Those five hours where we couldn’t feel our toes

photo 1-2Oh what a glorious day it is today – blue sky; sun; a positively balmy 18 degrees.  Yeah.

Well cast your mind back to the middle of winter, quite literally, and the picture wasn’t quite so warm.  Were we tucked up under a blanket by a roaring fire?  Oh no.  We decided that we would prefer to spend five freezingly chilly hours under our pals the Empress‘ awning (thanks guys, love ya) touting cook books, cakes and our gorgeous FCFK Hackney wares at the Victoria Park Village Mid Winter Fair.  Let’s just say that we now know why Kat Slater sports fingerless gloves on her market stall when it’s winter on ‘stenders.

Even our ever-so-fetching tights AND socks combo couldn’t save our toes.

Buuut, do you know what?  It was fun.  Vicky Park certainly knows what community is all about and the atmosphere was great.  We sold out of cake, made a serious dint in ‘Cookbook Mountain,’ were nearly wiped out of teatowels and forced some rather chilly grown-ups to hang about getting rather more chilly while their children decorated gingerbread with us to take home and hang on their Christmas trees.  (They couldn’t complain though, we did have hot mulled cider if they wanted it!  Erm, yes please.)

And we raised well over 500 quid which we were pretty chuffed about, as well as generating new referrals and gaining some top new supporters.

Win, win, win.

And after we’d stomped home, even our toes lived to see another day.  Phew.

photo 3-1photo 2-1

Where the hell have we been?!

We’re sorry, we know you’ve no doubt been checking our website on an almost daily basis wondering when the bloody hell we were going to get on and post something else. We haven’t just been sitting around watching daytime telly, we can assure you of that; we’ve been busy, as in mega, mega busy!

FCFK - 336 candlesIf you’re one of our likers on good ol’ Facebook, or if you follow us on twitter then you’ll have some idea of what we’ve been up to these past months, from fundraising to celebrating our bakers with a big party, not to mention keeping the good ship FCFK Hackney ticking over as we bake more cakes than ever (336 was our total at the end of February). We’ll be writing a bit more about all that soon, but, right now, we wanted to chat money!

A little while ago now we put in for a BBC Children in Need grant and completed a rather rigorous application process. We knew that the competition for the money would be immense so, whilst we had our fingers permanently crossed, we’d told ourselves not to be too disappointed if we didn’t get the funding. But guess what? We only went and got. the. funding! Yes, yes we did!

FCFK - Skipton fundingWhile this was going on, we also applied for a Skipton Building Society ‘Grassroots Giving’ grant. You may remember this because it was down to the public vote who got the money and we spent a considerable amount of time badgering you lovely lot to vote for us. Well, our badgering your voting paid off and we got the grant. Whoop! (Witness a happy TEAM FCFK Hackney in the photo on the right in receipt of our grant from Skipton.)

Meanwhile, some rather generous companies out there – the awesome Adams Catering Hire and Chegworth Valley Juices, we’re looking at you – decided that Christmas wouldn’t be Christmas unless they gave us some cash. So they did. And we were, and still are, massively grateful. Unlike the grants, this ‘unattached’ money means that we can pay for some of the more mundane costs associated with the running of FCFK Hackney, like DBS checks and insurance, and it takes the pressure off us having to fundraise like crazy when we have other things on our plate, like…

FCFK - Long White Cloud bakers…family baking workshops. Yep, that’s what the applications for the Children in Need and Skipton grants were all about. We were so encouraged by the two baking workshops that we held previously – and the response we got from the children and their parents/carers who then went on to bake at home as a family using our equipment and basic recipe – that we really wanted to expand our service to offer more of the same. The grants will enable us to do just that and we’ve already done our training session (thanks to Long White Cloud on Hackney Road for hosting us and our rather large collection of blue mixing bowls) and have a whole series of baking workshops lined up, starting at the end of this month (eeek, better get our pinnies ironed!). We can’t wait to get started properly and are particularly excited to be involving some older young people (if that makes sense) from Think Forward to help deliver our workshops.

Ok, we reckon we’ve waffled on enough now, so we’ll leave you with some shots of the muffins and the microwave mug cakes, for families without ovens, that we’ve been trialing ahead of the workshops. And stay tuned because we’ve got a whole backlog of Cake of the Months to post and we’d love it if each baker gets their moment to shine.

FCFK - Long White Cloud muffinsFCFK - Long White Cloud microwave cakes

Do us a favour. Yes, another one. Pleeease!

Us lot, we’re always asking for favours, aren’t we?  If we don’t want you to bake something for us then we want you to come to some event we’ve organised, or to donate to us, or sponsor us.  We know.  We ask a LOT.  And here we are asking you for a favour once again, sorry, but it’s an easy one, we promise.

We’ve applied for some funding through Skipton Building Society’s Grassroots Giving programme to enable us to put on more of the awesome family baking workshops we ran at the end of last year and the beginning of this year.  We’ve been shortlisted – woo hoo!  But whether we get the money now depends on how many people vote for us.  Yep, this is where you come in…

Pretty please with a cherry on top could you:

1. Click this link:

2. Scroll to the bottom.

3. Enter your email address.

4. Encourage as many of your friends; relatives; acquaintances; work colleagues; hell, even the person sitting next to you on the tube if you’re there long enough, to do the same.

It only takes a couple of seconds (unless you’ve got some ridiculously long email address), then your job is done.  Favour over.  You can carry on watching telly, picking your nose, for all we care, but you will be safe in the knowledge that you’ve taken us one click closer to getting some really valuable funding.

What are you waiting for?  Click and vote, people, click and vote!

And if you need any further encouragement as to why you should click and vote, here are some beautiful pictures and comments from the workshops we’ve already held.  If these aren’t worth you entering your email address then we don’t know what is.

“I love cooking but don’t have the equipment so thank you for giving me all the things I need to bake with my children at home.”

“Doing the workshop helped me interact with my children more. I would usually go home and let them watch television but the workshop gave us time together.”

“I’d never baked with my children before the workshop but we’ve already used the kit to make the muffins again. It’s a new family activity for us.”

THIS is why a birthday cake is important

If you’ve ever doubted the power of cake, or wondered what having a cake (or rather, NOT having a cake) means to a child on their birthday, then the following feedback from a couple of our referrers will leave you doubting or wondering no more. Warning: you might need a tissue to hand.

“I’d like to thank your wonderful team. The cakes that were delivered here were absolutely great. The kids were absolutely amazed at their individual cakes and their mum reported that they had a wonderful belated party. Thank you once again for putting a brilliant smile, filled with laughter, on these children’s faces, and in their lives.”

“Thank you for the beautiful cake; the family were amazed and very excited. Mum reported that [her son] sat in front of his cake most of the afternoon singing ‘happy birthday’ and that they all celebrated his birthday, as a family. They cannot thank your team enough.”

One of our bakers recently described volunteering for FCFK Hackney as being a bit like a “birthday fairy” – the children she bakes for don’t know her and she doesn’t know them yet somehow she can bring smiles to their lives by magicking a cake to them on their birthday. This is so true, and, actually, the anonymity of our service is what appeals to many of our bakers, but hearing – not just hoping – that a certain cake made a certain child happy is important too.

We are currently working on a way to bring a greater level of feedback to our bakers, whilst still, importantly, keeping our service confidential. This should hopefully mean that we will also be able to share more of the reasons behind why we do what we do here on the website. Until that point, never underestimate the power of love cake (not that we’re suggesting for a minute that love isn’t important too; it is, but … hello chocolate icing).

Wholy cow, Whole Foods!

Way, way back when the sun was actually shining we got to do the most amazing thing. You know those big cheques that they give out when you win the lottery? We got one given to us! It wasn’t for quite as large an amount as those that you see on lottery winner’s cheques, but at £755 it felt like winning the jackpot to us. And the kind benefactor? Whole Foods on Church Street in Stokey.

FCFK - Whole Foods chequeFCFK - Whole Foods cake

(A massive thank you to bakers Shelly and Deborah for helping represent us at the cheque collection.)

Now you may think that Whole Foods is more interested in quinoa that community, but that’s not so. Periodically the store hosts 5% days whereby it feeds back 5% of the net sales it makes on a chosen day to a local organisation, doing good stuff in the area, that it likes the look of. Happily for FCFK Hackney, Stokey Whole Foods liked the look of us and the totally awesome Erica made it possible for us to not only benefit from the money, but also to chat to customers about what we do.

And by happy coincide, the store was celebrating 13 years of being on Church Street so there was a delicious chocolate vegan birthday cake (yes, vegan and indulgent, who’d have thunk it?!), plus balloons and face painting; the works. And that cheque, wow, that cheque. If we had a loo big enough we’d frame it and get it up on the wall! Instead, we’ll take great delight in spending its contents on family baking workshops that will most definitely make a difference. Thank you Whole Foods, you star.

Run, run, as fast as you can, you can’t catch me, I’m the gingerbread man

FCFK - gingerbread runnerThe runner in the gingerbread man suit in the picture is not one of us.  That runner is an absolute legend.  If you were out and about on the day of the Run Hackney half marathon you’ll know why – it was HOT!  Hot in a stifling, muggy, no breeze kind of way.  It was too hot to be sittng in a park, so running in full sun around our beloved Hackney as the heat radiated off the pavements and buildings and we counted the distance by the water stops was a next level kind of hot.  Hell, even spectators were passing out from the heat (although we’d like to think it was from the sight of our legs!).  The very thought of donning a gingerbread man suit and running 13.1 miles that day would be enough to make us sweat even if we were sitting stock still in a deep freeze with an air conditioning unit blasting in our faces.  We salute that runner!  Whoever you are, you are bonkers, but we salute you.

Given the weather conditions on the day, luckily for us and our sweat glands, we didn’t reach our fundraising target before our run so we didn’t have to follow through on our promise to run dressed as cakes.  We did have our eyes on a fetching little cupcake number with a cherry for a hat, but rules are rules and we weren’t even close to raising the money we’d hoped to so we had to settle for some rather snazzy Free Cakes for Kids Hackney vests instead, thanks to some last minute super service from Kustom Clothing.  Even more luckily for us, our friends, family and supporters pulled out all the stops and we totally smashed through our target after the race, whoop, which absolutely made the sweat worth it.  We particularly loved the donation from a random stranger who saw our vests on the day, looked us up, found our fundraising page and donated.  And as if that wasn’t fantastic enough, he actually came back to our site and chucked another tenner our way just to ensure that we tipped over our target.  What a sweetheart.

FCFK - Run Hackney walkingFCFK - Run Hackney sign

FCFK - Run Hackney medalIf you’d asked us immediately after the run if we’d do it again then we’d quite possibly have said no as we yanked our hot feet out of our trainers and mainlined water as the sweat dried in white crystals on our faces, but now?  Now there’s a little distance between that day and today … well, let’s just say that we couldn’t resist pre-registering for next year!  Perhaps we’re mad, but running through our own borough’s streets with thousands of other runners, and even more people cheering us on, playing their steel pan drums, hosing us down, handing out water and Haribo and high fives, was the stuff goose pimples are made of.  We may be soppy fools but it was far more than just a run to us.  So thank you for the support on the ground on the day and thank you for the financial support – you’ve totally covered our running (no pun intended) costs for a whole year.  And huge, huge thanks to our runners: baker Lucy, super sisters Hannah and Zoe, and Sophie and Tess from our committee.  WINNERS!  Same place, same time next year?!


FCFK - Natalie ColemanSo we’d been thinking for a while about the possibility of inviting a patron to join the ranks of Free Cakes for Kids Hackney. We’d mulled a fair few names over and, as much as we like his black banana loaf cake, someone like Nigel Slater just didn’t seem to fit the bill.

Then, in a fleeting moment of genius, it came to us… Natalie Coleman.

We’d most definitely been on Team Natalie during the 2013 series of MasterChef. We loved her no-nonsense approach and how down-to-earth she seemed via the medium of television. And we also knew that Natalie was from Hackney. Born on the council estate where her much-loved Grandad still lives, she is the self-billed “girl from Hackney that done good.” We knew that she’d get what we were about and we knew that she already gave back to the community via cooking workshops for local kids. On paper she was perfect. So our people we did a little chatting with her people and Natalie only went and said YES! Yes, she’d be our patron, and yes, she’d come and do a demo at our fundraiser. A-mazeballs!

FCFK - cake event - natalieAnd guess what? She’s as no-nonsense and down-to-earth in real life as she comes across on the telly. It was an absolute pleasure to have her at our fundraiser. She came and bought cookbooks, chatted with everyone, did an awesome demo involving as many kids in the audience as possible, and we even had to stop her doing her own washing up. Diva she is not. She’s just an all round nice girl, just as we’d hoped from our patron. And she’s already been distributing our leaflets and telling organisations that work with kids in the borough about what we do in order to generate more referrals for us. Like we said: top girl is ‘our’ Nat!

The good news is that if you’re also Natalie fans then you’re in luck because she’s appearing at quite a few food festivals over the summer so you might just be able to catch her in all her glory sometime soon, plus she’s got her first solo cookbook coming out in the autumn (whoop!). And yes, we’ll definitely be roping her in to do more stuff with us in the future (we’ve got her mobile number; she can’t get away!), so watch this space, won’t you? And do not worry, whilst we are proud as punch to have a patron, and whilst we now produce an annual report with accounts and all that grown up stuff, we are not getting too big for our boots. We’re still just little old FCFK Hackney and getting birthday cakes to kids who would otherwise go without will always be our primary concern. We also do our own washing up!

Community with a capital C

We’ve come to the conclusion that a lot of people in Hackney are great. Maybe that’s stating the obvious! Hackney is our home and we are huge fans. We totally appreciate that it isn’t perfect. Deprivation is never perfect and Hackney has more than its fair share, we know that and we only see the tip of the iceberg here at FCFK Hackney. We also know that there is a huge and growing gap between the haves and the have-nots. But at the centre of Hackney’s throbbing heart is a community to be proud of and we are very fortunate to have witnessed that, in spades.

Where do we start? Our whole entire service relies on the generosity of our community. Without community we would have no bakers who volunteer their time and resources to bake birthday cakes for children who they don’t know and are unlikely to ever meet. Without community we wouldn’t be able to have spectacular fundraisers (or even unspectacular ones) to raise the vital funds to keep us going. And without community we wouldn’t form partnerships with other Hackney organisations who believe in what we do and send referrals our way.

And then there’s the community spirit that drives local people and local groups or businesses to contact us out of the blue, and bring a massive smile to our day…

FCFK - Debora… like the woman who tweeted us to tell us that she’d made a donation to our Local Giving account on her own birthday because she couldn’t imagine celebrating without cake, and she wasn’t even a child.

… like Kehillah North London, a liberal synagogue in Stamford Hill, who decided to raise money for us as part of their Purim festival, which involved children dressing up, having fun and sharing sweet treats. Perfect.

… like the Clapton Hart who held an Easter raffle – with the grand prize of a scotch ostrich egg, or “scotchrich egg” if you will – all because they wanted to donate to our cause and support local families.

… and like our own baker/cookbook amass-er/kitchen lender/host extraordinaire, Debora, who donated her speaking fee from an event with the Stoke Newington WI to us because she’s awesome like that. And then went on to hold yet another cookbook stall for us down on Columbia Road. Debora for PM!

All of these people, groups and businesses gave to us, not because we asked them to, but because they wanted to do, because they’ve got big hearts that beat to the rhythm of their community and because they believe that by giving a little they can change a lot. We’d like to bag them for our team! All hail Hackney and long live community.

As the late, great Mother Theresa once said, “I alone cannot change the world, but I can cast a stone across the waters that will create many ripples.” We ain’t no Mother Theresa, oh no, but we can think of worse role models and we’re all capable of making ripples, however small.

With a little help from our friends

FCFK - cake event - buntingFCFK - cake event - ging lettersFCFK - cake event - crowds

A whole month has passed since THE CAKE EVENT – our annual fundraising extravaganza – and still we are unable to wipe the grin off our face.  Hackney, we cannot begin to tell you just how perfect it was.  The sun shone, the crowds came, there was cake (obvs. – we’d have looked pretty silly if there hadn’t been), and beer (mmm), and people bought cookbooks and teatowels and raffle tickets, and played the best tombola in the world (Hackney Wicked WI, we salute you), and there were brilliant demos by brilliant chefs and and and and and … !  It was like a mini festival; Hackney at its finest; community with a capital C.

And, the real big AND… we raised an awful lot of money: over £2,300 to be precise.  Incredible; just incredible.

FCFK - cake event - pear cakeFCFK - cake event - guess the weight

FCFK - cake event - choc cake

We’ll let you into a little secret: we were nervous, so very nervous.  We thought that nobody would come, or maybe only us and a few mates.

We’d made dozens of gingerbread men (and women, or men in dresses) for children to ice and we envisaged having to take them home with us again, unsold, unloved, but they were gone almost faster than we could get the lids off the tubes of icing.  And the tables groaning with cookbooks groaned less and less by the second.  And slices and slices of cakes sold in double quick time as we struggled to replenish our counter top.

Oh my, it was a whirlwind, but so, so much fun.

FCFK - cake event - WIFCFK - cake event - teatowelsFCFK - cake event - ging icing

We have struggled to write this post because we barely knew where to begin; how to say thank you.  When we think of how the community came together to help us make the event possible – from donating cakes, cookbooks, raffle and tombola prizes to coming along to support us in person on the day – it makes us teary.  At the heart of Free Cakes for Kids Hackney there are just five individuals and we can’t get over what we were able to achieve with a little help from our friends.  We were left buzzing.  Knowing that we have a secure financial future and can expand our service, and potentially put on more community baking workshops, is simply fantastic.

FCFK - cake event - book stallFCFK - cake event - crowds bunting

FCFK - cake event - natalieFCFK - cake event - Elliott

And so we come to the thank yous.  We have tried to include everyone, but, as it seemed like the whole of Hackney (and beyond) was rooting for us at one point or another, we have probably forgotten to thank someone and for that we apologise.  If we’ve missed you, we don’t mean to have.  Thank you from the bottom of our heart to everyone.  If we could, we’d come and give you big sloppy kisses!

Special thank yous go to:

Crate Brewery, in particular James, for lending us the space and putting on a great quiz.

Natalie Coleman, Elliott Lidstone and Hayley Edwards for keeping the crowds entertained with chef demos.

Debora, our lovely Debora, for amassing a cookbook mountain and presiding over a stall to put a bookshop to shame.  Cookbook thanks also go to Divertimenti (and their customers), Richard Ehrlich, India Knight, Jojo Tulloh, Persephone Books, Quadrille Publishing, Grub Street, Cico Books, Ryland Peters, 4th Estate, Bloomsbury Publishing and undoubtedly more …

Divertimenti (again), Victoria Yum Cake, Cakes4Fun (particularly the awesome SuperJess) and Deli Downstairs for professional cakes, plus many more beautiful people who contributed not-so-professional-but-equally-as-yummy cakes.

Hackney Wicked Women WI (especially Grace and her mum, and Lauren, and Cheeka) for putting on the tombola, guess the weight of the cake competition and pin the tail on the Easter bunny, AND for participating so enthusiastically in the beer-inspired cupcake competition (we will now forever think cake when we drink Guinness).  Tombola thanks and sloppy kisses go to A&S Cycles, Joe’s Tea Company, Hoxton Mini Press, Isle of Olive, Fabrications, Newton & Pott, Noble Fine Liquor, Dalston Cola, Fur Feathers and Tails, Little Gems, 90 Mainyard, The Lauriston, Love Jam Kitchen, Cheese Cellar, Aubin Cinema, and Murdock’s (each and every one of you has a community spirit that you should be proud of and we are hugely grateful).

The Empress, Young and Foodish,  “I Can’t Sing” the Musical, Divertimenti (again, again!), Mulberry and Cakes4Fun for raffle prizes. We wish we’d bought more raffle tickets because we had our eyes on each and every one of those prizes. Hello Mulberry purse!

Sophie Linden, Deputy Mayor of Hackney, for believing in what we do and coming along on a Sunday, without having to be invited. And that goes to every single person who joined us on the day because you saw our event posters (thanks if you displayed one) or our listings or endless tweets and came to splash the cash and support us.  You’re all stars. Thank you.

And before we get all Oscars-style emotional  on you and start weepily thanking our mums and hairdressers and telling you who we were dressed by (Matalan, actually, in case you were wondering!) we’ll finish up with a few of our favourite memories from the day: the people who came armed with Tupperware to cart cake off in and the woman who won the scooter in the tombola; we’ve never seen someone so happy, apart from maybe us when we cheers’ed over a pint of Crate’s finest IPA at the end of a day that will go down in history (Free Cakes for Kids Hackney history, but history all the same). Cheers to you, Hackney and here’s to us being one step closer to our dream of a future where no Hackney child has to go without a birthday cake.

FCFK - cake event - laughing team

I had a dream …

An inspirational man once gave an inspirational speech which contained four words – “I have a dream.” That man was American civil rights activist Martin Luther King and that dream was for an end to racism in a free and equal United States.

If you’re going to dream; you may as well dream big.

When E8 Community got in touch with us to say they were helping run a dream drawing event throughout March for kids on the Regent Estate we loved the idea of getting involved. They asked us if our bakers would be interested in providing cakes for the exhibition of the dreams. Thankfully our bakers were.

FCFK - dream exhibitionFCFK - dreams

Now we’re not talking dreams on the scale of Martin Luther King here, but when you’re a child, living on an inner-city estate in Hackney, having a tree house, or a beach, or even a cafe for superheros in your neck of the woods, matter as much as civil rights. Every Friday in March, Workshop 44 hosted dream drawing sessions, and boy, did the kids come up with some beautiful dreams. We even had a go at drawing our own dream – that every child in Hackney has a cake on their birthday.

FCFK - dreams montage

We ask a lot of our bakers and they never disappoint. They really let their creativity shine and we had a Banksy, a rainbow, floral and starry masterpieces, loads of chocolately goodness and two cakes that were made to actually look like artists’ materials. They were totally awesome and to see the children’s faces when the cakes were delivered – not to mention when they were eating them! – was a treat.

Sunny Saturdays playing with friends, surrounded by colour and drawings, on an inner-city estate in Hackney, eating cake which appears as if from nowhere is 100% what dreams are made of.