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.


There is no I in TEAM

FCFK - Run Hackney route mapSo, we’ve undertaken a bit of an undertaking and signed ourselves up to run Hackney … not the whole of it, *just* a half marathon‘s worth of it, with a whole load of other people on Sunday 22nd June. We’re sure you’ll agree that the route looks pretty spectacular (and takes in a few pubs water stations!).

We have got not one, not two, not three, not four, but five, yes FIVE!, trainer-clad people – including Tess and Sophie from our committee – who will be running for us to hopefully raise us some cash, which will ensure that we have a future as an organisation and that we can keep on baking birthday cakes for kids who wouldn’t otherwise receive them. If you can dig into your pocket and move your wallet out the way to grab your smartphone and go online to sponsor us that would be lovely, thank you.

And, if you are a trainer-clad type too and would like to join our running team then please email Laura on events@freecakesforkidshackney.co.uk. We most definitely won’t say no. The more the merrier! Remember: there is no I in TEAM, unless it’s the sound of us moaning, whyiiiiiiiii did we sign up to do this again?! Cheerleaders on the day would be awesome too. Check out the loudhailer icons on the map and maybe consider standing at one of them and chucking muffins our way, or something. We’ll have our mouths open just in case.

We think that’s it for now but do brace yourself for the fact that we will be pestering you for sponsorship at every. single. possible. opportunity between now and the big day. If we could come round to your house with a clipboard and shake an old margarine tub of change at you then we would! Maybe we should promise to run dressed as giant cupcakes if we raise enough money … what do you reckon?!

All words of encouragement and/or top tips gratefully received 🙂

*** UPDATE ***
One of our amazing bakers, the lovely Lucy Lincoln, has joined our team of runners, so now we are six. Six times the reason to sponsor us!


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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Happy not-so-new year

We’ve been a bit slow off the mark this year but, still, we don’t think it’s too late to wish you a happy 2014. Fourteen days in, hey?! How’s it been so far? For us … not too shabby actually!

On Saturday we had our FCFK Hackney committee “away day,” which didn’t actually take place away and didn’t last a day, but we’re not going to nit-pick! Apart from stuffing our faces with amazing Ottolenghi-inspired hazelnut and white chocolate brownies (what January detox?!), we came up with some great plans for the coming year. We’ve already got a baking workshop taking place this week at Ann Tayler Children’s Centre, but we’ll be putting in some grant applications to hopefully get us the funding to enable us to do more, and we have some very exciting ideas for another cake decorating event and a monster fundraising extravaganza. We will reveal more as soon as we can but let’s just say that a cafe takeover may be on the cards. Eeee!

FCFK - wreath cakeWe cannot not mention how amazing our bakers were in those final crazy few days before Christmas…

While some of us were running around doing last minute shopping, wrapping and last minute last minuting, a few bakers stepped in to make some cakes for a children’s centre’s Christmas party, including this, frankly beautiful, wreath cake, as well as a cake for a child who had her birthday on Christmas Eve. It would have been so easy for that child to have been overlooked but, as you’ll see in our forthcoming Cake of the Month feature, that most certainly did not happen.

The referrals have been a bit thin on the ground so far this year but we have a strong army of bakers with wooden spoons at the ready just waiting to tackle any cake request thrown at us, so if you work with children or families and know of people who could benefit from our service then please do get in touch.  The more cake referrals the merrier, as they say.

We’ll leave you to get on with your second Tuesday of 2014 shortly, but firstly, three quick links:

One: Did you know that if you donate £10 to us through Local Giving then that tenner will be matched so we get £20 instead of just £10?  Pretty awesome, yes?  The pot of money is running out though so you only have until 28th February to double your donations to us if you’d like to.

Two: Remember we mentioned that we now have aprons that you can buy?  Well those aprons were expertly printed by the lovely guys at Print Club London and they’ve gone one step closer to ultimate loveliness and written about us on their website.  (Thanks again guys!)

And three: Can’t get enough of us?  We’ll soon be sending out our quarterly newsletter.  If you aren’t signed up to receive it then why the hell not?!  Sign up now … pleeease!

New year admin: done!  Over and out.  FCFK Hackney xxx


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!


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!


Our wish has been granted

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As FCFK Hackney goes from strength to strength, our ability to have a wider impact on our local area is being recognised – recently most notably by Hackney Council who have awarded us a grant for a whopping £1,000. The money has to be used specifically to deliver an event for our volunteers and two cooking workshops. These are still very much in the planning stages at the moment, but we are hoping to host an interactive volunteer event in October and the workshops after that.

Our committee is meeting today (a Sunday – just call us dedicated!) and the organisation of these events will be high on the agenda but we always welcome feedback and ideas of how best to use our skills, time, money and baking power so please do get in touch if you feel there’s something we could be doing that we’re not. We’ve already had some great feedback from our bakers so expect some exciting projects to come out of FCFK Hackney HQ in the not-too-distant future


FCFK Hackney goes to market

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July saw us stepping a little out of our comfort zone – we channelled our inner east end barrow boy and headed down to Spitalfields to set up a one off FCFK Hackney market stall.

We’d been invited by Imago Dei to tout our wares and raise awareness of what we do alongside a whole host of other ethically and socially minded organisations in the grandiose surroundings of Hawksmoore’s Christ Church.

Now we’re not about to pack in our day jobs and set up a permanent stall but it was a great experience; we raised some all important funding; and we got a whole load of people talking about and interested in what we do. Can’t say fairer than that!

And, even if we do say so ourselves, our cakes went down a storm. One person even came back for thirds! If that isn’t a ringing endorsement then we don’t know what is!

Watch this space as we may head to market again and we’d love it if you could drop by.