This Christmas bake-off raises food and supplies for people and pets

Residents can enjoy homemade baked goods along with a free concert by donating food, clothing or pet items. 

Decadent fluffy cupcakes decorated with green and red swirl frosting and topped with sprinkles. Triple-tiered chocolate cake with powdered sugar, made to look like snow, blanketing its surface. Intricately shaped sugar cookies lined with royal icing to imitate snowmen, Christmas trees, gifts, snowflakes and other holiday icons. 

Residents can enjoy all of these tasty creations and many more at the ninth annual Christmas cookie decorating and bake-off contest hosted by the Long Beach nonprofit Community Action Team. 

At least 30 participants will enter their homemade cookies, cakes, pies, brownies, cupcakes and other delicacies for a chance to place in one of six prizes. Winners will receive $50 to donate to their favorite charity, school, organization or place of worship, while residents will get the chance to taste the contested creations for themselves. 

Residents taste the various baked goods entered in the Christmas bake-off on Nov. 23, 2023. (Courtesy of Justin Rudd)
Homemade cupcakes entered in the Christmas bake-off competition on Nov. 23, 2014. (Courtesy of Justin Rudd)

The event has gone through many iterations, first beginning with a fall-themed bake-off with a separate Christmas cookie decorating contest held during one of the nonprofit’s monthly clean-ups. 

Now the bake-off is held at the Bay Shore Community Congregational Church, complete with a 25-person professional brass and percussion band with the Southern California Brass Consortium. The 90-minute concert is free for attendees while judges in the next room will decide the winners for the bake-off contest and the Christmas cookie decorating contest. 

Justin Rudd, who runs the Community Action Team, said he combined the two baking events in order to ease his workload while planning the monthly beach clean-ups and back-to-back holiday events. He’s now realized that adding a free concert is his “gift to the community.”

While the concert and tasting reception is free, residents are asked to bring a donation of pet supplies for Operation Santa Paws, or food and clothing for people experiencing homelessness. 

Rudd said the homeless shelters his nonprofit partners with are mostly requesting packages of men’s black socks during this time of the year. 

Homemade chocolate chip cookies entered in the Christmas bake-off competition on Nov. 23, 2014. (Courtesy of Justin Rudd)

The baking contests are free to enter as well, and people of all ages and skill levels can enter. 

“We want to take away anything that might keep someone from being able to enter,” Rudd said. “The rules are simple, it has to be baked, it can’t be store bought or from a box. We want it to be from scratch.”

Additional rules include: 

  • Cakes must be brought in whole, not with slices taken out or served individually
  • Participants must bring their own serving utensils and cutting knife
  • For those bringing smaller entries such as cupcakes, brownies, bars etc., there is a minimum entry amount of 24 items for judges and the community to taste. 
  • Participants can enter more than one item, but the contest is for individuals, not teams or partners. 
Homemade almond bars entered in the Christmas bake-off competition on Nov. 23, 2014. (Courtesy of Justin Rudd)

Entries will be judged by the current Ms. Long Beach and Ms. Southern California, as well as a food critic, restaurant writer, as well as a baker or culinary teacher who is yet to be announced. 

For those participating in the baking contests, items must be dropped off, ready to present, from 4 p.m. to 4:45 p.m. Judging will begin at 4:45 p.m., the Christmas concert will begin at 5 p.m. and the tasting reception will begin at 6:30 p.m. 

All events are free and will take place at the Bay Shore Community Congregational Church at 5100 E The Toledo in Long Beach. Though the events are free, residents must reserve their spot online since seats for the concert are limited. 

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