Life handed Carol Brownman Sneider lemons. So she made lemon meringue pie.
Brownman Sneider is the force behind Boston Bakes for Breast Cancer (www.boston bakes.org), which enters its 17th year this week having raised more than $1 million for breast cancer research — simply by selling sweets at restaurants, bakeries, supermarkets and now online retailers throughout Greater Boston.
The 2016 event takes place May 2 to 8, ending on Mother’s Day.
“We were running black-tie fundraisers but decided to do something without a ticket price, something that can fit into everyone’s life,” said the Needham resident and full-time volunteer fundraiser. “Everyone can make a difference simply by buying a cookie for $2.99 at Roche Bros. or dining out at their favorite restaurant. It was important to me to make fundraising accessible.”
The premise of Boston Bakes for Breast Cancer is simple: Participating establishments donate 100 percent of the sales of a specific dessert or baked good or 50 percent of the sales of all desserts on their menu for the entire week.
It’s a deeply personal project for Brownman Sneider, who lost her dad at age 9 and was just a teenager in the 1970s when her mother and baking buddy Eva Brownman died of breast cancer. Mom was just 44 years old and left behind two daughters without parents.
“Back then people didn’t talk about breast cancer the way they do now,” said Brownman Sneider. “We didn’t know until a month before my mother died what was going on.”
Carol and sister Marjorie created The Eva Brownman Breast Cancer Fund in 1990, before it evolved into Boston Bakes for Breast Cancer in 2000 — a tribute to Mom’s love of baking.
“We baked everything together for the holidays. Brownies. Cookies. Rugalach. Bread. You name it,” said Brownman Sneider.
One of her fondest childhood memories was teaching her fourth-grade classmates how to make Mom’s sugary pecan balls. Brownman Sneider still bakes the same sweet today.
Almost all Boston Bakes participants have stories of the impact of breast cancer on their lives: Shaun Velez, pastry chef at Deuxave in Back Bay, lost his aunt Barbara Velez a few years ago; Mary Ann Nagle of Phillips Candy House in Dorchester is a breast cancer survivor; and pastry chef Julie Barnes of Scarlet Oak Tavern in Hingham prepares her pink-hued tiramisu rosa next week in honor of a friend, Marisa Federico, who recently succumbed to breast cancer.
The first Boston Bakes for Breast Cancer back in 2000 featured just 42 restaurants, almost all in Boston. This year, hundreds of restaurants, bakeries, supermarkets and online retailers in more than 100 Bay State communities will participate. The Boston event has spun off Rhode Island (May 8-14) and Cape Cod & Islands (June 6-12) versions.
Brownman Sneider calls her volunteer effort “an addiction.” The event’s size and popularity, however, have stretched her capacity to run it. She’s currently seeking corporate or angel sponsors to get behind Boston Bakes and help it continue to expand.
“The event has grown bigger than I am,” she said. “At the same time, grants are at an all-time low. So there’s so much more we can do. So much more money we can raise. So many more people we can help.”
Certainly, so many more sweets to be sold in honor of Eva Brownman and millions of other victims of breast cancer.
Eva Brownman’s Sugary Pecan Balls
8 T. (1 stick) unsalted but-
ter, room temperature
2 T. granulated sugar
1 t. vanilla extract
1 c. all-purpose flour, sifted
1 c. finely chopped pecans
1 c. confectioner’s sugar,
Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Line baking sheets with parchment paper. Using an electric mixer on medium speed, cream butter, sugar and vanilla until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes, while occasionally scraping down the bowl a couple of times. Add flour and mix on low speed until blended. Add nuts until blended. Form into dough balls using a large teaspoon. Place 2 inches apart on baking sheet. Bake until golden, about 30 minutes.
Immediately roll in confectioner’s sugar while still hot. Let cool. Makes about 35 balls.
Boston Bakes for Breast Cancer
The following 10 establishments are among the more than 100 participating in Boston Bakes for Breast Cancer next week (May 2-8). For a complete list, go to the Fork Lift food blog at bostonherald.com.
- Aquitaine Bar à Vin Bistro, Chestnut Hill and Dedham
- Black Rose, Downtown Boston
- British Beer Company, all locations
- El Pelon Taqueria, Brighton and Fenway
- Green Hills Irish Bakery, Dorchester
- Not Your Average Joe’s, all locations
- Phillips Candy House, Braintree, Dorchester and phillipschocolate.com
- Sudbury Farms, Sudbury and Needham
- Tosca, Hingham
- Yvonne’s, Downtown Crossing