This week I spoke with Susie Easton, the founder of the Glasgow branch of Free Cakes for Kids. Free Cakes is an organisation that makes birthday cakes for children whose families cannot afford it, or whose situation makes it difficult to provide it. I first heard about this through one of my friends who volunteers and I thought it was just the sweetest (pun absolutely intended, as ever) thing I’d heard.
I am so happy to share this with you all – more proof that baking makes the world a better place!
- Hi Susie, so you began the Glasgow branch of Free Cakes for Kids?
Yes I started it in about June 2014. I had read a newspaper article about a Free Cakes for Kids group in Hackney and I liked the sound of what they were doing. I did a bit of digging and found that there was no active group in Glasgow, so I went about setting one up.
- What made you begin volunteering for Free Cakes for Kids?
A few different things… I have quite a stressful job in the NHS and I wanted to do something a bit more creative in my spare time, and was looking for a volunteering opportunity. I have always really enjoyed baking, but up until then my cakes were more about taste than presentation i.e. they tasted great and often looked a right state! And the thing about baking more is that you also end up eating more! So this was an opportunity to bake more but not eat all the cakes, hone my cake decorating skills, do something completely different to my job and also do something a wee bit useful in the community.
- That’s fantastic. How are other people able to get involved – either as a volunteer or if they want to donate?
Mostly people get involved through baking. We currently have about 30 active bakers and we have baked over 100 cakes since we started. The whole ethos of Free Cakes For Kids is that it is a simple and straightforward process- we pair a child who would not otherwise get a birthday cake with an enthusiastic volunteer baker, who bakes them a free and personalised birthday cake. We do have a small amount of petty cash, but we don’t do a huge amount of fund raising. We occasionally sell baking to raise money for specific causes, But at the same time, we are always interested in people that might be able to help us with marketing or social media or the likes. We also have a couple of professional bakers that volunteer for us and they have been amazing at doing wee cake decorating workshops for the volunteers, helping us to perfect our fondant icing etc!
- What is the most rewarding aspect of this role?
Just knowing that you are doing something nice for a kid that is having a hard time. We partner up a lot with the charity Women’s Aid, and often do birthday cakes for families that are living in shelters after fleeing domestic violence. Although we know a birthday cake is only a very small thing, we hope that it can go a little way to making the child feel special on their birthday, and help them to have a celebration with their family and friends when they are at a difficult point in their lives.
- What is the most challenging aspect of this role?
Probably just finding time to keep everything ticking over: screening the referrals to make sure that they are appropriate, making sure the volunteers don’t get overburdened with request, liaising with the partnership charities, finding new volunteers and making sure the established ones stay on board, maintaining a social media presence etc I have recently had a wee baby and I am definitely needing to up my time management skills to fit it all in!
- How do you find families to give your cakes to?
Almost all of our referrals come through charities. It is easier this way because they know what our criteria are and can do the initial screening of the referral. We try and partnership with charities that work with disadvantaged kids and families such as young cares groups or kinship carers. We do occasionally do cakes for people that approach us directly, usually after hearing about us online. This can be a bit more tricky because we wont know anything about the referrer initially, and we then need to make sure that they are appropriate for the service.
- If someone reading this knows a family that they think could benefit from this how can they create the connection?
They could contact us via the Free Cakes for Kids Glasgow Facebook page or email me at email@example.com
- I assume you are a keen baker, how long have you been into baking and what first sparked your interest?
I have actually only been baking for about 8 years or so – before that I was much more into generally savoury cookery. I do have quite a sweet tooth though! I’m quite slap dash and only follow savoury recipes roughly… but that doesn’t work in baking as you know! Baking is more like magic culinary chemistry! So its quite a different skill set from normal cooking I think. Probably what really sparked my interest is my love of eating cake plus it’s always nice to be able to bake a cake for someone that you care about.
- What has been your favourite cake to bake?
Hmmm. My sugar-paste skills have definitely improved over the last couple of years, From terrible to mostly okay! I did a Minion cake a few months ago that I was very pleased with because it was probably the neatest cake I had done.
- Is there anything else you would like people to know about Free Cakes For Kids?
We tend to take on new volunteers in batches. So if you are interested, or equally, if you know of a charity that might be a good fit for us to take referral from, I would love to hear from you!