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Cake sale etiquette: It may not exist but I really think it should

The school cake sale is a routine part of every parent's life, often coming round more than once a year. Some dread it, fearing their inadequacy in the kitchen will be exposed; others revel in the opportunity to show off their baking prowess to a wider audience. Then there's the coterie of non-bakers who hate the pressure, making them essential customers who flash the cash at the event and snap up other people's homemade spoils. Unsure which category is your natural home? I've created my definitive list, which I'm generously sharing here, in an effort to eradicate bad cake sale experiences forever.

1 If you wouldn't eat it, then don't expect others to

Know that baking isn't your greatest skill? Seen the kids groan over your home-made scones? Forever overbaking those cookies? Maybe it's time to man up and admit that baking isn't for you. Rather than soldier on, determined to present the school committee with a box of (inedible) buns, please do the cake lovers of the world a favour and accept defeat. Instead, vow to rock up with empty Tupperware, splurge on someone else's accomplishments and leave with a full box and your head held high. Not only have you supported the cause generously but you haven't ruined anyone else's cake sale experience. Could you really sleep at night knowing Jack or Mary's mum had served up your hideous offerings at their carefully planned coffee morning?

2 Don't use cheap chocolate

There's nothing worse than tucking into a delicious looking chocolate square or piece of rocky road only to discover that the 'chocolate' is that awful fake, flavoured stuff. The kids probably won't notice, but they're not necessarily your target market. Plenty of parents enjoy buying cake sale treats so disappointment should not be on the menu. Cheap or fake cooking chocolate should be outlawed, but, sadly, there are box loads of the stuff clogging up the baking aisles of supermarkets around Ireland. Simply put, life is too short for bad cakes. Real bakers out there may want to hunt you down once they realise they've been short changed by your cheapskate trickery. If you can't be bothered splurging a few cent more on the good, real stuff, then please revert to point one, above.

3 It's OK to buy back your own cake

Convinced you make the tastiest brownies in the world? Reckon you're the best baker in the school? (Cocky? Yes, but perhaps you really are.) Resent handing over your handy work to risk buying some anonymous cake that could, possibly, turn out to be the driest, most awful thing imaginable? Cake sale etiquette states that it's perfectly acceptable to present your masterpiece to the committee (so they can acknowledge what a dedicated and talented parent you are) then flounce in when the sale kicks off and buy your cake straight back. It may be audacious, but why mess with perfection? You've baked, you've bought and you've now got the best cake in the world to enjoy later. Winners all round.

4 It's not OK to sit out the whole thing

Cake sales wouldn't succeed if parents didn't participate on some level. Even if you can't/won't/don't bake cakes, buns or biscuits and can't/won't/don't enjoy eating cakes, buns or biscuits, neither is an acceptable excuse for ignoring the fundraiser. Offer up your services as a volunteer on the day, or else send junior off to school with a cash donation. Someone in your house is bound to enjoy the spoils, even if it isn't you.


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