exclaim
Free Cakes for Kids Oxford is looking for a new group organiser. Free Cakes for Kids is a community service for families who find it difficult to provide a birthday cake for their child. All activity takes place in local groups that are organised independently by local volunteers. The Oxford team consists of approximately 30 volunteers who have baked over 300 birthday cakes since December 2008.

We are looking for an enthusiastic and energetic new group organiser to lead and coordinate the Oxford team. Tasks include organising local team meetings, liaising with the wider Free Cakes network, ensuring food safety, supporting the recruitment of new volunteers and promoting the interests of Free Cakes. You do not have to be a baker to join, although food safety knowledge is essential (training can be provided if necessary).

If you are interested in leading a fun and dynamic team, or would like more information or to ask any questions, please contact Michele at info@freecakesoxford.org.uk.
For further information on the UK network, please click here

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Free Cakes For Kids Newsletter

February 20, 2014

 

250th cake

 

 

 

Please see the link below to download a copy of our latest newsletter. This edition sums up our highlights from 2013, including our 250th cake! (pictured)

FCFK newsletter – 2013 summary

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Just in time for spring (and hopefully some sunshine soon), here is the Cake of the Month for March 2012: a bright red Ladybird Cake by Michele Peters. The cake was made for 4-year-old Cerys — and from all we heard, she had a great birthday. If you’re interested in the story behind this cake, please hear from Michele below.

Ladybird Cake by Michele Peters

Ladybird Cake by Michele Peters

Q: Well done, Michele. That ladybird looks so sweet, it almost seems too precious to be eaten.

No cake is too precious to be eaten, it’s fun to make another one.

Q: How did you come up with the theme — was this your own idea?

I have sometimes made mini ladybirds to decorate cakes and cupcakes. When I knew I was going to bake for a little girl, I had this idea of making a full size ladybird cake. The Dad was thrilled with my suggestion and the little girl loved the cake when we delivered it. Funnily enough, the girl was wearing a red dress with black dots. Since I made the cake, another parent (who was at the birthday party) has called Free Cakes for Kids to request a ladybird cake. That was very flattering, although we can unfortunately not promise specific cake designs as they depend on the baker.

Q: How or where do you hand over your cakes?

It depends. As I don’t have a car, I used to ask parents to pick it up at my house. But sometimes parents don’t have cars either and I ended up building and waterproofing boxes to take the cake on the bus. I have learnt though, lately, I ask Alban, who is a taxi driver and another Free Cakes for Kids volunteer, to drive me. Alban is always happy to help and I don’t need to worry about a cake getting soaked anymore. Alban has a huge umbrella.

Q: What kinds of cakes are actually most popular with kids in your experience?

I tend to offer a choice of a vanilla or chocolate sponge. They are equally as popular. The theme I most often get asked for is flowers for girls.

Q: Is there anything, any theme you could not bake?

Provided I have enough time, I am happy to give any theme a go. I work full-time, therefore if I make a cake during the week, I tend to go for something simpler. Weekend cakes are more elaborate. I would love to have a go at making a hedgehog. My grandmother used to bake those and it was the most wondeful thing for us grandchildren.

Q: How did you actually get into Free Cakes for Kids?

I saw a news report on Free Cakes for Kids by Sinead who is a journalist and another volunteer. I come from a baking family and immediately wanted to be involved. I contacted Henriette, the group organiser, the next day. Being able to use my skills to give children a special treat on their birthday is wonderful.

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Baking competitions are gaining traction, it seems, with BBC Two’s Great British Bake-off going into its third season and the first Oxfordshire Bake-off for charity last month. For spectators, it’s great fun to watch contestants sweating over the crunchiness of shortbread or the shape of sugar paste. The results are usually breathtaking, and it’s easy to see why it is so tough to be selected for these shows.

However, one our volunteers has made it through and took part in Katie Fforde’s “Recipe for Love” Bake-off. Beccy Johnson, a Free Cakes for Kids volunteer, was chosen as one of the five finalists and spent a day at The Cookery School in Little Portland Street in London. Of course, we wanted to know more about this experience. So have a look at the short video and read some of Beccy’s comments below.

Q: Congratulations, Beccy. Glad to see you’re back in one piece. How did it go?

Thank you – glad I’m back on two feet after my broken foot! It’s been a long 3 month recovery. The Katie Fforde bake off was fantastic. It was so great to be in London for the day and to meet other passionate bakers.

Q: Was it a very competitive atmosphere? The other contestants look quite eager in the video.

It wasn’t very competitive really – the other contestants were absolutely lovely. I am in touch with Fleur, Fatima and Julie on facebook/twitter and we are sharing baking tips which is really helpful.

Q: How did you actually learn about the contest?

I saw the competition on Katie Fforde’s facebook page. I have read almost all of her 17 novels and thought I’d have a go at entering as I wanted to meet her.

Q: You were chosen as one of the five finalist. What exactly did you do to get that far?

It was quite easy really! All I had to do was upload a picture of something I considered a “Recipe for Love” (the title of Katie Fforde’s latest book). I always take photos of my cakes! I had one on my computer of Coffee and Walnut cupcakes I had baked for my Mum’s birthday so I uploaded it with a brief message along the lines of: “It isn’t just the eggs, flour, marg, sugar, coffee and walnuts but the time, effort and love that goes into baking that makes this my recipe for love.”

Q: In the video you say that you wanted to get the experience of baking in a professional kitchen. What were the facilities like and what was different from baking at home?

I was so excited about cooking in a professional kitchen! The bake off was at The Cookery School on Little Portland Street in London. All the ingredients were weighed out in little bowls with a table with “extras” of everything. We had access to several ovens, hobs, large electric mixers. The biggest difference to me were the two kitchen porters who did all the washing up! I don’t get that at home!

Q: Kate Fforde seems to have been really impressed by the “flavour of the walnuts and the coffee” as well as the “unexpected crunch” of your cupcakes. What does it feel like to be judged like this in public?

I was genuinely thrilled by her response. The other recipes were quite complicated compared to mine but I really believe that with home baking a simple, tasty outcome is the most important thing! I think I may have put too many walnuts in however as she chewed for a long time!!!

Q: What are your plans for the future? Will you be taking part in other bake-offs, too?

Maybe! I’m not a massively competitive person but it was really good fun. I met some lovely people and had a wonderful day during a pretty rough 3 months.

If you want to try Beccy’s recipe for love yourself, you can download it here. Let us know how they go, the Coffee and Walnut cupcakes.

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With the days finally getting longer and the first warm days arriving in Oxford, it’s about time for our Spring newsletter. This edition has been put together by Sinead Carroll and Malte Ziewitz. Just click on the image below to download your copy.

Click here to download our Spring 2012 newsletter!

We hope that everyone is enjoying themselves and look forward to catching up with many of you in the next few weeks.

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Our cake of the month for February is this wonderful Peppa Pig Cake. It was made by our volunteer Hilary, who is a member of the MacIntyre Life Long Learning Centre, a day service for adults with learning disabilities.

Peppa Pig Cake by Hilary

Peppa Pig Cake by Hilary

Hilary baked the cake together with Henrietta, who works at the centre. Hilary is volunteering for Free Cakes for Kids Oxford under the Experience Tree Project:

The Experience Tree project has been set up to provide the learners that MacIntyre support in Oxfordshire with meaningful learning experiences; helping them to gain new skills, grow in confidence and partake in a valuable learning experience above and beyond what they may normally experience.

After the cake was handed over to the family, Henrietta wrote: “It went really well thanks – the mother was so appreciative and gave Hilary a card, which really meant a lot to her. It’s been a little stressful but very good fun.” As Henrietta explained later, the stress came mainly about because everyone at the learning centre wanted to participate in baking the cake, and it was hard to convince people to not add their own touches to the decoration.

It is great to see how much fun volunteering for Free Cakes for Kids can be — especially if the result are such fantastic cakes as Hilary’s. If you are thinking about joining our team of bakers, just drop us a line.

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Last Saturday, we held another one of our Community Baking Sessions. This time, we had been invited by the Barton Community Association, who kindly hosted the event. More than 40 enthusiastic bakers made it to the session, ranging from 1-year-olds to 67-year-olds. And to judge from the buzz that filled the large hall at Underhill Circus, it was a big success.

Hands-on community baking at BartonThe idea behind our Community Baking series is simple: about a dozen parents and their kids get together with our volunteer bakers in a community kitchen for a day and try some simple recipes together. After a short food safety briefing, we split up into smaller groups and start preparing tasty cupcakes and cookies. Together with our experienced volunteers, the families prepare the dough, bake the cakes and — most importantly — decorate the final product. Three hours and many more cups of tea later, we tidy up together and everyone goes home with a load of yummy cakes and some new baking and decorating skills. Overall, a great way to make baking social, accessible and fun.

As usual, it had taken a while to prepare the day. For the last couple of weeks, Hannah Rolls and Michele Peters had browsed and chosen recipes, calculated the amount of flour, sugar, eggs and margarine needed, invited half a dozen volunteers to attend and carried big boxes of baking equipment to the venue. But when everything was in place and the first families arrived at the Barton Community Centre, the work was quickly forgotten. Since Valentine’s Day was only a few days away, the team had decided to decorate the vanilla cupcakes and roll-out biscuits with lovey-dovey icing and red hearts.

Some children baked for the first time, and we received great feedback from parents and kids. This was a particularly moving message:

Thank you so much. It was my son’s ever first cupcake!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! and he just ate it right now. And he shared it with us, so yummy! Thanks again for that wonderful opportunity – it was a big day for him!

Co-organisers Michele Peters and Hannah Rolls were proud of what they had achieved. “Community baking is all about bringing different people together in a fun way. It encourages parents, children and volunteers to work as a team to create something simple but delicious,” says Michele. “Judging by the feedback we have had, it has gone very well. It was very touching when a little girl handed me one of the biscuits she and her family had made as a thank you.” And Hannah calls on community centres to join the scheme: “There is of course a limit on how many the two of us are able to organise, and we are mainly aiming to cover the Headington and Barton areas. However, we are interested to know if other parts of Oxford would like to host one.”

The Community Baking Sessions are made possible with the generous support of an Oxfordshire Community Foundation grant. If you are interested in hosting one yourself, please have a look at our leaflet and get in touch. It doesn’t take much and makes a huge difference.

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The first Cake of the Month of 2012 is a wonderful butterfly-shaped cake. It was made by our volunteer Verity Westgate for a 5-year-old girl. Learn more about the story behind the cake below.

Butterfly Cake by Verity Westgate

Butterfly Cake by Verity Westgate

Q: This is a massive butterfly, Verity. Was it a difficult cake to make?

The butterfly was the first time I’d ever tried carving a cake, and it was surprisingly easy once I made a template and found the right sort of knife. I was inspired by those painted butterflies that I used to make at school, where you cut out a butterfly shape, paint one half, and then fold it over so that the other half looks the same! I used a big tin and my husband enjoyed eating the off-cuts

Q: Who did you make it for?

It was made for a little girl who lives in Banbury and who was celebrating her fifth birthday. Apparently she is a very “girlie girl” who likes butterflies so I was happy to be able to make something pink and pretty for her – definitely my favourite sort of thing to bake since I am quite a girlie girl too!

Q: What actually happens when someone calls the Free Cakes for Kids number: how do you get in touch with the family?

When someone calls the Free Cakes for Kids number, they speak to Henriette, who coordinates the cake requests. She sends out an email to the Oxford bakers and someone volunteers to make the cake. Henriette passes on the contact details for the family – in this case a family support worker – and you call the family contact to see if they have any thoughts on what they would like for their child’s birthday cake. We also check to see if anyone in the family has any allergies that we need to be aware of and make delivery arrangements. In this case, the cake was transported from my house to Banbury by Anne-Marie, another Oxford FCFK-er.

Q: Isn’t it strange to talk to someone on the phone you have never met before?

I always get nervous calling up the families to make the arrangements, mainly because I am a nervous telephone user, but everyone I have spoken to has always been really nice and although their ideas can sometimes be a little challenging (my first cake was a SpongeBob square pants cake) it has really broadened my baking skills. One Mum gave me a huge hug when I handed over the cake for her one-year-old last year – the family’s benefits had been stopped and they were visiting the Oxford Food Bank to get food, so a simple birthday cake was actually a really big deal to them.

Q: How did you actually get into baking and decorating. You are not a professional baker, are you?

In real life I am a librarian, and I do a lot of sport which I fuel by eating cake, so cake is something that has always been important to me. Since my husband arrived on the scene 5 years ago, I have done a huge amount of baking since he is so appreciative, and a friend told me about FCFK. As we try to eat less cake these days, it is nice to have the opportunity still to bake. I have not had any training in decorating cakes, I have picked it up as I go along by reading books and practising. Last year I made my own three tier wedding cake!

If you want to learn more about Verity’s activities, have a look at her personal blog. And if you think you could become a volunteer yourself, don’t hesitate to drop us a line.

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This year started with a big bang. Free Cakes for Kids Oxford was invited to attend the launch of Oxfordshire Community Foundation’s (OCF) Jubilee Fund at the Turl Street Kitchen. On 11 January, the fund was officially launched by HRH Prince Edward in celebration of the Queen’s 60th jubilee this year. Free Cakes for Kids had been invited to the event as a result of two successful funding applications in 2010 and 2011, granting us £1,000 each year to support the development of local community baking activities.

Henriette enjoys herself royallyA fabulous time was had by all at the launch, particularly Henriette Lundgren (Founder of Free Cakes for Kids in the UK and Oxford Coordinator) and Stephanie Griggs-Trevarthen (Free Cakes for Kids Network Coordinator), who were on hand to represent our project to the Prince. The Earl of Wessex took the time to speak to each of the projects on display at the event and seemed particularly enamoured with the jubilee themed cupcakes Jette and Steph had on offer. Despite not remembering his own birthday cakes particularly well –- and no, we weren’t cheeky enough to ask if the Queen made his birthday cakes! — he was delighted to hear how far and wide the project has spread across the UK in such a short amount of time.

Steph and the PrinceThe first Free Cakes for Kids group in the UK was founded in December 2008. Having read about the Free Cakes For Kids project in the USA, Henriette Lundgren adapted the model to her local community and started the first group in Oxford. Since then the group has grown steadily, extended its activities to community baking sessions and helped others set up groups in their communities. Especially 2011 was an extremely busy year for Free Cakes for Kids UK, going from only a handful of groups in January to over 30 by the end of the year. Groups now exist all across the UK including: Inverness, Glasgow, Cardiff, Bristol, Torbay, Manchester, Birmingham, Norwich and many in London.

Inspired by the dedication and commitment The Queen has shown to community service and charity work during the past 60 years, the Jubilee Fund will create a community fund for Oxfordshire for the next 60 years. It will be used to support future grants to small, local voluntary groups in need of money to continue their vital work providing support and services to those who need them most on our own doorsteps in Oxfordshire.

Free Cakes for Kids Oxford is very grateful for the grants that OCF has awarded the group in the past, and we are excited about the opportunities that the new Jubilee Fund might bring for Oxfordshire. The royal seal of approval will certainly help.

See also: Video report on OxBox, Oxford Times article

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The Cake of the Month for December 2011 is a beautiful number-shaped creation by Bekah Moore. Bekah lives in Oxford with her family and just started baking with us a few weeks ago. Read the story behind the cake below.

No 1 Cake by Bekah Moore

No 1 Cake by Bekah Moore

Q: Congratulations, Bekah, this is really a No. 1 Cake. How did you actually get it into shape? Was it difficult to make?

I used a number 1 shaped tin, so it wasn’t difficult. However, the first time I didn’t line the tin properly so the mixture leaked out into the bottom of the oven, so I had to make it all again!

Q: Who did you make it for?

Kenzie, who turned one, obviously!

Q:But can kids actually enjoy a cake at that age?

I was astonished how young my son was when he wanted some cake instead of the fruit I’d given him and he’d never tasted cake before – how do children know instinctively that cake is so good?! The number one cake is very bright so even a young eye will be attracted to it. The inspiration came from Mr Tumble’s spotty bag, in the CBeebie’s programme Something Special.

Q: You have only started as a volunteer with us recently. What brought you to Free Cakes for Kids?

I love baking and I want to help anyone who can’t provide their child with a birthday cake.

Q: And what do you do when you’re not baking?

At the moment I am full time Mum to Simeon, who is about to turn one.

(If you are interested in becoming a volunteer with Free Cakes for Kids Oxford, just give us a call at 01865 242207 or send an e-mail to oxford@freecakesforkids.org.uk.)

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