Volunteer FAQs

Q. What services do we provide?
A. Our primary mission is to provide free birthday cakes to children who wouldn’t otherwise have one.  We also serve elderly and disabled people in city housing developments.

Q. What other services do we provide?
A. We’ve been grateful to offer our expanded services to the many agencies with which we work, and they have been grateful to have us.  In addition to individual birthday cakes, we provide deliveries for our partner agencies’ group birthday parties, holiday parties, fundraiser events, and the like. Every dollar they do not spend on cakes can be spent on their other needs instead.

Q. Do I have to be a professional decorator to qualify as a volunteer?
A. No, most of our volunteers bake and decorate as a hobby and for fun. You do need some basic cake decorating skills such as being able to make a homemade buttercream, use a pastry bag to pipe a simple border and write legibly on a cake, commit to maintaining a clean and sanitary kitchen, and know how to package your creation properly using cake boards and bakery boxes.

Q. How do I know what cakes need to be baked? How do I sign up for one?
A. Once you are approved as a volunteer, you will be provided access to our “cake board” on Google Docs.  The cake board contains information on all our current requests, such as child’s first name, gender, which birthday they’re celebrating, requested cake flavor, requested theme or favorite characters, whether they prefer a cake or cupcakes, any food allergy information, and delivery date/time/location. To protect the integrity of the data, the cake board is read-only.

When you find a cake, you’d like to sign up for, you will email the Requests Coordinator and let them know which cake you are interested in.  They will email you back and confirm the cake you want is yours or let you know if it’s already been taken.

A coordinator will send you a reminder email a few days prior to your delivery.  We do not want to miss a single delivery! If you’d like, email a photo of your creation so we can feature it on our website or social media! Please also send us an email after your delivery is complete so we can include it in our monthly cake count.

Q. Do I also deliver the cakes that I sign up for?
A. Yes.  The Google Doc will list the delivery address and times.

Q. Do I get to meet the recipient of my cake?

A. Each agency with which we work is slightly different, but due to privacy and confidentiality you will most likely not get to meet the recipient of your cake.

Q. Will anyone say “thank you” when I deliver my cake?
A. Although it would be nice for lavish thanks to be heaped upon us when we make our deliveries, that is not always the case.  Most of the agencies with which we work have limited budgets and may rely on volunteers or employees to staff their front desks.  We cannot guarantee everyone you encounter will be as grateful as you may wish.  However, remember that the recipient of your cake is the one who matters, and they may never forget the cake you made!

Q. Is there a minimum number of cakes I need to commit to each month?
A. No.  If you can do several a month, that’s great.  If you can’t do any that month, no problem!  However, if you are inactive for 90 days (i.e., you do not make any cakes), you will be removed from our list of active volunteers and from our email distribution list. This will help keep our volunteer list limited only to active volunteers and will help keep your in-box clutter-free.  You can re-active yourself at any time without having to re-submit an application by sending an email request.

Q. Do we cater to recipients with food allergies?
A. Yes!  Part of the information we collect with the cake request includes any food allergy info.  The most common food allergies we get are nuts and gluten.

Q. Do I deliver a homemade cake, or a store-bought cake?
A. Our volunteers bake, decorate, and deliver the cakes.

Q. Do I deliver a cake or cupcakes?
A. The cake request list will indicate whether the recipient prefers cake or cupcakes.  Sometimes the recipient requests a cheesecake, a pie, cookies, or something else.  It’s their special day so we let them decide.

Q. How many servings do I prepare?
A. If your delivery details do not specify a minimum number of servings, we prepare a standard size order, which is 2 dozen cupcakes, a 9×13 sheet cake, or a 2-layer cake (8” or 9”).  You are always welcome to make a bigger cake if you’d like.  Some volunteers like to make larger cakes, shaped cakes, or tiered cakes.  No cake will go to waste!

Q. What do I put my cake on?
A. Bakery supply and craft shops (like our sponsor, Make it Sweet) sell “cake boards” and boxes that come in various shapes and sizes.  If your cake will not fit on one of these standard sizes (as is sometimes the case with special shaped cakes), you can get a foam board and cut it to size. Some of our volunteers also find that their local supermarket bakery will either give or sell them bake boards and boxes.

Q. Do I need to cover my cake board?
A. It depends on the cake board.  Some are covered with a special waxy coating so they don’t absorb grease from the frosting.  Others are plain cardboard.  The plain cardboard cake boards as well as a foam board should be covered with cake board foil.  It can be found near the cake boards at bakery supply or craft shops.

Q. What kind of container do I use to deliver the cake or cupcakes?
A. A covered container that can be left with the recipient.  Disposable bakery boxes come in assorted sizes, and are recommended.  They are inexpensive and can be purchased at a bakery supply shop or craft shop. As mentioned, some of our volunteers also find that their local supermarket bakery will either give or sell them bake boards and boxes.

Q. Where can I get cake decorating supplies?
A. Local retailers include Make It Sweet, Michael’s, Hobby Lobby, and JoAnn.  If there’s something you can’t find locally, there are many cake decorating suppliers online.

Q. Should I put candles on the cake?
A. That is completely up to you!

Q. Do I deliver plates/forks/napkins too?
A. No, just the cake!

Q. May I put plastic decorations or small toys on the cake?
A. Yes, as long as they are clean.  Small toys such as Hot Wheels on a “car” themed cake are fine, but please do not provide a gift.

Q. May I deliver a gift?
A. No.  Please do not take a gift.  If you take a gift and the next volunteer does not, that will not seem fair to the children.

Q. Is it OK if I use a box cake mix?
A. Yes!  The recipients are normally most intrigued by the way the cake is decorated.  Therefore, box mixes are fine if there are no food allergies for your request.

Q. Is it alright if my kids/grandkids help me?
A. Yes!  The official volunteer must be at least 18 years of age and must be responsible for maintaining a clean and sanitary kitchen, but your kids/grandkids are welcome to help you with the decorating.  It’s a fun way to involve them in community service!

Q. I saw the photos on your web site. I can’t decorate cakes like that!  What do I do?
A. As mentioned, we only require that bakers have minimal experience with cake decorating, so, of course, our volunteers’ skills will vary. Remember that whatever your cake looks like, it will be appreciated by its recipient! If you would like to improve on your decorating though, there are cake decorating classes available that you can sign up for to learn new skills!

Q. Where can I get cake decorating instruction?
A. Classes are fun and you will learn the easy way to do things you never thought possible! One of our sponsors, Make It Sweet, also provides specialty baking and decorating classes. Wilton provides beginner and advanced classes in person and online. Check out their class listings. There are also lots of free tutorials on YouTube and Pinterest, and you can learn from experts in local groups like our sponsors, Capital Confectioners.

Q. Will you send me a reminder about my delivery?
A. Yes!  You will receive an email reminder a few days prior to your delivery.

Q. What if I signed up for a cake, and then something comes up last minute?
A. You can deliver a purchased cake instead of a homemade one.  However, if there is no way you can complete the purchase and delivery, please let us know ASAP so we can try to reassign that cake.

Q. I know someone who may be interested in becoming a volunteer. What do they do next?
A. Have them contact our Volunteer Coordinator at volunteer@bakeawishaustin.org with any questions. To get their application started, they can download and complete the Volunteer form and send it to our Volunteer Coordinator.

Q. What Austin area agencies do we currently serve?
A. Check out our “Who We Serve” page for partner names and a link to their web site.

Q. Where can I get cake decorating recipes and ideas?
Here are a few great websites where you can get recipes (cakes, fillings, and frostings) as well as some amazingly creative ideas for decorating your creations. Try our Pinterest board, too!

www.wilton.com/cakes
www.cakecentral.com
www.coolest-birthday-cakes.com/cake-decorating.html
www.cakedecoratingideasfree.com/

Q. What if I have additional questions?
A. Just ask! For specific questions about volunteering, please email volunteer@bakeawishaustin.org. For general questions about the organization, please email president@bakeawishaustin.org. We will get back to you as quickly as we can.