Here's everything you need to know about how to host a bake-off for kids! Our list of proven tips for planning and organization, plus tons of ideas for presenting a successful, tasty bake-off.
Bake-offs are a fun and exciting way to encourage kids to practice their baking skills. They make a great birthday party theme, and are perfect for large groups, too. This post addresses the four important most questions to consider when hosting a kid's bake-off:
- What kind of Bake-off will it be?
- Who decides who wins?
- How will winners be decided?
- What kind of recognition will be awarded?
A few cookie seasons ago, Mr B and I had the opportunity to judge a local Girl Scout Cookie Baking Competition. The competition was open to any Girl Scout from our community. We certainly learned a lot from our experience!
How to Host a Bake-off
What kind of Bake-off will it be?
Specifically, what is the bake-off challenge? In the case of our bake-off, the specific challenge was to create a dessert using at least one variety of Girl Scout cookie as a primary ingredient.
Answer the following questions to clearly define your challenge:
• Who can enter? Our bake-off was open to any registered Girl Scout.
• Can contestants have more than one entry? Can a contestant enter more than one recipe? If there are multiple categories that a contestant is eligible for, can they win with more than one entry?
• Is this an individual competition, or can contestants work in teams?
• Must recipes be fully cooked at home, or must they be completed at the competition?
• Is there a theme or primary ingredient? We had both a theme (desserts) and a primary ingredient (Girl Scout Cookies).
• How much of each recipe must a contestant provide on the day of the contest?
Each Scout who entered our bake-off was asked to provide two batches of their recipe: one for Judges to observe for appearance, presentation, etc., and a second for tasting by judges and event goers.
After the judges made their determination, the first batch was offered up for tasting by the crowd as well.
Who decides who wins?
Will you have a panel of Judges? Do the attendees get a vote?
For our Girl Scout Cookie Bake-off, the hosting troop assembled a panel of five judges. Because of my long history with the hosting troop, I was asked to be a Judge. However, the last minute I handed that esteemed privileged over to Mr B so I could wander the bake-off freely.
(Passing the Judge's torch to Mr B ended up being a good move for a number of reasons. Most importantly, it allowed me time to walk around and take pictures of all the sweet entries. It also saved me from the imminent tummy ache that would plague him for the rest of the day.)
This Mini-Martha-in-training even matched her dress to her entry - "Naomi's Tagalong Storm Cake." ↑
How will winners be decided?
It is important to clearly define the points and systems upon which the entires will be judged ahead of time.
If you are hosting a bake-off, you will need to figure out how the winners will be picked. I won't try to tell you how to run your circus, but this is the system that was used for our Bake-off, and it seemed to work pretty smoothly.
For our bake-off, each Judge was given a clipboard, pencil, and instruction sheet outlining a scoring system for assigning points to each point system for scoring each entry. Each contestant was assigned a number for judging.
Entries were judged on three elements:
- Use of Girl Scout Cookies
Submissions were judged in each of these categories on a scale of 1-5, with 5 being the highest.
Competition was divided into three Divisions, based on age. Three overall winners were then chosen from the winners of each age bracket. An Ultimate Winner was then chosen from the Division winners, for a total of ten winners.
While I wandered from table to table taking pictures, Mr B spent his time hunching over his clipboard, carefully evaluating each tasty bite that was brought to him by his assigned assistant. Together with his fellow judges, he crunched, munched, nibbled, and savored samples from each of the nearly twenty entries.
We found ourselves judging not only what the Scouts made, but their use of the cookie as well. Did they get the ingredients in? Could you taste those ingredients? That made it interesting. It also made it challenging for us, because we challenged ourselves to see if the cookies came through in each dish, or if they were just sprinkled on top.- Mr B
Mr B and I are both big Chopped fans, and I wasn't surprised that this influenced his role as a judge in the competition. When Taste and Presentation scores were too close to make a call, Use of Cookie(s) tipped the scales.
Tip for Would-be Bake-off Judges
Mr. B's had one vital tip for would-be Girl Scout Cookie Bake-off judges: Drink water. Lots and lots of water.
This is, unfortunately, a lesson he learned the hard way. Even though he and the rest of the judges were very careful to eat only a very small tasting from each entry, because he neglected to drink enough water, he spent most of the day following the competition with a very uncomfortable tummy ache.
Our bake-off also included a People's Choice Award.
Each attendee was given a number of tickets (5). Individual voting boxes, each with the name of one recipe, were placed on a central table.
Attendees circulated, trying samples of each recipe and then placing their tickets in the boxes representing the recipes they liked most. The recipe that received the most tickets won the People's Choice Award.
What kind of recognition will be awarded?
You can award anything from a handshake to a certificate to gift cards donated by the community. What I noticed as the prizes were award was, especially with regard to the younger kiddos, bragging rights were worth more than just about anything.
This certainly isn't an exhaustive list; there are plenty of additional considerations to make, including location and facility set-up, announcement of the contest, timing, and so forth. However, if you can get all these questions answered, you'll be off to a great start!
Girl Scout Cookie Recipe Bake-off Winners
For our GS Bake-off, the three top winners were:
- Samoa Cheesecake Bars (Bake-off Winner)
- Strawberry Thin Mint Cookie Delight (People's Choice)
- Toffeetastic Butterscotch Mud Pie (Our Personal Choice)
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