Outside Interest: volunteer cake baking

Written by: Jez Abbott
Published on: 8 Oct 2014

Helen Ridgeway

How did you get into voluntary cake baking?

I'm a Planning Aid Wales' volunteer but 16 months ago went on maternity leave and while I was off saw a Facebook feed about Bake Me Happy, a not-for-profit organisation that helps provide celebration cakes for socially disadvantaged people and groups across Wales. All cakes are baked by volunteers in their own kitchens and homes.

What does it involve?

A social worker will make a recommendation to Bake Me Happy and the group will contact one of its volunteers such as me. I recently baked a Spiderman cake and a cake based on the animated children's television character Doc McStuffins. These cakes were for two five year olds living with their mums in hostels. It can be a challenge; sometimes you have only 24 hours to rustle up the ingredients and come up with a theme and decoration. 

Why do you do it?

It's a great way to learn new baking skills without having to eat the cake yourself. Also, I'd moved away from volunteering when I had my baby girl and wanted to get back into the swing. This was a great, but totally different way, of edging myself back into voluntary work. Finally, the cause is good: every child should have a cake on their birthday.

What’s the toughest thing about it?

Not having enough time to bake as much as you would like to because of work and baby commitments is tough. When we are contacted by Bake Me Happy, we are given background information on the family circumstances, which are invariably sad and almost always upsetting.

What’s the most rewarding thing about it?

Making people happy for a small but special moment in time.

Are there any similarities between your day job and your role as a volunteer cake baker?

Juggling tasks and trying to get everything done on time is similar to both. Both planning and my voluntary baking are about improving people's lives but the latter is more tangible. With planning you are often detached from the final outcome, but with my voluntary work you get personal feedback from a social worker or the organisation. 

Do you have any unusual interests or hobbies that you would like to tell us about? If so, please email planning@haymarket.com