The Jillian Bolger Column - Cake Sales


All the fuss about The Great British Bake Off leaving the BBC has got Food & Travel Writer JILLIAN BOLGER thinking about CAKE SALES - and she is on a (slightly tongue in cheek) mission to raise standards at school halls around the country.

Cake sale etiquette

Cake sales are part and parcel of every parent’s life. But did you know there’s a whole world of etiquette around the ubiquitous fundraiser?

Some parents dread the event, fearing their inadequacy in the kitchen will be exposed; others revel in the opportunity to show off their baking prowess; while a third group prefers to flash the cash at the event and simply eat the spoils. If you’re not sure which category is your natural home, here’s a little help navigating the world of cake sale etiquette.

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 homemade scones? Forever overcooking 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?

Don’t use cheap chocolate

There’s nothing’s 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 adults 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 how 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.

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 are.) Resent handing over your handy work to risk buying some anonymous cake that could, possibly, turn out to be 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.

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 and can’t/won’t/don’t enjoy eating cakes, none is an excuse to ignore 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.

This article first appeared in Food & Wine Magazine and is reproduced with their kind permission.


Jillian Bolger

Jillian Bolger is an award-winning editor and journalist specialising in food and travel writing. A member of the Irish Food Writers’ Guild and former editor of Food & Wine magazine (1999-2003) she writes for The Irish Independent, Image, Food & Wine Magazine, Image Interiors and The Herald and is editor of Irish Brides magazine. She has worked with Georgina Campbell’s since 2008 and is the Dublin Editor. Jillian has won several awards for her travel writing and holds an honours degree in the Arts. Her love of travel has seen her live in Australia, Sri Lanka, the USA and Germany. She lives in Dublin with her husband and three young children. Follow her on Twitter at @JillianBolger


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