Whether it’s for a fundraiser, a child’s school event, or just to make a couple bucks, you’ve signed up for a bake sale, and now you’re stressing over decorating your station, picking your signature dishes, and baking desserts that look just as good as they taste. While bake sales seem super daunting and overwhelming, you should know that they don’t have to be!
There are plenty of tips, tricks, and hacks you can follow to ensure you have the tastiest treats for way less effort than you anticipated. So take a deep breath and rest assured that, if you follow this advice, you’ll still have the most impressive stand at the bake sale.
1. Consider a Theme
Personally, I am a sucker for a theme. If I see anything that follows a theme, I automatically gravitate towards it, and I’m not the only one. People love a unified design and concept, and it may actually make your life easier if you follow one. A theme could revolve around a single ingredient (i.e., only chocolate– or fruit-based products), a single baked good (i.e., only selling cupcakes or pies), or a single aesthetic (i.e., a “glitz and glam” theme where all your goodies are covered in edible glitter, a rainbow/unicorn color scheme, or a sports theme where everything is decorated like a ball).
If you are working in one lane, you won’t have to worry about buying too many varying kinds of decorations or ingredients, and you’re not at risk of spiraling out of control because you tried to do too much. In a bake sale, it’s important to appeal to the eyes as well as the mouth, and a theme will definitely help you succeed!
2. Make Everything Disposable
While presentation and the general appearance of your bake sale setup are important, you want the bake sale to go as smoothly as possible for the sake of your own sanity. If the last thing you’ll want to do after the chaos of the sale itself finally dies down is put away decorations and wash out cake pans, prepare your treats in disposable tins and you can just throw them away as they empty out. Additionally, you can make your own decorations or buy them cheap online or at a party store. Along with a disposable tablecloth, party store decorations will save you money and are easy to get rid of once you’re done with them.
3. A Little Twist Goes a Long Way
You really don’t have to think way outside the box when it comes to bake sale recipes, because if you stray too far out of your comfort zone you risk making an unsuccessful dessert. If you make even the slightest change to a classic recipe, you will have a unique produce that people want to buy. These changes could be as simple as replacing the chocolate chips in your favorite cookie recipe with M&Ms, making marshmallow treats with Fruity Pebbles instead of Rice Krispies, or replacing plain white cake with Funfetti.
Consider, for example, this Red Velvet Crackle Cookie recipe. The use of red velvet instead of plain chocolate makes the cookies stand out amongst the thousands of chocolate cookies there are bound to be at a bake sale, and something so simple as powdered sugar on top looks fun and is guaranteed to catch a potential buyer’s eye very quickly. Plus, these cookies are just as simple to make as, say, plain chocolate chip cookies, so you’re not exerting any more effort than you normally would.
4. Don’t Bake
I know you’re preparing for a bake sale, but hear me out. You can actually make it through preparing for your bake sale without ever having to wait for your oven to preheat. There are so many recipes out there for easy fudges, cereal treats, no-bake pies, cheesecakes, cookies, and any other traditionally baked good you can think of. They’re a time saver and just as delicious.
Here are some no-bake holiday desserts, several of which work for year-round bake sale convenience. And here are some summery no-bake dessert recipes, in case you’re planning on setting up a bake sale table right next to your lemonade stand.
5. Keep It Simple, Keep It Clean
While every recipe is unique, there’s a reason you start to see the same kinds of baked goods at every bake sale. Cupcakes, pies, brownies, and cookies are so much easier to serve and eat than, say, cobblers, mousses, or big cakes by the slice. As good as your homemade ice cream bars may look, they may not sell because they’re going to melt as soon as someone starts to eat them. The same goes for a cobbler or cake; if it’s at risk for too many crumbs or spills or drips, people may not want to bother with it.
Try to focus your products on things that are just as easy for you to serve as they are for your customers to eat, and then you can get creative with the recipe and flavors. Cupcakes and cookies are a staple, chocolate covered pretzels are always an underrated hit, and even fudge and bars (lemon, chocolate, peanut butter, etc.) would save you a lot of time and your customers a lot of napkins.
To get you started, check out our Easy Peanut Butter Fudge recipe that looks fancy, tastes delicious, makes 64 pieces and, most importantly, is incredibly easy to make and eat.
MontoPack Baking Cups, $6.99 on Amazon
These paper baking cups are perfect for serving individual bites of fudge.
6. Sell the Vessel, Too
If you’ve just read my last point about serving neater foods and are bummed because you have a cake or mousse recipe you’ve been dying to try out, that’s totally fine! If you’re planning on serving notoriously messier desserts, it all comes down to presentation. It’s a thousand times easier for you and your customers if you bake a cake into a mug or jar, and then sell the entire jar. That way, you won’t have to worry about a slice of cake falling apart when you cut it, or all the good parts of a crumble getting left behind on the spatula. Your customers will get the best of your whole dish and, let’s be honest, not having to worry about the cleanup is a huge plus for you!
7. No More Daunting Decorating
There’s no need to be intimidated by well-decorated baked goods anymore. In fact, you too can make and sell Instagram-worthy goodies for your bake sale as simply as possible. You don’t even need to have a steady hand or know how to use decorating tools if you follow some common household hacks. My advice is to start by making food coloring your friend. If you are baking to raise money for breast cancer awareness, for example, vanilla frosting and white cake can be dyed pink. There is also nothing that can’t be dipped in or drizzled with chocolate, which is a guaranteed plus in both taste and presentation! Finally, you should take advantage of flashy decorations like glittery sprinkles, edible gold leaf, and small sugar candies, because the outer appearance of a baked good is the first thing that will pull customers in.
However, if you are looking to get a little fancy with your frosting, check out this royal icing tutorial for starters. There’s nothing like colorful sugar cookies, and you’re not limited to holiday colors or designs (though this comes in handy if your theme is Christmas in July!).
8. Emphasize the Cause
If you are baking for a fundraiser, odds are you’re donating most—if not all—of the proceeds to one charitable cause or another. In the last point, I mentioned tailoring your baked goods and decorations to the cause (i.e. pink treats for breast cancer, red for the American Heart Association or a blood drive, cancer-ribbon-shaped sugar cookies, etc.).
But even if you don’t go that route, you should make sure the cause you’re raising money for doesn’t go unnoticed by your customers. You should also stock your table with literature on the cause—what the cause is about, what exactly the money will go towards, and some statistics. You want to make sure that both you and your patrons are as educated as they can be about the cause your business is supporting. If you are very passionate about it, you could even advertise the bake sale on social media and start a GoFundMe to raise additional funds.
9. Keep Dietary Restrictions in Mind
You’ll do a lot better if you include gluten/dairy free and vegan options on your bake sale table, since you’ll be pandering to a wider array of consumers. Luckily, you can find these kinds of recipes literally anywhere these days; see below for some of my personal favorite gluten-free, dairy-free, and vegan treats. Don’t forget that nut allergies are serious too, and if you’re going to bake a dish with nuts, label it clearly and separate it from the rest of your items.
Bake Sale Signs, starting at $2.53 on Etsy
Help draw attention to your tasty treats.
What’s your go-to bake sale recipe? Let us know in the comments!
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