How to Organize a Local Bake off

A local bake off is a brilliant way to engage the community, sample good food and raise money for a good cause. The principle of a bake off is simple. Participants bake food as per the instructions, bring it along, and visitors pay a small amount to sample the food and select their winner. The winner then receives the crowning glory and in some cases, the choice of who the proceeds are donated to.

To organize a bake off takes time, a little effort and lots of willing volunteers. To begin with, you, as the organizer, need to choose an appropriate date. The date should be far enough in advance to allow participants time to bake their entries, but close enough for people not to forget it! Once a date is chosen, you need a location. If the bake off is for a specific cause, chances are there will be a readily available location. For example, if the cause is for a church or scout group fundraiser, there will usually be a hall associated which you can use. If not, many village or town halls offer their spaces for free if they know an event is for a charitable cause.

To gain a little extra income or maybe prizes for the winners, consider approaching local companies for advertising or donations. Many companies will offer prizes or discounts to charitable events in exchange for advertising positions. These can offer incentives to participants, and potentially a financial boost to the cause being supported.

Once the time and date are set, you need to decide the rules. What is going to be baked? Will it be cakes, biscuits, pies, something else or a combination? A combination gives the option of numerous “rounds” of the contest, potentially making more money for the cause. Other rules could be a theme, maybe a “Halloween” or “summer” theme. Ensure that all participants know the rules, and that also any potential allergens are highlighted in what they bake. Consider asking participants to bake two of everything, one for sampling, and one for sale.

The next step is to advertise. As this is for a good cause, have no reservations about being completely shameless with your advertising methods. Advertise in schools, churches, shops, notice boards and always talk about the competition. Ask friends and family to do the same, and always carry some flyers to give to interested people who you encounter. The more support that you can drum up means more money for the cause, and more participants to bake! Sell tickets in advance based on the number of participants. Ensure that you do not over-sell the event, making sure that there is enough food for everyone to sample and vote for their winner.

Ask participants to email you a copy of the recipe they will be using, and make up some copies of these, laminated and sell them on the day to people who have enjoyed the samples! Also consider collating all of the recipes into a book for the cause.

On the day of the event, make sure that you are there early to set up. Use long tables for the samples, and make sure that there is enough space and seating for the visitors and participants. Have a table set aside for the “sale bakes”, and price them reasonably to encourage people to buy. Give each participant’s entry a number or a letter and make sure that this is displayed next to the entry. Make sure that visitors know that the recipes are on sale, and make sure there are plenty available.

You should provide drinks for visitors and participants, nothing is worse than eating lots of baked goods without something to wash it down!

When visitors start to arrive, ensure they are greeted, their tickets checked and they are directed to the sampling tables. Give each visitor a pen and ask them to mark on the back of their ticket the number or letter of their choice of winner. Ask them to post their tickets into a “voting box” at the end of the table, and keep safe until ready to count. If you are employing different categories, give each visitor a different voting slip for each category.

At the end of the evening, count up the votes, and declare the winner! In the event of a tie, the responsibility falls to you as the organizer (or maybe a sponsor) to determine the overall winner. If prizes permit, select a second and third place too, and present them each with their prizes! If you have different categories on display, make sure to invite the winners back for the final.

It is especially important that you count up all of the funds raised, and tell both the participants and the visitors the total raised. This means everyone knows how much of a success the evening has been, and will be just as eager to take part next time!