Top 100 Cake Blog

Top 100 Cake Blog

Monday, May 14, 2012

The Henry Street Cake Contest

The first-ever Lillian Wald* Birthday Cake competition was held on May 6th at Henry Street Settlement's lively Lower East Side block party.  What the competition lacked in quantity (though 20 people registered, only seven brought cakes) it made up for in creativity.  The judges faced some tough decisions but, like the cakes, rose beautifully to the occasion.

The winning cake, Lilies for Lillian (pictured above), a vanilla custard layer cake with chocolate mousse and fresh strawberries, was entered by bakers Jillian Besemer (a reader of ACakeBakes!) and Chris McKeever.  Second place went to Peggy Coon for her chocolate frosted banana cake, and taking third place was Kira Wizner (assisted by daughters Leilani and Cecily) for a lemon pound cake presented as a page from Lillian's journal.

Judges, from left: Traven Rice, Ed Litvak, Rozanne Gold, Arthur Schwartz and Tara Bench.
The only thing more exciting than the cakes was the esteemed panel of judges: Arthur Schwartz (a food writer and radio personality who The New York Times called a "walking Google of food and restaurant knowledge"), Rozanne Gold, (a renowned chef and author who began her career at age 23 as chef to New York City Mayor Ed Koch), Tara Bench, the talented food and entertaining director of the Ladies Home Journal, and enthusiastic eaters Ed Litvak and Traven Rice, founders of The Lo-Down, the Lower East Side blog and print magazine.

The three winners received a bag of aromatic Workforce Coffee (blended for Henry Street's Workforce Development Center by Plowshares Coffee Roasters; a portion of each sale is donated to Henry Street), a two-pound bag of Daisy Organic All-Purpose Flour (my favorite flour); and Henry Street mugs and tote bags. First prize winner also received a three-bottle gift pack of wine of Oriel Wine.

The decoration of  the third place cake was inspired by a page in Lillian Wald's book.

Peggy Coon's Banana Cake with Chocolate Frosting took second place.

My vote for the most interesting birthday cake. This Rhubarb Custard Tea Cake was presented in baby food jars adorned with photographs of Lillian Wald.

The judges hard at work, assisted invaluable volunteer May Wong (standing at right).

David Garza, Executive Director of Henry Street Settlement, with first place winners
Jillian Besemer and Chris McKeever

Henry Street staffers Ellen Schneiderman and Ryan Wenzel sliced up the cakes and distributed them to party guests after the competition ended.

Here's an image of party goers voting for Henry Street in the Partners in Preservation competition.  If you've read this far, then you too can take 30 seconds to vote for Henry Street.  Just go to or Henry Street Settlement's Facebook page to help the agency win a $200,000 grant to make its historic buildings more energy efficient.

*Lillian Wald, whose 145th birthday the block party was celebrating, founded Henry Street Settlement in 1893.


  1. Correction: I was slicing up cake only for myself. Droves of hungry people scared me away from the table a few moments after that photo was taken!

  2. Love the post. Those pics give me some good ideas of what I can do with the rest of my Saturday afternoon. :)