Bakers benefit breast cancer

Carol Brownman Sneider hasn’t spent Mother’s Day with her mother in 34 years. Eva Brownman died of breast cancer when Carol was 16 years old and her younger sister, Margie, was 11. Some of the memories, says Brownman Sneider, are difficult to conjure up after so much time. But for one week, the city helps her remember.

For the past eight years Brownman Sneider, who lives in Needham, has organized Boston Bakes for Breast Cancer. The week-long dessert extravaganza now includes more than 100 restaurants from Martha’s Vineyard to Andover. At each one, special sweets are offered on the menu with all proceeds benefiting the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute. This year’s event runs from May 7 to 13.

At the Hingham restaurant Tosca, pastry chef Maria Cavaleri-Gilardo will offer a parfait made with a pink-colored raspberry mousse and a chocolate mousse. The pink, says the baker, represents the color of the breast cancer awareness ribbon. “I don’t know anyone who isn’t either related to someone who has had breast cancer, or has a good friend that has had it,” she says. “That includes my husband Antonio’s aunt in Italy.” In the years she has participated in the effort, says Cavaleri-Gilardo, there have been a number of customers who didn’t order dessert, but paid for the Boston Bakes treat in order to give the donation “because it touched them in some way.” The brown and pink parfait will cost $8.

For Tosca’s executive chef, Kevin Long, the week will have a deeper meaning. His mother was diagnosed with breast cancer last month.

This is the second year that Boston Bakes has dedicated the event in someone’s memory. Wendy English, the sister of chef and restaurateur Todd English, is this year’s honoree. She was diagnosed with breast cancer at age 37 and passed away last April. “After seeing what my sister went through, it just reinforces the fact that we need to do more,” says English. Aunts on both side of his family also battled the disease.

Olives in Charlestown, one of English’s first establishments, and Bonfire in Park Square are among the restaurants offering a cookie platter for the fund-raiser.

Brownman Sneider and her sister, who lives in Chicago, started the Eva Brownman Fund in 1990 along with other supporters. They had their first event, a formal dinner, the following year. Since 2000, the fund’s primary source of income has been the Boston Bakes event, which has raised more than $190,000. Funds support Dana-Farber’s breast cancer clinical trials program involving all stages of the disease.

“Few research studies receive full funding, so the money from the Boston Bakes provides critical supplemental funding of breast cancer trials underway,” says Dr. Eric Winer, director of the Breast Oncology Center at Dana-Farber.

When Brownman Sneider, 50, was young, no one discussed illnesses. “Back then everything was a secret,” she says. “We never knew that my mother had breast cancer, and that she was dying, until a month before she died.”

Today, says Brownman Sneider, mother of 22-year-old Elissa Sneider, she’s proactive about her health and lives with the fear of a cancer diagnosis. “Every day that I get to see my daughter grow up is a gift.”

Boston Bakes for Breast Cancer will be held from May 7 to 13 at many local establishments. Go to for a complete list.

© Copyright 2007 Globe Newspaper Company.

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