Baking for crowd can seem intimidating, especially if you are baking large quantities for people you've never met. Using a few tricks & having a system in place can make baking for a crowd attainable!
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When it comes to baking for a crowd, it can be scary. People have dietary restrictions. You can't just lick the spoon and dip it back in the batter. You have to keep your workstation clean. Multiple flavors and icing combinations can get mixed up. It's just A LOT!
I recently baked over 300 cupcakes for a family friend's wedding when a she asked me last minute if I could make desserts for her daughter's wedding. While most people probably aren't going to be baking for weddings, there are many times we bake for large crowds - parties, bake sales, birthdays, or maybe you just have a big family who eats a lot. Hahaha.
Either way, if you love to bake, you know the pain that comes along with baking for large crowds.
While I was baking all the wedding cupcakes, it got me thinking about all the steps and systems I have in place when I bake for large crowds. Staying organized is definitely key.
In fact, you have to be organized from the time you start baking or it will become a disaster! And I promise you will have to run to the grocery store no less than 27 times if you don't stay on top of your game.
Preparing Your Recipes
First things first. When you decide you want to bake for a crowd, you need to select which recipes you are going to use. I decided to use recipes from Cake by Courtney for the cupcakes, as well as variations of this vanilla cupcake frosting.
Go ahead and print all of your recipes out and read through them. Read ALL the way through them, making any notes as you read. If there is anything in the recipe that looks confusing or that you don't understand, look it up and note it on the recipe.
I should probably also mention, if you are baking for a large event, don't use recipes you've never tried before. The last thing you need is to have your dessert turn out bad on the day of your event. If for some reason you don't have time to test the recipe, make sure you select a recipe from a baker or blogger you know and trust.
If you are baking for a large event, you'll want to take inventory of everything you need to ensure you only have to go to the grocery store once. I like to make a list on an Excel sheet of every ingredient I need. Meaning, one by one, I go through each recipe and list out all the ingredients needed and their quantities. Then, I combine like items (i.e. all purpose flour) to get a grand total of how many cups, ounces, or grams I need for each ingredient. Use this list at the grocery store!
When you're baking for a crowd, make sure your ingredients are fresh. If necessary, purchase new ingredients to ensure a good quality product.
If you are baking for people with food allergies, be sure your ingredients haven't been cross-contaminated. For example, if you are baking for someone with a gluten allergy, make sure your baking soda hasn't been touched by any utensil that has touched flour.
Be sure to also pick up any of your 'extra' items during this grocery run. I'm talking cupcake liners, sprinkles, garnishes, special type of baking pan, containers to transport the desserts in, etc.
Preparing Your Kitchen
Prepping your kitchen is probably the most important step in your baking process. As a home cook, you'll want to be sure your space is properly sanitized. Be sure your counters have been sterilized, the mixer and measuring tools properly washed with soap and hot water, and that you are washing your hands often. You'll need to be especially cautious if you're baking for people with food allergies.
Prior to starting any cooking, set up stations in your kitchen. You'll want a space for mixing where your ingredients and mixer can be laid out nicely. You'll also need to set up a station for cooling, maybe on your kitchen table or spare counter space that's out of the way.
When it comes to baking large quantities, batch working is a must! What is batch working? Well, it's when you put all your energy into one specific task until it is complete, and then move on to the next specific task. Let me show you!
When I made my cupcakes, I made all my icing during my first batch work session. I had four different icings I needed to make. So, for the first recipe I measured out all the ingredients I needed, whipped together the icing, transferred the icing to a storage bag, and washed all of the equipment. I then repeated this process for the next three icings.
Working in batches helped me focus all of my attention and energy into one task. I didn't get distracted, or forget where I was at in a recipe since I worked from start to finish on one recipe at a time, then repeating the exact same steps for a new flavoring of icing.
I continued to batch work for the next steps including:
Mixing/baking the cupcake batter
Icing the cupcakes
Garnishing the cupcakes
Keeping Baked Goods Fresh
Let me tell you a little secret...all the baked goods you eat were not made that day. They taste like they were made that day, and that, my friends, is the trick!
Whenever you're baking for a crowd, you're likely going to want to start baking and prepping days ahead of time. The key to doing this is researching how to keep your baked items fresh. Many baked goods will stay fresh if kept in the freezer. However, be sure to do your own research for the specific dessert you're baking, as each dessert does best in it's own type of environment.
I prefer to save garnishes until the very last second! So, don't top your desserts until just a few hours before the event begins.
Delivering Your Baked Goods
The final step in the process is safely delivering your baked goods! Be sure to pick up the proper storage/transportation container for your baked goods. You don't want all your hard work to go to waste because you slammed on your breaks or hit a pothole...we've all seen an episode of Cake Boss end badly because of this!
Best Baking for a Crowd Tools
KitchenAid Mixer: Everyone always says you have to have a KitchenAid (which isn't necessarily the case), but a stand mixer comes in handy especially when you are baking for a crowd.
Wilton Cooling Rack: Cooling racks will help the air circulate underneath your baked goods so they cool faster.
Wilton Mini Cupcake/Muffin Pan (48 count): You can make 4 dozen cupcakes in one batch - enough said. It's cheap, and well worth the investment if you're baking large quantities of mini cupcakes. Plus, you can stick this in the middle rack of your oven instead of transferring two pans in between the top and bottom rack.
Disposable Mini Cupcake Box Container - Holds 24 Cupcakes – Pack of 10: I'm not a huge fan of plastic containers, but if you need to transport your cupcakes and leave them, these are a well made option.