It's that time of year that all parents surely dread, the last few weeks of the school year. Kids are tired, weather is unpredictable, there are a myriad of school event that parents feel duty bound to traipse to and the dreaded end of year class parties that demand food contributions.
The primary school that my daughters attend has been holding a cake stall each Friday for the past few weeks. Each cake stall is run by 1 or 2 classes and the proceeds go to that class. It is a good idea, however, despite only having 2 daughters in separate classes, I have been asked to bake for at least 4 of the cake stalls. The reason for this is that my baking sells well, and embarrassingly, people specifically ask which baking is mine before they part with their cash.
Having organised, baked for and cleaned up after loads of cake stalls and class parties in my time, I thought I would pass on my top tips and pitfalls to watch out for.
Make sure that you use disposable packaging as much as possible. It is heartbreaking to receive a beautiful cake for a cake stall that is in a tin with no easy way to remove it without damaging the cake. Returning tins to their rightful owners can b a bit of a mission as well so best put it on a cake board, plastic/cardboard plate or use a disposable foil tray to bake your traybake in.
Keep cake and cookie decorations simple. Save the Sistine Chapel cake for another occasion. A bit of glace icing and sprinkles will do fine. In fact, if you bake the sprinkles in to the cookie dough, you don't even have to decorate them.
People should be able to eat what they buy with their hands, or carry it out in a bag. Anything that’s gooey, messy or too delicate might get damaged and will be hard to carry.
Avoid using fresh, whipped cream if possible. In summer it might go off, if the cake is sitting around for a while it may go soggy. Neither are a good look. Use jam, glace icing, buttercream or ganache instead as they tend to be a little more stable.
Make life a bit easier for the organisers of the cake stall by slicing your cake or bagging up cookies into portions suitable to sell. Mini loaves, muffins and cupcakes on a disposable plate covered with clingfilm are fab and sell well either individually or by plate.
Have some savoury items as not everyone likes sweet bakes. Savoury scones, pastry twists and palmiers all go down well with those preferring a savoury nibble.
If possible have some bakes for sale or at parties suitable for those who are coeliac and those who need dairy and egg free options, then nobody feels left out. Make sure allergy free baking is stored appropriately away from contamination. Also, if you offer food for consumption or sale and say that it is free from a particular ingredient, make 100% sure that it is, otherwise there could be serious consequences for all concerned.
Ask about parties now, even though it is still a couple of weeks before the end of term. Forewarned is forearmed LOL If you know there will be a party coming up either get a few extra baking ingredients with your grocery shop, or some drinks, crisps, breadsticks, etc that you can send to the party instead of baking/cooking anything.
Puff pastry is your friend, especially if you are told at short notice that you need to provide something edible. Make sweet or savoury pastry twists, pastry parcels or tarts quickly and easily using a muffin tin and some store bought pastry with store cupboard ingredients.
Mini muffins, cupcakes, cookies always go down well as long as they are small and easy to eat. Check with staff if children in the class have a nut allergy, or other allergy, just in case your recipes have that ingredient in them.
If baking anything really does bring you out in a cold sweat, ask if you can provide drinks, fruit or crudites instead. You could always provide disposable plates, cups, napkins or other items that don't require stepping into a kitchen.
Be prepared! That is my one top tip. End of year class parties are coming so get some appropriate grocery supplies in if you're not baking, and if you are baking, make sure you have some cookie dough and puff pastry in the freezer so you are not caught out. You can bet you'll get very little notice.
What are your top tips for cake stalls and class parties?