I agreed several weeks ago to bake a few things for my church's Fall Fair, a huge endeavor that attracts hundreds of people and also takes a hundred people to set it up and make it happen. I had never baked for a whole day. Would it be exhausting? Would it be energizing? I had no idea. An intense one-day project seemed appealing. Usually I flit between one and the other activity, trying to keep everyone happy and lots of plates in the air. Except I usually end up keeping everyone up in the air and getting lots of plates dirty.
Here is the list of what I made:
Spiced Sweet Potato Cake with Brown Sugar Icing, cut into quarters. This is one of my favorite autumnal cakes. Sometimes I add toasted pecans but I held off this time, for the sake of nut allergies. I thought it would sell more quickly than a whole cake, especially since sweet potato cake wouldn't seem familiar to many people. Two of my friends bought two of the quarters, having asked me what I made, but I wonder how the other two liked theirs.
One-A-Day Baguette, twice the recipe but made into four loaves. This is an old warhorse of a recipe, very reliable and delicious. They call it a baguette but it's a more chewy texture than that; it also has a longer shelf life. You mustn't stint on the salt. I've been baking this for years and it has never failed. I plan to make a lot more next year, since there was no other bread.
Fresh Gingerbread with Lemon Icing, from Nigella Lawson's How to Be a Domestic Goddess: Baking and the Art of Comfort Cooking. I made this for a Labor Day party and it was a big hit, deeply flavorful gingerbread contrasting with the bright lemon. My grandmother always made a hot lemon sauce for her gingerbread, not possible for a bake sale. Please note Lawson's words of wisdom on bake sales: Brown things don't sell, unless they're chocolate. That's reason #2 for the lemon icing.
Fudgies, which I called "Peanut Butter Fudgies." These are very sweet no-bake cookies, easy to make. Kids love them. I used to have a recipe for bars with a layer of oats and butter on the bottom, and the chocolate-peanut butter layer on top, but I lost it. So I just looked for anything with oats, peanut butter, and chocolate.
Possibly,I thought I'd make Maine Maple Sugar Pie from Richard Sax's Classic Home Desserts, but no. I needed my remaining energy to clean the kitchen, with its counters covered in flour and towers of dirty dishes.
I felt very accomplished at the end, quite satisfied as I wrapped everything in plastic and put it in the car to deliver in the morning. Until I saw, the next day, one baker's tarts, cakes and cookies presented in adorable patterned cartons, tied with ribbons. Until I saw the dozen pies baked by an 81-year-old lady. Until I spied the three dozen small carrot cakes and cranberry orange cupcakes made by a pastry chef with an out-of-commission left arm. Ahem. Humility crept in. As Hillary Clinton used to say in the early nineties, "It takes a village to make a bake sale." Well, something like that. The village came through, with the baking and the buying, and that's a good thing.