Several times a year, the distinctive aroma of fondant, frosting and fudge waft through the Hilton Hotel in downtown Atlanta.
During the holiday season, it is for the Patty Cakes Holiday Cake Affair. Philadelphia native Patty Green organizes the event every year in hopes of discovering and training novice bakers with a hidden talent for culinary confections.
“My dream is not only to have the cake competitions build growth and exposure for our cake bakers, but to be able to raise money for them to build their business - to own bakeries, to be business owners," she said. "Also, for myself, to be exposed to helping those with astronomical needs.”
A recipient of Green's generosity, Amanda Earl, has already begun making a name for herself in the baking community.
Her journey began with design courses at a Michael's craft store, where she learned the basics of fondant and icing. Following the edible education, Earl applied for, and received, an internship with Makeba Matthews, owner of Cakes and Desserts Café by Diva's Delights in Conyers, Georgia.
“I like working here; it's fun. You get to know the customers,” Earl said. “I hope that we can expand and I hope to be a cake decorator.”
Although Earl's formal training may not be as extensive as others, Green's financial assistance and Matthews's hands-on guidance has molded her into a formidable designer.
“Amanda is being sponsored by Mrs. Green which is an awesome opportunity,” said Matthews. “The sponsorship works as a financial donation for her spot. So with Amanda being new and still getting her money together, she was able to financially provide her a sponsorship opportunity.”
The financial sponsorship paid off: Earl placed second in the design portion of the competition.
It is not just Green's financial support of Earl that inspires Matthews. Matthews's shop houses programs for several charities and organizations that Green supports, including I Sign For You, the Rockdale Career Academy and Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts in Atlanta.
“She's a sweet person. I believe in the mission that she's doing and supporting of the charities,” Matthews said.
The charity Green chose for 2012 is Community Friendship, Inc. Since 1970, CFI has provided a supportive community for mentally ill patients whose mental illness prevents them from getting employment, being effective in the community and establishing healthy relationships with their peers and others.
Following the Patty Cakes Holiday Cake Affair, the charity received custom cakes from each participant to serve in its kitchen and at special events.
CFI coordinator Sharrieff Amenra organizes events in conjunction with Green and was honored to receive her assistance this year.
“I've been working with events with Patty Cakes and her organization for a couple of years now,” said Amenra. “I know her from Philadelphia so she just calls me, I come out and I help out. And we've just been rocking and rolling just like that for a couple of years.”
With charities, shop owners and up-and-comers alike being inspired by Green's altruism, what inspires Green to organize these massive events every year?
“In Philadelphia, there was a young woman who was an awesome cake baker, but no one would take her into the competitions,” said Green. “I sponsored her and even though she did not win, she got orders from the guests. She went from baking one cake a week to 10 cakes a week and she said to me, 'I can now buy clothes for my children and not get evicted.' That touched my heart. But I have many stories like that; so many thank-you letters from guests who are inspired, from contestants and just people in general."
It's a classic case of paying it forward, one slice at a time.