Decorate cupcakes for change

Written by Lizzie Macaulay

As a mum, I’ve made the odd cupcake in my day. They’re never beautiful, but they’re mostly just a vehicle for the crazy-coloured icing my girls want to lick off, leaving the abandoned ‘cake’ bit forlorn and yes, a little naked.

What I’ve never even dreamed of attempting is being invited into a commercial kitchen for a 1:1 session with someone whose job it is to decorate cupcakes and make them beautiful. That was all about to change thanks to an exciting invitation down to the Hervey Bay Neighbourhood Centre’s Wandering Teapot.

The Wandering Teapot (TWT) itself is an incredible initiative – like every HBNC initiative – to help combat the concerning rates of youth unemployment, poverty and homelessness affecting our great region. It may have been dealt a blow last year with the adverse affects of the pandemic on their business, but, of course you can’t keep an innovator from innovating.

The Wandering Teapot now happily finds itself nestled within the comforting walls of the neighbourhood centre. As I pop in for my big cupcake decorating debut, the sounds,
sights and smells are just like any other café, only this one is doing so much good in our community.

I arrive in the centre’s commercial kitchen – it happens to be a Wednesday, so preparations for Comfort Kitchen are well under way. Program director Wayne and a wonderful volunteer are making great headway through tray after tray of pumpkin, slicing and dicing and whacking it in the giant
oven to bake. The sheer volume of food they prepare each week is astounding.

But it’s time to focus and get down to the good stuff – the cupcakey goodness, that is… Enter: Cupcakes for Change!

TWT manager and recent graduate of the associated hospitality training program, Alana, greets me as she’s getting the last bits and bobs together. I swoon at how much like a telly demonstration it is with the cupcakes we’ll be decorating already on the bench and waiting for us. My brain is all, ‘here’s
one I prepared earlier’, and I do a little inward smirk at the thought.

It turns out the cake bit of the cupcakes are supplied by local bakery, Top of the Bay, so all Alana needs to do is dress them and make them beautiful – A.K.A., the best bit.

She takes me through the process of making the icing itself. And just between you and me, the amount of fancy schmancy vanilla bean paste that went in to the mix gets me salivating a

Once the icing has been prepared, we give it some colour.

Given they’re to be used for getting customers in the Mothers’ Day spirit, we go with pink, pink and a bit of pink and white marble… very flash!

I attempt one of my great loves (NB: I didn’t say ‘skills’), and pipe the glorious icing in a generous swirl on top. The possibility I’ve been a little too generous with my topping is evident as the cupcake might as well be groaning under the weight of it. But, as we say in the cupcake biz, “more is more”, isn’t it?! With each cupcake fully loaded and ready for some final flourishes, Alana reveals her toolbox of decorative finishing touches. There’s edible glitter, flowers, sprinkles, cachous, cutesy things on tiny sticks… we use them all, even the glitter, and I couldn’t be happier about it. My jaw just about hits the floor when Alana brings out the biggest of big guns in the land of cupcake decoration: gold leaf (gasp*).

I’m being kind to myself to say I have not yet mastered that particular material. Perhaps I ran before I could walk…

Suffice it to say, my time with Alana and The Wandering Teapot crew has been fun, informative, uplifting and educational. It’s gratifying to know there’s a deeper purpose being served here,
even just through the magic and wonder of cupcakes.

I suppose my parting gambit would be simply to encourage you, dear reader, to head on down to the café and not only grab something delicious, but also show your support for this amazing program that is doing so much for the broader community.

The Wandering Teapot is Hervey Bay Neighbourhood Centre’s social enterprise, with 100% of profits going to programs aimed at creating opportunities for at-risk young people. The program also runs a 12-month, full-time traineeship, throughout which trainees get meaningful work experience while completing a Certificate III in Hospitality.