Festival helps out charity with assortment of treats

How often do people get to eat sweets for a cause? Not often enough. Cupcake Camp L.A., an annual cupcake bake-fest with proceeds going to local charities, is changing that.

The idea of Cupcake Camp is simple: a place for like-minded foodies to hang out and taste cupcakes created by professional and amateur bakers alike, all while helping a good cause.

Cupcake Camp L.A. is organized and produced by Babette Pepaj, the creator of the food-centric social networking site BakeSpace, an online grassroots community for people who enjoy baking and cooking.

“I volunteered to start Cupcake Camp in Los Angeles because I felt I had to get involved,” Pepaj said.

Cupcake Camp was originally started in San Francisco by Ariel Waldman, who called it an “ad-hoc gathering born from the desire for people to share and eat cupcakes in an open environment.”

“Cupcake Camp began as a grassroots community type of cupcake party,” Pepaj said.

The concept has since been adopted in cities and communities across the country, from Ottawa, Canada to Orange County, Toronto to Tallahassee, Fla.

It quickly evolved into a philanthropic event. The producers of the event in each city choose a charity, or multiple charities, to benefit from the profits from ticket and tasting sales.

The Los Angeles event benefits three different charities: Angel Acres Horse Haven Rescue, American Tortoise Rescue and InvisiblePeople.tv. Angel Acres Horse Haven Rescue, founded in 2004 by Jo Deibel, is a non-profit organization that saves horses from being slaughtered or abandoned.

With American Tortoise Rescue located in Malibu, Calif., Marshall Thompson and Susan Tellem work to ensure that turtles from other countries are not imported illegally into the United States, where they not only have a difficult time adapting to a new environment but can also be detrimental to the ecosystem of the Pacific Ocean.

Invisible People was started by Mark Horvath, a former TV producer who once found himself homeless after a battle with drug addiction.

With InvisiblePeople.tv, he not only works to tell the unheard story of homeless people in Los Angeles but also uses social media networks to help them re-enter the job market.

Other than the charities, no one involved in the event profits from it in any way.

The bakers involved volunteered their time to help out.

Pepaj said she felt that after “claiming” the city of Los Angeles as her home, she has a responsibility to fill. Cupcake Camp has a large following wherever it goes, and Pepaj is expecting about 2,000 attendees at Cupcake Camp L.A. this Saturday at the Music Box Theatre in Hollywood, Calif.

With all the work involved, Pepaj equated producing and hosting the Cupcake Camp event to hosting a birthday party.

“What better kind of birthday party to throw than one where you can give back?” she said.

But Pepaj isn’t doing this alone. She has been contacted by dozens of people willing to volunteer their time.

“It’s easy to produce an event like this when people want to participate,” she said.

The bakers range from amateur to professional. They not only donate cupcakes (some will be bringing as many as 600), but also their time.

With more than 30 bakers scheduled to offer cupcakes for tasting, everything from vegan cupcakes to gluten-free, sugar-free and organic cupcakes will be available.

Some of the bakers will be featuring classics such as red velvet, while others will be debuting new flavors or holiday-themed cupcakes, such as Nutella cupcakes and pumpkin brown butter cupcakes.

“If the cupcakes are for a good cause, the calories don’t count,” she said.