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  • Food

    Welcoming Strangers: Pilgrims, Couchsurfers…

     How can you make a stranger feel welcome? Bake them a cake and personalise it!

    Welcoming strangers can be challenging. I always prepare my creative presents with specific people in mind (see my post about the characteristics of creative presents). Yet it sometimes happens that one wants to give a present to a total stranger, e.g. a pilgrim coming to the World Youth Days or a couchsurfer visiting for a few days.

    We have recently found out that we won’t be hosting pilgrims this year because all the youth coming to our parish for the World Youth Days will be accommodated in schools. If any of them did come to us, we would definitely greet them with a cake decorated with letters: WYD (which stand for World Youth Days) or, even better, JMJ (Jornada Mundial de la Juventud) since the pilgrims are to come from Spain, Argentina and Colombia.

    We have welcomed strangers this way several times. Since we got married, we have been using couchsurfing a lot,  visiting different countries and acting as hosts (check our profile  and visit us if you are planning a stay in Warsaw!). It is customary for Couchsurfers to bring a small gift to their hosts. When we went to other European countries, we usually took small souvenirs from Poland (notebooks, pens, etc.). As hosts, in turn, we always tried to surprise our guests with something more than just a couch.

    Welcoming couchsurfers

    Our first couchsurfer, Chieh from Taiwan, was greeted with a simple banana sponge cake. For our next guest, we took things a step further and wrote her name, Mitz, on the cake. The girl was lost for words!


    We wanted to do it again, but our third hosting experience involved a pair of guests, both with long names, so eventually we opted for ‘CS’ = Couchsurfing.

    Why is this way of welcoming strangers worthwhile?

    Because you don’t need to know much about a given person – their name or the occasion on which you meet (like the World Youth Days or couchsurfing) is enough – for the guest to feel that you have eagerly awaited their coming. A cake needs to be baked in advance, which proves that the host has prepared for the guest’s arrival and dedicated some time and thoughts to the visit. As I have already mentioned before, there is hardly a more precious thing that you can give others.

    Other examples of personalised cakes:


    This is a cake I baked for a good friend of ours who came for a regular visit. It so happened that it was his birthday, so I surprised him with such a personalised cake decorated with the first letter of his name.


    And that’s a cake that my Husband surprised me with. A birthday cake with a name is nothing unusual, but in our household I am the baker. This chocolate cake was bought in a bakery, but the letters and other decorations were made by my Husband in person.









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    My advice:

    • Pouring jelly over a fruit pattern is not an easy task for beginners. As you can see in the pictures, the raspberry cake looks far from perfect. The reason is that I didn’t wait long enough for the jelly to set. I hoped to get a chance to try it again at the WYD, but I will have to find a different occasion. My Husband’s namesday, perhaps?
    • Powder chocolate may be sprinkled via a paper cornet, but I have always used my fingers. The only thing you need to remember is to hold your hand low over the cake surface. If you want to have white letters and chocolate background, it is best to sprinkle chocolate through a sieve.
    • You may be wondering why I don’t recommend cake decorating pens. In my opinion, it is rather difficult to squeeze the icing out. I would also use them too rarely to finish the box before they expire, and I don’t like wasting things.

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