It started out as a hobby and ended up being a labor of love.
Hannah Finn, 14, had always liked baking. But then she found out that some homeless children staying at Lazarus House in Lawrence sometimes had birthdays without cake.
So she signed up to become an official, anonymous cake-baker for the non-profit agency that helps families in need.
"I just have always liked to bake and my mom found this idea online and so I'm just baking cakes to help," Finn said. "It's a kid's birthday and they should feel special. I always feel special on my birthday. It makes me feel good to help a family going through a difficult time."
She made her first creation — a Barbie-decorated pink birthday cake for a homeless girl living at the shelter who was turning 7. The little girl loved it, and Hannah was hooked.
She's been making cakes now since April.
Entering her sophomore year at Andover High School where she is on the gymnastics team, Hannah has a quiet, behind-the-scenes presence for her cake-baking project. Called the "One Wish Project," she has been baking cakes since April and has baked five birthday cakes so far.
Last week, she made a special chocolate cake for an 18-year-old's birthday and before that it was a cake decorated for a little boy with a "Frozen" theme mirrored after the hit movie. Lazarus House administrators are thrilled to work with Hannah as she makes kids feel special on their birthdays.
“Lazarus House loves to partner with out-of-the-box thinkers and we were delighted to work with Hannah to develop this program which features her talents to benefit our guests," said Marcy Furse, volunteer coordinator at Lazarus House. "It is Hannah’s desire to fulfill the children’s birthday wishes and she requires no thanks or attention to herself. That’s selfless giving. She delivers the birthday blessings anonymously, respectfully never needing to meet the children or receive any recognition. Every delivery seems to outdo the one before."
Hannah, who attends Temple Emmanuel in Andover, is not allowed to meet any of the cake recipients, as state law prohibits that. She is simply known as the anonymous cake baker with a big heart. So, she relies on a survey that the kids fill out about the birthday cake of their dreams and then goes about fulfilling that dream.
The cakes are by no means ordinary. There are no empty Betty Crocker cake boxes and cans of frosting on her kitchen counter at her family's home on Starwood Crossing. Rather, all of Hannah's cakes are made from scratch. Frosting is also homemade and colored to match the cake's theme. She admits she went crazy with the pink food coloring when she made that Barbie cake.
Hannah, who uses her babysitting money to pay for supplies that include cake pans and decorating pastry tips, spent three afternoons with a gracious local professional cake decorator who let her observe and learn some tips of the trade. Hannah also watches cake decorating videos online.
Her cakes come with a Happy Birthday banner, party decorations and small gifts.
Her mother, Claudia Mintz, who does not bake, is the cake delivery driver as each dreamy cake is delivered to the Lazarus House in Lawrence.
Her goal is to start a One Wish Project club at AHS this fall. She also wants to partner with additional shelters over the next few months but needs to seek various avenues for donations.
If you can help, send a donation to: PO Box 605, Andover, MA 01810; www.onewishproject.us; or check out Hannah's Facebook page link to One Wish Project - @onewishprojectMA.