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Charity never tasted so good

Inaugural Sweet Charity Cake Auction and competition brings $10,000 to SCV Youth Project

Posted: August 12, 2009 9:06 p.m.
Updated: August 13, 2009 4:55 a.m.

Jill Cox of Jill's Cake Creations with two of her entries. The cake on the right - themed "It's A Jungle Out There," was created for Providence Holy Cross Health Center and won second place in the competition.

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It was a feast for the eyes and a treat for the soul at SCV Youth Project’s inaugural Sweet Charity Cake Auction held Saturday.

After a preview of tasty treats from 11:30 a.m. to 3 p.m., community members and local business leaders gathered at the Institute for Culinary Education on Town Center Drive from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m., to partake in an evening of culinary creativity for a worthy cause.

Displays of elaborate cake designs represented local businesses in a silent auction set up for the guests’ delight. With all proceeds from the auction to benefit the project’s programs geared toward youth in the community, guests of the event knew that donating to charity never tasted so good.

“It feels great to be here,” said guest Amy Elzer. “I didn’t know what to expect, but I am just blown away. This is such a fun chance to reach out to the community- and who doesn’t love cake?”

Cake lovers got an eye-full of icing from the 35 cakes up for auction, which were made and displayed by local businesses, community members and professional bakers alike.

Featured cake designers from Babe’s Dessert Bar, Clarice’s Cakes and Jill’s Cake Creations were asked by some entrants to create innovative and original designs that best represented each entry.

One cake designer had her oven mitts poised and ready.

“Being a part of this event, I got to do what I love and give back to our community while doing it,” said Jill Phillips Cox, owner of Jill’s Cake Creations in Saugus.

Cox made seven cakes for different local businesses who wanted to show their support for the cause.

From the innovative designs of Valencia Acura’s “Speed Bump” cake to the Silver Rose Debutante Ball’s Barbie Doll cake, each display was a sight for hungry eyes and imaginations.

KHTS AM-1220 Hometown Station’s “Water Wonderland” entry was a crowd pleaser, with a sea adventure spilling out underneath a large, blue octopus that crowned the three-tiered creation.

Entrants were asked to pair each cake with an auction item that represented their entry, as to increase the value of the display. Beauty treatments, gift certificates and gourmet baskets were offered from local restaurants, salons and even therapists.

“I love this idea, because you can bid on the cake, enjoy eating it and then have therapy when you feel bad about it later,” said Project board member, Jennifer Hennigfield, a Licensed Clinical Social Worker.

Valencia therapist, Donald Goodman, LCSW, offered a free therapy session to the highest bidder of his cake, “Chocolate Therapy.”

Five celebrity judges were on-hand to survey the entries and score each one based on levels of creativity and originality. Celebrity judges included Lisa Lillien, author and creator of as well as chefs Cindy Schwanke from the COC Culinary Institute, Daniel Otto of The Oaks Grille at Tournament Players Club Valencia and Toni Minor, chef from the television show, “American Idol.”

One judge showed up for double-duty by scoring the event and also playing a hand as an auction item.

“I don’t go anywhere that a Princess Cruise ship doesn’t go and I’m really glad it brought me here today,” said Gavin MacLeod, star of

“The Love Boat” television show that ran on ABC 1977-86. MacLeod now works as an ambassador for the cruise line and makes public appearances on behalf of the company.

MacLeod was asked to increase the value of Princess’ cake by offering to do a personal signing of the first two seasons of “The Love Boat” on DVD.

“When I asked him to be here, he jumped at the chance,” said Julie Benson, Princess Cruises vice president of public relations. “We feel that this event was the perfect opportunity to support the SCV Youth Project. The programs they offer to the youth in our community are so fundamental.”

Other guests of the early evening fundraiser were also glad to be in the spacious bi-leveled culinary arts quarters.

“I have not stopped smiling since these door opened,” said Cindy Schwanke Project judge and College of the Canyons culinary arts instructor.

Within 24 hours of the ribbon cutting ceremony of the Institute for Culinary Education, the new instructional quarters for COC’s culinary arts students was opened to the public for the Project’s auction event.

Students will get a chance to hone in their culinary skills on the premises this Fall, but some volunteered to get a head start.

I-CuE students Ingrid Ferris, Ana Guzman and Meray Arbid couldn’t resist the chance to create a cake for the charity auction by representing their own school. The three student bakers worked together to make a cake in the form of a cougar, the college’s mascot.

Wearing a chef’s hat and baking a cake, the cougar sat representing COC’s newest endeavor to provide more expansive culinary education to the community.

A variety of cookbooks were paired with the cake, offering the highest bidder a chance to find their own way around the kitchen.

“We worked really hard on this cake and it really helped us improve our skills,” said second-year culinary student, Ingrid Ferris, 23.

“When we were told about this event, I knew I wanted to  be a part of it,” said Meray Arbid, 21, a student in her second semester. “We are helping give others in the community a chance to grow.”

The threesome was awarded first place in the competition, due to the skillfully crafted characteristics of their original creation.

Second place went to Jill’s Cake Creations for the animated spectacle of “It’s a Jungle Out There,” the cake created for Providence Holy Cross Health Center. Paired with six passes to the Santa Barbara Zoo, the auction item delighted the senses of both guests and judges alike.

Third place was won by the Project’s very own cake entry, made by Babe’s Dessert Bar in Newhall. Shaped in the form of a colorful toolbox, the cake represented the various teen outreach programs designed to benefit local high school students in the community. With tool drawers named after services such as outreach, crisis intervention and peer mentoring, the large cake drew the eye of many supportive observers.

“As a parent and a member of our community, I know how important these services are,” said Kim Goldman, Project executive director.

“We in the community need to understand what the needs are so that we can come together to support those needs. It is our goal in this organization to continue to branch out to even more young students, because the need is there too.”

The project is a nonprofit organization started in 2000 to address the growing need for teen outreach services in the city. SCV Youth provides free outreach and educational services to teens ages 12 to 18 through one-on-one peer mentoring, crisis intervention, support groups and more.

“It’s hard enough to be an adult in this day and age,” said cake auction entrant and project board member, Renee Kaehny. “Kids need someone to talk to, feeling supported in whatever they’re going through.”

One participant knew she wanted to support youth for reasons that hit close to home.

“I have had so much happiness in my own life that I want to give something back to others,” said Mountain View Elementary School student, Kiora Sanchez, 9.

Sanchez was the youngest of the cake bakers to participate in the event and received a special award given for her cake, which generated the most income ($575) throughout the auction.

“I just know that there are kids out there who need someone to tell them its OK,” said Sanchez. “I want to help however I can. So I thought I’d start with baking.”

The event made more than $10,000 with all proceeds to benefit the project’s programs for local youth.

For more information about the SCV Youth Project visit


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