Ann Marie doing a virtual baking class.

From baking on television to therapeutic recreation

Known for her stint on the Great Canadian Baking Show, Ann Marie has since taken her baking talents from reality TV to the halls of Holland Bloorview. 

Since her first class in February 2019 at the hospital, she’s been volunteering by offering monthly classes to help kids at Holland Bloorview with their therapeutic recreation needs.

On top of her sweet creations, she’s also worked her magic to help provide donations from Wahlburgers and Motion Specialties in the past year, as well as inpatient donations from Red Path Sugar and Mastermind Toys during the coronavirus pandemic.

We got a chance to sit down with Ann Marie to talk about how she got into baking, volunteering for Holland Bloorview, and hosting virtual classes.

How did you get into teaching cooking and baking classes?

I absolutely love baking and there’s nothing I love more than sharing my passion of baking with children. Some of my fondest memories are baking with my grandmother and aunt in Newfoundland. My dad also baked a lot when we were young so it was such a big deal in our family. It was a way to share something you put your heart into with your loved ones. I enjoy teaching baking especially when it’s something I’ve recently learned and am excited about.

I love the energy and joy from everyone, when they bake something themselves and are proud of their finished treat. Baking doesn’t need to be fancy or complicated to be enjoyed.
So many people psych themselves out when it comes to baking because they think they have limitations, and I love showing them different ways that make it just as possible for them as it is for anyone else.

Why did you choose to give back to and or volunteer at Holland Bloorview?

Some clients from Holland Bloorview came to my workplace and recognized me from my time on The Great Canadian Baking Show. They were excited about the idea of baking but felt they had limitations that would stop them. They asked me questions about how to bake while using assistive devices and, while at the time I didn’t have an answer, I’ve been very lucky to build a network not only of bakers but of physical and occupational therapists. Since then, I’ve reached out to my network and spent time online researching how to bake and be in the kitchen with varying abilities. In my research, I saw, through the Holland Bloorview website that a part of the therapy for children involved a kitchen and thought it could be a perfect way to apply what I’d learned and I guess you could say rest is history!

You've probably baked so many different things during these classes in the past year and a bit. What's been your favourite recipe to teach the kids?

Our hamburger cupcakes—I loved the creativity and excitement from everyone!

This coronavirus pandemic hasn't been easy, but how have you stayed positive? 

The biggest silver lining in all of this is getting to spend time together with my family. My daughter decided to move home temporarily and spend this time with us. It might have been a long time between seeing each other otherwise.

I love that we are all together during this time. She’s been trying to get me to do short videos for a long time and while we’re both still working, her being here has made it possible for us to start on those!

And how did your first-ever virtual Holland Bloorview baking class go?

I was super excited to receive photos of the incredibly creative octopus cupcakes made by kids and youth. My baking videos were divided into two parts: a delicious vanilla cupcake baking video and a decorating video for these cute under the sea, octopus cupcakes.

I hosted three baking groups throughout the day. It’s great thinking outside the box creatively to keep our baking groups active for my friends at Holland Bloorview, especially during these strange times. I can’t wait for the next event!

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