I know it may not feel like it yet, but the holiday season is right around the corner, and for us cottage bakers, it’s the busiest, most exciting and most financially impactful time of the year. Whether you’re baking for friends, family, or customers, planning and organizing “early” for the holidays get you ahead, so that you can plan on carving out precious time with your loved ones. In this post, I’ll walk you through some things to consider for a successful and stress-less (never completely stress-free) holiday baking season, including tips on tools and equipment to speed up your baking process.
1. Plan Your Holiday Menu in Advance
I see that many of you are starting to take preorders for things like advent calendars and such, and that’s super smart! Use the pre-order deposits to get seed money for your ingredients and supplies. If you are not doing pre-orders, decide on what treats you want to offer during the holidays. Get specific about the set designs, and even make/photograph samples ahead of time to get it all queued up so you can be ready to list your items when you feel like the time is right. Figure out what your capacity is, set your boundaries and adhere to them. IF you accommodate last minute orders or special requests, that’s up to you, but you could be paying for it with your mental health– look out for yourself!
For this season, I’m keeping my menu simple. 1 set of assorted 4-pcs deocrated minis, dozen french macarons, a few options for single decorated cookies, cake in cups, drop cookies and gourmet rice krispie treats.
2. Stock Up on Ingredients, if it makes sense.
Once you’ve finalized your holiday menu, create a comprehensive shopping list of all the ingredients you’ll need, along with quantities. Make sure to order in bulk, as holiday demand can quickly deplete supplies, also driving up cost. Don’t hoard, but be mindful and get what you think you’ll minimally need across multiple shopping trips. Freeze things like butter and eggs when you can, and pre-prep when possible by measuring out dry ingredients. Make dough and freeze ahead, starting now. Use an excel sheet to help with recipe calculations, scaling, etc. Consider collaborating with local bakers to split the cost on large buys so you can all save in the long term.
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3. Test and Perfect Your Recipes
If you’re introducing new holiday-themed recipes or variations of your classic treats, it’s crucial to test them in advance. This allows you to identify any potential issues and ensure your creations taste and look perfect. Consider hosting a tasting session with friends or family to gather feedback. Make sure you understand the shelf life of products based on their specific packaging test, test, test.
4. Organize Your Baking Space
A clean and organized workspace is essential for efficient holiday baking. Declutter your kitchen, ensure your equipment is in working order (i.e. do you preventative maintenance, don’t wait till something breaks mid-bake), and stock up on piping bags, parchment paper or baking mats, cupcake liners, and other essentials. Label your storage containers for easy access to ingredients.
5. Create a Baking Schedule
The holiday season can be hectic, so create a baking schedule that outlines what you’ll bake each day leading up to the holidays. Factor in prep time, baking time, and packaging time. Stagger your tasks to prevent burnout and maintain the quality of your baked goods. Consider hiring seasonal help- or maybe book some time with friends and family to enlist assistance on huge time commitments like packaging, so that you can focus on the stuff you really want to: the baking.
Edit Nov. 22 – I recently put together this walkthrough and THIS Excel Sheet that you can use for calculating your orders vs. what you actually need to bake and help keep you on track.
6. Speedy Baking Tools and Equipment
To expedite your holiday baking, consider investing in the following tools and equipment:
- Dough Sheeter – perfect for your croissants, cookie dough and pasta
- Bun Rack – the best way to maximize space
- Dehydrator – to encourage shine on your royal icing cookie, to help royal icing dry faster and puffier
- Food Prep Containers – to organize your ingredients, I find that pre-measuring my drop goods and portioning in gallon zip locks also works great, for instance, I have my sugar cookie recipe dry ingredients minus the sugars (flour, baking powder, cream of tartar) preportioned to make “dough day” go by a lot faster.
- Separate Freezer – to store your pre-prepped doughs and batters, or even half or fully baked goods depending on what it is.
7. Packaging and Presentation
Consider how you’ll package and present your baked goods. Festive packaging and attractive labels can make your treats more appealing to customers, and your unique packaging style can set you apart. If you’re selling online or at local markets, invest in good-quality packaging materials to protect your creations during transit, taking weather into consideration.
You may also want to look into getting a thermal printer for your ingredient labels, logos and even shipping labels. This saves you a TON of money in the long run and there are lots of options out there now for label size and shape. I really like the MUNBYN brand printers and labels– such good quality, great value for the price. You’ll find cheaper ones but the reviews are mixed.
I like Clearbags for most of my packaging needs, but amazon also has an incredible selection, and the prices are good! I’ve put together a packaging list in my Amazon storefront for my favorite options.
8. Promote Your Holiday Offerings
To maximize your holiday sales, marketing and sales is crucial. Spread the word about your holiday treats through your website, social media, and email marketing, and be consistent with your marketing efforts. If you don’t haven an email list, it’s never too late to start. I use FloDesk for a low monthly flat fee, and I absolutely love it! Get 50% off your first year HERE. Most other services charge by the number of subscribers, and the cost can add up quick. Share high-quality photos of your baked goods, short videos of your processes and highlight any special promotions or discounts you’re offering. Encourage pre-orders to better gauge demand & to get non-refundable deposits to protect yourself and your business.
9. Prepare for Shipping
Many states allow for shipping now, so take advantage of that! If you’re shipping your baked goods, plan ahead for safe and timely delivery. Use appropriate shipping containers and packing materials to ensure your treats arrive in pristine condition. I get the bulk of my shipping materials like boxes, bubble wrap, paper shred, packaging tape and shipping labels from Amazon. Check out THIS blog post for a very basic guide to shipping royal icing cookies.
10. Stay Organized with Orders
Keep track of all your orders, including customer names, contact information, order details, and delivery dates. A spreadsheet or dedicated software can help you stay organized and ensure that every order is fulfilled correctly and on time. If you need help managing your orders this holiday season, check out My Custom Bakes, an app designed by bakers, for bakers.
11. Enjoy the Process
Finally, remember to enjoy the holiday baking season. It’s a time for sharing joy and delicious treats with loved ones and customers alike, and you *DO NOT* get this time back. Take breaks, savor your own creations, and don’t forget to share the holiday spirit with your customers through thoughtful packaging and personalized touches.
So what do you think? Did I miss anything big? Do YOU have any additional tips/tricks you’d like to include as a part of this? Would LOVE to hear from you in the comments below.
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