ways, but for the Utah woman behind “Cake by Courtney,” purpose came along with healing and inspiration through baking cakes.
The birthday cake that almost wasn’t
Courtney Rich was 9 years old when she decorated her first cake, in the midst of a family emergency. Her mother, in the middle of making a cake for Rich, learned her brother, Trevor, needed help after a bike crash.
“And she’s like, ‘You’re gonna have to frost your own cake.’ Like, ‘Good luck. I don’t know when I’ll be back.'”
Rich says her mother flew out the door to take her brother to urgent care, leaving her alone with a 9 x 13 cake in a pan.
“I waved goodbye, and I went in the kitchen and looked at my cake … and said, ‘OK, let’s frost this,'” she said.
Turning a hobby into Cake by Courtney
Most cakes in Rich’s life came from a mix or box, but as a new mother, she decided to try making her son’s birthday cake from scratch.
“I found a recipe for peanut butter cake with chocolate frosting, and of course, it just spoke to me, because those are two of my favorite flavors and it looked simple enough,” she remembered. “I just needed some cake pans and a mixing bowl.”
She went to work.
“It was nothing to write home about as far as how it looks or how it looked, but it tasted delicious, and I was like, ‘Whoa. OK. Homemade cake is a whole ‘nother story here,'” she said.
Rich said even more rewarding was the reaction when she shared it with friends and family.
“It filled my cup in so many different ways that after Weston’s birthday, I thought, ‘I want to do that again,'” Rich said.
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She was hooked. One cake led to another, tinkering with recipes and methods, until eventually, her hobby became Cake by Courtney, with a blog, podcast, Instagram following, store — and soon, a cookbook.
“I had no idea, no idea, with that first cake, what was going to change and how my life was going to change,” she said.
The healing power of baking cakes
Baking a cake, Rich learned, didn’t just help her fill bellies. She discovered through Cake by Courtney that baking cakes provided healing for the depression she’d experienced since the age of 19.
“There was a void, there was something missing,” she said. “As grateful as I was for so many wonderful things, there was — there was something still not right. And as I got into the kitchen, I was able to just feel better. I felt light, I felt peace, I felt comfort. And at the time, I didn’t really connect it all, right? It just felt good, it just made me feel happy, but it was giving me all these other really great feelings that I identify with the spirit of Christ,” she remembered. “[I’ve] been able to recognize that that’s where He came to me, was in the kitchen, to fill — to fill my cup and to help heal me.”
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Rich soon learned her cakes provided healing for others, too.
“There have been people that have shared their story with me, that are similar to mine and different from mine, but what connects us is that we feel whole when we’re in the kitchen. We feel safe when we feel comfort, and we feel happy, and this great sense of joy that it brings us,” Rich said.
“I did get a message from this really sweet mom who just had her fifth miscarriage,” she said. “She and her husband decided to make a cake together, and their sweet baby just had passed away fairly recently. She said they made cake, and it was the first time they laughed together since her passing, that they connected and were able to smile and laugh and have a moment. And cake did that.”
Layers of connection in a time of disconnection
Her followers come from all over the world.
“At the very beginning especially, we felt so isolated and alone, [but] now we are able to connect with someone on social media, with this shared interest, and help them feel like there was someone there doing it with them,” Rich said. “I’ve had a few stories of people connecting over Zoom and making a cake with a family member or sharing it and recording it.”
When conditions allow it again, Rich hopes to go back to teaching classes. In the meantime, as she shares recipes and techniques for baking cakes online, she adds messages of hope and healing and mindfulness along with the lessons. Cake, she says, can be a way to connect.
“I’ve noticed just over the last little bit as I’ve started to open up about my experience, there are so many other people that are experiencing it, and we’re not alone. It’s been so humbling and overwhelming and amazing to talk to women and men through this journey that, you know, have found the same peace and solace and safety in the kitchen, making cakes, as I have,” Rich observed.
“It feels good and it fills you up, and then you share it. And all of a sudden there’s this other layer, totally pun intended, I love that — this other layer to it that you’re sharing what brought you joy, and it’s bringing joy to someone else as well.”
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