I’d like to think that, after a decade in Cub Scouts, I have a favorite special event; just one gathering that is more exciting than the others or that I feel the kids enjoy the most. I’ve said it a million times before (and even used it to name my blog), but if you Look Wider Still, every single event will be the memory-maker that you anticipate from year-to-year.
Sure, the Blue and Gold Banquet is the biggest of all deals, but the Family Bake-Off is the real star in your annual program. It’s the sweet spot (pun intended) of the coldest and darkest of the seasons, and an opportunity for creativity and quality time to shine.
Our Bake-Off is a lot of fun for everyone! We have the entire evening down to a science and I want to share with you how we work this into a regular Pack meeting, how desserts are categorized and judged, and what our awards have been over the years.
The Bake-Off Categories and Registration
We have a large Pack full of creative families, so we’ve used the last decade of baking to hone in on the three most popular judging categories, which are then also split between appearance and taste.
- Bodacious Brownies appearance and taste
- Captivating Cakes appearance and taste
- Creative Cookies appearance and taste
To get the Scouts involved, we also have them cast their own votes for Cub Scout Traditions and Character Creations appearance awards. Desserts aren’t specifically registered for one of these two categories; the winners of those are chosen by their peers and their desserts are registered as either a brownie, cake, or cookie in the general categories above.
We open up official registration about 30 minutes ahead of the Pack meeting start, setting up two folding tables with several volunteers to get desserts accounted for quickly and efficiently. Each volunteer has a Bake-Off kit consisting of a numbered Pack roster (each Scout is assigned a number) and listing of dessert categories, instructions, registration receipts, a permanent marker, circle stickers, and unwaxed paper or plastic cups. They are then directed to place their dessert on the corresponding table, marked with a table label. Remind them to hang onto their registration receipts and not to leave them with their dessert.
As a Scout is registered, their number is written on a circle sticker which is then placed on their dessert item. They also receive an unwaxed paper or plastic cup with that same number written on it, which they place next to their dessert on its assigned table. They are also given a registration receipt, which includes their number, the dessert category they’re registered for, and two tear-away votes for the Cub Scout Traditions and Character Creations categories. Once all of the desserts have been registered, Scouts are given a few minutes to tear those votes off of their registration receipts and leave them in the cup associated with the dessert of their choice.
Why do we use numbers instead of writing the Scouts name on the desserts? Because we aim to have fair, unbiased voting among our Scouts and also our dessert judges.
As our Pack meeting begins, our unbiased judge(s) (who are normally volunteer Scouts BSA Troop members) work with an adult volunteer to judge for appearance and taste in the Bodacious Brownies, Captivating Cakes, and Creative Cookies categories. They also count the paper votes cast by our Scouts for Cub Scout Traditions and Character Creations. Their votes are noted on the last page of the Pack Roster and listing of dessert categories linked here and above.
The Pack Meeting
For us, the Bake-Off lands squarely at the end of November, right after the Thanksgiving holiday. Everyone is in that happy holiday mood and the creative juices are really flowing. Scouts have been indulging in sweets since Halloween and have their finger on the pulse of all things delicious. The timing of the event is immediately after the end of our Popcorn Fundraiser, which means it’s aligned with the top sellers eagerly throwing pies in the Cubmaster’s (that’s me) face. Though pies and cakes are the easy theme of the night, we focus heavily on Veterans Day.
We start our Pack meeting with a flag ceremony, followed by a Power Point presentation and awards ceremony. At slide #6 of that linked presentation, I ask that all of our Veterans in attendance please rise. We give them a round of applause, and I ask all Scouts to please rise, turn to face our heroes, and hold the Scout Salute. I can’t convey to you how important and meaningful this is to our Pack families and I hope it’s a tradition you include in your own November meeting.
By slide #13, we’re discussing our Peanut and Popcorn Fundraiser Top Sellers. As our Kernel is reporting on our fundraiser, members of leadership are behind the scenes filling pie tins with shaving cream (trust me, this is favorable over whipped cream for a lot of reasons). At the time the Top Sellers are officially announced, leadership emerges with tarps, a plastic yard trash bag with a hole cut out of the bottom, goggles, and pies! The crowd goes wild! All this should be happening just as you advance to slide #14. You know what happens next.
All of this gives your dessert judges plenty of time to make their choices and count the Scout votes, so it’s officially time to start giving out awards.
A quick search on Pinterest will return countless fun and creative Bake-Off Awards. We’ve truly done it all, from trophies to chef hats to wooden spoons, and even trophies of chef hat wearing wooden spoons.
We’ve moved back to awarding Scouts with wooden spoons that they can then use at home when they’re baking sweet treats with their family in the future. My handy Walnut Hollow wood burning tool and scrap ribbon makes for a fun little personalized award. I purchased the Walnut Hollow Hotstamps Number and Symbols set and Walnut Hollow Metal Alphabet Stamps set to brand these and other personalized gifts and awards over the years. (I keep the wood burner and accessories in a Craftsman Soft Tool Bag along with a mini-loaf tin and a pair of needle nosed pliers to hold and handle the hot stamps.)
I like to make my own thank you gifts for my special parent volunteers, and in the case of our Bake-Off, there’s nothing more appropriate than a rolling pin that is personalized with a little wood burning.
Make a big deal about presenting your awards and take LOTS of pictures of your mini pastry chefs! These are some amazing memories you’re making and you want to capture their little smiling faces BEFORE you let them stuff those faces with dessert.
A lot of units use the Bake-Off as a fundraiser, raffling off the desserts to help pay for a fun Pack event or activity. We use the Bake-Off as an opportunity to extend the tradition of putting on the holiday five between Halloween and New Years. Once the awards are handed out and Scouts are congratulated on a job very well done, everybody grabs a plate, slathers on the hand sanitizer, and samples the sweets. We provide the paper products, milk and water. Make sure you have a broom and some paper towels on hand to clean up the crumbs and frosting smudges… your Chartered Organization thanks you!
Again, dear leader, the Family Bake-Off is an opportunity for you to enjoy yourself and forget the stress of planning and executing Pack events. Get in there with your Scouts, try their desserts, praise them for their creativity and skills, then go home and take a long, hot shower to get the shaving cream out of your hair.
PRO TIP: a little hydrogen peroxide in each ear will help get that shaving cream out! 🙂
I thank you so much for your service to your unit and the Scouts it serves. Thank you for providing everyone with these wonderful events, the fellowship, and the quality time their family spent together in the kitchen. What a tremendous influence you are out in this crazy world! I’m personally so proud of and grateful for you.
Yours in Scouting,
Look Wider Still is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising.