06/10/2009 05:03 BST | Updated 22/05/2015 06:12 BST

Tip Of The Day - Easy Cakes For The School Fair

Tonight is my son's first PTA-organised school event. It's a cinema night, and they're raising funds for the school garden, so parents have been asked to contribute cakes to sell. I usually bake something for these events, but have slacked off totally for tonight as - get this - I won a cupcake design competition. The prize is 24 cupcakes, and after reluctantly conceding that I won't be able to eat them all myself, I'm donating them to the school.

Every school has its fund raising event, where parents are invited to contribute. So if your inner Nigella is calling you, but you're a cake fair novice, here are some other ways to make it easy:

  • Cake fair cakes are (in the main) bought by children. They do not care about your fancy recipes or organic ingredients. They care about which cake has the biggest sweetie on top. So don't worry if your cupcakes don't turn out right, as long as you bung a few smarties on top, they will sell.

  • Don't bake if you don't want to, or haven't got time. A multipack of cakes from the supermarket is fine. Seriously, don't buy into the competitive mum-ness or feel bad if you can't produce something yourself. At the end of the day, the PTA wants your cash and as long as you're contributing in some way, that's fine.

  • The new Hummingbird Bakery book is getting good reviews at the moment, but for a failsafe, beginner's baking book, I highly recommend Mary Berry's Ultimate Cake Book. I've baked many of these cakes and they're simple, taste good and won't go wrong.

  • And the biggest baker's cheat of all - make one big cake instead of several little ones. You heard it here first - traybakes are the new cupcakes. They've kind of fallen out of fashion in recent years, but if you haven't got the time to fiddle about with lots of little cupcakes, just make one big flat cake and cut it up into lots of bits. Simples, as that annoying meerkat would say. I've made a Chocolate and Vanilla Marble Traybake (from Mary Berry's book) for my last few school events and it's always gone down well. There's a version of the recipe here.

  • If all else fails, you can always contribute a bottle of wine for the tombola

Now, my dilemma is - do I freak out the Competitive Mums tonight by pretending that I made the prize cupcakes myself? What would you do?

More handy hints here in the Tip of the Day section