Lemon Loaves of Love

If you want to show love to someone, then you make them a lemon loaf. That’s what my grandma taught me. People thought they had tasted heaven when they were a lucky recipient of one of her lemon loaves. The fact is, Kraft isn’t that amazing, but Nana’s love was, and it made the most ordinary recipes taste extraordinary. And this recipe is actually pretty good…but make it to give away…and it will taste even better!

One year ago today my Nana passed away, just a few days before her 91st birthday. Been thinking of her a lot today. But, really, I’ve thought of her a lot this past year. I know she would have loved to be part of so many things in person, but I know she was in spirit. I know she would have just had to poke her head in to McKaya’s wedding, Hunter’s graduation, our summer holidays, my songwriting, cuddles with my kids, and of course July 1st and so many other moments. She was always just “there”. So strange to not see her face. Yet, I’m so grateful to know that families can be together forever. I miss her like crazy. 

Today I had Special K for breakfast. With a spoonful of sugar. That’s what she always fed me when we had sleep overs. That, and white toast with honey. Highly fibrous, I know.

I even made my bed perfectly today. Because she did that too. And I vacuumed…and thought of her again. It doesn’t matter how old someone is when they go…you miss them just the same.

Today I am going to bake some lemon loaves. One to take to my grandpa, then one for someone else and of course one for the freezer – just as she always did. Wrapped in saran wrap and tinfoil. (We ate all the ones she left after the funeral last year…) And maybe one for my husband and kids….because they’ll want some too. Then I think I’ll also bake one for just me and enjoy every “sugarless” bite!



Some people are just known for things;
My Nana was no exception.
She made these divine lemon loaves,
A most heavenly confection.

No matter if her feet were sore
Or if her back would ache,
She’d whip these up for someone else
And show love through a cake.

To brighten someone’s darkest day
She’d take sugar, eggs and flour;
Turn lemons into lemonade,
Turn something sweet from sour.

And if it was your birthday
Or a cause for celebration
She’d show up with a lemon loaf
Adding joy to the occasion!

A smile, a wink, a guarantee
It was “sugar-less”, she’d say.
And we’re still trying to figure out
How she’d justify that way!

But regardless of what is in this loaf,
Our Nana still lives on.
In example of her service
And her love though she is gone.

Even at the funeral’s end
When gathering at the house,
Inside the freezer, wrapped all neat –
More lemon loaves for us!

So if you’re lucky to receive
One of these sweet cakes
Know it’s baked with all my love;
She showed that’s all it takes.

I hope this simple token
Is enjoyed and is enough
As I carry on tradition;
Baking lemon loaves with love.

– Sara Lyn Baril


Lemon Loaves

1 c. boiling water
1 pkg. (85g) Lemon Jell-O
1 pkg. (2 layer size) lemon cake mix
3/4 c oil
1/4 c lemon zest
4 eggs

1 c icing sugar
1/4 c lemon juice

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Spray 2 (8×4-inch) loaf pans with cooking spray. Add boiling water to jelly powder; stir 2 min. until completely dissolved. Mix cake mix, oil, zest, jelly and eggs in large bowl with mixer until blended. Pour into prepared pans.
Bake 40 min. or until toothpick inserted in centres comes out clean. Pierce loaves with large fork at 1/2-inch intervals.
Mix icing sugar and juice until blended; carefully pour over loaves. Cool loaves in pans 30 min.; remove from pans to wire racks. Cool completely.
Makes 2 loaves

On my piano sits this picture of my grandmother, Vivian Bissett. I see it every day when I play. Her and I shared the gift of music, and specifically composing. We were close because of it. Every new song went in a binder she kept of just my music. She always got the first copy. This is a snapshot from a video of her playing Christmas tunes after dinner, 2016. What no one knows, though, is that she had been in the ER all that morning, but just wouldn’t miss Christmas dinner at my moms for anything. She was elegant, but certainly stubborn! I served her dinner on the couch where she was reclining, and then she mustered the energy to play some Christmas tunes for everyone — with smiles. She was a good example of perseverance. She was often found visiting the nursing home….the 90 year old visiting the 85 year olds. It was pretty amazing to see. I hope that despite pain, despite trials, or discomforts of my own, that I will be like her and serve “even though”. In fact, it wasn’t even old age that took her – it was a kidney stone operation and a subsequent infection. She always said her grandchildren kept her young. And it was true. She still managed her own home, ironed, cooked, cleaned, baked and walked around the lake. She refused to be old. That’s why we had to call her “Nana”. She said “grandma” made her sound old. Truth was, she didn’t like the aging process because it kept her from doing what she loved. She outright refused and told me one day “just look at these age spots! and these veins! This isn’t me!” She was ticked! When I went to see her in the hospital, just moments after her passing, her nails were perfectly manicured and she was between hair appointments. So her and not surprising. The day of the funeral I painted my nails pink, and I got them done for months after just to remind me of her.


Nana with her great-grand-daughter, my daughter, McKaya. Nana bought McKaya a pink sweater for her birthday to match her white one! She loved it! Pretty good taste for a 90 year old! This picture was also taken that same Christmas day. She was invincible to me.


Me and my Nana. I learned how to walk on her bumpy blue shag carpet with her arms outstretched to me. Looking forward to her hugs one day again.

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