Are the Cakes Worth the Risk?
The cake competition is the highlight of the Spring Fair. Students spend an afternoon baking and decorating cakes, which are presented to the City and Country community. This year there was an excellent display of cakes, most of which were inspired by the Spring Fair’s Alice in Wonderland theme. Students got creative, with desserts ranging from Rice Krispie treats to bundt cake. Some even experimented with fondant.
Despite the cake competition’s name, the event is not competitive, staying true to C&C’s pedagogy. School administrators judge cakes and award them unique titles, such as Craziest cake or Most Drinkable cake.
Although it cannot be confirmed when the cake competition started, according to Gino Crocetti, Specials Teacher/Academic Support Educational Support, explained that the tradition was around when he attended C&C in the 1950s. However, as the school grew, the cake competition did as well. When the competition started, only a few cakes were entered, but now the entire cafeteria is dedicated to displaying the cakes. Like the Spring Fair itself, the cake competition’s purpose is to build community. Students make cakes with each other and get to show off their creations at school.
When students bake for the Spring Fair, most allow their cakes to be sliced in half—one kept for the Spring Fair and the other donated to Daisy’s Food Pantry. “This tradition has been in place for the last five years, the same amount of time as the partnership between the school and the Church of the Village”, said Millie Cartagena, Director of Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion. Before C&C had outreach programs between the church and our neighborhood, the school was criticized by the Greenwich Village Community Board for being too insular, explained Ann Roberts, XIIIs co teacher. In past years, the school has tried to get building permission through landmarks, but has been meet with acrimonious responses. In order to get on good terms with the village, C&C has begun various programs aimed at opening up our school and connecting with the community outside of us, not just inside. Sabrina Ellis and Sarah Parker, Community Outreach Organizers, said that the people who take part in the program are thrilled to enjoy a delicious slice of cake. However, with every food related activity there are risks.
It is crucial that C&C is mindful about homemade goods, as they could possibly be dangerous to people. The cake competition is casual and people are not required to write down their cake ingredients or disclose if the cakes contains any major food allergens, unless it contains peanuts. Another concern with homemade goods is that it was baked with tools that may still contain residue of harmful food products.
The cleanliness of the cakes is also a topic of discussion. A recent survey sent out to the Middle/Upper school found that three quarters of children made their cakes without the help of their parents. Parents should be monitoring their kids baking without explicitly helping them. However, baking does not consist of the same risks as other cooked meals.
The Spring Fair welcomes gluten-free cakes, to be inclusive of those with gluten sensitivities. However, this year at the Fair, I witnessed adults using the same spoon to take bites from various cakes, including the gluten-free options. This meant that the once gluten-free cakes were now contaminated, but other people were unaware of this.
To keep the tradition of the cake competition and also make it more safe and hygienic, there is a solution. It should be mandated that people write down all the ingredients that their cakes contain. Moreover, there should be a rule prohibiting any cakes that include the major food allergens, like peanuts, tree nuts, and soy, excluding dairy and eggs. As Gitana Savage, XIIIs, said, “A parent volunteer should be monitoring the area and assisting kids to get cake.” The Cake Competition is a favorite C&C tradition, with a few modifications the celebration should continue to thrive.