A coconut sponge, a salted caramel and pineapple upside down cake and a Brazilian cake from a family recipe are just a few of the treats on offer at Saint Stephen’s Cafe’s annual bake-off.
The cafe is tucked away in the peaceful grounds of Saint Stephen’s Church, just off Bristol’s bustling Corn Street. Almost two years ago, the cafe was taken over by Brandon Trust, a charity supporting adults and children with learning disabilities and autism.
The Trust have turned the cafe into a busy local enterprise. It’s one of three cafes owned by the charity in Bristol, and offers training placements and paid employment to individuals with learning disabilities.
Hananza is one of the cafe’s paid employees. “I really like working here,” she says as she shows me her entry for the bake-off: a Brazilian-style cake topped with strawberries.
“My family is Brazilian, and I baked this using my mum’s recipe, but I made it without her help,” she says proudly. “It’s my first time taking part in the bake-off. I’m really nervous – I hope I win!”
Each cake was tasted and scored by four judges. The results were close – but after a fifth judge was brought in to settle a tie, Hananza’s cake was voted the winner. The news clearly meant a lot – there were tears of joy on Hananza’s cheeks as she thanked the judges.
Also taking part in the competition was Chris, who had baked a coconut and jam sponge cake. He has been receiving support from Brandon Trust since his father died last year.
“I don’t know what I would have done without their help,” says Chris over a piece of his delicious coconut sponge cake. “I went though a rough time after my dad died but they’ve helped me back on my feet.”
With the help of the charity, Chris has got his own flat in Kingswood and has developed some key skills, such as being able to cook for himself. He now hopes to be able to live more independently. “Things are getting better for me,” Chris says positively.
Jo Cullum, Brandon Trust’s localities manager, was also on hand to help out with some cake-cutting. “Having the partnership with the church is brilliant,” she says. “They were looking for an organisation to get the cafe back up and running, and it’s been a great opportunity for us to put on events.
“The profits from the cafe go towards paying our employee’s wages. The more people use the cafe, the more jobs we’re able to offer to the people we support, so we’re really keen to let people know we’re here.”
As for Hananza, she’s hoping for a repeat of her win at the next bake off. “I really hope they have one next year”, Hananza says. “I’m definitely taking part!”
Saint Stephen’s Cafe is open Monday-Friday, from 9.30am – 3.30pm. It offers a range of hot food, homemade soup, and cake, and is dog-friendly.
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