This Was Unexpected

Business By CakeInfatuation Updated 4 May 2008 , 1:38am by CakeInfatuation

CakeInfatuation Posted 3 May 2008 , 12:00am
post #1 of 26

So I'm only 2 months into cake decorating. I took Wilton Course 1 in March and just finished Fondant and Gum paste last night. I took my final cake for Fondant & Gum Paste to Bible Study this morning (it was that, my hips, or my husband's work) and the ladies went crazy over it. Two of the ladies asked for my card. One wants a cake for a Bridal Shower and I'm not sure what the other one wanted but she said "I will be calling you".

I'm kind of at a loss. I've made only a handful of cakes and absolutely LOVE cake decorating but really wasn't expecting anyone to ask anything more than a "favor" of me although friends and family have told me I should go into business. They are supposed to say that right?! ha ha

Can you please take a look at my photos and consider how long I've been doing this and help me determine what I should charge should these inquiries come to fruition?

I so wish I was independently wealthy and didn't have a lot of other obligations or I'd march myself right to a real school to learn from the best. I really feel like this could go somewhere but feel somewhat overwhelmed by the possibilities right know when I have so much yet to learn.

25 replies
Katied75 Posted 3 May 2008 , 1:10am
post #2 of 26

I could have written your post myself... well except that I'm not quite as far along in my training as you.

I'd love to see your photos. I also bet there are others that have been in your/ our place, and I'd love to hear how they continued to get experience once they had completed the Wilton classes.


CakeDiva73 Posted 3 May 2008 , 1:32am
post #3 of 26

Your cakes are very well done so don't be too shocked....baking is an art and some people ain't blessed! icon_wink.gif So they really flip when they find a contact who can provide custom cakes and such...

Here is my sage and wise advice (insert rolling-on-the-ground and hysterical laughter here icon_smile.gif ) DO NOT DO FREEBIE CAKES... DO NOT DO 1/2 SHEET CAKES FOR $20 - DO NOT GIVE DISCOUNTS.... *whew!!!*

Sorry for all that yelling but I cannot tell you how this will come back to bite you in the proverbial booty. Figure what you want to charge and be not cover your costs and then end up spending hours on cakes that net you $5. Been there done that!

I have a price list that I sweated and tweaked for days and I am happy to share it - Just PM me, if you like.

I know pricing has alot to do with location so if you are in a big city, you could undoubtedly charge more. However, if you are in a small town, this doesn't mean you have to charge peanuts. Let the people who want huge cakes for $15 go to Wal-Mart and target the higher end clients willing to pay for your custom goodies....good luck!

CakeInfatuation Posted 3 May 2008 , 1:32am
post #4 of 26

Hey Katie,

Just click on the photos link at the bottom of my post. You can see them there. icon_smile.gif

fmcmulle Posted 3 May 2008 , 1:33am
post #5 of 26

Hi Shill,
Your cakes are very nice and I think your talent is absolutely there thumbs_up.gif . So by all means keep up the great work!!!
Some of the best people on cake central and elsewhere are self taught. Although I think it would be awesome to take classes from the pros there are quite a few on this site that I would like to take some classes with.
You can learn alot from practice. So keep making cakes!!
Good luck

CakeDiva73 Posted 3 May 2008 , 1:34am
post #6 of 26

Oh and I didn't mean to sound snotty when I said that about not being blessed with the ability to bake - I just meant that it is something that some people cannot do no matter how hard they try. My BF is a fabulous cook, I mean she rocks the house with her food, but I cannot get her to back a decent cookie or cake no matter how long we work on it.

My cooking sort of sucks so I guess that same dandy phrase applies to that as well!

CakeInfatuation Posted 3 May 2008 , 3:02am
post #7 of 26

Thanks for your kind words. In my first cake decorating class I asked the instructor if anyone has ever "just gotten it". She told me that no one in her classes ever has and it took her 6 months to make a rose she was happy with.

She's a fine teacher, and I'm thrilled to be learning from her but I don't get a whole lot more from her than "that looks nice". But I know that I GET THIS! You show me how to do it and I can run with it. Let me see how you work the icing, how you position your hands, what technique you use, and I can mimic it. I feel like I have finally found the thing I can excel at and I so very much want to do it right. I have always loved to cook and bake.

Diva, thanks for the offer of your price list. I look forward to reviewing it.

CoutureCake Posted 3 May 2008 , 5:47am
post #8 of 26

I agree with CakeDiva73 here!!!! It will SO bite you in the bootie later on and suddenly those people who were oogling over your stuff are going to give you the snub and run off to walmart because it's cheaper than having you make it. It's a TOUGH ego day when that happens, but you begin to realize that they weren't your customers to begin with!

The thing to do, if you REALLY like cake decorating THAT much.. Get a job working for a bakery that does creative designs instead of a focus on production speed. You'll actually get paid instead of having money disappearing from your pocket. All the perks without the bottom line issues icon_lol.gif ...

The other thing is, hate to burst your bubble, but states are INCREDIBLY picky about people baking out of their homes for profit (which most states consider purchasing ingredients to be for profit because something is being exchanged). I honestly can see both sides of this topic... One you don't want someone wiping fido's butt then going directly to working on someone's wedding cake without so much as even washing their hands, OTOH, Susie Homemaker who is "anal" about keeping her kitchen space spotless, her hair in a hairnet, everything kept to the proper temperatures, great food handling through all phases, without a pet in the home should have some consideration on being able to sell cakes legally.

Good luck in what you decide!!

JoAnnB Posted 3 May 2008 , 6:16am
post #9 of 26

Here is a link to a thread about legal baking in PA.

Many decorators sell goods without a license. However, you are also without insurance and any protection if something goes wrong. Just so you make an informed decision.

Bonnie151 Posted 3 May 2008 , 6:47am
post #10 of 26

Hmmmmm - I'm going to slightly disagree on the "no free cakes" advice. I'm expecting to be legal within the next month and I've been doing free cakes for selected friends/parties for a few months. Everyone knows I'm setting myself up in business and have been incredibly keen to promote me. As a result I'm now working with "real-live-complete-stranger" customers every day on cake orders due between June-Sept. For every free cake I've done, I've had an average of three real orders come from it. Once I'm legal, the free cakes will be cut right back to immediate family and PR opportunities, but I've found it a great way to build up a customer base. I'm pretty careful in only giving free cakes where I know the potential customer base know how much a custom cake costs and won't be shocked when they contact me.

I would not discount your price - i.e. undercut the competition, but I would use discounts on occasion as part of a specific marketing plan (% off coupons, refer a friend discounts etc).

Good luck! I started cake decorating in Jan '07 and have been hooked from day one!

CakeDiva73 Posted 3 May 2008 , 6:58am
post #11 of 26

Let me be more clear ~ I was not talking about giving free cakes as samples for advertising...I was talking about starting a precident of doing free cake for friends 'since you are just starting out'.

By all means make sample cakes for people but don't actually NOT charge people who call you because you feel like you're practicing or whatever. That is where people make the mistake.....and it sure is hard to start charging after providing free cakes for so long. Just wanted to clear that up icon_smile.gif

Bonnie151 Posted 3 May 2008 , 7:05am
post #12 of 26
Originally Posted by CakeDiva73

Let me be more clear ~ I was not talking about giving free cakes as samples for advertising...I was talking about starting a precident of doing free cake for friends 'since you are just starting out'.

By all means make sample cakes for people but don't actually NOT charge people who call you because you feel like you're practicing or whatever. That is where people make the mistake.....and it sure is hard to start charging after providing free cakes for so long. Just wanted to clear that up icon_smile.gif

Ahhh, got you. Yeah, I DEFINITELY wouldn't give away free cakes just for practice. I only do it as part of my grand marketing plan. icon_biggrin.gif

I forgot to say that I also would not discount my cakes for friends just for practice. Either give them for free (as I described) or charge full price. I think discounting makes it incredibly difficult to then later charge full price. I think it's better to give them away at first (if this is a strategy to build up a base that you want to try), making it clear that it's just until you are set up, than to start up and discount for friends/family.

miny Posted 3 May 2008 , 7:56am
post #13 of 26

I totally agree on the no freebies unless it's for marketing, when I started my friends and family were really supportive and cheer a lot for my cakes (they were free because I was practicing) that made me very confident and one day I decided to charge them for the ingredients only, no for my work because, heck they are my family and friends!, right?...........WRONG! icon_confused.gif I spent more time asking for supplies money than they going and buying their cakes at costco icon_mad.gif , that is why I tell you to start charging for your cakes I bet they are delicious and I look and they are beautiful, they are worth money, do not let them get used to the free cake or it will come back at you.......... thumbsdown.gif
And don't think my cakes are tasteless or ugly because everytime I make one it's gone in minutes and I receive many nice comments so it's not that but the fact that many people don't want to pay for a custom cake instead they go wholesale icon_sad.gif

CakeInfatuation Posted 3 May 2008 , 11:19am
post #14 of 26

I understand about states being picky. I have a homemade candy I make and gave it away as gifts for a few years. People kept asking for the recipe but I refuse to give it out because I can't very well use it as a gift if people can make it themselves. So they asked me if I would sell it.

I made an attempt and sold over 300 packages between Thanksgiving and Christmas! I was EXHAUSTED! With the kind of volume I was doing (even sold 85 tins to a company in NJ as client gifts), I thought I'd better look into my options as I can only anticipate this holiday season being busier and I'm not sure my kitchen can accommodate. I was completely overwhelmed with all that I'd have to look into. So many laws relating to food. It is something I thought about when I started getting inquiries yesterday. But just like with my candy, I want to KNOW it is going to thrive before I invest the time, energy, and MONEY into making myself legal. My cakes will have to pay for that investment and right now, they've all been free!

I found a bakery nearby that has a family business of cake decorating only. One of them is an award winning flower artist. I want to go over and talk with them and show them some photos of my work and see if they'll let me "work" there to learn. Of course I'm not family but... we'll see.

dinas27 Posted 3 May 2008 , 1:37pm
post #15 of 26

I think you are very talented. You have a very nice aesthetic to you cakes. I really like your final wilton cake, and generally I am not a fan of the style of cake wilton promotes.

I dont have a business but have recently been getting interest from co-workers etc so I set a price list. I suggest you sit down to figure out ALL your expenses and decide how much you need to make an hour to make it worth not spending time with family, friends or doing things for yourself. If you want to make this a full time business then add it how much return on your investment you would like to make. I am not in this for the money right now... I am practicing so I dont expect to make profit, but I do want to get compensated for my time spent and ingredients.

The other thing... and I may be making an assumption here but make sure you are happy with all your recipes and supplies you use. More specifically Wilton fondant, nasty tasting $&!^, but if you are just getting started then maybe this is all you know. I was using rolled buttercream before I found cakecentral but have since discovered MMF. I also want to try Michelle Foster's Fondant both of which you can find in the recipe section of this website.

Hope this helps! Good luck in starting your business!

(just a thought - if your church has a licensed litchen perhaps you could rent it. Other members here do this successfully)[/i]

pastryjen Posted 3 May 2008 , 2:04pm
post #16 of 26

Shill...I think you just "got it" - a natural talent. Your bird house cake is fabulous. Very clean and crisp. Some people have been decorating cakes for ages and their work seems sloppy and messy to me.

Wow...can't wait to see more of your work.

ladyonzlake Posted 3 May 2008 , 2:05pm
post #17 of 26

I had "played" with decorating cakes by using the Wilton books for years, since my daughter was little but until I took the classes in 2006 I never really did anything with it. After I took the classes I was hooked!

I wanted to learn more and more but classes are limited here so I bought books and videos and joined CC and I've learned soooo much since my Wilton classes. I highly recommend Nicholas Lodge DVD's. They're afordable and he's a great teacher! Scott Clark Wooley's DVD are too expensive but I do have his book which is wonderful in walking you through sugarpaste flowers. I have a whole library of "Cake" books.

My advice is to put together a price list. Do some research. You can go through the internet and find local cake decorating web sites and see what they charge in your area. I went to the bridal show and picked up brochures. DO NOT under price your cakes! Charge more than grocery store prices...I don't even consider them cakes are "custom" theirs are not.

I do "free" cakes for advertising. Usually they are for family member functions. From my neice's school banquet I recieved 3 cake orders with a value of $700!

I say learn as much as you can...push yourself to do new organized with pricing and go for it! I highly recommend "The Cake Boss" for figuring out your pricing. It takes some research on your products but you'll be amazed at how much it costs YOU to make a cake.

Good luck!!

diane Posted 3 May 2008 , 5:09pm
post #18 of 26

all i have to say is...GIRL YOU GOT TALENT! thumbs_up.gif

CakeInfatuation Posted 3 May 2008 , 6:11pm
post #19 of 26

Thanks to the link to the PA stuff. Do fish count as pets? ha ha I've got a fish tank in our family room. But I can certainly promise the FDA that they won't have access to our kitchen!

You guys are really encouraging. Thanks! I'm starting Wilton course 2 on Monday. I am looking forward to it. I'll just keep on moving forward and see where it takes me. Getting licensed doesn't seem as difficult as I had once thought. (after reading through the PA thread) I was having so much difficulty wading through the mounds of info they have on home business to find the info that applied to me.

I might just be able to make my holiday candy business a success at the same time. icon_biggrin.gif

CoutureCake Posted 3 May 2008 , 6:40pm
post #20 of 26

Here's why not to do the "free cakes for advertising"... O.k. I did this with my IL's family business, I'd do a free cake here or there as "advertising"... Then I got smart and realized I didn't get one frick'n penny BACK from "advertising" only money gone from my pocket because they considered it to be an entitlement to get those cakes for free. Then when it came time that I got into business, you know what, NONE of them would purchase a cake from me. I was willing to work with their budgets, but they just weren't going to buy from me. My SIL was the ring leader in "don't buy from her because she JUST uses fondant" (which isn't the case, I'm just cheaper for fondant than I am for a smooth buttercream cake because of the value of my time, it takes me far less time to coat a cake with fondant than I'll spend perfectly smoothing a smooth buttercream cake)...

The point is, if you want to make a donation, then you let them know what they're going to pay for the cake, you get their deposit, you deposit it (which will cover your expenses)... Then when it comes time for the final payment you say "I'm making a one-time donation of my TIME and profit for the value of the rest of the cake for XYZ organization"... It keeps the organization on the terms that it was a one-time thing, so they'll be more likely to use you again, but also makes it clear that it's YOUR choice to make a donation because they ARE YOUR CUSTOMERS. The people that are willing to book you are the people that you want to be associated with making donations to, not the people that just want something for nothing out of entitlement. They WILL find a way to use that extra money for the event, don't kid yourself that they won't, OTOH, you'll have literally made someone's day regardless of the industry you're in.

I have another business that work at school events. The biggest thing I've learned is if they want my product/service they WILL pay for it. They go to their jobs and get paid, so am I. I've been to $100,000+ after-grad parties, one which one of the parents gave away a NEW CAR! (owned a dealership) Yes, it's a tribute to the fundraisers, but also, they still had that mentality that it was an "entitlement" and OF COURSE went back the following year EXPECTING that that same parent was going to give away another new car. Um, what's WRONG with this picture?!?!?! Like Indy said, all this other person is going to say is "she's just too expensive" so the expectation is that you gouge your prices even if your prices are completely fair and competitive.

O.k. to the original poster, what to do for the cake... And I COMPLETELY understand where you're coming from after reading the first thread... I wouldn't do two separate cakes for each event, I'd just do one bigger one because this is a lot of work to do and go for the bigger tiers and make your life simple. It's a donation, so do what you want. I'd do the 3-tier off-set stacked 6,10,14, do the border alternating in the school colors, and do design deco work from there. Basically, you do both cakes the same at the base with the stacking and border colors and adjust from there. You could even do it very simply and have some flower picks made using daisies sprayed the right colors (or luster dust them yourself)... Don't make more work for yourself than you absolutely need to. They're going to be expecting an aluminum pan sheet cake here so even if you put two filled 11x15's together and iced them as one, you're ahead of the game!!!

CoutureCake Posted 3 May 2008 , 6:42pm
post #21 of 26

This is what I get for having three CC screens up at once... threads running together... Sorry about that!!!!!

My point was: You decide who gets your donations and you do it after they've committed to booking you for your price. You'll feel that tinge of "I should have" until the day after you get your first freebie entitlement booking that they ONLY are booking you because you're free and never wanted to pay your price.

CakeInfatuation Posted 3 May 2008 , 7:42pm
post #22 of 26

To all of those who say "DO NOT DO CAKES FOR FREE". My mom JUST sent me this e-mail. How would you respond? I know I still need practice and I love decorating but is this one of those "no no's"?

On Tues. former co-workers going to dinner at Olive Garden for Elaine's BD. IF you wanted to decorate a cake just because you feel like it I am planning to bake one to take there. Other wise I'll just do a nice Bundt cake rather than a layer cake. Please don't feel like you should do this if not in the mood or don't have time. It was just a thought. If you did I'd give you some $$ for your cost. Could bake the cake on Sun. or Mon. So, just let me know.
Forwarded pictures of you last cake to family and lots of friends.
Love, mom

fiddlesticks Posted 3 May 2008 , 7:57pm
post #23 of 26

If you want to do it for your mom ..Why not ? your not sending it for orders really ! she invited you to do it for her !

CoutureCake Posted 3 May 2008 , 9:01pm
post #24 of 26

My only thought is the Olive Garden might not allow the cake to be brought in for whatever reason because of the rules and req's...

The thing is, it's Mom, that's a WHOLE different thing than friends from work... OTOH, I have a standing rule now that "Immediate family birthdays ONLY, and for weddings it's $50 towards the purchase of their wedding cake or they get to have me design and make their wedding cake using their details." (notice: that doesn't say ANYWHERE about THEM getting to choose the final design!!! - otoh, I'll let them have input into the flavors of the cake and filling)...

cakedout Posted 3 May 2008 , 9:06pm
post #25 of 26

So where in SE PA are you? I'm near Lancaster! icon_smile.gif

I've been a teacher for over 12 years, and I could tell within 3 classes if a student "got it" or would never get it in a hundred years! And I think you obviously have "got it"!!! (just need a bit of work on your shell borders) Good luck in your next class, and I hope you can find other decorators to learn from.

Have you heard of ICES? PA has a state chapter that meets 3x a year. Those Days of Sharing are a great place to talk to other decorators and watch demos. I've learned bunches from my PA cake friends. icon_biggrin.gif

I hope the bakery will hire you- working in a bakery was a great thing for me-taught me SPEED! which is a good thing when time is money. icon_wink.gif

CakeInfatuation Posted 4 May 2008 , 1:38am
post #26 of 26

I'm just outside of Philadelphia. I've not heard of ICES. I haven't heard of much yet. ha ha I'll have to look into it though. And you are right, I do need to work on my shell border. I have to go back to the book and review the technique. I know I'm not holding my hand right when I pipe it.

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