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How do I make great cakes for a cake stall?

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Mary Berry Mary Berry | 13:50 UK time, Tuesday, 17 August 2010


fairy cakes


Raise money for charity with a cake sale and check out the BBC's Get Baking website for recipes and advice. If you want to sell cakes, it's important to make cakes that people recognise, want and enjoy. Don't make anything too obscure. Lemon drizzle cake, fruit cake, chocolate cake, coffee cake, scones, flapjacks, muffins, fruit scones and biscuits will all go down a treat. Present them well, carefully wrapped and beautifully displayed. Mark them clearly with the price and with what they are, and be sure to state if they contain nuts.

Cupcakes are always popular. Sell them in fours covered with cellophane - not cling film as this doesn't look as nice. You can buy a roll of it, or you can buy bags made with cellophane on one side and a white paper back from department stores and online suppliers. That way the cake is well displayed and people know which way up it goes while carrying it! Have a few carrier bags ready too.

Make shallow cakes as these are cheaper and take less time in the oven than those great, deep cakes that are often made at home to cut and come again. However, they need to look good. Remember things like fruit cakes take a while to cook so you can't do too many at once.

Tray bakes are a great idea for cake stalls - use either a tray bake tin or just a roasting tin. If you're baking in bulk, you'll find that they make good use of oven space. Cut the tray bake into squares. Put four on a paper plate and carefully wrap it - people like to buy cake slices in fours and sixes. You'll also make more money that way.

Fruit cakes and biscuits keep particularly well if you're baking in advance. You can make Victoria sandwiches and fruit cakes way in advance and freeze them. Indeed most cakes freeze well, though the icing can lose its bloom. I think it's a good idea to freeze a cake before you've iced it and then ice it when it's fully defrosted. You should always tell people if you've frozen a cake.

Fill Victoria sandwiches with just jam, or jam and buttercream for a sale, not cream. You should avoid cakes filled with cream, particularly on a hot day - though buttercream can be tricky in the sun too. Ice the cakes on the morning of the sale or the night before. Cakes filled with jam are best filled on the morning as the jam can seep into the cake.

Loaf-shaped cakes are useful. Bake a lemon drizzle or a mincemeat cake in a 1lb loaf tin; you can bake several in the oven at once and they sell well. They're also easy to slice and a nice shape to take home. You can buy reusable, non-stick silicone paper from specialist cake stores that are the right shape for a loaf tin; reusable discs for the bottom of a Victoria sandwich tin are also available. Simply wipe them clean and reuse them - the finished cakes will look much tidier.

Simple decorations such as a dusting of icing sugar or a sprinkle of caster sugar will lift a cake - avoid piping buttercream icing onto cakes as they'll only get damaged while you transport them. Decorate cupcakes with glacé icing (icing sugar mixed with water and/or lemon juice) or, if it's a cold day, use buttercream icing.

My ultimate tip is to go for scones. They're the cheapest thing you can make and they sell well.

Do you have any nice ideas for a bake sale? Share your cake-selling successes (and disasters) with us. How might you make your cakes look good enough to buy?

Download a Get Baking poster, bake sale poster and get Get Baking bunting for your cake-selling events.

Mary Berry was a judge on the Great British Bake Off series. She was also interviewed about judging The Great British Bake Off for the BBC TV blog. Get all the recipes from The Great British Bake Off.


  • Comment number 1.

    Some great tips there, thank you. Although I bake (a lot) I can usually be persuaded to by a cake at a charity stakk & my first choice is usually a coffee cake of some kind.

    Paul Hollywood's recipe for scones uses strong flour - I understand he always uses it for scones & did explain why on a tv programme. Most other recipes use sr flour or plain with baking powder or bicarb. Why does Paul use strong flour & what does it add to teh recipe?

  • Comment number 2.

    Am pleased to see this Blog, and looking forward to the programme later this evening.
    It's episode 1 of 6, tonight it's from the Cotswolds (BBC2 8pm for an hour in England, not sure if it varies around the Beeb broadcasts)
    My TV guide only seems to rate it 3.3 out of 10, but perhaps the reviewer wasn't interested in baking but I think surely it must be worth more than that? we'll see.

    I miss having a WI Market nearby as the cakes were always good, could be bought on a whim and were so well priced - especially compared to buying at a well known foodie market which gets featured on other TV food shows (typically a small loaf tin cake is £4 these days)

    Does anyone sell their homemade cakes and have any advice on sensible pricing, especially when the idea's to raise funds for charity (Children in Need connection)
    Commercially it used to be a third on ingredients, a third to cover overheads and a third profit (ideally anyway) but presumably this doesn't apply in such instances?

  • Comment number 3.

    Hi Frillz (#2)

    Good question.

    It's always hard pricing for charity events and I think a lot may depend on the type of goods being offered, the clientele, who is baking/donating and the cause.

    It can also be a nightmare when many contributors are donating and the organiser prices, NOT to offend by charging too little. So I think it is key to know and work to your target audience.

    A school fete or church hall where mostly the retired or large families may be best served to keep the prices a little lower than an up market afternoon tea for a named national charity.

    On average, currently, we charge about £1 for 4 good sized 'pieces', a little less for simpler tray bakes or pancakes (drop scones) and upwards of £2.50 for a £1 loaf sized or 8" cake, more if really fancy.

    Be interested in what others do.

  • Comment number 4.

    Nice blog Mary. I make a lot of cakes for sales at Coffee Mornings and fairs to raise money for Cats Protection.
    Best sellers are fruit cakes, victoria sponges, flapjacks and tea breads.
    My bible for this is a copy of A Taste of WI Markets Seasonal Recipes - an absolute treasure for those who bake to sell although I think it is long out of print.
    I usually price 1lb loaf cakes at £2, sponges at £2.50 (jam and buttercream filling) fruit cakes at £4. Individual slices or flapjacks with coffee are 50p a portion. Unfortunately people always expect things to be cheaper, although quite a few tell you to keep the change.

  • Comment number 5.

    Macmillan looms large as an annual event on my calendar, so this blog is a great prompt. Thank you.

    I'll add my favourites/best sellers.

    Carrot Cake
    Lemon Drizzle
    Lime and Blueberry Drizzle
    Meringues (coffee mornings rather than stalls)
    Millionaires shortbread
    Chocolate Brownies (with white choc drops)
    Various Cup cakes - we love cappuccino and espresso

  • Comment number 6.

    Hi bright Hi Saffie - your prices sound really good value to me, so I'd say keep the change, or give an extra donation. It's a fine line for pricing, no one wants to feel ripped off (commercially) but for a good cause, I wouldn't want to buy too cheap.

    Am really enjoying the programme tonight, whoever reviewed for my TV guide was way off my mark, I'd go for an 8 at the least.

    Love Mel and Sue as presenters, and love Paul and Mary as judges - this suits me, clear and to the point, no silly dramas or over-long pauses and good critique. I'm really enjoying the historical pieces too.

    I'm inspired now to get the Kitchen Aid out actually and that's a bit of a first considering I never bake!

    I'm not keen on cream, buttercream, anything too sweet, nor chocolate (now you know why I don't bake) but I do like carrot cake with a cream cheese topping, cherry madeira and sticky ginger cake (the plainer types) - will be getting the books out, am sure I have an Aga book by Mary Berry.

    Big thumbs up on this one from me.

  • Comment number 7.

    Call me biased but anything with Mary Berry and Paul Hollywood just had to be good and cannot fail.

  • Comment number 8.

    I think, when pricing cakes for sale at charity fund raising events, that it's important to price correctly. If the donor has paid £2.50 for the ingredients of a small loaf cake, but it is sold at £2.00, then in reality the charity has lost 50p and would have been better off if the original cake donor had paid the money directly, and not bothered to bake the cake. In my experience, because people are used to the price of cheap supermarket cakes, they don't appreciate the full cost of the ingredients of a home baked cake.

    My tip for making simple tray bakes look attractive is a random drizzle of glacé icing - make a thick glacé icing and spoon into a small freezer bag. Cut off the tip of one corner to make a small hole, then 'pipe' the icing in lacy or zig-zag patterns over the cake, allowing it to set before cutting into fingers or squares. This looks very effective and uses less icing sugar than completely covering a cake or tray bake.

  • Comment number 9.

    I'm quite surprised by comments and the original Blog post that large cakes are supposed to be in the best sellers.

    Where I am large cakes are left till last or taken and cut up to be served with tea as they sell better that way. Loaf cakes can be cut into slices and sell well but round cakes do not. When I was young and my mother baked for the cake sales it was different but during the last 20 years when I've cooked for school and church bake sales big cakes just do not sell unless cut up.

    Regarding PRICING I always work out to a penny what a cake costs and ask them to sell my goods for nothing less than a 10p markup. I also don't use expensive ingredients so that the cake costs a fortune to make and the organisation makes no real profit (and yes I know I donate the cake) because in my book it is an insult to the cook and I would rather have donated the money than see someone walk of with a cake that cost 40p to make for 10p.
    Many are sold at a wapping markup and it depends on where the sale is being held.
    At my church the markup is only small due to the amount of pensioners and the varied incomes of the church goers. At the school bake sales I make all cakes in muffin cases so they are chunky and pleasing to the eye and they sell for £1.50 each when they cost less than a third of that price to make but then the parents are willing to pay it at the school.

  • Comment number 10.

    Sorry I missed the programme last night but will catch up later.
    Funny how things differ - our large cakes always go first and our fairy cakes / loaves follow...closely!
    Pricing is not always easy I agree.
    Lovely blog - hope there is more of the same to follow! :)

  • Comment number 11.

    On the question of pricing. One reason quite a lot of people turn up to our coffee mornings is because they can buy good homemade, reasonably priced cakes. These people also buy other goods, become aware of our charity, sometimes volunteer and sometimes even adopt a cat. It is not just about making money. I do not mind in the least donating part of the actual cost if it gets us more public awareness and funds.
    I think this also applies to other charities.

  • Comment number 12.

    I think saffie you are totally right about it applying to other charities.

    I avoid places I know charge alot for whatever ie craft fairs for example held in certain locations where the costs can be rediculous. The church coffeemornings are renowned for good bargains and that is why I always insist the minimum markup is 10p I leave t to others to do the pricing of stalls. I don't have the time to run a stall sadly, I only prepare offerings.

    The school fair is something different and that is there are a lot or affluent people who send their children to the school and it is often the only time they contribute during the year other than paying the fees.

  • Comment number 13.

    Thank you for your tips. I enjoy cooking very much and regularly make the following:- welsh cakes, boiled cake, scones, fruit pies. I was particularly interested in your recipe for Victoria Sponge and will be trying that out together with any other recipes that you may have. Is there a Mary Berry Recipe Book available, containing a variety of recipes? Audrey Diana Jones

  • Comment number 14.

    Audrey - Mary Berry has had dozens of recipe books published, many of them about cakes and baking. Just try searching for her books in Amazon or any other online book store to see what is currently available. If you mean, will there be a book to accompany this series, I can only say I'd be surprised if there wasn't!

  • Comment number 15.

    As far as pricing is concerned, I normally just make the cakes and get a bright, young thing to do the pricing for me! An easy starting point is to work out the cost of the ingredients per slice and then double that, but it depends who you're selling to. I know the WI offer advice on this kind of thing - I think it's something like a third of the price for ingredients, a third for time and a third for profit.

  • Comment number 16.

    Regarding using strong bread flour in your scones, it's all about the strength in the bread flour. It gives a more even and bigger rise in the oven.

  • Comment number 17.

    You picked up our earlier thread then Paul.
    I was going to actually buy a bag of strong bread flour to try this, not something I normally use, but the contestants last night seemed to still be getting very variable results, just as I do. Same ingredients, same method, same cooking but some rise really well and some don't. I think there is a moody Scone God out there.
    One of the most revisited topics on the message board is scones.
    Don't envy the contestants making bread next week under your expert eye

  • Comment number 18.

    I'm really enjoying this programme and picking up some great tips, although if I had to bake bread for someone who sells bread to Harrod's (as Paul does), I'd be quaking in my boots and make a right hash of it!! Good luck to all the contestant's - all the lovely goodies you've produced so far look divine.
    I'm looking forward to the bread episode but puddings from Bakewell will be my favourite I think.

  • Comment number 19.

    Loving the program got me baking again. Victoria sponge, which turned out great, last weeks and scones this week, although I do not put eggs in my scones and still get good results. Can't wait to make macaroons next.

  • Comment number 20.

    When i was watching the final tonight-8pm-BBC2.
    The lady judge 'Mary Berry,had unbelievable dirty nails when she was tasting each of the finalists cakes.
    In particular the pepper quiches.Is it me,or is that disgusting?

    I'd like to know if anyone else seen it?.

  • Comment number 21.

    When i was watching the final tonight-8pm-BBC2.
    The lady judge 'Mary Berry,had unbelievable dirty nails when she was tasting each of the finalists cakes.
    In particular the pepper quiches.Is it me,or is that disgusting?

    I'd like to know if anyone else seen it?.

  • Comment number 22.

    I generally do two charity cake bake's a year and usually charge £1 per slice. This includes a free tea or coffee. My friends and family are already asking me when the Christmas one will be and it is a lovely way to raise money for your local charities and get people together. I also suggest to people to bring their own containers with them as we also have many people who want to take more cakes home. Start off small if doing for first time and then people also donate cakes to sell once you tell them what you are doing.

  • Comment number 23.

    I recently watched the final episode of The Great British Bake-off, which I thoroughly enjoyed watching and gained lots of inspiration. I have one comment to make though, and that was Mary's comment about fresh root ginger in cakes not working. I recently made a sponge cake that had lemon and a few teaspoons of fresh root ginger in. You could just taste the ginger, and it complimented all the sweetness of the cream cheese icing perfectly! Plus I got some great compliments from those that ate it.

  • Comment number 24.

    All this user's posts have been removed.Why?


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