How to Celebrate a Life: TEDx Talk & Buttermilk Spice Cake

There is no better way to step outside one’s comfort zone than to give a TED talk. This is public speaking, “ideas worth spreading”, on steroids as there is no podium, a time constraint and using notes is not recommended. It takes courage and a village of support to get it done. As thankful and as proud as I can possibly be for successfully completing a TEDx talk at Furman University, I’m still going to lament the fact that I failed to convey one critical thought even though no one knew what I forgot to say. It’s about that CHOPPED competition. I really want you all to know this:

“What’s most remarkable about my CHOPPED experience is not that I won $10,000.00, but that the victory is the result of the pure love energy of my son.”

Happy birthday William. It’s your day tomorrow. I can’t think of a better gift to give you than this video. I am ever so proud to be your mom. 

If you watch the video I suggest enlarging the screen, so you can get a better look at the power point photos. I think seeing the photos as you listen is critical to better understanding the story.

A grateful shout-out to all those who read my blog, but especially today to Patrice, Betty, Krista and Marcie who inspire me to remain positive. And to the student team of Furman University led by Jacob Lollis there are no words, but love for all your hard work in coordinating such an extraordinary event. Thank you for your gracious hospitality and celebrating William’s life with me.

It would not be a celebration without cake. This Buttermilk Spice Cake with Cream Cheese Buttercream comes from Jana Roerick’s book, The Little Island Bake Shop. The warm spices only get more intense as the cake sits, so make it a day or two in advance. I baked mine in 2 8-inch round pans and then deliberately sliced them horizontally in an uneven fashion because I was feeling off kilter. Imperfect is not considered professional, but I think it is so much more interesting. I also added 4 ounces of softened cream cheese at the end of the mixing of the buttercream. The tang of the cream cheese balances out the sweetness of the frosting. I also prefer my cakes naked around the sides. And here is a neat trick. Enjoy a slice or two before your guests arrive and then embellish the inside. No one will know! It gives a whole new meaning to have your cake and eat it, too.

25 thoughts on “How to Celebrate a Life: TEDx Talk & Buttermilk Spice Cake

  1. Lisa, if I tried to explain this to anybody else they would never understand the significance of it. This morning I got out of bed early and intended on going to church this iEaster morning, But when I got there I couldn’t go in. I decided to grab a coffee and go sit by a local lake for a few moments . I went to turn off my phone but something made me scroll through my emails and I saw the notification that you had posted on your blog so of course I read it and then decided to watch your Ted talk as I sat here on this warm but overcast morning. I cried and laughed and thought I’m glad I skipped church because I needed this much more ( although I could never say that to many people)
    The last couple of months have been particularly hard after feeling like I had emerged slightly from the darkness. My son is graduating from college in May and decided to go back and pursue his dream to join the military. It is something he’s always wanted , But put on hold after Aidan died. I am incredibly proud of him, but also incredibly frightened. So yet again your blog comes along just when I need it. Just hearing you mention to Aidan‘s name made my day. Those moments come along just when we need them most. Happy Easter. Thank you as always . ♥️

    • You will never know how much you inspire me and just like feeling the presence of our sons sometimes God knows better where one need to be. (sigh) Your son’s dream of the military…the good news is that he is following his dream with a college education and rank. As always you and your family are in my heart ❤

  2. You are one incredible woman. ❤️🎂 Happy birthday to William in heaven! Thanks for sharing!

  3. We’ve been waiting so patiently for this! So thankful it’s here! Congratulations on a job well done! You certainly conveyed that message to all. Don’t fret about that! What a beautiful Talk. We Love You!

  4. Well prepared, poised, thoughtful and with a strong message. You took advantage of the opportunity. Very well done.

  5. Lisa, what a beautiful tribute to William. You did a fantastic job. Well spoken, thoughtfully conveyed with a strong important message. Happiest of birthdays in heaven.

  6. loved your beautiful, powerful TEDX talk and it was great to listen to the sound of your voice again … it’s been too, too long.

    Happy Easter and may Will’s birthday bring you one long, strong bearhug from him.


    Richard J. Beebe

    Associate Director of Advancement Communications & Director of Publications

    Westover School 1237 Whittemore Road Middlebury, CT 06762


  7. Lisa this is beautiful. You touch my very soul! I feel like I knew William through you. Thankyou my dear friend for sharing this beautiful message!! It has been an inspiration to me. Much love to you! N.

    • Thank you Lady Nan for your loving support always. We are sisters in grief and surviving and I’d say thriving, as well.

    • Thank you for stopping by Lorraine and for the lovely comments. This cake is really delicious and I am grateful that you found my talk filled with love and hope.

  8. I don’t have adequate words to express my awe, admiration and love for you and your journey. You are beyond brave and determined … and such an amazing inspiration. ❤️

    • You have always been one of my rocks. You are a most thoughtful and kind person and just such a rare find in a friend. I love you more than I can say.

  9. May every day continue to be blessed with joys and and grace. We’re so very grateful for the love insight and wisdom you share so freely. Thank you for the gifts . Nameste.

  10. Naked cake decorating sounds fun whether it be the cook or the cake. 🙂 Happy Birthday to your son! Wish I still got the Food Network channel… loved watching Chopped. Congrats on your win.

    • Well thank you for the laugh tonight. what a fun comment. If you can visit a friend with Food Network on May 9th there will be a replay of my episode at 8 pm

      • Will check out the channels with a friend on May 9th. (I currently tune in a measly four — mostly local and/or antiquated.) Also, I’m SO sorry I didn’t realize your son had passed. I lost my whole family in the past couple of years, but I can’t imagine the pain of losing a child.God bless you for carrying on! I once aspired to be a contestant on Chopped, but my “knife phobia” (aka professional pianist fingers) precluded cutting up things at the required pace. 🙂 Looking forward to your talk!

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