Audrey Shulman moved from Nashville to Los Angeles three years ago to work in reality television. And according to her, she's never, ever dating anyone. Like many transplants, especially those in Los Angeles, she has found it difficult to meet new people, and even more difficult to date.
But last year she baked a cake for her best friend and roommate, Chrissy Osmulski’s birthday at a local bar.
It was a hit at the bar, and it gave Chrissy an idea. She told Audrey this was how she was going to meet someone, "by sitting in bars with cake."
At first it was just a joke, but after a few months passed and Audrey hadn't dated anyone, Chrissy broached the subject again. But this time, she pitched as a way for Audrey to work on her writing by keeping a blog about the experience: Sitting In Bars With Cake was born.
They called the act "cakebarring," and they established ground rules: Bake 50 cakes in one year, given them away at a different bar each time to anyone who asked and write about it afterward. Audrey had one more rule.
"I never use canned frosting," she said.
Overall, it’s been a pretty big success, at least when it comes to meeting people.
“Last night I was out until 2 a.m. in the morning in Culver City, cakebarring, talking to a rocket scientist,” Audrey. She insists that wouldn’t have happened without the project.
And for a moment, it even looked like the project might end early, and successfully, when Audrey met a nice guy earlier in April. They started going out and they dated for a few months. Audrey even told him about the blog, and when that didn’t scare him away, they talked about him possibly being her boyfriend. But she says he “just kind of ran away.”
Soon, Chrissy told Audrey she just had to start baking again.
But Audrey’s heartbreak was overshadowed by another, even more unwelcome surprise. In May, Chrissy had a seizure. Scans showed there was inflammation in her brain and two days after her 32nd birthday in June, she was diagnosed with a brain tumor. Since then, she’s been undergone chemo and radiation.
“Her neurooncologist said, ‘If you have to have a brain tumor, this is the best one to have.’ So we’re like, ‘Oh, great,” Audrey said.
So cakebarring has become less about boys, and more about buoying each other’s spirits.
“In a weird way, the cakebarring routine has been really comforting, to kind of have it as this steady, stable thing in our lives,” said Audrey. “Baking cakes is like a hobby and taking it to bars is like a sport, you know, who can we meet with the cake?”
And on this night, it’s a Sock-It-To-Me cake, a yellow coffeecake with sour cream, pecans and some cinnamon sugar sprinkled.
“I think it will be a real crowd-pleaser,” Audrey said.
After the cake is finished, with plastic forks and plates and napkins in tow, Audrey and Chrissy head out to the Pikey Bar in Hollywood. There, they meet a little resistance from the bouncer.
Once inside, they struggle to be heard over the blaring music, but they soon run into a group of people who are celebrating a friend’s birthday. The group happens to be cake-less. Audrey and Chrissy make fast friends with the cake, even meeting a guy who does stand-up at United Citizens Brigade Theater in Hollywood and offers up an on-the-spot rendition of his cakebarring shtick.
“What is with all these girls giving away cakes in bars?! Have you noticed this??” he asks.
Audrey laughs and gives him a business card. It has the name of her blog on it, no phone number, and she promises to come see him perform sometime. Audrey and Chrissy turn away from the birthday crowd and scan the room for their next encounter.
Back home later that night, Audrey thinks aloud, “I think it would be pathetic if I was really desperate to find someone or desperate to get married, but I have a very happy life,” she says. “I have wonderful friends, I love my parents. I’m pretty happy. If the year ends and I haven’t met someone, it’s ok, it’s just nice knowing that I tried.”
As the project and the year comes to an end, Audrey has met a lot of nice guys and friends, and friends of friends, some of whom she’s even run into — outside of bars — around town, at work. She’s been recognized like a local celebrity as “the cakebarring lady.” She says she still hasn’t found “the one,” and they won’t know whether Chrissy’s cancer treatment was successful until sometime next year, but in the meantime, they’re keeping busy and are on track to finish their 50th cake by December 31st.
Audrey’s blog has even inspired a group of people as far away as Australia to take up the sport of cakebarring. And, thousands of words later, it has also been a good way to keep up her writing.