Bake-sale Winners

At fundraisers, simple treats often sell best

October 08, 2008|By Kate Shatzkin | Kate Shatzkin,

Where there's a cause, can a bake sale be far behind?

Whether it's for the church outreach program or the school PTA, for Barack Obama or John McCain, or for a nationwide campaign to stop childhood hunger, putting out a tray of enticing goodies always seems like a fun way to raise a few bucks.

Until it's your turn to bake, that is. Then you may feel the pressure. Must you come up with something unique, distinctive and delicious that will leave your fellow parents or politicos clamoring for the recipe? Or do you slap together something easy and dependable, and call it a day?

Not to worry. It turns out that when it comes to bake sales, simple sells best.

"The one thing that sells best is cupcakes with sprinkles," says Sally Amatucci, bake sale chairwoman for Twin Ridge Elementary School in Mount Airy. "That's what all the kids like."

Vanilla? Chocolate? "It doesn't really matter," she says. "The big thing is the sprinkles."

The next best seller, Amatucci says, is ordinary chocolate-chip cookies.

Rice Krispies treats are big at bake sales, though they're technically not even baked. The Only Bake Sale Cookbook You'll Ever Need, by Laurie Goldrich Wolf and Pam Abrams, provides 23 variations on them.

On the recipe-sharing Web site, readers of a bake-sale post recommended zippered bags of buttered popcorn; cupcakes frosted in school colors; and various cookies and bars featuring that kid favorite, peanut butter. Whole pies and cakes also sell well, they wrote.

"I did cake mix cupcakes with container frosting. I put a 1/4 of an Oreo cookie on the top of each one," said one "Recipezaar Groupie" on the site. "They sold immediately."

Readers of The Baltimore Sun's parenting blog, Charm City Moms, have had good luck with "S'more Brownies" (made by melting marshmallows and chocolate chips over a pan of regular brownies and topping with graham crackers); "hamburger" cookies that sandwich peppermint patties between vanilla wafers with a garnish of fruit roll-ups; and Rice Krispies treats made with Cocoa Krispies. One reader even does well with reduced-fat brownies, made with yogurt instead of oil.

My own kids always love "rainbow" cookies made from colorful M&Ms. You can make them stand out from the crowd of treats by baking them on craft sticks that are safe for oven use. And Ina Garten's Peanut-Butter-and-Jelly Bars, from her book Barefoot Contessa at Home, have been a hit with kids and adults alike every time I've made them.

Once you've created your baked goods, how do you package them - and make them attractive to a population increasingly concerned about what's in its food? At Elkridge Elementary School, parents have made small copies of the ingredients and taped them to the wrappers, says PTA president Jennifer Blasko. If you're making cupcakes, Blasko says, don't wrap them - they're hard to keep neat and might lose their icing in the process.

A tip sheet on the Land O'Lakes Web site says baked goods with ribbon, bows or packaged in inexpensive baskets sell faster. Because many bake-sale items are given as gifts, the site recommends attaching a personalized gift label to each one.

a bake-sale timeline

Real Simple magazine offers these tips for a successful bake sale:

* Three weeks before: Decide on the charity you'll be donating to. Pick a spot for the sale. Line up volunteers to bake.

* One week before: Advertise with brightly colored signs in high-traffic areas near the sale. Check the list of volunteers and decide what, or whom, you don't have but still need. Shop for ingredients, and start baking anything that can be frozen. Remind volunteers what time their shifts will be, and tell them when and where to drop off goodies.

* The day before: Bake whatever you're donating. Host a packaging party to wrap everything and label ingredients. Load your car with the necessary supplies.

* The day of: Arrive early to set up and receive baked goods, and to put up more signs. Restock trays throughout the day. (If you have lots of goods, it's wise to hold a few back for when you run out of things, so your offerings will always look plentiful.) Be sure to hide checks and cash in a safe place.

* After the sale: Clean up and pack away leftovers to be donated. Drop off or send money to your chosen charity. And don't forget to thank your volunteers - and let them know how much they raised.

peanut-butter-and-jelly bars

(makes about 24)

1/2 pound (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature, plus more for greasing the pan

1 1/2 cups sugar

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

2 extra-large eggs, at room temperature

2 cups creamy peanut butter, such as Skippy (18 ounces)

3 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting the pan

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt

1 1/2 cups raspberry jam or other jam (18 ounces)

2/3 cup salted peanuts, coarsely chopped

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour a 9-by-13-by-2-inch baking pan.

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