Batter Up donates 200 cakes to local veteran organization

Batter Up typically rewards RVA’s best with one cake each week. Last weekend, the local initiative gave 200.

Update #1 — October 22, 2013; 9:35 AM

Batter Up, an initiative that shows Richmond’s best people and organizations gratitude in the form of cakes (see below), gave roughly 200 small homemade cakes to Honor Flight, an organization that provides free travel for war veterans to visit the National World War II Memorial.

Batter Up creator Ryn Bruce delivered the cakes to Honor Flight last Saturday in Mechanicsville before the group took veterans to the nation’s capital.

Here’s a press release issued ahead of last weekend’s gift.

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Batter Up, local food-based social experiment, will gift approximately 200 small homemade cakes to Honor Flight, a group who takes veterans in Hampton Roads and Richmond to visit the World War II Memorial in Washington, Dc. Batter Up, a project launched July 1 by Richmond graphic designer Ryn Bruce, surprises deserving or “cake-worthy” members of the community every week.

“This is a completely new level for Batter Up. I’m used to baking one cake every week and surprising a person or group with it. The batch for Honor Flight will still be a surprise, but close to 200 small cakes total,” says Bruce. “Luckily I won’t be doing the baking alone–my mom will be assisting and Kitchen Thyme is sponsoring the delivery and giving me complimentary time at their commercial kitchen space the day before.”

Honor Flight, based in Williamsburg, is a non-profit organization established in 2008. In addition to the World War II Memorial, Honor Flight schedules stops at the Arlington National Cemetery as well as the Marine Corps War, Korean War and Vietnam War memorials.

“This one is personal for me,” says Bruce. “I’m doing this delivery in honor of my grandfather, who was not only stationed in Germany during World War II, but was a philanthropist and devoted much of his life to charity. If I could give him a cake, he would be first on the list. This is the next best thing, and I know he’d be proud of Batter Up and its mission.”

Honor Flight is departing Mechanicsville the morning of Saturday, October 19. Cakes will be presented that morning.

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Original — August 15, 2013

Each week for an entire year, Ryn Bruce will surprise one of the many community-minded people or groups in the city with a homemade cake as part of her Batter Up initiative.

“It’s my mission,” Bruce said by phone this week.

A graphic designer, art director for GRID magazine, and part-time instructor at VCU, Bruce had previously yearned for something that would take her out of her “design cell.”

“I really needed something in my life that wasn’t design,” she said. “It was 24-7. Nothing but work, work, work. I really needed a project to get me out of that.”

The first ingredient for such a project emerged earlier this spring. One of Bruce’s favorite illustrators, Jessica Hische, was selling several of her pieces. If a customer happened to buy her entire collection, Hische vowed to send that buyer a cake.

Bruce didn’t have the money to spend on a single Hische piece, let alone the entire collection. But Bruce would later have “one of those harebrained ideas that you get at 1:30 in the morning.” She’d offer Hische an alternative payment.

What if Bruce made the cake? And not just one, but one per week. For an entire year. That’d surely get Hische’s attention, right?  

“I just grew up constantly cooking and baking cakes,” she said. Often, it was with her mother and grandmother,1 who “just gave cakes away.” At Christmas time, both her mother and grandmother baked 60 cakes between them, gifting them to friends, family, and co-workers. Bruce remembers delivering many of those cakes personally.

She emailed Hische and told the artist of her ambitious plan, in the hopes it would lead to her owning Hische’s pieces.

“Within a day of sending her that email, I started thinking about this,” Bruce said. Really thinking about it. She realized that she didn’t care so much about the art pieces after all. She wanted to bake 52 cakes regardless, realizing it would be fun experiment, and a way for her to finally escape from her “design cell.”

“I think it’s a way to give back to the community,” she said describing Batter Up. “Since I moved to Richmond [in 2009], I really haven’t done anything to give back to [the city].” Batter Up is also about interacting with people face-to-face and not through social media.

“I am a Facebook junkie,” Bruce admitted, assuming she’s not alone. “And I think we’ve forgotten how to communicate with people and connect with people.”

But how would she pick recipients of the cakes?

“The only kind of guidelines I have is that they have to be making some sort of social impact,” Bruce said. “The people have to be doing something that has an impact on their community” whether paid or unpaid.

On July 1st, Bruce launched Batter Up. The first recipients were the nurses at the NICU of St. Mary’s Hospital, which received a strawberry lemon yogurt cake. The next week it was Richmond Fire Station No. 19 who received a chocolate cake with chocolate mint icing.

Bruce said that she doesn’t want to decide the recipients herself for remaining months. She’d like people to nominate those they feel are deserving of cake batter gratitude.

“It’s supposed to be a complete surprise,” Bruce said. Not only does she stun recipients with a homemade cake, she also writes about them on her website. Those who receive a cake don’t need to be life savers, but people doing something as simple as helping to bring the city closer together.

Larkin Garbee received her sour cream cocoa pecan coffee cake on August 2nd. Founder of the co-working space 804RVA and organizer of the recent RVA Startup Weekend, Garbee has also hosted over 170 meet ups in the last 18 months.

“I had no idea and was completely shocked,” Garbee said via email about receiving her cake. “I was honored because I was already familiar with the program, and it was flattering to feel like all of the work I have been doing was appreciated–especially since my donations to the community are not typically considered charity like rescuing dogs or feeding the homeless.”

Bruce said that most recipients, after being surprised with their cakes, question how deserving they are. “So far, a lot of people have been confused why I picked them.” To her, that just “shows the humility” that unifies each of them, and just maybe the city itself. “I think there’s a sweetness there,” she said.  

Nominate Batter Up recipients online.  

Larkin Garbee Batter Up cake

Larkin Garbee holding her Batter Up cake

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  1. Who have self-published two cookbooks. 

photos courtesy of Batter Up

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Nathan Cushing

Nathan Cushing is a writer, journalist, and RVANews Editor.

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