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.

Tell your mum, tell your mates, tell the world… we’re in the Telegraph

It all started with a My Little Pony cake. It was a pretty spectacular My Little Pony cake it has to be said. A My Little Pony Cake of dreams, made for a besotted Hackney birthday girl back in November by our baker Jennie.

Clouds on the outside; rainbow on the inside; bedecked with said pony (“Rainbow Dash” for those of you who know your cartoon nags): it was a cake which, by the power of the Twittersphere, turned a few heads.

One of those heads belongs to Leah Hyslop, an online editor at the Telegraph who, it turns out, had dabbled in a bit of My Little Pony appreciation in her younger days and, though her tastes have matured considerably, later confided to us that she’d be happy with a cake as beautiful as that one on any of her adult birthdays. Who wouldn’t?

Fortunately, Leah doesn’t just have good taste in cakes. She’s lovely (which always helps), and she was happy to have a chat with us over a nice cup of tea with a view to writing a piece about what we do for the Telegraph. The result of that chat and a couple of interviews with two of our bakers (thank you Anna and Shell) have now been transformed into the essence of us. Truly. If we wrote for the Telegraph we would have written what Leah wrote. But we don’t, of course (in our dreams!), so instead we’ll just point you in the direction of a bloody brilliant article… which just so happens to be about us! Thank you Leah, and not forgetting My Little Pony.

FCFK - Telegraph article

Mega milestones

Back in October 2011 we baked our first cake to celebrate the birthday of a child in Hackney we didn’t know. It had been a little while in the making – not the cake, that was fresh; the process.

We’d officially founded a Hackney branch of the Free Cakes for Kids network earlier in the year – August to be precise – but getting the word out there about who we are and what we do had taken a while and the referrals had been slow to come in.

That first cake was a milestone. It marked the real start of us.

Fast forward two and a half years (and considerable amounts of sponge batter and buttercream) from that first cake to now and here we are with another rather spectacular milestone under our belt: 200 cakes. Yes! TWO HUNDRED cakes. Pretty blinkin’ epic, we’re sure you’ll agree.

Behold! Our 200th cake:

FCFK - 200th cake
Last summer our 99th, 100th and 101st cakes happened to go to the first set of triplets we’d ever baked for and the Hackney Gazette came out to mark the occasion. Our 200th cake slipped out one rainy day in early May. It was no more or less special than the other 199 cakes that had gone before it, but, for us, there was a bit of a “bloody hell” moment when we stopped and thought that we’d baked 200 cakes for children in Hackney who would have otherwise gone without on their birthday.

FCFK - 200 cake candles counter

So, a quick pat on the back; a small round of applause; then it’s back to work for us. The referrals are coming in thicker and faster than ever and we can see our 300th cake on the horizon (if it’s a clear day and you really squint!).

Cake of the month – April 2014

It’s approaching the end of May; let’s face it, it’s nearly June; and here we are with April’s cake of the month.  Hey ho.

We picked this cake for it’s beautiful simplicity. It’s pretty, pink… perfect! And we love that baker Jen wants to share some of the happiness she had as a child with other children in Hackney.

FCFK - tiny butterfliesName of baker: Jen Shepherd.

Name of cake: Princess Perfect.

Ingredients: Fairtrade granulated sugar, Fairtrade icing sugar, baking powder, self raising flower, eggs, butter, semi skimmed milk, organic strawberry jam, double cream, pink food colouring and sugar butterflies.

Method: Nothing special – I just followed a Mary Berry recipe plus a little patience and use of my learning from our great cake decorating class last Christmas to perfect the butter icing.

About the baker: I chose to volunteer with FCFK Hackney because I was incredibly lucky as a child to have a very happy upbringing and everything I needed, I had. I was so fortunate to have been surrounded by amazing parents, siblings, friends and family friends and if I can just pass a little bit of that on and repeat my experiences for others, I am very happy to do so. I also work for Fairtrade and work on the sugar category, where baking is starting to look very interesting for us. All Tate & Lyle products are Fairtrade and if by any way we can further our message of fairly traded goods and support the Global South that would be great also. We also do loads of work with children in schools.

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

Media darlings

FCFK - Time OutWe are not ones to blow our own trumpet (apart from that time we were in the Guardian, and, then we were all like, “hello, hello, you, yes we know you don’t know us but WE’RE IN THE GUARDIAN!  What do mean you aren’t interested?  It’s the Guardian, the GUARDIAN, we’re IN the GUARDIAN, hello!”).

Buuut, quite frankly, it’s nice when something nice gets written about us.  Who doesn’t like a bit of positive publicity?  Not us.  So we’d like to draw your attention to a few pieces that have hit the media recently…

East London Lines wrote a lovely piece that really captured what we’re about and why we do what we do.

None other than Time Out, and then Metro, tipped our “CAKE EVENT” (a write up on which will follow soon, we promise!) as THE place to be in the whole of the Capital on that particular sunny Sunday in April.

FCFK - metroAnd as if that wasn’t all exciting enough, the Hackney Citizen wrote an awesome article about MasterChef 2013 winner Natalie Coleman becoming our patron (yes, we know, we’ve got some serious catching up to do on this here website!).

Click the links; take a read; and see what you think.

We’re happy to sign our autograph for you now that we’re F A M O U S 😉


Cake of the month – March 2014

When it came to deciding on our cake of the month for March we were totally spoilt for choice. That’s not to say it’s usually an easy decision; far from it. We love each and every cake our bakers make on our behalf. Asking us to choose a favourite cake is like asking someone which of their children they prefer or which dancer on Strictly Brucie is most partial to. In a word: hard!

But March was particularly hard because each and every cake that came in was worthy of the cake of the month title. There were cakes packed out with sweets; ones adorned with delicate butterflies; a Spring-inspired cake that was so pretty we just couldn’t stop looking at it… but then?

Then there was THIS cake – a cake (made for the E8 Community dream drawing exhibition) that looked like an explosion in an art shop. Just incredible. And, as if the outside wasn’t amazing enough, inside there was a rainbow. An actual rainbow made out of cake. Sigh.

If we could make cakes this good we’d probably set up a cake shop! This baker just bakes as a sideline. Her “real” calling: NEUROSCIENCE! We LOVE our bakers!

FCFK - dreams cake crayonsName of baker: Beth Scutt

Name of cake: Rainbow layer cake

For the sponge:
160g unsalted butter, softened
560g caster sugar
480g plain flour
2tbsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
480ml whole milk
1 tsp vanilla essence
4 large eggs

Vanilla frosting:
750g icing sugar
240g unsalted butter, softened
75ml whole milk
3/4 tsp vanilla essence

3 20cm (8in) sandwich tins
6 bowls
Gel food colouring (red, orange, yellow, green blue and purple)

1. Preheat the oven to 190°C (170°C for fan ovens), and line the cake tins.
2. Using a hand-held electric whisk or freestanding electric mixer with the paddle attachment, beat together the butter, sugar, flour, baking powder and salt until the ingredients are fully mixed and resemble fine breadcrumbs.
3. Mix together the milk, vanilla essence and eggs by hand in a jug. With the whisk or mixer on a low speed, pour three quarters of the milk mixture into the dry ingredients and mix well, scraping down the side of the bowl. With the mixer on a medium speed, add the remaining milk mixture until the batter is smooth. The batter will be quite runny, don’t worry!
4. Separate the batter evenly into six different bowls. If you want to be super accurate, measure out the batter. Colour each bowl with one of the gel food colours, the colour of the sponge won’t change much once it’s cooked so be brave and make them bright! Once coloured, take three of the colours and spoon each of them into the three sandwich tins, making sure the surface is even. Pop the three tins into the oven and cook for approximately 25 mins. They might need longer, so before taking them out, make sure a skewer comes out clean, and the sponge bounces back when lightly pressed. Once the cakes are turned out on a cooling rack, repeat with the final three colours.
5. To make the buttercream icing, whisk the icing sugar with the butter on a low speed until fully combined and sandy in consistency. The longer, the better. Add the vanilla essence to the milk and slowly pour into the butter and icing sugar while still mixing on a low speed, then increase the speed to high and whisk the frosting until light and fluffy. I find that often not all of the milk mixture is needed, so add it slowly, judging yourself when the icing is a correct consistency. Also be careful not to over mix the icing once the milk is added, as it might split and not set hard enough to support all 6 sponges!
6. Assemble the cake. In rainbow order, stack the six sponges with a good amount of icing between each layer. Once assembled, cover the cake in a thin layer of icing using a pallet knife (this will pick up any loose crumbs, giving the cake a clean finish). Wash the knife, and then add a second, thicker, layer of icing around the top and sides of the cake. If you are covering the cake in fondant icing, then skip the thick layer and just add the fondant icing to the cake with the thin layer of butter icing. Decorate as you wish.
7. Eat and enjoy the rainbow-y goodness!

FCFK - March COTM insideFCFK - March COTM child plate

About the baker:
Hello! I’m Beth, a 21 year old who recently graduated from a neuroscience degree. I’ve always loved having creative projects alongside my studies to balance everything out a bit, and baking was a favourite of mine because it made a good treat for me and my housemates when we were desperate for a break during our finals! I decided to bake for FCFK Hackney because I wanted to be able to practice my cake making and decorating skills for a great cause. I love challenging myself with cake ideas, and hope that the final outcome is loved just as much by the kids themselves!

By popular demand

We can safely say that we have never, ever, at any point in our lives, been quite as excited about a teatowel as we are now. There was that one time when we discovered a right beaut of a teatowel depicting the happy union of Prince Charles and Lady Di hiding at the back of our parents’ stash, but that doesn’t even come close to the excitement we feel now, because now, ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, we have our very own blinkin’ teatowels. Dryer-upperers across the land: rejoice!

Teatowels, teatowels, teatowels, teatowels. We can’t stop saying teatowels. TEATOWELS.

We brought you tote bags; we brought you aprons; but you demanded the most humble of all drying-up cloths, the teatowel, so now, we bring you the teatowel… prepare yourself…

FCFK - teatowelsSwit swoo, right?

The gorgeous illustrations were kindly drawn for us and us alone by the talented Emily Hadden and have been printed (by the ever-generous Print Club London) in our Free Cakes For Kids Hackney trade-mark hot pink. We reckon the illustrations look similar to the historical line drawings depicting outlandish jellies of Georgian times, except they’ve been put in a time-machine to 2014 Hackney and made PINK.

We are in love! Teatowel love.

And don’t fret, the edges will be sewn neatly by our own lovely Laura, before she gives them the finishing touch of an FCFK Hackney label. This is them in their “raw” form only. We were just so excited that we wanted to show off our tea, tea, teatowels ASAP. They’ll have done their hair and have their make-up on by the time you see them.

Want one?

Come to our fundraiser on Sunday 13th April from 3pm at Crate Brewery then.

We anticipate these bad boys will sell like hot cakes, or cold cakes, or any cake really, so we suggest you get there early to stake your place in the queue to our merch stall. And yes, our tote bags and aprons will also be available to buy on the day. Why not collect the trio?!

PS: Teatowel.

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.