‘A balanced diet is a cake in each hand,’ or so the saying goes. Some people, myself included take this message quite literally, which is how The Great Mount Carmel Bake Off came to be…From a desire to help, to raise money and of course to have the ‘unfortunate’ task of eating lots of delicious treats in the spirit of fun to help a wonderful charity, BPositive, to what has now become a much anticipated part of school life (in the staffroom at least!)
Back in September a group of like-minded cake lovers at school decided that we would put our love of baking to good use. On the first Monday of every subsequent month the plan is that we all rise (!) to the challenge laid before us. There is often a theme and always a set of strict rules to adhere to! The willing volunteers pay £2 to enter their effort and anyone who wants to have a taste and cast their vote pays £1 to sample a slice of every single entry. I know, this sounds like a tough way to spend a Monday break-time, sampling delicious cakes and bakes but as I said before, the staff at Our Lady of Mount Carmel Catholic First School in Redditch are always happy to oblige! The entrees are anonymous. To ensure this remains the case we have all invested in the same clear lidded, neutral looking container for transporting the goodies into school incognito! That’s right, ‘keeping Tupperware in business since 2013!’
October was the first bake off and arguably the hardest. As it was Autumn, (we try to think of the food of the seasons the way the professionals do!) we had a butternut squash/pumpkin theme. You could make whatever you wanted as long as it contained one of those as the main ingredient. We had butternut squash cakes, pumpkin scones, muffins and breads, cakes and bakes, sweet and savoury alike. In fact my kitchen still holds a slight orange tinge to this day!
November came the obvious ‘Bonfire’ theme and sparks flew that month I can tell you. Who’d have thought popping candy could cause such hysteria!? The winner of each bake off as voted by friends and colleagues wins a modest bar of chocolate as a token of their success and the money remains in a pot to be shared between three charities close to the hearts of the staff in this close-knit community at Mount Carmel.
December and Christmas, those of you who are not familiar with Primary School at this time of year need only imagine how busy it gets with Masses and Nativity plays and Carol Services and all that goes in to prepare young children for this exciting time. So you would be forgiven for thinking that we would put the bake off on hold for this month…NO WAY! December came the ‘Yule Log’ challenge, a supposedly simple swiss roll style log! I can honestly say this bake off caused me the most difficulty, there was more than one attempt made at rolling this ‘simple’ sponge cake into the log shape and in fact the person who suggested this idea and told us all it was so simple as she made one at school actually immortalised her first attempt in photographs for all the facebook world to see as it resembled a catastrophic attempt at digging the garden over! (Not to me Lynn, you know I could see the diamond in the rough...no offence J )
January, Burns night, the obvious choice was shortbread. The rules were it must be Scottish, all butter shortbread, cut into bite-size pieces for sampling. This was the most delicious bake off to me, a massive shortbread fan and definitely the closest I’ve ever come to winning (or getting any votes I’m sure!)
This brings us to this coming bake off. What could be suitable for this romantic month of St Valentine’s Day? Hearts and flowers? Not for us… we are doing a tray bake, of any kind, any flavour, and I for one, can’t wait! The money we have raised so far is amazing considering we are just one tiny little school. I guess it goes to show, give a bunch of teachers a plate of cakes and we’ll show you the money!
At Mount Carmel we do a lot for charity but this for me feels like a personal, humbling activity. Every month these wonderful ladies go to the effort and spend their own time and money to produce a wonderful array of treats to raise money to support the charity my own brother, Jonjo, has set up to help others through their battle with Leukaemia. These same ladies are the ones who were there every day, by my side, when Jonjo was himself battling this disease. It never fails to amaze me how kind and caring they all are and I would like to thank them all for what they continue to do. How can I ever thank them enough? A piece of cake maybe..?
Poster for the next Bpositive Bake-Off at Mount Carmel
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A mixture of insightful comments, posts and general 'blogging' from various Bpositive contributors