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One Cake at a Time

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Rather than going on a date, second-year biological sciences student Maddy Salgado and second-year chemistry student Cameron Collins spent their Valentine’s Day at a homeless shelter in Orange County delivering a homemade birthday cake. 

As Collins likes to say, Salgado “takes ideas and runs with them.” One of these ideas evolved into UCI’s first baking club, Anteaters Sprinkling Happiness, which she and Collins founded together this past summer. 

“We pitched it as a two-pronged idea,” Collins said. “A hobby-based club to de-stress from school, plus a community service aspect of making cakes for children in foster care or homeless shelters.” 

Part of the community service aspect of the club includes its partnership with a nonprofit organization called For Goodness Cakes, where volunteers bake and deliver cakes to underprivileged youth. Through For Goodness Cakes, people like Salgado and Collins are able to use their pastime to help others. In doing so, they’ve fostered a tight-knit community on UCI’s campus. 

“We’re all so focused on getting ready for the future that we don’t always take breaks to do things that are fun,” Salgado said. “So, this is for us as much as it is for others — an organization where we can help people have fun each week.” 

Growing up, Salgado never doubted that she would receive a birthday cake each year. However, after volunteering with For Goodness Cakes, she realized that others may not have that luxury. 

For Goodness Cakes was founded in 2016 with 26 chapters in different states across the country, including the Orange County branch that Salgado and 500 other volunteers work with. 

Once she came to UCI, Salgado saw an opportunity to spread the word about For Goodness Cakes and reached out to the Orange County branch’s Chapter Lead Laurie Little about a possible partnership. 

Little acts as the main point of contact between Anteaters Sprinkling Happiness and For Goodness Cakes. She believes it’s important that the next generation gets involved.

Upon the creation of Anteaters Sprinkling Happiness, Little recalled that there was an immediate “flood of volunteers.” 

Anteaters Sprinkling Happiness volunteers serve various local institutions, including foster homes, homeless shelters, women’s shelters and temporary housing agencies. As a result, volunteers aren’t able to meet the children they bake for to protect their privacy. 

“I think it would be nice, but maybe it is better that we don’t meet them just because it gives them hope that there is still a caring attitude to humanity. Even though these kids don’t have a lot, a magical cake still appears on their birthday,” Collins said. 

Anteaters Sprinkling Happiness is open to all students regardless of their baking experience or level. The club currently has about 50 members, yet its size and influence continue to grow. 

The baking club donated around 20 cakes last quarter, roughly a quarter of the nonprofit’s monthly output. In a 10-week quarter, the student volunteers are donating nearly two cakes a week on top of managing schoolwork and other responsibilities. 

Each volunteer bakes on their own time, but occasionally Anteaters Sprinkling Happiness will gather for baking socials such as a cake decorating workshop.

Second-year biological sciences student Faizah Ahmed and third-year education and psychological sciences student Juliana Luna are members who joined Anteaters Sprinkling Happiness in the fall. They mentioned that what they enjoy most about Anteaters Sprinkling Happiness is the sense of community. 

“It’s a mix of all kinds of people. It doesn’t matter what your major is or if you’re a baker. You’re welcome here,” Luna said.

Once the cakes are baked and frosted, they’re prepped for delivery to the agencies. A volunteer’s work is complete once the dessert has made it to one of the thousands of children in need of a birthday cake.

In California, approximately 52,265 children are in some form of foster care such as foster homes, transitional housing or shelters. 2,553 of those children are in Orange County. Anteaters Sprinkling Happiness, through For Goodness Cakes, is helping these 2,553 children celebrate the special occasions in their lives. 

“Obviously, I don’t bake with the purpose of getting something out of it, but it’s cool knowing that I could use one of my pastimes to make somebody happier,” Salgado said.

Little echoed Maddy’s sentiment and credited the agencies for the work that they do. 

“Any way that we can support them and help them, we will. They work so hard on behalf of these kids,” Little said. 

The Orange County branch alone delivers to 55 different agencies. Little emphasized that there is a need everywhere. 

“We’re not solving these kids’ issues …, but if [they] get a little something that they didn’t have before, then that makes it worth it,” Little said. 

Both Anteaters Sprinkling Happiness and For Goodness Cakes are giving back to their communities using their baking skills. By helping to celebrate the important milestones in these children’s lives, they’re also bringing smiles to people one cake at a time.


Erica Leal is a Campus News Contributing Writer. She can be reached at elleal@uci.edu.