Mix together jaunty music, sugary treats, community camaraderie and what do you have? The recipe for a successful cake walk. Several years ago, I hosted the first cake walk for Munger Place Days, the annual home tour weekend event for our neighborhood. It was a big hit with kids and adults and has become an annual tradition.
When I was a kid, the cake walk was always a huge draw at the Halloween Carnival in my hometown. Held in the corner of the old auditorium, teachers organized it and PTA moms furnished homemade cakes. Silly me, I thought everyone grew up with the cake walk tradition. I was surprised to learn many of the adults and most of the neighborhood children had never participated in a cake walk. Wah?
It’s a southern thing. Maybe a small town thing?
The cake walk originated in the plantation south as an “acceptable” way for slaves to mock their masters. With minstrel like music, the cake walk was a big production, a formal annual dance with costumes, high-stepping and low-bowing. The master of the plantation served as judge. The winning couple was awarded a cake.
Today’s cake walk is a throwback not to slavery but to good, clean fun where everyone smiles and no one goes home hungry. The rules are simple.
- A few weeks before your carnival, spread the word to neighbors and parents asking for homemake cake walk donations such as cakes, brownies, cupcakes, cookies. Designate a time and place (your kitchen) for delivery. Allow yourself enough time to divide and organize the goodies. Although the original cake walk involved winning a whole cake, I prefer to spread the sugar among the masses. Cut whole cakes into fourths, package 3-4 cupcakes together, group half a dozen cookies in a plastic bag. You get the idea.
- A few days before your event, give some thought to your cake walk music. You only need a handful of songs because you will stop and start the music over and over again. If your fundraiser is Halloween or Christmas related, include a seasonal song. Download a traditional cake walk song from iTunes such as Scott Joplin ragtime music.
- Play Sweet Home Alabama. Lynyrd Skynyrd always gets everyone moving. And remember, kids love whatever is popular. Last year Call Me Maybe was huge. If your venue includes a microphone system, use the microphone in conjunction with your iPhone music. Crank up the tunes. Music is part of the draw.
- Make numbers for your cake walk. There is no one way to do this. I prefer to cut colorful circles from scrapbook paper (about the size of a dinner plate), add precut numbers (1 – 12) and cover in clear contact paper. Contact paper not only makes the numbers more sturdy during the cakewalk (there will be lots of feet trampling them), but when it’s over, you will be able to wipe them down and reuse them next year.
- Place the numbers in a circle in your designated area and duct tape them to the parking lot or gym floor. Nothing about this has to be perfect. The circles can be lopsided. Don’t worry about perfect spacing or measuring, just eyeball it. Kids care only about the CAKES!
- Arrange desserts on tables near the cake walk. Yum. Everyone will want to participate.
- Sell tickets for a quarter (or whatever is appropriate for your event). The first 12 children with tickets stand on a number, the music starts, everyone walks and walk and walks in the circle until the music stops. A number is drawn from a hat. The kid on the winning number picks his selection of desserts. A new group of kids starts the next round. This continues until all the desserts are chosen. In our neighborhood, there is no charge for the cake walk. Everyone plays multiple times. Everyone wins at least one dessert.
So don’t you agree that a cake walk would be the perfect addition for your next neighborhood get together, school fundraiser or fall carnival?
Grace Grits and Gardening
Farm. Food. Garden. Life.
P.S. Don’t miss Munger Place Days, September 19-21, 2014. Cake walk on the 21st!