Cancer sucks.  Times three.  A simple but true statement that I learned far too early and far too often in my 25 years of life.  My mother was diagnosed with liver cancer when I was in second grade and that was my first ever exposure to the disease.  She endured many, many rounds of chemotherapy with horrendous side effects and eventually underwent a liver transplant.  Unfortunately, it was later discovered that the cancer had metastasized and she would not survive.  There are no words that can really describe what an amazing person she was or how strong she stayed throughout her illness, so I won’t even attempt to articulate it.  Maybe she was acting strong so it would be easier on her three children – who knows?  I will never forget her positive attitude even in the face of death.  If I am half as tough as her, I know I could handle pretty much anything.

Mom and I at Outer Banks, NC when I was a little one

Which is good for me, because on April 13, 2001 at the age of 18, I was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma.  Honestly, this was truly unbelievable to me.  I couldn’t believe it was happening to my family – AGAIN.  After initiating treatment with some wonderful doctors at an awesome children’s hospital I was never too scared and I had confidence that I would make it, but I did worry constantly about the effect of my illness on my dad and brothers having to endure this a second time.  Chemo was of course rough, but things have improved significantly since mom had her treatment.  Thankfully my cancer was caught fairly early and was in remission with just four cycles of chemo.  I have now been in remission for nearly seven years.  I will admit that I worry often about relapsing or getting a secondary cancer from my chemotherapy meds (fairly common with my chemo regimen).  All I know is that every year that passes I am one year farther into remission, and I am thankful I have made it this far.  And one more lesson I learned – after you lose all your hair and grow it back, there is no such thing as a bad hair day.  Just be glad you have hair.

Ben and I a month or two after I completed chemo – my hair was growing back
(Yes, those are NSync pictures plastered on my wall – I was in college ;-) )

And then in 2005, cancer struck my family a third time.  I was coming home for Christmas after my first semester of med school when I got the news that a mass had been found on my Grampa’s pancreas.  I knew immediately that Grampa, my favorite person in the world, had pancreatic cancer.  If you aren’t familiar, pancreatic cancer has the worst prognosis of any cancer, period.  The five year survival rate is less than 5% with most people living 6 months past the diagnosis.  Grampa attempted chemo for a brief period of time but it was too rough on him, and with too little realistic benefit to continue.  We were lucky and he lived almost nine months past diagnosis.  I visited him often and cherished every day I had with him in those last few months.  He was the best grampa of all time and I miss him every day.

My all time favorite picture with my all time favorite guy

Take some time to remember all those in your life who have been affected by cancer.  And, remember to do self-exams and get screened, and encourage your loved ones to get screened for any cancers that have available tests (mammograms, pap smears, colonoscopies, etc.) 

And now, after all that sadness, let’s move on to something more pleasant – the food :-)  These cupcakes are my submission for the “Taste of Yellow” food blogging event, one of the many events supporting LiveSTRONG Day.  This will always be my favorite food blogging event because the message is so hugely important to me.  I brainstormed many yellow foods I could use for this challenge and I decided pineapple was the one I really wanted to incorporate.  I came up with the idea of these “pina colada cupcakes” and did my best to create the pina colada taste, using a coconut cupcake base and a pineapple cream cheese frosting.  I must say, these turned out wonderfully and I think I really achieved the pina colada flavor (minus the rum, of course).  I overbaked my cupcakes a bit because one of them was being stubborn and not baking through, but they still taste fabulous.  I did add a touch of yellow food coloring to the frosting to get the shade of yellow I was going for.  Yay for YUMMY cupcakes!!!

Pina Colada Cupcakes
For the cupcakes:
2 cups sifted cake flour
2 tsp. baking powder
¼ tsp. salt
8 tbsp. unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 ¾ cups sugar
½ cup milk, at room temperature
½ tsp. vanilla extract
¼ tsp. coconut extract

4 egg whites
½-2/3 cup shredded coconut

For the frosting:
2/3 cup fresh pineapple chunks
8 oz. cream cheese, at room temperature
1 ½ sticks unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 ¾ cups powdered sugar, sifted 


Preheat oven to 350°.  Line a muffin tin with paper liners. 

In a medium bowl, sift together flour, baking powder and salt.  Set aside. 

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the flat beater, beat the butter on high speed until creamy, about 30 seconds.  Gradually add the granulated sugar and continue beating, occasionally scraping down the sides of the bowl, until light and fluffy, 4 to 5 minutes.

Reduce the speed to low and fold in the flour mixture in three additions, alternating with the milk and beginning and ending with the flour, until just blended.  Stir in the vanilla and coconut extract.  Stir in shredded coconut.  Transfer batter to a large mixing bowl and set aside.  Wash and thoroughly dry mixer bowl. 

In the mixer bowl, beat egg whites until stiff peaks form.  Using a rubber spatula, fold ½ cup of the egg whites into the batter until smooth.  Carefully fold in the remaining egg whites until smooth and blended.  Divide the batter among the prepared wells.


Bake until the cupcakes are golden and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, about 15 minutes.  Transfer the pan to a wire rack and let cool for 10 minutes.  Remove the cupcakes from the pan and let cool on the rack to room temperature.



To make the frosting, puree the pineapple chunks in food processor or blender until smooth.  In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat cream cheese and butter on high speed until light and fluffy, about 4 minutes.  Mix in powdered sugar until well combined.  Add pineapple puree to achieve desired pineapple flavor (approximately ½ cup).  If frosting is too runny, refrigerate for 30 minutes to allow to set up a bit.  Frost cupcakes with pineapple frosting, sprinkle with shredded coconut and garnish with fresh pineapple wedges.


  • You are an amazingly strong woman. Congratulations on winning your battle, and I am so sorry for your losses. And I love pineapple, so awesome cupcakes!

  • What a great post! It seems that even if we have not personally had cancer, we know people who have. I hope that medical advances keep getting better and better and that eventually cancer won’t be a big deal anymore. This is such a wonderful blogging event! Your cupcakes look so pretty and delicious- perfect for spring and warmer weather!

  • Oh how awful that cancer has found its place in your family. I have similar stories though I haven’t personally gone through it myself. I’m so happy that you’ve kicked the beast and I send you warm wishes that the beast will stay away forever.

    Your cupcakes are a lovely choice. Very pretty and delicious looking too.

  • I am so sorry that cancer has struck your family so many times. This is a beautiful post to those who have passed before and it’s lovely to see their memory live on. I pray you will continue to stay healthy and remain in remission.

    Now, on to those fabulous cupcakes…these are some of my all time favorite flavors! I can’t wait to try them for myself.

  • Sharon

    Annie, thank you for sharing your story. I know that isn’t easy to do, but what an eloquent and moving message. You are an inspiration. And as always, the food looks delicious!

  • if the tears that seem to have welled up in my eyes are any indication, this was a beautifully written post. i admire and respect you, annie! carry on!!

  • Annie, I am so sorry to hear about the effect cancer has had on your family, but I really appreciate you sharing the story. Thank you for that. And thanks for sharing the cupcakes, which look totally fab!

  • Inspiring and touching post. Thank you!

  • Your story brought tears to my eyes. You are such a strong woman to have gone through all this. I wish you luck in remaining healthy!

    Oh, and your cupcakes look delicious!

  • jbw1203

    Thank you so much for sharing your story Annie.
    You are truly an amazing woman to have to go through so much and still be so positive and strong. I wish you the best.
    This is a beautiful way of honoring your mother and grandfather.

    The cupcakes look wonderful.

  • Your story was very touching. Your cupcakes are amazing as well.

  • Wow – what a touching post (and of course the cupcakes look great as well).

  • Annie, you are such an inspiration! Thank you for sharing your story, and I’m sorry that cancer has so intimately touched you and your family. Congratulations on winning your battle!

  • Hi Annie,

    My dear, dear Grandmother didn’t make it six months after her pancreatic cancer diagnosis, and it was an awful (if not the worst) way to go. It’s been 15 years and I still think of her daily.

    One of my dearest and most favorite friends had Hodgkin’s Lymphoma 17 years ago, when she was a new college grad working on Capitol Hill. She is now 41 with four amazing kids, a wonderful husband, and a great life. You’ll make it too!

    Love your blog, I’ve always wanted to leave a comment. We have several very good friends who have survived med school — you’ll make it through that too. Anyone will be lucky to be your patient someday!

    Leah ;-)

  • What a touching post, Annie. The picture of you and your Grandfather is so precious!

  • Your story is so touching. Thanks for sharing.

    On another note, I might make these soon, along with your strawberry cupcakes. My Ben wants cupcakes (instead of cake) for his graduation party…so I’m gathering flavor ideas. :)

  • What a touching post Annie. I’m glad you are in remission now. Seven years is fantastic. I love the cupcakes. Thanks for supporting LiveSTRONG With A Taste Of Yellow.

  • Annie, your story is so inspiring. And even more inspiring than the story is YOU. How strong you must be to deal with all of that. I certainly look up to you.

    The cupcakes look amazing. I think they really reflect the amazinging person who made them. ;)

    btw – totally random…are those Grace appatizer plates from CB? Haha

  • Wow – what a powerful post. Your story is so touching – and your mom and grampa live on in you. Here’s to 7 years in remission – cheers!

  • Beautiful cupcakes with a touching story. I am sorry to hear about all your losses, struggles.

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  • Such a touching story. I am sure you have touched many peoples lives and helped them through what they are growing through with your positive attitude and courage. Thank you to all who participated in this great event. Love the Pina Colada Cupcakes…they would make our day cheerful:D

  • Melissa

    Thank you for sharing such an inspirational story. You are such a strong person!

    Your cupcakes look fabulous! I love pineapple and coconut together!

  • great idea. congrats on beating the cancer! i am lucky in that i have not had anyone in my immediate family affected by it…but i did have a college friend who passed away last year who had non hodgkin’s lymphoma…it was almost surreal, i could not believe it. i wish my life wasn’t so busy right now so i could participate in this event…

    i love pina coladas and those cupcakes look great! :)

  • Your gpa’s smile looks like your dad’s smile sooo much.

  • This post made me cry.
    Thank you for sharing your story.

  • Anna


    Thanks so much for sharing this deeply touching and personal story. I haven’t been on to check your blog in awhile so I am just catching up on posts and I just wanted to let you know that I really love the blog and your personal stories are what make it so great. I’ve tried many of your recipes and they’ve always been wonderful. Thanks again.

  • bevsedgehills

    what beautiful cupcakes.

    You really are a survivor, I bet you mum is so proud of her wonderful daughter.x

  • This story is truly inspiring; you are so strong and positive! Thanks for sharing…the cupcakes look mighty tasty, too, what a great combo :).

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  • That is a lot of loss to endure at any time in your life, but to have it before turning 25 just seems, well, cruel. I love the pictures of you and your Mom and you with your Grandpa-happy memories-you can tell by the looks on their faces. God Speed with your health and with the career path you have chosen. The world could use more like you.

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  • Steven (ya bro)


  • 2ksmama

    Annie- what a moving post and I am always inspired by survivors of any illness because they seem to possess the secret of life that so many of us are missing! I will forever remember your statement about “bad hair days” and vow to never again have one :) Many blessings to you and your family and thank you for sharing so much of yourself with all of us.

  • You are very strong with positive attitude to life! In my family there was cancers too ended with death. It is so sad… But a few days ago I`ve found on youtube some of video about dr Ashkar anty-cancer method. It is really worth to see it. I love your beautiful blog and wish you luck for every day!

  • Melanie

    I wish I didn’t know exactly how you feel, but I do. My own mother was diagnosed with malignant melanoma when I was three years old. Her first and only chemotherapy completely wasted her body, and she spent three months in the hospital recovering from the medicine. With no way to cure her, she died just after I turned four. Then, only nine years later (I was thirteen), I myself was diagnosed with osteosarcoma in my left foot. My foot had to be amputated at the ankle, but that was a small price to pay compared to that paid by other cancer victims. It’s been nearly five years since then, though, with no sign of the cancer returning!

  • Annie – Such a touching post – I’m so sorry that you have had to go through so many experiences with cancer. I know how tough even one can be. Good for you for coming through it with such a great attitude and strength.

    These cupcakes are great – I made them for an open house as part of a cupcake bar and they got rave reviews!

  • Tina

    I just found your blog by accident and I LOVE IT! I started reading your recipes and loved everyone of them. Then I read your story and am truly touched. I recently lost my mom she was only 59 years old and although it has been 5 months I still don’t believe she is gone. She was my best friend and an amazing mom to my sister and I. We shared so much but the thing we most loved was baking and cooking together. Getting back into my passion of baking has been very difficult since she died but your recipes and your story has inspired me to get back into doing what I love because I know my mom would be disappointed if I didn’t. Thank you!

  • Lori

    Annie, I thought you were an awesome lady before I read the rest of your story… Now I am really blown away. You are truly an inspiration to others. I love your blog and feel like I’ve found a new kitchen buddy.

  • Annie – I just stumbled on this post while looking back through your cupcake recipes for inspiration. I certainly wasn’t expecting to see inspiration like this. I am truly sorry you lost your mom, your grandpa and part of your childhood to such an ugly disease. Thank you for the reminder to cherish every day I have with my mom who was able to survive a nasty bout with such a nasty disease. xoxo

  • Shannon

    I just found this post while looking for acupcake frosting recipe I could use tonight. As a few others have said, I wish I didn’t know how you feel. While my immediate family has been lucky, my extended family has not. I am also a ten year participant in the American Cancer Society’s Relay for Life. The people I have met through it have been amazes and inspiring. My hero is a 19 year old who has been diagnosed 7 times since she was 15 years old. I cannot imagine what she has gone through but she always has a smile on her face and has an amazing outloook on life. It’s wonderful that you have been cancer free for so long and I hope you continue to be!

  • Lydia SS

    You totally made me cry! You read these blogs from time to time and some you just follow and refer back to, as I was just now (looking or cupcake ideas). I just started following you this year. Tonight I was looking for cupcake recipes and I stumbled upon this one and it really caught my attention. I saw a picture and you always want to see a picture of the face behind the writing! LOL! First off, I didn’t know you were so young! I really admire your courage, strength and perseverance. I love all of your baking and cooking of course to! Your here for a reason and you definitely made my evening. I won’t complain about a bad hair day again, thank you for reminding myself what is truly important in life. Now excuse me while I text my mom how much I love and appreciate her. May God bless you and your family. :)

  • Tamara

    Reading this had made me cry. My grandmother passed away also from pancreatic cancer as well. You baking looks beautiful and I cant wait to make some of the yummies on hear.

  • Laura

    You seem so sweet. I wish you the best! Your mommy was so pretty in that swimsuit.

  • Never saw this post before today. You really are one of the strongest willed people I know, girl. You must get that from your Momma! Love that picture of you and Ben. So much life to be lived ahead of you. Love ya, girlie!

  • Ldscancermom

    I never saw this post either. I was diagnosed at age 9 with a Wilms’ Tumor and in 2006 my four year old daughter was diagnosed with Non Hodgkins Lymphoma. Relapse for a blood cancer is always in the back of your mind. Your mom would be so proud of you and so sad that she wasn’t there to help you with your struggle.

  • Anonymous

    Oh, I can’t even imagine dealing with a serious illness in one of my kids. What you have been through…ugh. I will keep you and yours in my thoughts.

  • lily

    Annie you are such an amazing woman. I hope and wish for you and your family no more suffering. Keep doing what your doing because your just awesome!!!

  • Jeanette Krantz

    I don’t usually comment much on blogs but I just had to here because your story touched me so deeply. My father passed away just a little over 7 months ago from Pancreatic Cancer so I know what it’s like to lose a parent and what it feels like to hear the dreaded PC diagnosis. All cancer is horrible but PC like you said is just about the worst. I am so sorry for your losses and I hope that you remain cancer free! Thank you for sharing your story.

  • I don’t normally tear up from food blog posts! This was very inspiring and is a good reminder of what I have to be thankful for – my friends, family and hair! I just discovered your blog but all your cupcake recipes look amazing and if this post is any indication, the rest of your blog must be truly from the heart. Best.

  • I feel like I was sent to your site from my angel, my Mom! After a three year long battle, my Mom, my best friend, lost her battle with Uterine Cancer. She was diagnosed at age 60, and passed away at only 63 years young. Our family has struggled to keep a somewhat normal life for the past 6 months since she died, but it is difficult so I am trying to do different things for special occasions. My son has asked for three different kinds of cupcakes for his birthday this week instead of just one flavor cake. I was looking at your different cupcakes for inspiration (I also run a home based cake decorating business so I am always looking for inspiration:)) and immediately thought of my Mom when I read the title(she LOVED pina coladas!), so imagine my surprise when I read your story!

    I actually have a question though… HOW MANY does it make?? You may have stated this in the recipe but I may have been too overwhelmed by your story to see it!!

    Thanks, and best of luck with your future!

  • Melissa

    I just came upon this post today while looking at your party-planning posts for some ideas. I have no words to say how strong you must be to have gone through that three times! You are an inspiration. I guess all I can say is that you are in my thoughts and prayers for the future! God Bless!

  • Vanessa

    Annie, I stumbled on this post whilst trying to find a cupcake recipe to make for my husband for our 5 year anniversary tomorrow. WOW… I already think you’re pretty much amazing but now I have even more respect for you! God Bless you and your beautiful family x

  • Mtqueen

    Thank you for such a delicious and unique recipe! I made these recwntly for a friend’s summer birthday party. I had one problem though, my frosting never thickend… I followed your recipe to the T and I just can’t figure out what went wrong :-/ i even had it in the fridge for hours and it was soooo runny! The flavor was just like pina colada, and i used real pineapple chunks.. I don’t know what I could’ve done wrong :-/ thanks for such a flavor explosion!

  • Beth

    Annie, you bring so much joy to people by sharing your love of cooking. I agree with another poster, I hope you and yours remain cancer free in the future. Whenever we look for cupcake inspiration, your site is our very first stop.

  • Hi Annie, thanks for sharing. I read this post while looking for some recipes. I read many food blogs, i think annieseats is one of the best. Wishing you good health always.