Friday, July 1, 2011

In the News

Turning a Bake Sale into a "Piece of Cake"

Here's an easy two-question quiz: Do you enjoy baking? Do you want to eliminate childhood hunger in America?
Shauna Sever—who blogs about baking and family life at Piece of Cake—eagerly answered "yes" to both questions, and her positive attitude led her to help organize a very special event: this year's National Food Bloggers Bake Sale, which raised $22,000 for Share Our Strength's Great American Bake Sale (GABS).
As you probably know, C&H Sugar is a national sponsor—and huge supporter—of GABS, which is dedicated to eliminating childhood hunger across America. We were naturally thrilled to visit the San Francisco bake sale on May 14 and to chat with Shauna about her participation in this worthwhile event.
Shauna was quick to emphasize that you don't have to be a food blogger—or an advanced baker—to take part in a GABS bake sale. "It's fun and easy!" she said. "Share Our Strength gives you all the tools right on their website. I encourage everyone to get involved and support this great cause that helps kids in need."
Here are Shauna's tips for making the most of a GABS bake sale:
  • Build a team. It's no fun to host a bake sale alone! Shauna enlisted a few food-blogger friends and gave each one a specific task.
  • Have a realistic timeline. Don't leave planning to the last minute. The San Francisco food bloggers' bake sale took three months to plan; allow at least a few weeks for a smaller neighborhood event.
  • Delegate. For example, one person could take on the job of finding a location for the event. "Where your bake sale is held is important," Shauna says. "For us the goal was to be in an area with a lot of afternoon foot traffic so people would walk by and purchase a sweet treat." If you're assigning baking chores, be sure you trust the bakers' skill. (It's OK to ask for samples!)
  • Know your local regulations. In some cities, parks or farmers' markets have strict rules about how food is sold; check into those limitations before you commit to a venue. In other cases, as Shauna was happy to learn, a facility will help you spread the word about the bake sale to their customers.
  • Don't leave marketing to chance. Assign one member of your team the task of contacting local newspapers and neighborhood newsletters. Shauna also recommends using Twitter and Facebook to spread the word. In some cities, a well-timed CraigsList listing can also be helpful. And don't forget the power of cleanly designed, strategically placed signs throughout the neighborhood!
  • And speaking of signs… Each participant should be responsible for creating clear, attention-grabbing table signs with clearly marked prices. At the San Francisco event, there were $3, $4, and $5 tables, where any item on a table was sold at the "table price." "That made it easy for us," says Shauna, "and simple for our buyers."
  • The right stuff. Bake-sale baked goods need to be sturdy, Shauna cautions. Avoid glazed items ("glazes melt"), mousses ("they tend to fall"), and curds and jellies ("too sticky"). Instead, says Shauna, "Try baked goods like biscotti or cookies that will look fresh even if they sit out on a table for half of a day."
  • Packaging. "Attractive packaging really is key," Shauna says, adding that the first items that sold out at her event were those "in cute packages." And cute doesn't have to mean fancy: clear cellophane bags tied with ribbons can be very effective. Shauna's Sea Salt Caramels, which call for C&H Organic Light Agave Nectar and Washed Raw Sugar, can be individually twisted in waxed paper.
  • Think big. Shauna recommends setting aside one table for larger or higher-priced baked goods. "We sold entire pies, cakes, and loaves of bread," she says. In fact, the larger items accounted for a big percentage of the sale's proceeds. Shauna's Crusty Butter Pound Cake, which Shauna learned to make from her Aunt Phyllis, is a good example of a big-ticket item that is a bake sale hit. Have some bakery boxes on hand to make it easy for customers to carry cakes and pies.
How to measure the success of your event? Well, this year's San Francisco Food Bloggers' Bake Sale raised over $22,000 for Share Our Strength in a single day. That's up from $1,700 the previous year! But even if your own totals are more modest, every contribution helps the cause—and the good times and community spirit generated by a bake sale can't be counted in dollars and cents.

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