Curious Character: Shannon O'Malley, Apocalypse Baker

Photo by Yasmin Golan

Photo by Yasmin Golan

“Make your life into something that makes you want to stay up all night.”

:: How many times have you thought, “wouldn’t it be great if...” Then something bright and shiny catches your eye and POOF!, the idea disappears into that massive dumping ground of un-manifested ideas? If you’ve ever created something on your own, you know you need that special recipe of obsession, drive, and a healthy dash of weird.

Shannon O’Malley is one of those wonderful creative types that snatches unique ideas out of the ether and wrestles them into being. Shannon is an artist, maker and copywriter working on campaigns from Adobe to Michelob. But she moonlights as your friendly neighborhood baker for the end of the world. Shannon is the writer of Apocalypse Cakes, featuring 30 recipes for the end times including BP Oil Black Bottom Cake, Toxic Waste Dump Cake and Global Warming Hot Apple Pie.

“If you care about someone, you don’t buy something, you make something.”

Back in 2009, Shannon wasn’t too keen on her Nine-to-Late gig at a Texas advertising agency and was routinely nodding off at her desk at 3pm. It was a day before her girlfriend’s birthday when the idea for the Apocalypse Cakes first slapped her awake. She grew up with a creative mom that instilled the idea, “If you care about someone, you don’t buy them something at the store, you make them something.” So Shannon got to work on a cookbook based on her girlfriend’s favorite topic at the time: the apocalypse.

“I was up all night writing recipes—I was so excited that I didn’t care if I was tired,” she recalls.  The next day she was exhausted, but it made her realize how much she loved working that hard on something into the middle of the night: “I wanted to make my real life into something that made me want to stay up all night.” She pledged then to turn Apocalypse Cakes into a book.

“In many ways, children live their parent’s unlived life,” says Shannon. Her mom grew up in the 60s and though she was passionate about art and painting, women in those days didn’t go to Art School. So when Shannon was growing up, her mom always made space for creativity. “It wasn’t out of the ordinary to make something,” says Shannon.

Shannon got to work on Apocalypse Cakes—starting a blog, creating book proposals, business deals, and all of the production. “I was obsessed, but everything that’s ever been made comes from that kind of thing. You have to push out internal criticism.” She channelled her unhappiness at her job into a type of anger: “When you’re fed up, it creates space for you to do or make.”


  Photo by Keith Wilson

 Photo by Keith Wilson

Apocalypse Cakes made it onto the shelves, spreading its love and cheer through morbid recipes. And Shannon is now in San Francisco at a job she enjoys that gives her enough space to work on her next project, “Gay Men Drawing Vaginas.”

Shannon O'Malley's favorite Bay Area Curiosities:

:: The ABADA SF Capoeira School

:: Downtown Oakland

:: Old Nob Hill Buildings

:: The Empress of China Bar

:: The Super Corporate Offices in the Financial District

:: Bay Craft on Mission


 - Written by Katie Kelly