PORT ORCHARD — 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 out and strapped for cash, turned to Cake4Kids for help. The nonprofit group has volunteer bakers in the community who bake special treats for children who otherwise may go without getting 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 group.
“We all grew up getting birthday cakes every year and we remember [them],” Snider said. “We don’t realize there are children in our neighborhood and our community that may have never had a birthday cake. We know how special somebody feels on their birthday [by getting] a cake. Our mission is to bring joy to these children.”
The nonprofit works with agencies serving youth to locate kids that could use a special 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 army of volunteer bakers who stand ready to take on the assignment, 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,” Snider said.
Bakers often create theme cakes — examples include dinosaurs, skateboarding and popular movies like Disney’s “Frozen.” The volunteer bakers make sure to abide by the child’s dietary restrictions if they have any.
A baker who accepts a job is responsible for buying all the ingredients for their frosted creations, doing the baking 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.”
Cakes4Kids has 14 bakers in Kitsap County to help create birthday goodies. The group primarily is active in North Kitsap, Snider said, but the group is looking to expand its reach to the central and south parts of the county and is looking for volunteer bakers 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 to create tasty treats.
While these bakers extraordinaire are in the business of bringing happiness to children, they also manage to 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 to. “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. I thought it would be fun to learn about decorating cakes. 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. You are told about the colors and flavors the child likes. It’s rewarding and super fun,” said Fox, who this week finished making a Sonic the Hedgehog cake for a lucky child.
Cake4Kids began in California in 2010 and has expanded to 40 chapters across 11 states. The nonprofit expanded its Western Washington chapter to Kitsap County last fall.
Service agencies wishing to make referrals for deserving children can contact Snider at: firstname.lastname@example.org. Volunteer bakers can apply to join the group at cake4kids.org.