Swirling pink, purple and blue frosting on the unicorn cake was a huge hit when an 8-year-old Bainbridge Island girl opened her eyes and saw the colorful creation at her birthday celebration.
The mother of the second-grader beamed and said, “She was super excited to see all the colors, candles and decorations. It was a blessing.”
Designs on the unicorn cake were so impressive that they led to a tiff between family members. “The family got into an argument over what was the best way to cut the cake to preserve the decorations, but we all knew we wanted to eat it!” the mom laughed.
Leading up to her daughter’s birthday party, the single mom of two girls, who found herself stressed and strapped for cash, turned to Cake4Kids for help. The nonprofit has volunteer bakers who make special treats for children who otherwise may go without a birthday cake on their special day.
“At Cake4Kids, we say that no child should go without a birthday cake,” said Dawn Snider, Kitsap County lead for the nonprofit. “We all grew up getting birthday cakes every year, and we remember. We don’t realize there are children in our neighborhood and our community that may have never had a birthday cake. Our mission is to bring joy to these children.”
The nonprofit works with agencies serving youth to locate kids who could use a birthday surprise. Underprivileged children associated with family shelters, the foster system, domestic violence or human trafficking agencies, or food banks are among those benefited by Cake4Kids, Snider noted.
Once a service agency selects a young candidate, the group puts out the referral to its volunteer bakers who pull out their mixing pans and heat up their ovens. Goodies whipped up by chefs include birthday cakes, cupcakes, cookies and brownies. “It’s whatever the child requests,” said Snider, of BI.
Bakers often create theme cakes – examples include dinosaurs, skateboarding and popular movies like Disney’s “Frozen.”
A baker who accepts a job is responsible for buying all the ingredients and getting the finished product to the referring agency. “For privacy concerns, we never see or meet the child,” Snider pointed out. “While they don’t meet the client, oftentimes the volunteer baker gets a thank-you card and sometimes gets a picture of the smiling child with the cake.”
Cake4Kids began in California in 2010 and has expanded to 40 chapters across 11 states. The nonprofit expanded to Kitsap County last fall. Agencies wishing to make referrals can contact Snider at email@example.com. Volunteer bakers can go to cake4kids.org.
Cakes4Kids has 14 bakers in Kitsap County. The group primarily is active in North Kitsap, Snider said, but the group is looking to expand to the central and south county and is looking for volunteers in those areas. “Our bakers are people who love to bake, have the time and love helping children,” Snider said.
Local bakers range from a scientist and a counselor to people in marketing and the tech field. Retirees also have signed up. They all learn in the process.
“[Our bakers] have some competency in the basic ability to decorate cakes but you don’t have to be a professional. Like myself, I can do basic decorating, but I thought it would be fun to learn how to be a better decorator,” Snider said.
Bakers sign up to make as many desserts as they want. “Some bakers are very active and bake one or two times a month. Others do one or two a year,” she said.
Kim Fox of Bainbridge Island has been a Cake4Kids volunteer baker for several months.
“My grandmother made me decorated cakes growing up,” Fox said. “I have fond memories of that. Now, I’m addicted to watching YouTube videos to learn about cake decorating.”
Fox, a retired software executive, finds her volunteer kitchen work satisfying. “I feel good about delivering a cake. It’s not like writing a check — this is much more personal,” said Fox, who recently finished making a Sonic the Hedgehog cake for a lucky child.