How to Throw a Junior Bake-Off Birthday Party
I recently organised a Junior Bake-Off party for my daughter’s ninth birthday, and I thought I’d tell you about it in case you might want to do something similar. If not, then at least in six year’s time I can read this blog post and do it again for my younger daughter.
I’ll say right off the bat that this was quite a tiring thing to do, and there were lots of little bits to remember. However, I actually enjoyed it and much more importantly, the children loved it. It actually felt like the real thing! Plus, a great big, huge, enormous thank you to the unsuspecting mums who came along and ended up helping with a lot of clearing up – not to mention rescuing burning bakes from the oven.
There’s a list below of everything you’ll need to prepare and buy in advance, but first I’ll tell you what actually happened. It looks more complicated than it actually was because I’ve tried to write absolutely everything down. Please don’t be put off!
What we did:
We set it up like the real Bake-Off, with a Signature Challenge, a Technical and a Show-Stopper:
Technical: Fork Biscuits
Show-Stopper: Cupcake Decorating
For the Signature, I emailed the parents in advance to ask what toppings the children would like. I bought pizza topping sauce (although I could have made some), grated cheese (lazy, I know) and whatever toppings they’d chosen. I made the dough the day before (but you could buy bases).
For the Technical, I used Mary Berry’s Fork Biscuits recipe, which is available online. I halved the recipe, so each child made eight cookies. They could choose whether to make chocolate or plain. I then needed to prepare a tray each with margarine, sugar, flour and the recipe. (The optional cocoa was a the front of the room.) This is a recipe that all the children (aged 7-9) could manage. They found it challenging, but they enjoyed it and they came out well.
For the Show-Stopper, I made cupcakes in advance (I used Nigella’s Christmas Cupcake recipe but you could use any), and bought icing and sprinkles. I provided disposable piping bags and cutters for ready-to-roll icing. You should really have trays ready with all of the stuff they need for this. I didn’t, so it became a bit chaotic at this point. (Cue helpful mums.)
At the end, we put the cupcakes onto a cupcake stand, stuck candles in it and sang happy birthday. They ate their pizzas and a cupcake each, and I gave out prizes. I’d come up with four prize categories as we went along, so that everyone got an award for something, (such as ‘most imaginative Show-Stopper’). For the prizes, I bought personalised wooden spoons from Not on the Highstreet – see pic below. If you wanted to do something cheaper, you could try getting plain aprons from Baker Ross (£5 for two), and ironing on a star or something. But since the party on the whole wasn’t expensive, I didn’t mind paying £20 for the prizes (£5 each).
To prepare in advance:
Email the parents to ask for the pizza toppings and give them an equipment list to bring. This will depend on what you have at home, e.g. I had enough rolling pins, but you might not. Also, ask them if they can stay to help their child if possible.
Find a judge or two. They need to be fun, or at least pretend to be.
Try to find some people to help with the washing up!
Make pizza dough
Make cupcakes – we gave them four each
Print out recipes for Techincal
Print out timings for yourself, otherwise you’ll get confused.
Save margarine tubs and other containers because each child will need their own margarine, sugar and flour
Enough flour, butter/margarine, sugar and cocoa for everyone in the Technical. The quantities are not huge.
Greaseproof paper (we used this for pizzas and biscuits)
Butter icing, ready to roll icing, various sprinkles, disposable piping bags. (My daughter went through three piping bags and I’m sorry but they’re a pain to clean.)
Salad and fruit for the meal, if you wish
Candles if you don’t have any
Prizes. If you’re keeping costs down, I’m sure some biscuits or pretty cupcake cases or something would be just as lovely.
To set up:
I used four long tables and put all the equipment and the pizza toppings on top, ready to use
If you have enough trays, get the trays for the Technical and the Show-Stopper ready before the party starts
Have a table at the front of the room for the judging of the Technical. I got them to write their names on little cards which went in front of their bakes, so that they knew whose were being judged, but the judge couldn’t see. (On the show they have photos for this.)
I put a big bowl of soapy water and some flannels at the back, for hand washing
Sieves (for cocoa)
Piping nozzles (if you’re using disposable bags, you probably can manage with just one set of nozzles as you won’t need the collar)
Small scissors – one pair each
Ask each child to bring a box to carry their goods home in
Cupcake stand (or just use a plate)
Write name cards
Introduce Signature – give them 10 minutes. Remember to say, “On your marks, get set, bake!”
Pizzas in the oven
Technical – they need about 20 minutes for this. You can give them longer if they need it!
Biscuits in – meanwhile, judge the Signature. Put the pizzas on the benches and the judge goes round and tries each one and gives feedback. Remember to say, “tell me about your pizza.”
(There may be a pause here while the children try their own pizzas/wash their hands/wipe down their benches)
Now judge the technical by putting the biscuits on the front table and getting the children to sit in a row while the judge makes comments about each one. They could choose a winner for this, although my judge didn’t.
Showstopper – decorate four cupcakes. I thought this would be quick but they spent ages on it. Allow as much or as little time as you wish! Tell them they will be marked purely on presentation, and that they can do them all the same or four different styles.
Judging – get them to bring up their four cupcakes on a plate and comment on them.
Now put the cupcakes into the stand and light candles, sing happy birthday etc.
Now do a lot of washing up.
If you try this, please let me know! I do hope it helps somebody else to have a happy birthday.