Dressed for Cake

Sugar and Snow in Snoqualmie

Zigzag Black

Every so often in life, you meet someone who understands you, is gracious with you, makes you comfortable with who you are while simultaneously challenging you to be the best version of yourself. I call these people kindred spirits, because there is an untraceable bond, one that rarely makes sense, like the love and closeness of family despite distance and time.

Hopping from one region of the US to another for three years straight and keeping a schedule such as you do running your own business, making friends is a luxury we rarely have time for. Life and work seem to always be delaying those moments we plan and dream of creating with friends nearby. But living and working in a world-class city, in a region of such boundless inspiration, we’re often lucky enough to cross paths with like-minded entrepreneurs (who also, unsurprisingly, rarely have time for socializing). These moments are rare and sweet and must be enjoyed in their moment, like the first ripe strawberry of summer.

Meeting Tiffany Howard of Oh Honey Bakes was one of those moments. Introduced at one of last year’s Secret Supper events in Mt. Hood, Oregon, I was immediately drawn to her warmth and unassuming grace. Tiffany is by all accounts, a beautiful woman, but what you must know is that behind her cakes is a spirit that rivals any earthly sweetness. She had brought her mother to Secret Supper, which touched my own heart, wishing I had been able to do the same. I think our meeting was mutually intriguing. We had a lot in common, in fact. We both lived in Seattle, hence our introduction, had moved to the city at roughly the same time, and perhaps equally did not have much time for making friends. A mother of a toddler, and rising fast in the ranks of the blogosphere, Tiffany had her hands and schedule full. But as with so many friends I’ve somehow made and been privileged to keep, it felt as though she decided to make room for me anyway.

It wasn’t long into our friendship that Tiffany and I realized just how similar we truly were. At first it was anecdotal details. Her husband and son are named David; my stepfather and brother are Davids. We’re both Southerners turned Seattleites. We both moved from Texas to Washington with our families for work and still can’t help our jaws from dropping at the beauty of the Northwest. We both love to bake but really (really!) try to eat healthy. We love photography, thrift stores, and ice cream. Sugar is never not reason enough to be friends, right? But there were deeper things that crept into our conversation and friendship, as they do, like trust, and empathy; patience and forgiveness.

Another thing we discovered along the making of our friendship is how much respect we share for other makers and creatives, making their work in the same quiet, steadfast way that we do our own. Thanks to Instagram we recognized we were also gawking over the same recipes, the same ceramics, the same…dresses.

At some point we realized we had each fixated on the work of Joanna McCartney, the dress maker behind Pyne & Smith Clothiers. Joanna’s work is in both philosophy and fashion sophisticated and simple. A European transplant living and sewing in California, her silhouettes are made of rich wools and resilient linens, all sourced from sustainable, small-batch operating mills in the US and Europe. In fact, the reason for choosing her particular materials, she states, is their longevity and environmental impact. Her 100% linen fabric is made entirely from the flax plant, a durable material 30% stronger than cotton lasting 10x as long before showing any wear. This linen improves with age, is hypo-allergenic and highly breathable, cooling in hot weather yet insulating in the cold weather (as we soon found out). Her wool is also 100% natural, and only needs washing every 12th wear due to its material nature to ‘self-clean.’

What drew us both to Pyne & Smith from the start was the elegance in their forms, the lovely way they draped, their sweet stripes, and handmade wooden buttons. We loved their natural hues and unassuming modesty that could be dressed up or down, and how they could layer effortlessly in any season.

It was only a matter of time.

Our dreams came true in the form of two beautifully striped linen beauties. Sharing the experience of putting them each on, we felt like princesses and had little desire to wear anything else thereafter.

It seemed necessary to create an opportunity to show off just how much we loved these pieces, and to celebrate the joy of doing what we so often do alone, together. Tiffany formulated a delectable, sweetly tart Cranberry Orange Cake, and I brought along my own talent in the art of cake discernment. “Mmm, yessverymmmyummy,” was my diagnosis of the day. Cake Tester, PhD candidate. For hire.

The day we spent together – she, making cake, and I, vigorously testing to ensure the ratio of cake to buttercream was calibrated correctly – it happened to be snowing nearby. Because it was a day meant for play, we plated the cake, packed our heaviest coats, and drove what felt like an indulgently long way eastbound, until we sighted snow.

For better or worse, snow seems to have a way of stopping time. I’m sure if you live somewhere particularly snowy, it may get a bit monotonous, but where I’m from, you never get over the thought of seeing literal ice crystals falling from heaven. It’s a phenomena so simple and delightful it turns adults into children, who follow suit, turning this powdery manna into a toy; a character; a canvas for the angels. Arrayed in our linen gowns and inexplicably subjecting our fingers and toes to freezing temperatures, we tromped through the plot of two feet deep pillowy earth we claimed as our own for that afternoon, forgetting the time entirely, and laughing at ourselves in a moment of uncomplicated joy, refreshed and rosy-cheeked.

I’m beyond thankful to have a friend like Tiffany, who stirs up reasons to make life sweeter, who giggles through busyness, and who gently insists that snow days – like all days – are the right ones to dress up and eat cake.