Neatness... Learned Or Talent?

Decorating By Katied75 Updated 12 May 2008 , 3:50am by wgoat5

Katied75 Posted 11 May 2008 , 3:00am
post #1 of 22

I am not a neat cake decorator. However, I'm a very early beginner. I will take on a more challangeing buttercream cake and it will take me 8 hours to do (40 roses, scrolling, etc). We are only talking a round here too, not a tiered cake.

So, I'll spend 8 hours on this cake and by the end it's done and so messy. Dots are different sizes. Some roses were made with sharp, crisp petals and others were made with melted icing and look flat. The scrolling isn't always even. My kitchen is a huge mess with icing covering everything.

Anyway, I wondered tonight if I'm being too hard on myself... I'm a life long baker but I've only been decorating for 2 months. I love it but have to fit it in here and there and often am hurrying at the end because my kitchen has to be cleaned, kids need baths, bedtime stories must be read, etc. etc. Is "neatness" something that is learned through experience and practice and time, or is it something you either naturally have or don't have?



21 replies
Texas_Rose Posted 11 May 2008 , 3:19am
post #2 of 22

Neatness on the cake will improve with practice, changes in icing consistency, etc...

Neatness in the kitchen is a whole other story icon_lol.gificon_lol.gificon_lol.gif My kitchen is trashed right now. I'm waiting for my hubby to leave for work before I start cleaning it (he works nite shift) because I don't want him to see how many hours it will take me to fix it all.

Sugarflowers Posted 11 May 2008 , 3:23am
post #3 of 22

Neatness does come with time and practice. It sounds like some of your problem might be working too long on a cake. By this, I actually mean that the heat of your hands is making your frosting too soft. This will definitely change the quality and neatness of any decoration. Use multiple bags and as soon as the frosting feels a little soft, switch to a new, pre-filled bag. If you have warm hands, this can be a huge problem.

As for your kitchen, I think that just depends on the person. My kitchen is a wreck when I cook anything. When my mom cooked, the kitchen looked like no one had been in there. I've never gotten there. icon_smile.gif You should see my house a few days before a competition!

Don't worry about taking a little longer. When you get more experience your speed will improve. If you think about it, we don't expect little kids to be running at full speed as soon as they learn to stand, so why should we expect ourselves to be fantastic as a totally new venture? Again, with kids, it's baby steps. It should be the same in what ever you decide to learn.

Good luck with your cakes and don't be so hard on yourself.


Sugarflowers Posted 11 May 2008 , 3:25am
post #4 of 22
Originally Posted by Texas_Rose

Neatness on the cake will improve with practice, changes in icing consistency, etc...

Neatness in the kitchen is a whole other story icon_lol.gificon_lol.gificon_lol.gif My kitchen is trashed right now. I'm waiting for my hubby to leave for work before I start cleaning it (he works nite shift) because I don't want him to see how many hours it will take me to fix it all.

icon_lol.gificon_lol.gif I laughed as soon as I read this! icon_lol.gif I've been there!


Katied75 Posted 11 May 2008 , 3:38am
post #5 of 22

Thanks everybody! I know that when I was in class creating a cake my decorations looked great. It's at home when I'm doing them over and over that they get sloppy.

I do need to get more tips and also buy a large container of icing in bulk for practice. Right now I'm making my own icing for every cake, and I often run out halfway through and need to make more. It's a pain and adds to my feeling of "hurry up and get done".

Cakebelle Posted 11 May 2008 , 3:38am
post #6 of 22

Exactly! Don't be so hard on yourself! Neatness does come with practice, and to make flowers I sometimes fill 2 or 3 different pastry bags so that the heat from my hands doesn't make it too soft. I think being a decorator requires a lot of patience, and if you're a mom you probably have that covered already, LOL icon_wink.gificon_lol.gif
One thing I do before I begin decorating a cake is clean up the mess all around me, and only have the things I need on the work surface, so that I can work in peace and not worry about the mess I've made! icon_biggrin.gif
Just make sure you enjoy yourself while you decorate, it work like therapy for me.
Cake decorators RULE!!! thumbs_up.gif


vteventrider Posted 11 May 2008 , 3:41am
post #7 of 22

I feel your pain. I am also a lifelong baker but new decorator and I have the same problem. My work also has obvious hesitancy marks where I am not moving as fast or fluid as I should.

Lorendabug Posted 11 May 2008 , 4:08am
post #8 of 22

It just takes time and practice, practice, practice! I start with a clean kitchen and only get out what I need. I keep a sink full of hot soapy water so I can just drop in what needs to get washed as I go. That way the mess is not spread out all over the place.

pamconn Posted 11 May 2008 , 2:12pm
post #9 of 22

And all this time I thought that it was only me icon_redface.gif

janebrophy Posted 11 May 2008 , 2:43pm
post #10 of 22

I found that making a schedule and sticking to it really helped me. This past week I had 4 cakes due within a day of each other. That is a lot for me. I stuck to my plan ie, shop monday, make icing Tuesday., and for the first time ever, I was pleased with all cakes, and they weren't just something I threw together. The prep work for caking takes so long, (especially because I'm not a pro) that I would finish the prep, and panic about finishing the decorating. icon_smile.gif

Granpam Posted 11 May 2008 , 2:47pm
post #11 of 22

I have hot hands and had the same problem with neatness in the beginning because my flowers and borders would grow the more the icing warmed.
(Partly because it took awhile for me to do the designs.)Then I learned not to fill the bags as much and the rest time while refilling bags actually gave me a steadier hand. Now after 8 years I am faster and can fill my bags whatever level I need for the job. As for the clean part. It didn't happen until a month ago when we put our house up for sale. I now clean as I go in case I get a call for someone to look at the house. Hope that habit sticks. It would make my life much easier. LOL

Tomoore Posted 11 May 2008 , 2:47pm
post #12 of 22

I can definitely relate!! The kitchen becomes a disaster area when I'm in there. I am trying to take baby steps at doing better though, cause it absolutely SUCKS to finish a project and then have to convince your tired body to start from scratch at cleaning the kitchen!

One thing I'm trying to convince mysled to do is to STOP and clean the first mess before starting the next. This has helped a bit.

JenniferMI Posted 11 May 2008 , 3:03pm
post #13 of 22

Practice DOES make perfect.... some just have to practice more than others. I certainly didn't do cakes when I first started like I do now, so don't be so hard on yourself. Practice also will decrease that time it is taking you to do a cake. But, it is time consuming...I think that's why lots of people start, then get out of this. They don't want to be patient and build up their skills and speed. You need to be able to make $$$ at it at some point...

As far as the kitchen, heck everytime I work mine looks like a powdered sugar bomb went off - LOL!!!! Don't have the answer for that one icon_smile.gif

Jen icon_smile.gif

indydebi Posted 11 May 2008 , 3:14pm
post #14 of 22

agree with everyone .... speed comes with practice. My first roses-wedding-cake took me 8 hours JUST to make all the roses. Now I can ice, border, make roses and decorate that same cake in about 3 hours. You will get there.

Cleaning tips: Cover your counters with large sheets of wax or parchment paper.....or even a big towel!! Laying spoons, decorating bags, messy tips, etc., on a sheet of wax paper makes clean up easier than having to wash the counter. I have the 18x26 sheets of parchment which is GREAT for putting under/near your mixer ... catches all the flying powdered sugar, the splotch of egg white that dripped, a place to lay your spoons, etc. Clean up is just wadding up the sheet and trashing it.

Here's a little thing I discovered that is a BIG help .... transfer all of your ingredients to large, wide mouth containers. It is SO much easier/faster to dip your Tbsp into a wide mouth container than it is to measure a Tbsp out of a little McCormick's can. It's easy to dip out the baking soda, then put the lid back on the container and set it aside .... then no putting away little teeny PITA cans/bottles of stuff that is just in your way.

Keep a wet rag close by to wipe up little spills and piles of p.sugar as you go. Makes a big difference.

littlecake Posted 11 May 2008 , 7:28pm
post #15 of 22

too bad we lost the ugly cake thread we had on here before the system crashed....those were hilarious !!!!

skills get honed and speed comes with practice....i thought you were posting about about keeping the shop clean.....that's another story.....i was just thinking yesterday, when i started cleaning up...they'd have a field day with how sloppy i am, if i ever had to compete somewhere.

SeriousCakes Posted 11 May 2008 , 7:54pm
post #16 of 22

I like Indydebi's idea of the towel on the floor, I've been doing that for my last few cakes and I LOVE not having to wipe up the floor when I'm done with my frosting. I have also gotten into a routine, I make my frosting, wipe down the counter and put away ingredients, get the kids in bed, then start on the rest. I like to wash the things I hate the most while my frosting is crusting over-like my cake icer bag! I've found that I can wash at least 3-4 things while it crusts over, those are usually the bigger things, then when I'm ready to start decorating I like to do it with a clean countertop. Once I'm done decorating the kitchen isn't a huge mess, I usually only have a couple more things to wash then I leave the tips soaking overnight. thumbs_up.gif

CakeDiva73 Posted 11 May 2008 , 8:11pm
post #17 of 22

I used to be such a, I am almost to the point of neurotic when it comes to cooking and cleaning. I have to start with a clean kitchen and I clean as I go....if stuff is mixing, I am rinsing. I use a paper plate as my 'spoon' rack when I bake to put the spatula on - I love parchment paper, like is a lifesaver.

And hot water is forever running. I make sure my dishwasher is empty and then I literally clean and wipe counters as I go. I have found once I started doing this, there was more peace in my kitchen and I was able to bang out better cake! icon_wink.gif

kansaswolf Posted 11 May 2008 , 8:48pm
post #18 of 22
Originally Posted by littlecake

too bad we lost the ugly cake thread we had on here before the system crashed....those were hilarious !!!!

We started a new ugly cakes thread here: HILARIOUS!!!! icon_lol.gif

And I'm another one whose kitchen looks like a "powdered sugar bomb" went off! Even my four year old kept commenting last week (when I had FOUR cakes due on Saturday), "Mommy, you made a BIG MESS..." icon_biggrin.gif

melysa Posted 11 May 2008 , 8:53pm
post #19 of 22

neatness...i think it is learned as well as an atribute that some have, and some, simply- do not. i like my cakes to look tidy, because honestly, if i was on the recieving end of the cake, i wouldnt want to eat it if it looked sloppy and manhandled. as far as your work space, i agree that if you clean as you go, it makes for less stressfull baking and decorating . also, plan ahead, draw and write it out and take breaks. its easier to come back with a clear head.

Win Posted 11 May 2008 , 9:24pm
post #20 of 22

Don't worry, friends, there's an age-old saying that a messy kitchen is the sign of a great cook!!! Fall back on that when things get out of control. I use the parchment paper on the counters as well, line up my measuring spoons, have duplicates of many utensils so one load can wash while the other is being used. I have two KA bowls to switch in and out as well (striving for duplicate beaters.) I have a industrial sized floor mat that I tuck into corner of the floor in the area of the mixers, etc. That way, if I get slap happy with the powdered sugar, it's not all over the floor which becomes a sticky mess when wiped with a wet mop. In the case of an accident, I keep a wet Swiffer handy for wipe ups that I don't have to get down on my knees to tackle. I try to work in stages and, too, keep a list of things to "draw a line through" as I go. Still, my best efforts are not always "best" and I'd loose points in a Food Network Challenge for a neat work station. IndyD... LOVE the idea of wide mouth containers. You are a bounty of wisdom. thumbs_up.gif

indydebi Posted 12 May 2008 , 1:28am
post #21 of 22
Originally Posted by Win

... LOVE the idea of wide mouth containers.

The big red Folgers coffee cans are great for those! Too bad I had to switch to NSF containers. Silly little health dept rule!! icon_razz.gif

wgoat5 Posted 12 May 2008 , 3:50am
post #22 of 22

I actually feel asleep in a ps pile working on a cake for 2 nights....woke upwith a ps in my eyes and in my hair.. I was soooo tired... anywho.. I clean as I go.. I bake I clean I make icing while cake cools I clean... BUT.. once decorating the cake gets started it's a disaster!!!!! I find piles of bc that have fallen out of the bag onto the floor.. UGHHH... therefore before I go to bed or start anything else out comes the mop... I'm still trying to find that pixie that keeps leaving sprinkles on my face.. darn things get everywhere LOL

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