Competitive Baking. Totally a thing.
October 19, 2011 1:26 PM   Subscribe

BakeSaleFilter: I am a confident baker, but I'm a total novice at the art of exchanging baked goods for money. I have three bake sales to participate in the next week. What are your crowd-pleasing-est single serving recipes? (I should mention that two of these sales are giving a prize to the person whose goods sell the quickest. MeFi, I really want that 20% off coupon.)
posted by aint broke to Food & Drink (43 answers total) 29 users marked this as a favorite
You can't go wrong with chocolate chip cookies.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 1:27 PM on October 19, 2011

I make shortbread all the time, and find that it can be adorned in many ways for variety dipped in chocolate, dipped in caramel, etc). It's so easy to make and store.
posted by sundrop at 1:29 PM on October 19, 2011

Brownies made from scratch, particularly with frosting, always seem to sell like crazy.
posted by stoneandstar at 1:29 PM on October 19, 2011 [2 favorites]

I like chocolate-chip oatmeal cookies; sometimes I add white chocolate chunks or dried fruit as well. I just use the recipe off the Quaker Oats container and get nothing but compliments.
posted by mlle valentine at 1:30 PM on October 19, 2011

Best answer: And, as a regular eater of baked goods: big, cheap and beautifully presented does it every time. Also, easy to eat with the fingers -- cupcakes with lots of icing look great, but I'm less likely to buy one because I know how messy it will be.
posted by jrochest at 1:31 PM on October 19, 2011 [3 favorites]

Grand Marnier Brownies
posted by bq at 1:38 PM on October 19, 2011 [1 favorite]

Whoopee pies are trendy now for some reason, and a good fit jroochest's excellent "easy to eat with the fingers" advice.

aint broke: "I should mention that two of these sales are giving a prize to the person whose goods sell the quickest."

BTW, how is this determined? If you priced your stuff absurdly low, you'd sell out the quickest no matter how good it was.
posted by mkultra at 1:39 PM on October 19, 2011 [2 favorites]

Our most successful item for school bake sales was rice krispie treats with gummi worms/bears on top.

The rice krispy treat is simple to make. Just melt some butter in a large pan, toss in marshmallows to melt. Toss in rice krispies and then mold into a pregreased pan. Press the gummi item of choice into the top. No baking, easy to cut into portions, and easy to wrap.

Kids love the idea of getting the gummi candy as a bonus with the rice krispie treat. You can substitute the gummi candy for anything that is more thematic. For example, for Halloween you could use candy corn.
posted by Argyle at 1:40 PM on October 19, 2011 [1 favorite]

Spicy chocolate chip cookies. Take your butteriest chocolate chip cookie recipe (Smitten Kitchen has a good one) and add a few teaspoons each of chipotle powder, ancho powder, and cinnamon. Incredibly addictive.

Red bean buns. Make a slightly sweet yeast roll dough and fill with red bean paste, which you can either buy premade or make yourself. The red bean paste is easy and there are tons of recipes that all amount to soaking the beans overnight, then simmering with sugar for an hour and mashing it up when soft.
posted by asphericalcow at 1:43 PM on October 19, 2011 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: mkultra:
An impartial judge is setting the prices. (And running the sale itself.) We're given a standard size container to fill, or a two dozen cupcake limit.
posted by aint broke at 1:44 PM on October 19, 2011

People also love little and cute. It gives the option of portion control.

I love little hand pies with fruit filling. Pie dough cut into circles (biscuit size), can/jarred pie filling (run through the processor to loosen it up a bit) or jam, put small amount onto pie dough, fold over.. dock with a fork. Brush with an egg wash, bake. Ship to royalsong.
posted by royalsong at 1:46 PM on October 19, 2011 [2 favorites]

Depending on the audience, Rice Crispy Sushi might be fantastic. Assuming the group (a) is sushi-fans and (b) is not so foodie that they would run from RedDyeSwedishFish.
posted by aimedwander at 1:49 PM on October 19, 2011 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I have posted this before, but it is SO good, seriously.

1 sleeve graham crackers
1 cup butter
1 cup packed brown sugar
1 pkg chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a 10" x 15" cookie sheet with tinfoil. Place crackers flat on the cookie sheet so that they're all touching each other and so that they extend right to the edges. (Use pieces of crackers if necessary to make it work out.)

Melt butter and sugar and boil 3 minutes. Pour over crackers. Put in the oven for 5 minutes, or until bubbles form all over.

Pull out the cookie sheet and sprinkle chocolate chips on top. Put in the oven for an additional minute, then take it out and spread the chocolate for the edges.

Let it cool. Put in the freezer for 3 hours (or more), then take out the frozen sheet and peel off the tinfoil. Break the bark into pieces. Can be frozen or stored in a tin.
posted by cider at 1:50 PM on October 19, 2011 [9 favorites]

cider's suggestion reminds me of layer cookies!

.5 stick butter
1 1/2 cups graham crackers
1 can sweetened condensed milk
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
1.5 cups coconut
1 cup chopped walnuts
1 cup butterscotch chips

turn the butter and crackers into a graham cracker crust in a rectangle pan. layer the other ingrients on top of the crust, pour the milk over..

Bake 25 minutes or until lightly brown at 350 degrees.

very very yummy.
posted by royalsong at 1:55 PM on October 19, 2011 [2 favorites]

replace the graham crackers with saltines. Top with chopped pecans or walnuts.

OH MY GOD THIS IS DELICIOUS. People will go insane over it. It's cheap to make, so it will be cheap to sell. And you can pack a ton into the tin.
posted by peachfuzz at 2:06 PM on October 19, 2011 [1 favorite]

If these red velvet cupcakes in tiny mason jars count as cupcakes, and I think they do, I bet you these would sell out in a heartbeat. Personally, I'd be willing to pony up $2.50 to $3 more per cupcake just so I could take that darling little jar home with me. Not sure, though, if the cost of the jars will negate the 20% coupon you would win.
posted by stellaluna at 2:08 PM on October 19, 2011 [2 favorites]

Peanut butter cookies half dipped in Baker's Dipping Chocolate.
Chocolate crackle cookies because the white powdered sugar crackle is pretty.
Lemon Madeleines with a lemon glaze. (Small cake and cookie all in one!)
Thumbprint cookies filled with different flavors of jam.
Coconut macaroons.
posted by blacktshirtandjeans at 2:17 PM on October 19, 2011

google "pumpkin crack". easy, timely, and if you don't want to call it "crack" (although this is an accurate description) call it 'pumpkin bars' or something.
posted by genmonster at 2:18 PM on October 19, 2011

If kids are involved, you can't do better than the gummi bear krisoy treats above. Or dirt cupcakes, with crumbled oreos and gummy worms. Don't go gourmet here.
posted by purenitrous at 2:20 PM on October 19, 2011

There's a whole subset of people who don't normally get to eat cookies and it's larger than you think. Many people are gluten intolerant, have celiac, allergies to dairy or eggs, or just straight up vegans. Maybe have an option for them. You could even do a vegan/gluten free cookie and market it as a healthier alternative to the other options which also might snag the people on the fence about eating cookies in the first place because they're "trying to be good." I have an awesome vegan cookie cookbook with gluten free recipes in it if you're interested, I can memail you some.

Also, smiling and looking approachable without being pushy is the best way to sell pretty much anything.
posted by MaryDellamorte at 2:22 PM on October 19, 2011 [1 favorite]

Brownies - they always win at bake sales. My recipes are at home, but check Alton Brown's recipe. Maybe it's just because he's kinda cute and funny, but I think his food must taste good.
posted by doyouknowwhoIam? at 2:32 PM on October 19, 2011

Best answer: I find two things help my cookies sell well at bake sales, which I participate in and run at school, and bake for various charity events enough times a year to have a system:

1) I package them. People don't always want to eat them on the spot but often buy more to take away than they'd consume on impulse or to be polite, if they're wrapped and look gooooood. I buy food grade cello bags in bulk, and fold and seal them with a nice sticker. It only takes a minute. I do them in singles and doubles and half-dozens. I write or print the name, which is hopefully delicious-sounding, and the ingredients, on a lovely little card to place in front, and always note potential allergens and make sure they're as nut-free as possible. I used to print individual Avery labels with the ingredients, but it didn't make a huge difference in selling them, so I stopped. I found that presenting them this way, in a rather more hygenically-appealing fashion, took away some of the qualms of people like me who watch Hoarders and fear that someone with sailcats peppers all the bake sales with kitty litter cookies.

2) I try to make them look grown-up and professional. I use an ice cream scoop so they're uniform, make sure they're not even a tiny bit burnt, and use recipes that appeal to the people with the most money - not just kids with their sweaty little quarters. So, and again with the Smitten Kitchen, these oatmeal cookies, or these (but I've changed that one a bit, adding dark chocolate, dried cherries, shredded coconut and toffee bits). And these aren't as pretty, but just the name sold them. Little shortbreads look cute sold in take-out containers.

And, just for one more amazing recipe, my friend made these, at the Toronto Bakes for Japan sale, and they sold out. Mostly to me.

Remember - people buy with their eyes first!
posted by peagood at 2:36 PM on October 19, 2011 [2 favorites]

I came here to say notmartha's cupcakes in a jar, but stellaluna beat me to it.

So instead, I offer French macarons! Package them beautifully. Presentation matters a lot in bake sales.
posted by valeries at 2:36 PM on October 19, 2011

In my elementary school, the first item to be sold out was always Caramel Apples.
posted by costanza at 2:45 PM on October 19, 2011

Rice Krispie marshmallow treats. Make some with chocolate chips for the philistines, maybe some with butterscotch chips, and some that are just Rice Krispies & Marshmallow, as God intended, when the recipe was passed down from on high. The sushi looks nifty, but would be very time-consuming. You can cut out Rice Krispie treats with a cookie cutter - a pumpkin, hearts, etc.

The other crowd-pleaser is mini-cupcakes, decorated well. We just had adorable cupcakes with kitten faces.

And, packaging is a terrific idea. Baggies tied with ribbon. Please report back; I hope you win.
posted by theora55 at 2:49 PM on October 19, 2011

In my experience with bake sales, you are more likely to sell something quickly if:

1. It looks amazing
2. It is a take on something familiar but a little harder than something people often make at home. As in, no chocolate chip cookies or avocado crème brûlée.
3. It is chocolatey

So, make it look good first. They won't know if it tastes amazing until after the sale and you aren't really looking for repeat customers.
posted by Foam Pants at 2:55 PM on October 19, 2011 [1 favorite]

Chocolate covered bacon... although I think this only works with certain audiences. (Make bacon; melt chocolate; dip bacon in chocolate like newspaper in paper mache. Easy, if messy.)
posted by hishtafel at 2:56 PM on October 19, 2011

orange and cranberry white chocolate chip cookies.
posted by sincerely-s at 3:15 PM on October 19, 2011

Best answer: As a corollary to cider and peachfuzz's excellent suggestions, I whisk condensed milk into the caramel, then pour it atop the saltines/graham crackers/matzo. Top with fleur de sel if you want to be fancy; crushed Frosted Flakes and/or Rice Krispies if you feel a little trashy -- whatever you feel like, really.
posted by evoque at 3:26 PM on October 19, 2011

the qualms of people like me who watch Hoarders and fear that someone with sailcats peppers all the bake sales with kitty litter cookies.

I'm afraid to ask, but what's a sailcat?

posted by endless_forms at 4:38 PM on October 19, 2011 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Ok, this is definitely not for the dietary restriction crowd but these cookie dough cheesecake bars are typically snapped up within 10 minutes of putting them out when I bring them to parties. And if you poke around the other recipes on, you'll be sure to find similarly awesome things in other forms (e.g. cupcakes), depending on your preference. Happy baking and good luck!
posted by monkeys with typewriters at 4:39 PM on October 19, 2011 [2 favorites]

If you want to try something unusual, which will stand out, how about Igor Bars?
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 4:52 PM on October 19, 2011

Best answer: Oh, yeah, those saltine chocolate caramel bars are fantastic. FANTASTIC. I want to make some right now.

My mom's friend makes these totally yummy Rolo Turtles and they are a huge hit at family-type gatherings.

I think cake pops would be a big hit.

Having said all that, at your regular run-o'-the-mill church basement bake sale, I pretty much always go for either a rice krispie square or a brownie.
posted by looli at 8:57 PM on October 19, 2011

Cookie Monster cupcakes.
posted by obiwanwasabi at 10:46 PM on October 19, 2011

I made these just last night. I think they fit all of Foam Pant's criteria 0 look lovely, with the swirled marbles cheesecake running through them, they're familiar but a bit special, and they're CHOCOLATE!!!

A hit, I bet. (They are delicious too!)
posted by schmoo at 11:02 PM on October 19, 2011

I forgot something! They may be for a particular crowd, but I used to get Pac-Man sugar cookies at a local bakery. They're easy to decorate with frosting, appeal to a certain generation and can taste delicious, as long as you're using the right sugar cookie recipe. The frosting needs to be same frosting used on New Orleans petit fours.

Now that I think about it, New Orleans petit fours might be a good choice too. They're white cake cubes with thin, drizzly icing that hardens when cooled. The dyed decorative fluff at the top is closer to actual cake frosting. They usually look beautiful, and they're addictive.
posted by doyouknowwhoIam? at 7:19 AM on October 20, 2011

If you make things that taste better than they look, could you have little bitty sample bites with cute little toothpicks?
posted by endless_forms at 9:08 AM on October 20, 2011 [1 favorite]

Chocolate Caramel Crack(ers)
posted by KathyK at 10:13 AM on October 20, 2011

Mexican Chocolate Icebox Cookies. Easy to make a bunch (they're of the "freeze in rolls and slice off" type) and the spice makes 'em stand out (I always add a bit more than called for). They're a crowdpleaser whenever I take 'em to parties. A little plain looking but if you can get someone to try them it'll help.
posted by ifjuly at 7:57 PM on October 20, 2011

(note in the comments there's a typo in the recipe; it should be 1 1/2 cups flour)
posted by ifjuly at 7:58 PM on October 20, 2011

Ooh, looli's suggestion of cake pops is a great one. You can make them look amazing, and they're super sweet and tasty.
posted by cider at 3:56 AM on October 21, 2011

Response by poster: Dear Metafilter: once again, you are amazing. I hadn't even considered individual packaging, but it was absolutely key.

The retrospective:
Handpies: do not sell as well as you might think! Even if they are beautiful. (Possibly, this is because people associate apple pie with apple pie filling from a can? This is my best guess, because I had leftovers and they were amazing.)

Cakepops: Super cute, sell well, but are not as delicious as I like. (The crumb is lousy because it's all reconstituted.)

Brownies/Chocolate chip cookies: Clearly the most familiar/delicious, therefore also overrepresented on a bake sale table.

Cheesecake bars: Won me my highly coveted prize.

Caramel crack(ers): Why would you even tell these exist? I made a batch and could not share them with others. Clearly, they are on their own.
posted by aint broke at 8:33 PM on October 22, 2011

Congrats! I'm glad you updated.

I was thinking of this yesterday. I was set up at a bazaar, and sold well because I was right next to the person with the baked goods! I mentioned this thread, and we chatted all day. It was her first bazaar, and I was looking closely at what she was doing because I'd never thought much about it. For the future: She heat-sealed her bags (she had a sealer, but said you can use a flatiron in a pinch); labelled ingredients on each item; offered samples of each item in wee paper cups; had gluten- and dairy-free options plus all were nut-free; and it was her unusual items that sold the best. She also had the caramel crack(ers) and people told her they made it at home, so they didn't buy it there. (It is entirely possible I will be making Caramel Crack today.)
posted by peagood at 6:06 AM on October 23, 2011

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