All people really need are the essentials, food, water, shelter and a birthday cake. A birthday is the one time during the year where being awkwardly stared at by a group of people singing is welcomed. It’s also the only time that putting out a fire by blowing on it is cheered for. Birthdays are also a motivator for breaking a diet or getting that extra treat that parents usually frown upon. Lisa Repp – an at-home baker from Denver living in Spokane, Washington – wouldn’t miss out on this kind of opportunity to bake up something special for friends and family. However, it was her husband – Drew Repp – who thought of a group of kids that would light up from having their sweet craving cured on their special day.
“[Baking] was always my side gig while being a mom. Raising my kids and building cakes was my freedom from the corporate world that used to take up my day,” explained Repp. “As orders began to ramp up, it drained me. Then Drew suggested saving my talent – and enjoyment of baking – for those who need it most, foster kids.”
Many people forget the simple pleasure of being celebrated on their birthday. Fortunately, Repp refused to and began constructing what has now become a registered nonprofit organization – Grace and Cakes – to ensure as many foster families as possible are able to enjoy a stunning cake for their birthdays.
Repp’s passion project delivered one cake to a foster child each month back in 2019, in Spokane, Washington. But there are many deserving families across the country. Thus, more chapters needed to be developed. Since then, she has developed this initiative across three states – Washington, Montana and Colorado. With her family ties being in Littleton, she wanted to give back to the town that she has such a close connection to.
As a survivor of the Columbine shooting in 1999, Repp has battled to overcome her own sadness. Grace and Cakes is her way of continuing to breed beauty and love in the world. Each birthday cake commemorates what each child has accomplished and the brightness that their future holds.
“There is a lot of pain, struggle, loss and sorrow among the foster care system. These cakes hopefully treat kids to a smile. It is a reminder of everyone deserves kindness, hope and joy,” said Repp.
Repp realized that her impact should span beyond what she could reach with just her home kitchen. Consequently, she expanded her Sweet Fleet – what she calls the professional bakers that donate cakes to foster children. Her most recent expansion sparked right here in Denver. The original local Fleet consisted of Bosco Baking Co., Vanilla & Cream, Over Doughs, Sugar Tats Cookies, Honey B’s Macaron, Three Seed Bakery, Sweet Cakes, Denver Cake Company and Buyse’s Bakery – but the Fleet is always growing.
Eight birthdays in July will have families thrilled, children surprised and Grace and Cakes continuing to organize each bake. Most of the bakers involved specialize in custom cakes – Over Doughs, Denver Cake Company, Three Seed Bakery, Sweet Cakes and Buyse’s Bakery. However, Bosco Baking pushes herself to make over-the-top takes on cakes that are certified gluten-free. Meanwhile, Vanilla & Cream and Sugar Tats fit the details of an entire cake design onto the surface of a sugar cookie. These thematic cookies come together and bring a new world to life as any cake could. Honey B’s makes macaroons – the hard to master French epitome of cookie. Each sandwich would double as a trip to France for any child receiving this donation.
“I spent 10 years working in mental health and the first job I had after moving to Denver was working at a residential center for kids in the foster system. I know the difficulties that these children and foster parents go through and would love to create something special for a local kiddo,” said Amy Anderson from Denver Cake Company.
More bakers are hearing about this opportunity to whisk up some color creations for children that have yet to experience this type of sugar high and want to join in. Phresh Baked Goods is a recent addition. This triple threat constructs cakes, pipes cupcakes and adds detail to the average cookie. Another recent addition to the fleet, Black Knife Bakery offers her painted macarons to give each cookie a themed design.
Grace and Cakes produce artwork rather than last-minute grocery store aisle finds. The cakes are one of a kind while grocery stores offer the same design regardless of the uniqueness of the child. These clearly correlate with the child receiving it by more than just the name piped after Happy Birthday. The Grace and Cakes collection features cakes that have been transformed into a smiling baby shark or the Hulk’s legendary green fist smashing through a stone wall. There is no short supply of talent when it comes to each artist’s creation.
Bakers can promise to be monthly providers for Grace and Cakes or upon availability. Regardless, Repp knows the demand remains high but the payoff is even higher. Kindness spreads throughout the community through this one act and it increases the inclusivity of those it touches. She aspires that everyone gets that culminating moment of diving into their sweet gift on their day of self-celebration.
Fittingly, the “Grace” in Grace and Cakes doesn’t come from the name of one of Repp’s daughters or another kind-hearted individual that represents her concept. Instead, it’s the noun that encapsulates the courteous goodwill bakers show to extend their talents to those that deserve it. Repp also hopes that Grace and Cakes reminds people of the good that is in the world and continues to feed it so that it grows.
To learn more about Grace and Cakes visit their website and Instagram. Folks interested in receiving a cake or birthday treat can apply here. Denver bakers interested in joining the Sweet Fleet can apply here.