So, Does Anyone Actually Make A Liveingg Doing This?

Business By woodthi32 Updated 22 Oct 2007 , 10:58pm by RobzC8kz

woodthi32 Posted 11 Oct 2007 , 2:41pm
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Aside from Colette and Duff?
I have being doing it casually for almost 2 years. I really enjoy it, but do it so much for friends and family, that I have no idea what to charge, where to start, how much $$$ I can make, etc.????? Is it worth it? I don't know............ANY comments appreciated. I don't even know what to ask, other than the above string of generalitiesicon_razz.gif

58 replies
woodthi32 Posted 11 Oct 2007 , 2:43pm
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sorry for the typo in the title in lap!

DEBBIE157 Posted 11 Oct 2007 , 2:51pm
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This is a great question. I have wondered myself.

I asked my Wilton Instructor, who is soooo talented it's crazy... and she said that she really doesn't make much money on the cakes. But she loves doing it. She is more or less "retired" from her office job, so maybe she has a pension, and he has a hubby so I guess their income is ok.

By the time you buy the ingrediants, and all the extras, decorating bags, and tips, wax paper, parchment paper and all the disposable stuff, I don't know how people make a profit.

kbuntin Posted 11 Oct 2007 , 2:52pm
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You can make a living, but not get rich! You also have to take it seriously and treat it like a real business, putting in the hours, etc. The key is pricing your cakes correctly and not undervaluing them (and your time.) Then plan on putting in a LOT of hours! I work at least 40 hours a week, and last week was 60+ because of the amount of gumpaste I had to make.

MacsMom Posted 11 Oct 2007 , 2:55pm
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I feel the same. How do the big names get their names out there? Winning contests?

I was just thinking about this last night, as my business is very new: I used to bartend and I made $100 a day in tips (not including my paycheck) for a 5 hour shift. Even if I could manage to make 5 cakes per week, not all of them would be $100...

But I love it. I love seeing the finished cake and being so proud of myself even after the most stressful beginnings and anxiety over pleasing the customer.

indydebi Posted 11 Oct 2007 , 2:56pm
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I left my full time job over a year ago and have never looked back.

It depends on what you put into it. High volume is the key (one wedding cake for 200 is much more profitable than 10 birthday cakes for 20 people each.)

woodthi32 Posted 11 Oct 2007 , 2:59pm
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Is making your own gumpaste more cost effective?
Do you work out of your home?
How long did it take you to turn a profit, however small? Where do you live? (suburbs, big city etc.?)
Thank you for any response. I am gratefulicon_smile.gif
Have you been doing this long enough so that you can say you average a certain amt a year? If you don't want to tell me how much, that's ok. These are things I have to consider when making this decision....
It's the only think I have ever truly ENJOYED doing and looked forward to.......
But it takes so much time, I can't SUPPLEMENT with it, you know? I have to do it or not..............

woodthi32 Posted 11 Oct 2007 , 3:03pm
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Macs, totally with you there!
So you left your you work out of your home, independently? What is your clientele like and what is the population of your town, etc??? THANKS!
You are where in Upstate NY?

roseyrider Posted 11 Oct 2007 , 3:04pm
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That depends on how much you need to live on! icon_lol.gif
Seriously though, I have been doing this for a while now part time and will be moving into premises and going full time from next month. My biggest challenge has been to know the worth of my cakes and my time, but now that I have an hourly rate and am honest about the amount of time I spend on a cake (I tend to underestimate time), I am making pretty decent money. Wedding cakes are the key! It is true though, you won't get rich!!!! icon_biggrin.gif

woodthi32 Posted 11 Oct 2007 , 3:06pm
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so you charge by the HOUR. You are in south Africa, is that common there? Or is this becoming common in other places?

ccr03 Posted 11 Oct 2007 , 3:08pm
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I curious about this too. I am FAR from making this a full-time gig, but I would love to eventually have my own catering/bakery business. (That reminds me I actually have to buy a Powerball ticket this week.)

But I would imagine that a lot of it is:
1. high volume (how indydebi said)
2. marketing
3. target market/audience
4. location

bobwonderbuns Posted 11 Oct 2007 , 3:12pm
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Another factor is to look at those who do make a living at this, they promote themselves to the hilt, like rock stars almost and develop followings, etc. That lends itself to the "name" which has a big draw for customers. "Duff did our wedding cake..." you know how it is... icon_rolleyes.gif

DEBBIE157 Posted 11 Oct 2007 , 3:12pm
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Originally Posted by woodthi32

Macs, totally with you there!
You are where in Upstate NY?

Clifton Park, above Albany

roseyrider Posted 11 Oct 2007 , 3:13pm
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Well I am not sure whether it is common practise, but the only way I can justify it to DH is to show him that I can earn the same as with a "real" job. (You'd think the fact that I love it and it makes me happy would be enough)
I take my cost (materials etc.) add to that how many hours I estimate it will take and hey presto! Seems to have worked and I have more and more orders coming in.

beccakelly Posted 11 Oct 2007 , 3:16pm
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thats the goal! i spent a lot of time doing the math and thats the only way (imho) to succeed. i started my business just about 6 weeks ago, and i am constantly adding up estimated income and expenses. i have to set monthly sales goals essentially, to book a certain amount of weddings in order to reach my profit goals for next year. (and indydebi im happy to say that after more practice with my "sales technique" my booking rate is much higher, im now at about 80%. i think my problem at first was a lack of confidence which rubbed off onto the brides.)

you have to know what it will cost, how to cut your costs, and how much to charge to make it work. being able to buy ingredients in bulk to cut costs helps. i focus on wedding cakes, because they're the most cost effective for me (and my favorite kind of cake to do). the average birthday cake i sell is priced at about $60-80. the average wedding cake price as of right now is $600.

you definitely can't do this casually and make a living. just as with any small business it has to be more than a full time job. you have to invest a ton of time, and energy into it to make it work.

justsweet Posted 11 Oct 2007 , 3:16pm
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here is a topic that came up awhile ago, maybe it will he answer your question - "cake shop owners - any regrets?"

antonia74 Posted 11 Oct 2007 , 3:17pm
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I do! My company's business is the income for 2 people (myself and my business partner). icon_smile.gificon_smile.gif

chovest Posted 11 Oct 2007 , 3:19pm
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I've wondered the same as well. I've never been paid for a cake. They have all been for family so far. I am starting to donate a couple of cakes at fund raisers to kind of get my cakes seen, in a small town like mine that will help. I am currently a stay at home mom, so I wouldn't be giving up any income of my own. It would definitely be an investment of time though. A little extra income would be nice, especially for something I absolutely love to do. I just have to convince myself to charge what they are worth, after all, it's not a Wal-Mart cake! icon_smile.gif

valerieInga Posted 11 Oct 2007 , 3:24pm
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this is a topic I wonder about also. I'm new to fondant and sculpted cakes so I'm sure it's taking me longer than it should but I recently made a Pig cake that was only the size of one cake (9x13") and I cut it in half and torted it to build it up. Anyway, it took a long time, then my son said I bet you could get $50.00 for it. I told my friends that, it was for a retirement party and we had a pig roast. Everyone loved it and said oh for sure I could get 50.00. I used to charge 20.00 for a one cake size (9x13, or 2 layer 8x8 etc. I never torted back then but did put buttercream between layers) I make scratch cakes, and decorated them with stars if shaped cakes, or bc or RI flowers. Then I joked that I was probably making $1.00/hour. With the price of the buttercream, fondant and cake plus the hydro etc I don't know how much /hour I could make. I am a nurse, working full time but have been on a stress leave. I work in Neonatal ICU and the work is good and I love the babies but I've just had too many die and it's sooo hard to take when you get close to families and then go through that with so many. Yes we do save most but there are always some who don't make it. Soo I would like to do something else, but without taking such a huge pay cut. Winnipeg is the capital of the province, so its big but compared to Toronto, Vancouver, Montreal we are a small city and I don't think people will pay more than 50.00/cake if that. Sorry this is sooo long. Thanks all for listening.

Luxe42 Posted 11 Oct 2007 , 3:29pm
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I don't have a cake business so I guess I'm not very helpful on this thread but - you are very talented. And I think that if you did have a business, it would do very well.

Your mosaic cake is amazing!! It's not like I'm looking at a sheet cake with buttercream roses. You have some real works of art in your gallery.


beccakelly - you have to know what it will cost, how to cut your costs, and how much to charge to make it work. being able to buy ingredients in bulk to cut costs helps. i focus on wedding cakes, because they're the most cost effective for me (and my favorite kind of cake to do). the average birthday cake i sell is priced at about $60-80. the average wedding cake price as of right now is $600.

I think you would come up with some fantastic wedding cakes! Good luck with everything thumbs_up.gif

jibbies Posted 11 Oct 2007 , 3:30pm
post #21 of 59

I personally don't want to make a living doing cakes. Don't get me wrong I LOVE doing them but if it became a have to thing I would begin to resent it ( I know because I've already been there)
I love being able to do cakes here and there, stuff for church and friends and the random customer that has been somewhere and seen my work and wants something.
We moved about 1 1/2 years ago from NC, I was teaching kindergarten full time and had anywhere from 5 to 15 cakes every weekend. I had no time for anything. So its what you want to make out of it for yourself
Here are my prices to help you
9x13--$25.00 serves 24
11x15--$30.00 serves 35
12x18--$35.00 serves 54
servings based on Wiltons serving chart that can be found in the decorators information section of every yearbook.
If they need bigger I offer these
2 11x15 side by side iced and decorated as one serves 70 $60.00
2 12x18 side by side iced and decorated as one serves 108 $70.00
Wedding cake all buttercream or fondant $2.00 per serving again based on Wiltons serving chart
sculpted/carved cakes on an individual basis
Hope this helps


CelebrationCakery Posted 11 Oct 2007 , 3:36pm
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I was just reading through the post and saw a few from Upstate too! I am just north of Albany.....
I have been doing cakes really just for gifts, friends and 11 years have sold....maybe 10 out of over 100 cakes, one regret I have is not taking pictures of them..... I just delivered my first cake in a box last week, usually I deliver them in my tupperware and just get it back later....that tells you how casual I have been....

honestly you know how you hear that your work should be something you would do for free because you enjoy it so much, well I have been doing this for free and now it is the time in my life that it needs to be for $$$....being a stay at home mom and a wife to a wonderful, hard working man has been a true blessing. But my husband works sooo hard that we barely see him other than two to three hours at night before the girls are off to bed....

Making cakes helps me be me. It kind of gives you that time to just let your brain be in the moment (even when the dog is barking, phone is ringing, baby is crying and the older daughter wants a drink)....oh and you are making dinner at the same time....
But my point is that although I have not made money, I have saved some by not buying gifts for everyone all of the time. And someday that big old garage out there will be all mine!!! I mean it will be the Celebration Cake Company or something like that!!!! (of course when we can afford to make it over)

sweetreasures Posted 11 Oct 2007 , 3:55pm
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I live in a small town with a grocery store /bakery that does and wedding cakes. They charge $1.75 per slice for the wedding cakes. You pick up and set up. The bakery in the neighboring town charges $4.75 per slice which includes delivery and set up. One of the places we looked at for a wedding site / reception charges $7.00 a slice.

If I were to sell cakes I would probably charge in the neighborhood of the bakery that charges $4.75/ slice - more or less for simplicity and time intensive.

doreenre Posted 11 Oct 2007 , 4:16pm
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Would it be wrong to have a minimum cake price? Say, $100 (or less). And then include cake materials, decorating time on top of that?

My thinking is, I paid $10/slice for my wedding cake that served 125 people. It was big and beautiful and exactly what I wanted. I lived in San Francisco prior to moving to Phoenix and my experience has taught me that people are willing to pay for a high-quality product.

i.e., the more expensive it is, it must be the best, so I have to have it.

I've made so few cakes and haven't really put my abilities to the test; but I enjoy doing it so much and wouldn't want to diminish my value should I decide to start a business. I'd certainly want to make the most I could to make it worthwhile.

indydebi Posted 11 Oct 2007 , 5:59pm
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I pay rent for a space in a strip mall, commercial auto insurance, gen'l liab insurance, payroll, taxes and all the expenses that go with a "real" business.

Many people tend to react to my location as "Oh, well, you're in a big city!" Yes, it's a bigger market, but that means there is also MORE competition. In a small town, you may be competing with one bakery, but I'm competing with lots of bakeries, who do high quality work (I mean, I met the lady who made a birthday cake for one of the Indiana Pacers .... their New York marketing office called her to arrange it. Now THAT'S competition!)

Not all of my brides are from "the big city". I do LOTS of business with brides from smaller areas ... they are bypassing the local bakery and grocery store bakeries.

Again, I emphasize that I do catering also, but again, the concepts are the same.

As was already mentioned, if you're going to do this full time, then you ARE going to do this full time. It's a JOB. It's how you pay your rent. It's do or die.

And the fact that you just LOVE what you're doing is (as we say in the trade) "Icing on the cake"! thumbs_up.gif

Track your sales per category. I split mine into (1) Cakes Only (drop-n-run wedding cakes); (2) Buffet only (3) Wedding cake & buffet

Cake-Only is only 6.2% of my 2007 sales. Cake & Buffet is 33.8%. 60% is buffet only. You can split it out in a similar way, however you want to track your sales ..... cake for under 25 servings; 25-75 servings; over 75 servings. Or..... Birthday cakes / anniversary cakes / weddings / showers. Whatever data you decide to track ... but it will help you see where the bulk of your business is. It will help you see where your strengths are and where you need to promote more.

Be aware of your costs as it pertains to sales. It's funny to see that the average cost per event for Cake-And-Buffet is LOWER than my average cost per event for Buffet Only. But when I run the numbers, the P&L, my profit is higher on cakes, so it actually balances out.

Understand what a pricing structure is and develop one that works for you. I absolutely do not have time to price out every single cake order that comes in. So I have a flat per-serving price, based on pre-determined servings sizes (2x2x2 for sheet cakes; 1x2x4 for non-sheet cakes). I never stress about how much to charge because it's already figured out. "It is what it is".

I have a spreadsheet with every single item I've ever purchased. It's full of formulas to determine price per unit and/or per serving, multiplied by my margin that I want to achieve to tell me instantly what I need to be charging. Chicken breasts just went up 22.8% from the last time I bought them .... all I need to do is plug in the new price and the spreadsheet calculates what my new selling price should be. The only thing I need to do is decide if I can absorb the difference now, in the current pricing, or if I have to do a price adjustment now.

It's lots of work .... it's takes time to build ..... there are times you want to just stress out and cry .... there are times you thank God you have
been so blessed!

It cannot be said enough .... you get out of it what you put into it. You can't decide to do it as a full time business and still run it like a side income or a hobby.

chas21 Posted 11 Oct 2007 , 6:07pm
post #26 of 59

I would love to be able to do this for a living. I wouldn't mind a little shop with cakes and some pastry goodies too. Of course I feel that i still need a lot more training.

jibbies Posted 11 Oct 2007 , 6:13pm
post #27 of 59
Originally Posted by indydebi

It cannot be said enough .... you get out of it what you put into it. You can't decide to do it as a full time business and still run it like a side income or a hobby.

That is exactly what I have said all along.
God bless you Debi for it being your full time job, I wish you great success. As for me I just want the hobby/side income type of thing, and I don't really care that much about the income part.
If I'm ever up that way I will be sure to look your shop up. I'm sure you run a tight ship and I bet its awesome. icon_smile.gif


indydebi Posted 11 Oct 2007 , 6:21pm
post #28 of 59

Tight ship? My crews' favorite story is the lecture I gave them because the crackers were upside down in the basket! I have them in such fear of being caught without wearing plastic gloves that they wear them when they pick up dirty plates from the guest tables. (I did explain they really didn't need to wear them then ..... only when they were doing food prep and handling food BEFORE it was eaten.) icon_lol.gif

Yeah, I guess I can be kinda bossy!

But I'm still lovable and adorable!! thumbs_up.gif

moptop Posted 11 Oct 2007 , 6:22pm
post #29 of 59

There are times when I really want to just quite the day job and decorate cakes for a living. But then I remind myself that as soon as it (decorating) became a job I'd no longer like it as much. Why? It'd be something I'd have to do to pay the mortgage. For that reason I think I'm going to keep it as a hobby (although I can still dream *grin*)

FromScratch Posted 11 Oct 2007 , 6:34pm
post #30 of 59

I would love to make this a "real job". The most important thing you can do, IMHO, is value your work and not be afraid to charge for it. You'll never make any money charging $1.00/serving.. and you really will grow to resent it.

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