Cakes for a Cause
SOUTHINGTON, Conn. – Life has certainly been bittersweet for Jennifer Castonguay. Just as she was cruising through life, raising a family and dreaming of returning to a career in the food industry, Jennifer was stopped in her tracks – literally. Her feet began to feel numb and the strange sensation continued up until she felt numb all the way to her neck.
“My work was my passion,” said Jennifer, who lives in Bristol. “I had spent the day with my children at a local fair. It was cold and dreary and we were on our feet all day. Although I was concerned, I dismissed my fears and blamed the odd sensations on the weather. After all, I had experienced a similar effect years previous when I stayed in a hot tub for an extended period of time. After cooling down and a bit of rest, my strange symptoms completely disappeared.”
However, this time Jennifer’s symptoms persisted. It was 2003, and she soon learned she had multiple sclerosis, a potentially debilitating disease for which there is no cure.
Jennifer Castonguay poses with her daughter, Jessica, at the 2012 MS Action Day, held at the Connecticut State Capitol Building Tuesday, March 13. The longtime MS activist had just opened her own bake shop, Superbly Sweet. The shop, located in Southington, specializes in made-to-order cakes and gourmet cookies.
More than 6,000 Connecticut residents, like Jennifer, live with multiple sclerosis, an autoimmune disease affecting the central nervous system. Symptoms can include, among other things, numbness and tingling in the extremities, difficulties with vision and speech, extraordinary fatigue, stiffness in the limbs, and in extreme cases, complete paralysis.
“The diagnosis shook my world,” said Jennifer, who had to leave her fast-paced life behind because of the effects of her disease. “My many responsibilities, including family, work and community outreach, had me on my feet for hours at a time. Not only did my children and coworkers depend on me, but my volunteer commitments required me to be available for people looking for direction and a helping hand at a moment’s notice.”
Eventually, Jennifer’s MS went into a type of remission. Her symptoms are now mostly under control but she has had to learn to pace herself, understanding the triggers and making sure to take breaks to avoid the excruciating fatigue experienced by many living with multiple sclerosis.
Although grateful for her improving health, life seemed bittersweet. She longed to somehow re-enter the job force again, doing what she loved most – brightening the lives of others with her creativity and culinary skills.
Just after Jennifer’s daughter, Jessica, graduated from Johnson and Wales University where she earned a degree in baking and pastry arts, she returned home to begin the process of applying for jobs. She had heard her mother languish over the days when she was able to pursue her career. After one such session, Jessica offered a little tough love, urging her mother to pursue a new dream using her accomplished skills and talents as a baker and cake decorator.
In March, after heavily weighing the pros and cons and heeding her daughter’s advice, Jennifer opened Superbly Sweet in Southington. Her one-of-a-kind cakes are tantalizing to be sure. Among many others, Superbly Sweet features a signature Chocolate and Mint Oreo dream cake. There is also a Chocolate Fudge cake that won’t stay on the shelf. At a recent tasting event in New Haven, Fern Berman, whose public relations firm served clients such as Julia Child, took one bite of the Strawberries and Cream Supreme cake and declared, “Just like home.”
“I’m so proud of my mother,” said Jessica, who has teamed up with her mother to help get the new business get off the ground. “I’ve seen her struggle with her diagnosis. I am so pleased that despite the challenges, Mom has taken a brave leap of faith and decided to realize her dream.”
Holding her signature Superbly Sweet Chocolate Fudge cake, Jennifer Castonguay, Bristol, poses with Jenifer Walk, Cheshire, at a recent Team Jenifer Beer Tasting held at Lane Construction in Cheshire. Castonguay, who last month opened Superbly Sweet bake shop, donated the cake for an auction held at the tasting event, which raised $14,000 to support the 2012 Travelers Walk MS, which takes place Sunday, April 22. Superbly Sweet is located in Southington. Orders can be place by emailing at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Superbly Sweet caters to every holiday and occasion, crafting custom orders for weddings, birthdays, showers, anniversaries, graduations and more. The shop also makes a variety of freshly baked gourmet cookies along with the shop’s specialty, Mini Stuffed cakes in an array of flavors. These days Jennifer is taking the bitter out of bittersweet, offering clients her signature Orange Zest Carrot cake topped with a gingered cream cheese frosting, a cake capitalizing on the orange branding of the National MS Society, an organization dear to Jennifer’s heart.
“I’m very involved with the National MS Society, Connecticut Chapter,” said Jennifer, who, with her two children, will step out for Walk MS in Cheshire on April 22. “Half the proceeds from the orange zest cake will benefit the chapter and the quest to find a cure. Every day, science is moving closer to a cure. I want to see one in my lifetime, so I am determined to do all I can to help get us there.”
Superbly Sweet is located at 405 Queen Str., just inside Gio Foods, in Southington. The shop also has a Facebook page. For more information or to place an order, call 860-539-7346 or email email@example.com. A website is under construction.
For more information on multiple sclerosis, its effects and the many ways the National MS Society, Connecticut Chapter, helps people with MS move their lives forward, email firstname.lastname@example.org. For more information on the 2012 Travelers Walk MS, presented by North American Power, visit www.ctfightsMS.org.