The smell of baking cakes, fruits and sugary icings permeated the air, rising over the chaotic chatter and music that filled the room. Residents hung over decorating books, or crafted a culinary masterpiece, elbow-deep in their ingredients. Others took furtive swipes of unguarded toppings, or abandoned discretion and began feeding them to one another. They danced across open swatches of floor and laughed until their sides hurt.
None of them knew they were designing a cake that would win its region.
“We know the residents love deserts,” said Bambie Joseph, director of dietary services at Woodhall Park Care Community in Brampton. “Residents love our baking programs through the programs department. So we modified the cake challenge poster.”
Modified it how? By changing the audience. No longer did the poster call for dietary staff to design cakes, instead it called for residents to have a direct hand in their menu. They were invited to a two-hour program in the large multipurpose room, there they would have a chance to design a cake for the Sienna Cake Challenge. All submissions for the challenge will appear on the new Sienna menu, meaning that in this case residents were designing their own desserts.
On top of helping residents craft their challenge submissions, the event also let them make regular cakes. Because these cakes did not fit the requirements for the challenge, they were available for immediate enjoyment, and residents took full advantage of that.
“We refrigerated the untouched cakes and we put them out for our staff showcase as well,” Bambie said.
The staff showcase coincided with Woodhall Park’s internal judging. Four cakes that fit the cake challenge requirements were made during the baking event, but only one could be submitted for company-wide judging. So Woodhall Park let the residents decide.
Blueberry Layer Cake, Sweet Cherry Sprinkle Cake, Vanilla & Strawberry Torte, and Pineapple & Coconut Delight cake went head-to-head in a competition to win the residents’ favour.
Elsie, president of the residents’ council at Woodhall Park, wasn’t able to attend the cake-baking, as she was off-site. However she was at the home’s judging, and said that all of the cakes were amazing, and that it had been almost impossible to choose a favourite.
“I was amazed at how [my peers] were able to put these cakes together and see their vision come to life,” Elsie said. She also said that she “loved” the Pineapple Coconut Delight cake. “I love pineapple and coconut.”
At the end of their judging, Pineapple Coconut Delight was declared the winner. It later went on to compete in region 6, where its deliciousness was confirmed by the residents and staff at Tullamore Care Community.
“I was really elated and so happy,” Elsie said about finding out they’d won the region. “I’m really happy for that.”
Bambie and Elsie are both looking forward to possible future competitions.
“Oh yeah, that would be nice,” Elsie said. When asked what she’d like to design next she admitted to being a “sweets person,” and thought pies might be a nice addition.
“Our residents are very, very involved with our menu input,” Bambie said. “Whatever they want, let’s have it. If it’s within our grasp to make them happy, why not? The kitchen has always been the heart of the home.”