Set up in 2019, this amateur baking group has around 30 volunteers creating extravagant birthday cakes for children in need in the area.
Free Cakes for Kids Bradford is a movement of local volunteers who share a simple belief, that every child deserves a birthday cake. The cakes are baked for children who are not likely to receive one on their birthday. This could be due to financial struggles, a child in care, or for any other reason.
The cakes are homemade and delicious, usually featuring the birthday child’s favourite theme or style, with ‘baby shark’ themed cakes, football, dinosaurs, princesses, and jungle-themed cakes, amongst others being crafted.
The volunteers use their passion for baking for good, dedicating their time and bake within their own home kitchens. Using their skills as bakers, neighbours, and good citizens, they battle hardship, build relations, encourage volunteering, and create memories that last longer than a day.
The group was set up by Kimberly Smith, a 35-year-old mum of two and carer from Wyke. With a passion for baking that stems from her childhood, she would watch her own mum bake cakes for birthdays and other special occasions. Ms Smith started Free Cakes for Kids Bradford after being inspired by a similar group from the United States on social media.
Ms Smith then found Free Cakes for Kids UK; a non-profit organisation set up by Henriette Lundgren in Oxford in 2008. Ms Smith decided to create her own offshoot of this group to serve the kids who need it the most in Bradford. She said: “I spotted the main group on the internet and did a bit of digging and I thought ‘yes, I can do this!’ so I set the Bradford group up, baking cakes when the kids are in school or in bed.”
Before setting up the group, Ms Smith would often make birthday cakes for her two sons, where should we get compliments on the intricacy of her work. She said: “’I’ve always baked and received compliments on the cakes I’ve made. People have often said to me ‘why don’t you open up your own cake shop?’ and I have thought about it, but with the cake market being so saturated and me being a carer to my two boys, I don’t think that path is for me’.
Ms Smith and her partner are full-time carers to her two sons, the oldest who is diagnosed with autism and has sensory needs, and her youngest who was born with a cleft palate and has ADHD. They are often on hand to taste test their mum’s delicious creations. Ms Smith’s partner is also involved, delivering the baked goods to families. “We have probably driven the length from here to Scarborough, just dropping off the cakes out around the district”, Ms Smith said.
Today, the group has around 30 volunteers who bake or deliver the cakes. Since 2019, the group has made 112 cakes and are quickly approaching their 50th creation.
Ms Smith said: “During the pandemic, we had to stop baking but we are revving up again. The way we work is that we need a referral, either from a charity, or social worker or from other organisations. It takes me around two days to make the cakes since it needs to be cool to decorate, but the referral process can take around three weeks.”
The referral form asks for the gender of the child and what their interests are, but it is up to the volunteers to decide the design of the cake. “If a child is into Disney or princesses, then they can say they like pink and sparkles, but ultimately, we don’t take direction from the families on what the design is, it is up to the person making the cake.”
A referral is necessary to receive a cake from the group as it is there to make sure that the people who need the cakes, get them. It needs to be filled out by a social worker, charity, supporter worker, or food bank and includes an application form stating the terms and conditions. The group states that they “always try to help as many families as we can and really hate to disappoint anyone by not being able to provide a cake the day after the initial enquiry, but we really are just normal people who work all hours of the day with families/children to take care of.
“We need time to be able to find a volunteer baker who has the availability for the specific date requested on the application form this can sometimes take a week on occasion it has taken longer than that.”
The group also caters for children with allergies. One of the volunteers runs a cake shop in Bradford, that has training and certificates in allergen awareness, and so can provide gluten-free, egg-free, or other specific dietary requirement cakes.
The volunteers make the cakes using their own money and ingredients, with a Go Fund Me set up for people who would like to donate to the cause. According to Ms Smith, it costs around £30 to bake, decorate, and deliver a cake. “I just want to thank all the volunteers and the people who have referred families to us, without you, we wouldn’t be able to do what we do.”
After conquering Bradford District, Ms Smith has plans on expanding to Huddersfield in Kirklees and Brighouse in Calderdale. She said: “We don’t plan on going in to Leeds because there is already a group set up there, but we have plans on recruiting volunteers from Huddersfield and Brighouse, and expanding into these areas.”