How do you hold a gigantic cake decorating competition, auction and raffle in the midst of a pandemic lockdown? And how do you do it with just 48 hours’ notice?
Canberra’s magical, slightly mad annual Cake-off, in support of the Perinatal Wellbeing Centre, has become a tradition. After being cancelled last year, the Cake-off team weren’t willing to give up when this year’s lockdown was announced just two days out from their event on Sunday at the Hyatt.
Cue the virtual cake-off, complete with renditions of Alf, the 1980s alien from the planet Melmac, 1970s disco balls, a Kombi van and even the Sydney Olympic mascots in baked form.
“It was quite crazy”, says Perinatal Wellbeing Centre CEO Dr Yvonne Luxford.
“On Thursday when the lockdown was announced, we just thought, ‘who knows how long this will go on, let’s see if we can do it online’.
“We had 48 hours to build an online auction and live stream. Not all our bakers were able to participate for a range of reasons, but a lot of people had baked and were putting together their decorations”.
The theme this year was ‘decades of cakes’, with the proviso that the cake must appear as a recipe idea somewhere between the 1960s and now. That made room for a sliding clock cake inspired by Salvador Dali but featuring in an 80s cake decorating book.
Bakers sent photographs of their cakes with information about the theme and the team ensured everyone stayed engaged via social media. ABC’s Lish Fejer provided online MC services.
Yvonne says supporters “came out in droves” for the auction, even though they had to bid within area so contactless delivery could be arranged.
(Imagine finding a box on your doorstep with an ET figure made of cake and submitted to the competition by Attorney-General Shane Rattenbury?)
Yvonne said many businesses sponsored cakes and then donated them back for auction or participated in the live stream video. The raffle will run until the end of lockdown to maximise people’s chance of participating. You can buy tickets here.
Both fundraising and awareness-raising really matter.
Yvonne says the pandemic and disasters that preceded it have been hard on women experiencing stressful pregnancies and having new babies.
“Our demand has definitely gone up with COVID and the stress and isolation for new parents and babies. Kids are not getting to socialise as they were more than 12 months ago when we had the toxic bushfire smoke.
“Since we last held the Cake-off in May 2019, the number of parents and families we are caring for has increased by 152 per cent, so the demand is certainly there.”
Yvonne says that being involved with Hands Across Canberra has been “a lifesaver” for the organisation, helping them to significantly upgrade their technology.
“I had the youngest laptop in the organisation and it was 10 years old!” she laughs.
ACT Health also provides government funding, and Yvonne says while they feel fortunate to have the support, that alone can never keep up with the increase in demand the organisation is seeing.
“We are so grateful to everyone who helped us to bring this off, from the bakers to our AV crew, all our supporters and my wonderful Perinatal Wellbeing team who got everything on the website so quickly.
“The fundraising and support we get through the Cake-off make a huge difference.”