Event of the century

FCFK - event posterIf you’ve been on a trip to Outer Mongolia then it may have escaped your notice that we are having a mega fundraiser in less than three weeks time.

If you haven’t been on said trip then you’ll have no excuse for not knowing every in and every out of our event.

Buuut… just in case you have missed our excessive tweeting about it, or haven’t yet joined our Facebook event, or have overlooked the listings going up online and in real life around Hackney in the shape of our pretty pretty poster on the right (designed by our own delicious Dale!) then here are the details you need to know…

First and foremost, the date.

It’s on Sunday 13th April. If you’ve got any other plans for that day then we suggest you change them!
We need you with us from 3pm.
Seriously – it’s the only gig to be seen at in town that day (although a few thousand runners might tell you otherwise!).

And where have you got to be?

Why Crate Brewery of course.
You can take a stroll there along the canal, or if you’re coming from further afield then Hackney Wick overground station is literally (and we actually mean literally) a couple of minutes away. We’ll be in the brewing shed at the back.
Come and find us before we drink all the beer!

Admin over; want to hear what’s going to be going on? Say yes, say yes!

FCFK - CrateWell…
* There’s going to be a bar (it is in a brewery after all), selling Crate’s finest beer plus more.
* But you’ll be relieved to know that you’ll also be able to get a decent cuppa. Why?…
* Because there’s going to be cake, naturally, and lots of it, sold by the slice, either to eat there or take away with you (or both). We haven’t called it THE CAKE EVENT in all caps for nothing!
* And while you sip and munch there are going to be stacks of new, as well as lightly used, cookbooks for you to browse through and buy, if you can’t resist. Cookbook addiction – it’s a thing!
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FCFK - Natalie ColemanWhat else? What else?
* From 4pm we’ve got an awesome chef demo stage, headlined by none other than MasterChef 2013 winner – and, we might add, Free Cakes for Kids Hackney’s patron – Natalie Coleman. Elliott Lidstone from the Empress in Victoria Park is going to be experimenting with stinging nettle and beer cakes, and Hayley Edwards of Borough Market fame is going to be showing us how to decorate cupcakes like pros (we’ve been promised glitter!). Plus we may have a few more tricks – or rather chefs for our star line-up – up our sleeves, but we can’t give all our secrets away in advance.

And as if that wasn’t enough…
*The lovely women over at Wicked Women WI are going to be putting on a tombola (roll up, roll up!), as well as a guess the weight of the cake competition and a pin the tail on the Easter bunny game.
* Oh, and there’ll be a raffle, with rather a lot of amazing prizes, including meals out, oh and a Mulberry purse. Yes, you heard us correctly!
* Plus, if you like beer and cake and have a bit of a creative mind then we’re hoping you’ll enter our *beer-inspired cupcake contest*. Don’t forget, you’ll need to make your cake in advance and bring it on the day to be judged. We’ll have our clipboards and freshly sharpened pencils ready to give marks!
* And we haven’t overlooked the kids – this is a family event after all. They will have the opportunity to ice their own gingerbread men and women, or colour in a cake, which should keep them busy for all of, what?, five minutes, until you have to bribe them with cake so that you can stay for another half!

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We nearly forgot…!
* There will be limited edition FCFK Hackney merchandise, including our tote bags, aprons and all-new teatowels, to buy too.
* And, finally, from 6pm, it’s pub quiz o’clock. The last time we checked there were only four team entry tickets left so if you want to prolong your festivities with us past 6pm then enlist your mates and sign your team up.

We think that’s it covered! Sound good? Good. We’ll see you at the brewery! And please do bring some money with you. This is a fundraiser for a future where no Hackney child has to go without a birthday cake, which is kind of on the ambitious side, but, thanks to a great number of people’s generosity, all the money we raise on the day will be ploughed back into ensuring FCFK Hackney can keep on baking those birthday cakes. We don’t take your support lightly and we look forward to chinking a pint glass or mug of tea with you on the day. Until then… x


Waitrose Highbury Corner is our new hangout

Pinch, punch, first, err, third of the month. Whatever, it’s March. And that can only mean one thing – we are one of Highbury Corner Waitrose’s Community Matters organisations of the month, don’t you know?!

Waitrose-Charity-Project-Launched-John-LewisWe appreciate that not everybody shops in Waitrose and that Highbury Corner is not in Hackney but there is a saying about gift horses and their mouths which we feel applies here, and, to borrow a completely different supermarket’s catchphrase, every little helps. Through Community Matters we will get a cut of £500 which will mean a more secure future for Free Cakes for Kids Hackney and a heck of a lot more birthday cakes for local children who might otherwise go without.

If you’ve previously had a little green token thrust in your hand with your change at the till in a Waitrose then you might know a bit about how it all works. Basically, we are up against two other organisations/charities. Shoppers deposit their token, which they are given when they check out, in the box on the way out of the store under the name of the one organisation out of the three that they like the sound of most. The more tokens we get, the bigger our share of the £500 fund for March.

So, we’ll cut to the chase and get to the bit where we ask you for a favour: if you live or work near the little Waitrose at 28-32 Highbury Corner, or if you have family or friends who do, or if you just fancy a detour to buy your pint of milk, please consider shopping there and putting your token in our box.

You have the whole of March to give us, give us, give us your tokens, pretty please with a cherry on the top. What are you waiting for? Get shopping!


Sundays at the Russet

The last two Sundays we’ve been hanging out at the Russet.

A week ago we had a committee meeting there, brainstorming over bacon sandwiches (we have so many ideas, events and happenings going on that we barely know where to start telling you about them all), and today we were there to be part of the Hackney Food Partnership launch.

HFPLogo2The idea of the Food Partnership is to not only celebrate and promote all the good things about Hackney’s food culture, but also to forge a more sustainable way with food and a reduction in food waste. You can’t argue with that.

It was great to be in a room full of supportive people, each with their own projects and ideas related to food, all working towards making Hackney great, or perhaps greater as it’s already pretty great in our eyes. And we’ll admit that it was also great to receive a boost for what we do.

Right now we are in the fortunate position that we can take on more referrals. We are in the process of simplifying our referrals process, as well as incorporating the option for organisations to do multiple referrals at once in order to cut down on their time and paperwork. To be part of a Hackney food family who would hopefully promote our service so that we can bake more cakes for local kids who wouldn’t otherwise receive them would be pretty special.

If you like the sound of the Partnership and want to get involved email hackneyfood@sustainablehackney.org.uk. And please do keep plugging our service to Hackney schools, children’s centres or anyone working with children locally who might be missing out on birthday cakes. We know we ask a lot of you but we’re always happy to return the favour any way we can.

Here’s to a greater Hackney.


Sometimes you’ve just gotta put a sieve on your head

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Last month we put sieves on our heads hosted the second in our series of family baking workshops, this time at Ann Tayler Children’s Centre near London Fields.

It almost goes without saying that we had fun, a whole lot of fun! The staff were great; our bakers – who helped run the session – were great; the parents were great; and the kids? They weren’t too bad either!

We’re joking, of course – they were super great and it was fab seeing them really get stuck in, taking control of the mixing and measuring, getting creative, and yes, from time to time, sticking a sieve or two on their heads, but we won’t tell Environmental Health if you won’t!

All together now … “Ground control to Major Tom…”!

Sieves on heads weren’t the only funny occurrence mind you.  One child added an egg to the mixture.  As in, a whole egg, just popped in there with the flour, shell and all.  We heart kids!

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We got some amazing feedback from the families at the session, some of which we thought we’d share here because it made us feel warm and fuzzy and because hopefully it will give you a little glimpse of why we do what we do, and why we’re so glad that we’ve expanded our service to incorporate these local baking workshops. So, from the mouths of the mums:

“I really liked cooking with my children; it was nice seeing them smile.” (We love seeing them smile too!)

“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.” (Baking as a family instead of watching the gogglebox = good!)

“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.” (Our pleasure! We love knowing that families will go on to bake at home together.)

And finally, a comment that gave us a clue that the workshop went down well… “MORE BAKING WORKSHOPS PLEASE!” (If we can, we will!)

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So everyone went home happy, clutching their FCFK Hackney goody bags. And some carefully packaged their precious homemade muffins up to take home, while others just couldn’t wait…!

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Ittt’sss Chrrriiissstttmas!

Hello all you lovely people! Are you ready for Christmas? Are you hanging up your stocking on the wall … or are you leaving that to Slade? Whether you like it or not, the big day is nearly upon us and what better way to get involved in the festivities than to share the details of our Christmas social for our bakers with you. It actually took place in November, but hey, we’re busy people and we had mince pies to eat in December, so November worked better for us.

First things first – a bow of gratitude to Debora who once again let us borrow her gorgeous kitchen in which to host our little soiree. And, sorry, we’re first in the queue if Debora decides to adopt anyone. Idyllic is the word. Idyllic. When we grow up we want to have kitchens like Debora’s; houses like Debora’s; screw it, we want to be Debora.

Moving on …

We are indebted to Jess, who shall from now on be referred to as Super Jess, and who knows pretty much everything there is to know about buttercream. She works at Cakes 4 Fun in Putney, which is a little bit of a trek from Hackney, but it would totally be worth the journey to roll icing with Super Jess. She used to work in the kitchens of the Berkeley Hotel producing their incredible Pret-a-Porteas. Need we say more?

So there was Super Jess and there was mulled wine (of course!) …

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… and as we slurped the hot spicy stuff and nibbled on a spread to put any Boxing Day buffet to shame, Super Jess taught us how to crumb coat and ice a cake like a professional; how to make the perfect bear with perfect little ears made from a small flattened round of icing halved (who knew?!); how to create a magnificently pleated bow from decorators paste; and how to buttercream with the best of them – piping it, freezing it, then transferring it onto cakes.

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Some of us were better than others when it came to having a go ourselves (and by others we mean the committee!), but you couldn’t fault the enthusiasm and concentration in the room. Tongues poked out of mouths, lost in the moment, as shaky hands gripped piping bags. A+ for effort, and the mulled wine probably helped us to become pros!

We will be sharing a couple of the masterclasses on here in the new year as best as we can so do keep coming back. It’s been an incredible year for FCFK Hackney and the party really topped it off for us so thank you to the bakers who came and celebrated with us …

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… and HAPPY CHRISTMAS, everyone. We can’t wait until 2014 already. xxx


Go getcha Guardian

Read all about it! Read all about it!

We’ve only gone and got ourselves a double page spread in today’s Guardian! What are you doing still reading this? Why aren’t you rushing out to the shops to get your copy?

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Impressed?! We are!

Naturally we are thrilled and delighted that Eve at the Guardian liked what we do enough to feature us (thank you, Eve) . And it was all the more special that the Guardian’s photographer, Michael, could join us for our first ever community baking workshop with kids (hi Michael! … have you recovered yet?!). And, of course, that the parents and staff at Morningside Children’s Centre were so accommodating.

We are funded completely by money we raise or that gets donated to us and run completely by volunteers, so budgets for publicity don’t exactly exist. It is therefore amazing that we’re able to spread the word about our organisation a little further than you, me and the next street post.

We are already lucky enough to have a fantastic brigade of bakers who respond to emails calling for cakes to be made faster than the speed of light, but it is important to us that more people who might need our service, or people working with those families, hear about us so that we can grow the work we do. And, even though it may not be the done thing to discuss money, donations are always, ALWAYS appreciated. If you go to our Local Giving site and give a tenner, not only do you make us very happy, but your money gets doubled, which is pretty cool. And the more money we get, the longer we can go on making sure that kids in Hackney who might not otherwise get them DO get cakes on their birthdays.

If you are only just hearing about us and have your heart set on becoming a baker then we don’t mind you joining our waiting list if you’re happy to, err, wait. Please be patient with us though. We have already been inundated with contacts since the Guardian went to press – and the twittersphere has gone a little crazy too. We will try to respond to everyone, but we are just five ordinary people with jobs and families and Christmas trees to put up, so we may not be as quick off the mark as you’d hope, but our cogs are definitely turning.

If you’re not a Hackney resident but are interested in what we do and would like to be involved, then why not check out the Free Cakes for Kids national site and see if there’s a group near you. If there isn’t, maybe you could set one up?

Right, we’re off to read the rest of our copy of the Guardian. We see that “grumpy” Ruby from Great British Bake Off is featured and we’re dying to know what she’s up to now!

Thanks for stopping by and being interested in little old us. We promise we’re not going to turn all diva-ish now we’re famous!


Fool-proof muffin recipe (not that we’re going to call you a fool if you can’t make them)

WARNING: This post contains images of cute kids baking.  If you have a low tolerance for cute then you may want to look away.

We thought we’d share the muffin recipe we used at our kids’ baking workshop here with you as it is frankly just so simple that the whole world should have a go. One of the mums, Raby, who joined us on the workshop sent us some lovely photos of her children baking the muffins at home with the kit they’d got in their FCFK Hackney goody bag. She said it was the first time she’d baked with her children and now, as we’re sure you’ll be able to tell from the pictures, they are huge fans and it’s a new family activity for them. We couldn’t have made it up.

Long live the fool-proof muffin!

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This recipe makes around 12 muffins.

3 CUPS PLAIN FLOUR
1 TABLESPOON BAKING POWDER
1/2 TEASPOON BICARBONATE OF SODA
1/2 TEASPOON SALT
2 EGGS BEATEN
3/4 CUP LIGHT BROWN SUGAR
1 CUP YOGHURT OR BUTTERMILK (we used yoghurt)
1/2 CUP BUTTER MELTED
1 TEASPOON VANILLA EXTRACT
1 CUP BLUEBERRIES

Preheat the oven to 190°C/375°F/Gas Mark 5

1. Sift the flour, baking powder, bicarbonate of soda and salt into a large bowl.
2. Place the eggs, sugar, yoghurt, butter and vanilla in a second bowl and beat until blended.
3. Add the egg mixture to the flour with the blueberries and fold together gently until just combined.
4. Divide the mixture among muffin cases, placed in a muffin tin.
5. Bake until the edges shrink from the sides of the tin and a toothpick inserted into the muffins comes out clean (around 12-15 minutes).

Then … ? EAT! Yum, yum, yum!

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VARIATIONS

Spiced Banana Yoghurt Muffins: replace the blueberries with 2 diced bananas and 2 teaspoon cinnamon.
Cranberry Nut Yoghurt Muffins: replace the blueberries with 1 cup cranberries and 0.5 cup chopped pecans or walnuts.
Lemon Pear Yoghurt Muffins: replace blueberries with 2 diced pears and the grated zest of 1 lemon.


Never work with children or animals…!

So… you know that saying, “Never work with children or animals”? Um, yeah, we kind of ignored it. There were no lions or tigers or bears, oh no, but there most certainly were children and lots and lots of them!

What are we talking about? Our baking workshop of course!

The Friday before the Friday before last, Morningside Children’s Centre – specifically, the lovely Marie – let us loose in one of their rooms to spill flour and break eggs set up a baking station that even the mighty Delia would be proud of. We zested lemons, melted butter and lined up ten sets of mixing bowls, spoons, and measuring cups in anticipation. We were then joined by ten local mums who had signed up to learn how to bake muffins with us and their children. And as the end of school approached, said children joined us too, and that’s when the fun began!

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Clad in plastic pinnies and with name badges on, the kids set about measuring out flour, bicarbonate of soda, baking powder, salt … then yoghurt, sugar, egg, melted butter … and the all important blueberries, or pear and lemon, or raisins. There was so much concentration in the air that we’d like to say you could hear a pin drop, but the reality was that you probably wouldn’t have heard a grand piano drop! Yes, it was noisy, but the children and their mums were having fun and each family managed to produce a tray of six muffin cases filled with their own unique muffin mix in no time at all.

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We were up against it slightly on the cooking front. We had an oven the size of a microwave to cook 60 muffins in before the kids’ attention spans waned, but we pretty much did it and every family got to take home their buns (if they made it as far as their front doors without being consumed, that is!). And not only that, they also received a small goody bag from us including a copy of the recipe and all the equipment they needed to recreate the muffins at home, all packaged up in one of our FCFK Hackney tote bags (so expect to see a flurry of them about town!).

It was a crazy whirlwind of an afternoon but it was great fun. There are things we have learnt, of course, but we would definitely do it again, and we could quite get used to being called “Miss”! And, most importantly of all, Marie reported back that around half of the families who came told her they tried the muffins at home with their children that very weekend. We are over the moon that the workshop had the desired effect. Cooking with kids is messy and hard work, but so rewarding. We think we’ll skip cooking with animals though!

Oh, and did we mention that a photographer from the Guardian came along? No?! Ah ha! Keep checking in and all will be revealed…!  Here he is in action – a photo of a photographer taking a photo.

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Better than the “Bake Off” final?

We know Tuesday nights are for the Great British Bake Off and nothing else, and we know that last Tuesday was none other than the GBBO final, but we had very important work to do, so we had no choice but to make our excuses to Paul “Blue-eyes” Hollywood and the lovely Mary and go and bake up a bit of a storm ourselves. What rebels we are!

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The awesome people (thank you Catherine Conway!) at Unpackaged leant us their equally awesome space (seriously, if you haven’t been there, you need to go!) so that we could hold a special “train the trainer” event for seven of our interested bakers.

Remember we told you about that grant Hackney Council had given us? Well this is where it comes into play. The idea – the dream, if you like – is that we train some of our bakers to be able to teach some of the local parents and children that we work with to be able to bake. We’re not doing it so that our local families stop coming to us for birthday cakes. This is about giving families the skills (and basic equipment/ingredients) to be able to do a fun activity together. Baking: it makes people happy. Eating cake does that too, but eating home made cake is even better.

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We were very lucky to be able to work with Julia Chalkley – a freelance cookery teacher, who teaches all ages, which is just as well really as she was teaching us adults how to teach kids how to bake. And it seemed to work. Julia whipped us all into shape and we managed to produce some very decent batches of very delicious blueberry and yoghurt muffins. But, not only that, we learnt how to structure the time when we run our own baking workshops, and how best to show others, who are unlikely to have ever baked before, how to bake in a way that makes it easy, enjoyable and encourages them to go on to bake again. It was enlightening and we had loads of fun, and our bakers are lovely (even if we do say so ourselves, and even if we may have mentioned it one or two times before)!

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So we missed the Bake Off final, but we can catch it on iPlayer and we still know that Frances rocked it (of course she did – remember those bread sticks made to look like matches?!). And it was so worth it. We met bakers, we ate muffins, we cooked and learnt and are now raring to go with our own baking workshops. The first is at Morningside Children’s Centre in just a couple of weeks. We will, of course, report back here… Wish us luck!


What goes around comes around

If we sat down to write a post about all the other worthwhile organisations in Hackney that deserve a mention then we’d be here all day, or several days more likely. So we won’t do that. Not now at least.

We did want to highlight one local initiative though. Why? Well because it needs a little help right now, and because it’s awesome, and it serves cake to boot! We’re talking about NANA. Do you know it? If you don’t, you should!

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NANA is a comfort food cafe run by some amazing older women in the Hackney community. They serve soup, fishfinger sandwiches, bottomless pots of tea and cake of course, all at reasonable prices. What makes it awesome is that the “nanas” come and pass the time of day with you, share their pearls of wisdom, and even give your baby a cuddle while you have a sip of your tea when it’s still warm (luxury, we tell you, luxury!).

Anyway, NANA needs a new home. They were temporarily in the Elderfield pub but they’ve now found a permanent home in a disused public toilet (have faith!) off Chatsworth Road in Clapton and just need a small injection of cash to make it happen. Which is where you might come in…

If you have a couple of quid you might like to put their way in return for a cup of tea in their new premises then we’re sure they’d be delighted to receive it. The last time we checked they still needed to raise over £6,000 and there’s just nine days and counting to do it in. Please take a look.