Oct. 20, 2020


Photo courtesy of Cocoa & Lavender.



Baird Scholars (Top R-L): Kailie Szewczyk, and Jaiden Singh (Bottom R-L): Shruti Atreya, and Eddie Vargas.

We all have had to face many challenges this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. However, communities that already struggle with access to necessities like food, water, and affordable healthcare have been disproportionately affected by the pandemic. The UArizona Baird Scholars have a passion for service and wanted to do something to help the local community this summer. Because in-person meetings and the usual social events were not possible, they came together online to create a virtual project.

Senior Baird Scholar Kailie Szewczyk shared, “Eddie Vargas and I have worked together with Honors College staff member Jenni Keatseangsilp for the last couple of years planning a variety of events for Baird Scholars– from social events to community service opportunities.”

When considering the distressing state of the world, she said, “(we) wanted to utilize our connections within the University of Arizona Honors College and continue our efforts to give back to the community.” 

According to second-year Baird Scholar, Shruti Atreya, she and her fellow scholars came up with the idea to make the annual Baird cooking class a virtual fundraiser event to support those most affected by the pandemic. News of the Native American reservations in Arizona experiencing food insecurity due to the pandemic resonated with the scholars. After learning about this, they decided to direct 100% the proceeds from the fundraiser to help provide much needed food and supplies to people living on the reservations.

“At about the same time, I read about the Iskashitaa Refugee Network,” she said, “a local Tucson non-profit that helps integrate United Nations refugees into the local community and works with volunteers to pass on multicultural food preservation techniques and increase food access to communities that experience food insecurity.”

Ishkashitaa had successfully distributed fresh food supplies to the Window Rock Navajo Nation, and after reading about their success, Baird Scholars decided to work with the nonprofit to fund food distribution efforts in Native American communities impacted by COVID-19 in AZ. 

Together, they created Cooking for a Cause hosted by David Scott Allen, a Food Blogger at Cocoa & Lavender as well as the Special Advisor to the Dean at the Honors College. For $5 a session, or $8 for both, attendees could have a fun, safe, online experience and know that they were helping the Native communities in Arizona. The response was overwhelming. More than 100 people signed up for the classes, and many gave much more than the required $5 or $8. The two-part series covered four recipes that are easy to prepare, along with lots of fun cooking tips. The recipe for the Chocolate Truffle Cake follows.

One other benefit of this event was that it gave the upper-division scholars a way to connect with the incoming first-year students. One scholar has always loved cooking and being in the kitchen. Jaiden Singh had heard about the annual cooking classes and was beyond excited when this opportunity arose. 

“I knew I wanted to get involved in the event,” said Jaiden. “During the event, I was on speakerphone with David, so I could read questions from the chat to him while he was cooking. I was very excited to be able to help raise funds for those who need it most in our Arizona community, all while learning to make some delicious food–and new friends!”

Eddie, also graduating this year, has been incredibly active in his four years. “It has been such a blessing to be able to use our network at the University of Arizona Honors College as Baird Scholars to give back to our community.” The event raised over $3,500 and donations are still coming in.

Chocolate Truffle Cake

1-pound best-quality chocolate, between 55-65% cacao

10 tablespoons unsalted butter

pinch sea salt

5 large eggs, room temperature

whipped cream for serving, optional

Preheat the oven to 375°F. Generously butter the bottom and sides of a 9-inch springform pan. Cut a round of parchment to cover the bottom of the pan. In a large metal bowl set over simmering water, melt the butter and chocolate together until smooth. Remove from heat and stir in a pinch of salt. Let cool. Separate eggs putting the whites into the bowl of a stand mixer (or other large mixing bowl) and the yolks into a small bowl. Stir the yolks to blend, then stir into the cooled chocolate. Beat the whites with the whisk attachment (or hand-held mixer) until stiff. Add a third of the beaten whites to the chocolate and stir to lighten the batter. Gently fold in remaining white and pour into prepared pan. 

Bake for 12-13 minutes. Remove from oven–the center should jiggle slightly. Let cool 10 minutes. The sides should have pulled back a bit from the edges. This is a good time to run a thin-bladed knife or spatula around the edges to loosen. Let cool completely in pan.

Remove the sides from the springform pan, and slice into wedges. Serve with a small dollop of whipped cream. (Do not serve chilled–it will be too dense and more like fudge.) Serves 12.


Photo courtesy of Cocoa & Lavender.