Cake of the Month – August 2014

When baker Kirsten emailed us a picture of the “tie dye/rainbow” cake she had made and delivered to a Hackney child at the end of last month we were instantly transported back to our ’90s youthhood.  Hello tie dye!  Hello Magic Eye books!  Hello oversized Global Hypercolour t-shirts and cycling shorts and Salt-N-Pepa’s Let’s Talk About Sex on the ghetto blaster.  “Spinderella cut it up one time.”  Sorry, we totally took that too far …

… back to the cake.  We loved it, and we instantly wanted to know how to create a tie dye cake ourselves.  What better opportunity for a masterclass from the baker herself than Cake of the Month?  Little did we know then that it’s also a rainbow cake inside with concentric circles of colour in the actual batter too.  Legendary.
FCFK - tie dye cake

Name of baker: Kirsten Mansfield
Name of cake: tie dye rainbow cake

For the cake:
350g self-raising flour
350g soft butter
350g caster sugar
6 large free range eggs
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
up to 40ml semi-skimmed milk
6 different gel icing colours (I used red, orange, green, blue, yellow and purple)

For the icing:
100g butter, soft
250g cream cheese, at room temperature
600g icing sugar, sifted


For the cake:

First, preheat your oven to gas mark 4/170 degrees/360 degrees Fahrenheit and mix up your cake batter in the usual way – cream your butter and sugar until combined, add eggs one at a time followed by a little of the flour and mix well before adding theremaining flour and vanilla extract. If your mix is a little thick, add up to 40ml of semi-skimmed milk – adding a tablespoon at a time and stopping when you get to a consistency that you’re happy with.

Divide the mixture into six bowls, and make each bowl a different rainbow colour. Line the bottom of two 9 inch cake pans with wax paper, and grease the sides. Layer your cake batter in concentric circles. Use about 3/4 of the bowl for your bottom colour, then use a little less of each colour as you continue. Layer your second cake pan in the opposite order.

For the icing:

Melt the butter in a heat proof bowl in the microwave for 20-30 seconds, until close to completely melted. Whisk the butter until no lumps remain. Whisk in your cream cheese, again until no lumps remain.

Prepare your icing sugar, and then sieve it in to the cream cheese mixture 150g at a time, stirring gently with a wooden spoon between each addition. When all the icing sugar is incorporated, pop the frosting into the fridge to chill.

For the tie dye decoration:

Once you have frosted the cake make concentric circles with the gel on the top of your cake, starting with the largest circle (I used red on the outside) and working your way in to the middle (I used purple on the inside as I did not have as much left). Using a small, flat paintbrush, start at the centre circle and brush toward the outside of your cake – you will need to wash your brush a lot to keep it from creating a brown colour.

About the baker:

I was born in South African and my family and I moved to Qatar when I was eight. My mother taught me, my sister and our friends to bake at a young age and we took turns to make muffins and cakes to take to school. Throughout my school education and legal studies I have enjoyed volunteering and I taught swimming to children which encouraged me to get involved in various children’s charities. After university I travelled to Kenya and taught at a school for disadvantaged children in Mombasa which was a fascinating experience as I was able to immerse myself in the community.

When I moved to London two years ago I decided I wanted to carry on with volunteering but I needed it to be flexible as I was looking for a job and I didn’t know what kind of hours I would be doing. I currently work at Goldman Sachs and Free Cakes for Kids Hackney provides a great opportunity for me to combine my passion for baking with my interest in charity work. I was particularly interested in Free Cakes for Kids as it is a brilliant community service which has the opportunity to bring happiness to so many children and families.

A sacrifice and a half

FCFK - no cake august


At the beginning of August we got a notification on our Local Giving page telling us that somebody had started fundraising for us. What an awesome surprise, we thought and clicked on over to take a look.

Now there are some crazy cake people out there (us included!), but this was a stranger, a cake-loving-stranger to be precise, with absolutely zero connection to Free Cakes for Kids Hackney, who had decided to raise money for us by giving up cake for the whole of the month of August. Bonkers, right?

Did she cave? No she did not! For THIRTY ONE days not even a crumb of scone or lick of buttercream passed the lovely Lou‘s lips. What happened instead was that she raised ONE HUNDRED AND FIFTY beautiful British pounds for us. Woot.

FCFK - no cake august after


<<< And behold her face when she got to eat her first cake after #nocakeaugust!  What a difference to the sad face above that could only look upon a whoopie pie.  Torture!

We’d say she was very restrained!  A piddly little cupcake after a whole month without cake?!  We’d have had 31 to make up for the missed days 😉

Thank you, thank you, thank you, Lou.  You are definitely bonkers but we totally appreciate the support.  And we are in no way making light of the fact that most of the children we work with do not have cake in their lives, not even on their birthday, let alone any random day in August.  This little fundraising project only highlights how sad that is.  Imagine your life without cake.  No thanks.

Right, now let’s put that £150 towards making sure that more and more children in Hackney get cake in their lives.  We’re on a mission: join us.

Stars of the blogosphere; that’s us!

Isn’t it nice when people want to write nice things about you? That’s a rhetorical question really. No ones’s going to object to having someone sing their praises; just like no one’s going to argue that children having cakes on their birthdays isn’t an important thing.

The thing is though, people don’t always know that there are kids who go without birthday cakes. Even our patron, Natalie Coleman, who, by the way, is about as down to earth as it’s possible to be, admitted to us the other day that it was hard to comprehend kids going without. It’s not a nice thing to think about, but the number of families struggling to feed their children – and themselves – breakfast, lunch and tea, let alone cake, is probably greater than you think.

FCFK - Stokey Parents article pic


That’s why it’s incredibly important that people share what we do. Of course we love it when our bakers get the recognition they deserve, in print, for the contribution they make to local children’s lives, but we really, reeeally love it when someone reads something about what we do and then gets in touch as a result of it, enabling us to help one less child go without a cake on their birthday.

True story: One of our committee member’s mum was so proud of her daughter’s involvement in FCFK Hackney and the fact that it had been written about in the Telegraph, that she took the article into her work to show off. One of her colleagues knew of a family in need; got in touch with the Free Cakes network; and a child in that family got a cake when it was their birthday. If it wasn’t for the Telegraph article that might never have happened. Totally, totally awesome.

FCFK - Things Wot I Have Made article pic


It’s with that in mind that we’d like to thank two bloggers – Jenna over at Stokey Parents and Zoe from Things Wot I Have Made – for writing about us recently. We already know that another Free Cakes group has gained a baker as a result of this writing. Bonus.

Take a read of what they wrote here and here, and, please, share, share, SHARE what we do. And if you work with families and children here in Hackney and think that you know people who could benefit from our service then please do email us on Referrals are quick and easy. We always say that, but it’s true.

And if you want to write about us we probably ain’t going to object either!

Cake of the month – July 2014

Time and time again we are blown away by our bakers’ creativity. This cake is no exception. We bloody love the fact that Kelly didn’t give up on her mission to create an ingenious “smash cake” even though the heat was against her and she could have easily *just* presented us with a sandwich cake.

Making your own chocolate domes? Why not! That’s nothing for a baker who has made a W E D D I N G cake – eek! (We couldn’t resist including a picture of the wedding cake Kelly made too … scroll to the bottom to see it as well as her beautiful reasons for volunteering for us.)

FCFK - smash cake
Name of baker: Kelly Davis

Name of cake: Piñata cake

A home-made chocolate-orange marble cake; chocolate icing; vegetarian sweets; milk chocolate; chocolate buttons; hundreds & thousands; a toy mallet; and a chocolate mould (see details below).


I saw piñata cakes on the internet and thought they looked like something a child would enjoy. You get a delicious birthday cake but you also get to smash it up. What’s not to love? I predict that these cakes will become a bit of a craze.

The biggest mistake I made was attempting to make a giant chocolate dome to cover the entire cake – and attempting to make it on the hottest day of the year. Using a balloon as a mould, I tried to make a big dome but it just wouldn’t cool down enough for the chocolate to harden. Putting it in the fridge didn’t help because as soon as I took it out again it started to collapse. I compromised by using large silicone muffin pans as moulds. I covered them in thick layers of melted milk chocolate and froze them solid. It worked! After unmoulding the chocolate I laid the domes over little mounds of sweets and then decorated both the cake and the chocolate domes.

The birthday child then gets to smash the chocolate domes with the little mallet to discover the sweets inside. In the winter I will try a whole-cake dome again. Fingers crossed I’ll have a bit more success!

FCFK - wedding cake
About the baker:

This is my twelfth cake for Free Cakes for Kids Hackney. I do lots of volunteering in Hackney but this is special. I get an opportunity to make cakes and try out new techniques and ideas – and the cake goes to someone who really needs it.

If it weren’t for FCFK Hackney I wouldn’t have got to try my hand at princess cakes, football cakes, Spiderman cakes – and of course this piñata cake. If I could make a cake every week I would!

I feel lots of excitement when the cake turns out alright and it’s ready to be delivered. I like that I get to remain anonymous – like some sort of birthday fairy!

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.

Cake of the month – June 2014

June’s cake of the month was made by one of our newest bakers. The cake is pretty special as we’re sure you’ll agree – it’s bright and colourful, and fulfills the unusual brief (Dragon Ball Z? Yes, we had to Google it too!) – but, also, its baker, Clare, has already made a handful of cakes for us in just a couple of months. Top cake. Top baker. Happy us.

FCFK - Goku cake


Name of baker: Clare Brewer

Name of cake: Dragon Ball Z (Goku) cake

Ingredients/method: A standard Victoria sponge cake recipe, with strawberry jam in the centre, then covered in vanilla buttercream and fondant to decorate.

About the baker:
I love baking and I stumbled across this charity about a year ago, so I looked for local groups and at the time Hackney was my nearest one.

It’s satisfying being able make cakes for someone else, whilst at the same time honing your skills as a baker, and of course not having to eat everything you bake!

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!

Cake of the month – May 2014

We’ve got another corker of a cake for May’s cake of the month. Its baker, Julia, is also a bit of a corker in our eyes, producing cake after imaginative cake for us. She is not a One Direction fan. She didn’t know the names of the boys in that band. But she became one and learnt their names for this project, and in doing so, we can imagine, made one Hackney birthday girl last month feel very special indeed. Thank you, Julia, for the dedication you show to the cause – having to Google Harry Styles is going above and beyond!

FCFK - 1D cakeFCFK - 1D cakeFCFK - 1D cake

Name of baker: Julia Thackray

Name of cake: The Only Direction is One Direction!

This was a standard Victoria sponge recipe with strawberry jam in the middle, covered with buttercream and rolled icing and topped with cut-out icing decorations and glace icing writing.

For the cake
• 400g caster sugar
• 400g softened butter
• 8 eggs, beaten
• 400g self-raising flour
• 1 tsp baking powder
• 1 tsp vanilla essence
For the filling
• strawberry jam
For the decoration
• Buttercream icing made with butter and icing sugar
• Ready to roll icing – white for coating the cake and coloured red and black with colouring gel for the cut out decorations.
• Glace icing made with icing sugar and water for writing

I made one large square cake and when baked cut it in half and sandwiched it together with jam.
1. Heat oven to 190C/fan 170C/gas 5. Butter the tin.
2. Beat butter and caster sugar in large bowl.
3. Beat eggs hard till light. Add vanilla essence
4. Beat eggs in a little at a time to the butter and sugar
5. Fold in the flour and baking powder (sifted together).
6. Pour the mixture into the tin and smooth.
7. Bake for about 20 mins until golden and the cake springs back when pressed. Turn onto a cooling rack and leave to cool completely.

About the baker:
I live in Stoke Newington with my two children. I’m a family lawyer and mediator and now work in legal training. I really enjoy baking and especially the challenge of the special occasion cake. My kids have always loved having a birthday cake and usually I make something on a theme that they are particularly keen on that year or related to the theme of the party. This year my son had a Phoenix cake for a ‘Harry Potter’ birthday and my daughter had a Midsummer Night’s Dream cake.

When I heard about the FCFK initiative I just thought what a brilliant and simple idea it was to match up people keen to make cakes (but don’t necessarily want to eat them!) with kids who would really appreciate a homemade cake, just for them on their special day. It’s been a lot of fun, working out what to make given the ideas that come from the kids or their carers.