A slice of grandmotherly love


It’s funny how you can touch the lives of people you’ve never met.

My grandmother, Suzanne Bruner, of Carmel, passed away Nov. 10 at the age of 73.

Suzanne Bruner makes an Italian cream cake. (Submitted photo)

Suzanne Bruner makes an Italian cream cake.
(Submitted photo)

I was the last family member to see her alive. She wasn’t responsive but I got to see her one last time a few hours before she died.

What struck me about Grandma Suzy is that she was loved by people who never met her. That’s because of my grandmother’s Italian cream cake, for which she won a blue ribbon at the Indiana State Fair.

It was 2010 and my family and I were trying to open our business, Donatello’s Italian Restaurant. We were struggling. Running out of money. Stressing out.

Grandma Suzy was happy to help, but she didn’t have money. So she baked a cake.

We sold the entire cake our first night and asked her to make another.

Grandma got busy. She was making four or five cakes a week and her name appeared in newspapers. Everybody was asking for “Grandma’s Cake.” That’s what they would call it.

Grandma Suzy felt pride in herself, and she wasn’t a proud woman for most of her life.

She had dedicated her life to caring for her family. She worked long hours. She was married several times, and although the father of her children was a good man, some of her subsequent husbands were abusive. She put up with men telling her she wasn’t good enough. But she never gave up.

I really don’t think she knew how loved she was.

To this day, people call up Donatello’s asking for the Italian cream cake. Even though my mom took over the recipe years ago due to grandma’s health, customers will forever refer to it as “Grandma’s Cake.”

A lot of people loved grandma for the recipe. But to me, she was much more than a cake. She was the woman who saw us struggling to open the business and said, “How can I help?”

As I saw her — unbeknownst to me at the time for the last time — I whispered to her, “We all love you!” I hope she knew.