There’s nothing like a bake sale to divide mothers. A chance to raise essential funds for a well-deserved cause – and a chance for you to demonstrate how much you care about your school through the medium of cake. Are you a star baker – or a Waitrose faker?
Today is Macmillan’s World’s Biggest Coffee Morning, raising money for cancer support. If you have a child at school or nursery, you will probably already know this. And if you are anything like me, you will have been standing by the oven waiting for the cakes to rise at 11pm last night, wishing you’d just bought the ones from Tesco that you were actually holding in your sweaty paw earlier today.
Pressure – having to produce baked goods, usually at short notice. Competitiveness – wanting to produce the best cake, despite having no aptitude whatsoever in this arena. Guilt – other mums will be baking with their kids, pinnies on, singing gaily, not minding at all that there is icing sugar everywhere. Desire to please – you just want your kid to be proud of you: to them, bringing in a cake that makes the other kids swoon in the playground is on a par with getting a promotion at work. Desire to conform – everyone else is buying / baking (delete as appropriate), you don’t want to be the one who sticks out for being lazy / pretentiously keen. Slight disbelief – so, wait, you make or buy cakes to bring in on the morning, and, er, buy them back about half an hour later? Love – you want your child and the school at large to know how much you love him via the medium of Rice Krispie cake.
I have run the cake sale gauntlet a few times now. I have gone openly shop-bought, I have allowed people to believe that my mother-in-law’s incredible cupcakes were beaten and sifted by my own fair hand, and I have, quite frankly, just forgotten to bring anything (I had a new baby – sue me!). But this time round, I have my eyes on the prize. I want to be Star Baker.
Star Baker: It’s only a cake, right? Tell that to Mary Berry. My unopened tub of baking powder may expire this month, I may be following the recipe off the flour packet (a new one, because the undisturbed one in the cupboard had suspected weevils), but I am going to pull it out of the mixing bowl tonight. Still don’t own a tablespoon, though.
These will be the “eat at home” batch, then.
Top tip: always make enough mixture for an emergency re-bake.
Waitrose Faker: This well-known tactic is to buy supermarket baked goods but rough them up a bit and / or embellish them with your own twist and pass them off as your own. I haven’t done this, but I think it’s genius.
Brazen Buyer: There’s no shame in it. Just buy some. As I nearly did today, but something stayed my hand – a mixture of 1) “Oh, I’ll have plenty of time later, wouldn’t it be nice to try for a change?” (It's now past midnight.) and 2) “£1 for 6? I can make them for tuppence at home and they’ll be so much nicer!” (Debatable on both counts, despite my ingredients being from the miraculous Aldi.)
Direct Donator: You haven’t had time to make, fake or buy – but you’ve bought a fiver’s worth of sugary goodness so your job here is done.
In reality, of course, this is about raising money for charity, not about your feelings about parenting or way with a hand-whisk. As I am telling myself as I try to ice warm cakes at midnight while trying to refrain from finishing the packet of Giant Chocolate Buttons I’d bought for decoration.*
*I failed. But my kids much prefer Tangfastics anyway.
You may also like to read How Not to Bake, or Having His Cake and Eating It Is A Child’s Right, where I perform open heart surgery on an aeroplane cake.