Saving the world through cake
What started as an idea to spread some sweetness throughout Wellington has blossomed into a national charity movement
Words: Cheree Morrison
Home baking. It’s powerful stuff. It may be mum’s moist cakes, nana’s crumbly coconut ice, a friend’s wonky muffins – taking a bite is like being wrapped in a big embrace. “I’ve made this just for you,” it whispers.
Nicole Murray knows the power of home baking. When her family was holding each other up through a cancer battle, it was the little gestures that made a big difference. “When you’re dealing with a crisis, it’s small things that give you a boost to get you to the end of the day – like coming out of crying in the loo at work to find a scone on your desk.”
Nicole’s story had a happy ending, but Nic found herself noticing more and more people in Wellington in need of a slice of home. Over a bottle of something bubbly with friend Marie Fitzpatrick, who had had a similar experience after having a very premature baby, the beginnings of an idea began to tingle.
“We thought if little gestures of baking meant so much to us, why don’t we help others in need?” A name was chosen and in September 2014 a call went out on Facebook. Wanted: People who would like to bake and to donate that baking to people in need.
And so Good Bitches Baking was born – “a good bitch is someone who gets on and does things that need doing. It’s the highest praise.”
Fifteen people responded to the first Facebook post. Now there are about 600 bakers spread throughout New Zealand in a rapidly growing number of regions. Their creations are carefully placed in plain white boxes with a note listing all the ingredients and some kind words from the baker, ready to be picked up and delivered by volunteer drivers.
“People contact us and say, I want to bake, but I’m not great at it. We say, who cares? You don’t need great skills or expensive ingredients, as long as it comes from the heart.
“It’s not about the best chocolate cake; it’s about kindness. Our charities include refuges, shelters and hospices; we’ve heard from the Women’s Refuge that those who have a piece of baking tend to talk for longer and open up more. Sometimes it’s just nice to feel ‘at home’.”
Just how quickly Good Bitches Baking has taken off was a surprise to Nic and Marie, with interest coming from as far as the United States and Ireland, but for now their focus remains on helping those closer to home. GBB is a registered charitable trust, and Nic and Marie’s spare time (both have “regular” jobs while not juggling volunteers) is filled with fundraising, admin and running GBB HQ.
“The goal for the next year is to try and make it a bit more manageable and sustainable; now we are a registered charity we can apply for grants that will hopefully help us to employ our first staff member.”
Both women also still include themselves on the weekly baking rosters, “We don’t want to lose sight of why we do this. I like to think about who I’m baking for, what this gesture will mean to them.”
That’s what this is all about at the end of the day – the people who get to cut the cake, sample the brownie and have a scone with their cup of tea. For some, the white box of baking is the first home baking they have ever had. For the bakers, GBB offers a chance to help a stranger, while removing any uncomfortable barriers that may hold some people back.
Many bakers also use GBB to show their kids that charity really does begin at home. The gesture of giving food evokes memories of generations past, when friends and neighbours would drop baking off during times of need, quietly creating warm mountains of scones and quiche to show support and love – a way of saying something when there are no words.
In the end, it all comes back to the power of home baking. Every box of nana’s secret-recipe cupcakes or Nic’s famous ginger crunch is one of those hugs, waiting to be given. It’s been an emotional journey, and the past year has been filled with tears, but it’s all worth it.
“It has been so heartening to discover just how many people want to help make life better for a stranger. This is about so much more than cake; it’s about someone in need knowing that there are people out there who are thinking of them.”
How to get involved:
“Good Bitches are from all walks of life and all ages – at the moment we range from 14 to 70-plus. It’s not a ‘middle-class nice lady’ thing. We have students who can barely afford the ingredients baking alongside lawyers.”
goodbitchesbaking.co.nz is a great place to start if you want to become involved. Help with fundraising by purchasing merchandise (Nic and Marie share a secret recipe each on a tea towel), find out if GBB is in your region or volunteer to start up a new chapter.
Join us in making New Zealand sweeter – NZ Life & Leisure staffers are Good Bitches too.
Watch Marie Fitzpatrick and Nic Murray talk from the recent TEDxWellington event here