Meals on Wheels celebrates 70th with 'unforgettable' cake


Thursday, 23 November, 2023

Meals on Wheels celebrates 70th with 'unforgettable' cake

To mark its 70th anniversary and draw attention to the issue of cognitive decline, Meals on Wheels NSW has collaborated with master pastry chef Christopher Thé (Hearthe), to create a special ‘brain-friendly’ cake using ingredients that could improve cognition.

The recipe for ‘The Unforgettable Cake’ was developed in consultation with a team of nutrition and brain health experts, including Dr Johannes le Coutre, UNSW Professor – Food & Health; Professor Kaarin Anstey, Senior Principal Research Scientist at NeuRA and Director of the UNSW Ageing Futures Institute; and Sharon Lawrence, accredited practising dietitian and Board Member of Meals on Wheels NSW.

“When I was first approached about this project, I was intrigued by the challenge of creating a cake which may be beneficial to cognition, using ingredients from different food groups, while also providing an experience for Meals on Wheels customers,” le Coutre said.

“Along with Meals on Wheels and a team of specialists, we had to consider both ingredients and texture, including how to minimise sugar, and provide a texture suitable for individuals who suffer from dysphagia (difficulty swallowing), which is a concern for some older Australians.

“Using the currently available scientific evidence, we came up with a list of foods that are understood to provide quality nutrition — which is really important as we age — while still allowing for the nostalgic enjoyment of eating a slice of cake, and then we turned this over to Chris for him to work his creative magic.”

Building on a strawberry gum biscuit base (strawberry gum is a source of antioxidants and is considered neuro-protective), the cake incorporates nutrient-rich foods such as beetroot, spinach, turmeric and blueberries, along with desert lime, which contains antioxidants and lutein.

Thé said the project prompted him to really think about what can be considered ‘brain food’.

“When we started out, I wasn’t prepared to guess what foods are actually brain-friendly, and there was a lot of discussion with the nutritionists and dietitians to come up with a cohesive list of ingredients that could be good for people facing cognitive decline,” he said.

“We presented three very different cake concepts to start with, and we went through a lot of testing, varied our approaches and challenged ourselves to come up with a single coherent cake that both looks good and tastes great, and can be reproduced in the Meals on Wheels kitchen for their customers.”

For Les MacDonald, Chief Executive Officer of Meals on Wheels NSW, The Unforgettable Cake provided an opportunity to highlight the issue of cognitive decline, including dementia and Alzheimer’s, which impact many Meals on Wheels clients and families within the community.

“A healthy diet — incorporating ingredients such as those in The Unforgettable Cake — is vital for cognitive health, because the brain is responsible for so many functions within our body, and if it isn’t working properly it impacts on our ability to engage in life and perform daily activities,” he said.

“Added to this, social engagement is known to improve brain function, and for many of our clients, a visit from a Meals on Wheels volunteer is the highlight of their week, so if we can elicit more happy memories and moments for them just by sharing a slice of cake, it adds another layer to the important role we play in the community.”

The Unforgettable Cake will be delivered to select Meals on Wheels clients from 22 November, while slices will also be available for purchase from Hearthe for $10, with $1 from every sale to be donated to Meals on Wheels NSW.

For more information, visit: https://nswmealsonwheels.org.au/unforgettable-cake.

Image caption: The Unforgettable Cake collaborators Johannes le Coutre and Christopher Thé with Patricia Pickering and Margaret Lea. Image credit: Common Ventures

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