Please Help Me Save My Business...

Decorating By Karema Updated 6 Feb 2009 , 2:58am by Skirt

Karema Posted 2 Feb 2009 , 2:12pm
post #1 of 68

Some of you may have seen me posting about someone trying to steal all my customers and I have been trying to come up with a plan to help me save my business. I know that she buys cake and then slices it and sells it. I usually do cupcakes and use box mix. I came up with the idea that I have to become a scratch baker to knock her socks off I mean I have to really have some good recipes to get my customers back and earn some new ones. So my question is can anyone please help me become a great scratch baker. I've been searching the internet but I need to know for sure what is good because I dont have a lot of money to keep buying supplies. I know I need a good white, yellow and chocolate. I also need some good pound cakes and an upside down pineapple cake. I know this is a lot to ask but can I have a little help please. Do you have a recipe that makes people chase after you that is different than just plain pound cake and plain cupcakes or cake? Thank you so much for your help.


karema

67 replies
prterrell Posted 2 Feb 2009 , 2:19pm
post #2 of 68

This recipe works for cupcakes (mini, reg, or jumbo) and for 8 or 9 inch rounds:

NOTE: this is a recipe that I personally developed. If sharing with others, please give me credit! Thanks, Promise.

Nine Cup Chocolate Cake

fresh brewed coffee     1 cup
granulated sugar      1 cup
brown sugar      1 cup
cake flour        1 cup
AP flour        1 cup
cocoa pwder      1 cup
chopped dark chocolate    1 cup (about 6 oz)
buttermilk        1 cup
unsalted butter      1 cup (2 sticks)
baking soda      1-1/2 tsp
baking pwder      1 tsp
salt       1 tsp
eggs        4
vanilla        2 tsp

All ingredients except coffee room temp

combine butter, chopped chocolate, and hot coffee, stirring until butter and chocolate are melted. blend in buttermilk and vanilla.

in a large bowl, mix eggs, granulated and brown sugar until light and tripled in volume.

sift dry ingredients together.

add 1/4 of coffee mixture to egg and sugar mixture and blend until incorporated.
stir in 1/3 of dry ingredients.
repeat until all coffee and dry ingredients are incorporated and the blend until batter is smooth.

batter will be thin.

bake at 350, 30-45 min.

indydebi Posted 2 Feb 2009 , 2:32pm
post #3 of 68

Don't assume that scratch baking is "autmatically" better. It takes a good bit of talent to get a consistent, good tasting scratch anything. I think it has less to do with the recipe and more to do with teh baker's talent. The reason I'm not a scratch-baked fan is because I've run into too many people who couldn't bake and thought because they baked from scratch, it was "automatically" better.

Stick with what has gotten you this far while you work on scratch recipes and find the one that works for you. I wouldn't go cold turkey with it.

AKA_cupcakeshoppe Posted 2 Feb 2009 , 2:54pm
post #4 of 68

I agree with indydebi. the reason i bake from scratch is that it's difficult to find box mixes where i'm from. but baking from a box mix is more consistent and (after calculating) cheaper than scratch baking. I just have no choice.

May I ask if the one who is stealing your customers buying cake from you and charging more for it or buying it somewhere else?

Karema Posted 2 Feb 2009 , 3:17pm
post #5 of 68

Thanks fot the advice. I do bake from scratch and mix. I bake german chocolate cake, carrot and red velvet from scratch. I also do a pound cake from scratch. I do know how to do both I just want to convert because I have been slowly for a while but I wanted some ideas for some really good recipes that I can add to my list. I am looking up one now for a caramel pound cake. I also need a really good lemon pound cake. I wont completly stop doing mix I will keep doing that for wedding and birthday cakes. I just want to add some killer desserts so I can offer a variety. Thanks for the chocolate recipe and I will keep it to myself. Thank you.

Edited to add:
She is buying pond cake from the store and adding frosting and selling it.

tcakes65 Posted 2 Feb 2009 , 3:18pm
post #6 of 68

I agree that baking from scratch isn't always better. It takes a lot of research and time to get a consistently good scratch recipe. I bake from scratch, and it took me months experimenting with recipes before I found a handful that worked for me. If the box mixes work for you, then stick with it. Just because someone gives you a scratch recipe doesn't mean it's going to work the same for you. As with decorating, baking from scratch does take practice, JMHO. Have you tried adding more doctored mixes to your menu selection? If you do a lot of cupcake orders, how about addding some filling to the cupcakes to give them more of a "wow" factor. If you want to experiment with scratch recipes, I suggest purchasing the Cake Bible and Whimsical Bakehouse. Both books have some great recipes.

LaBellaFlor Posted 2 Feb 2009 , 3:18pm
post #7 of 68

I am a scratch baker & I don'tthink going scratch is what is going to help you. If I'm reading right, you make cupcakes at home from a box & they buy their cake from a store & then resell it. Is that correct? Cause if that is so, it's doesn't sound like a taste thing, but a price issue. It has to be cheaper to buy a cake at Wal-Mart or something like that, decorate it & then resell it. They are probably going to her for price sake. I would suggest a different marketing strategy. Maybe start stressing the fact that it's CUSTOM cupcakes, made to order, MADE at home.

tcakes65 Posted 2 Feb 2009 , 3:24pm
post #8 of 68
Quote:
Originally Posted by Karema

Thanks fot the advice. I do bake from scratch and mix. I bake german chocolate cake and carrot from scratch. I also do a pound cake from scratch. I do know how to do both I just want to convert because I have been slowly for a while but I wanted some ideas for some really good recipes that I can add to my list. I am looking up one now for a caramel pound cake. I wont completly stop doing mix I will keep doing that for wedding and birthday cakes. I just want to add some killer desserts so I can offer a variety. Thanks for the chocolate recipe and I will keep it to myself. Thank you




Are you licensed to where you can openly advertise your business? It does sound like this is just a matter of the other cake decorator undercutting your prices. There's not much you can do about that. The cake business can be brutal, and there's always going to be someone out there that will undercut your prices just to get the business. Also, it seems that clients have been more interested in price than taste lately. I think the economy has affected price point with many clients.

Karema Posted 2 Feb 2009 , 3:33pm
post #9 of 68

Yes I am a licenced baker so I can advertise. I just dont seem to be getting any cake orders and I have cards and flyers so I dont know what else to do. I do know that there is a huge market where I life for some homemade scratch recipes. People have been asking for lemon pound cake and they like stuff like 7up pound cake so that is why I'm trying to get some scratch recipes. I also need to start getting some cake orders or I will fail. I have to make some good recipes that is not only for birthdays and weddings.

tcakes65 Posted 2 Feb 2009 , 3:51pm
post #10 of 68

So you're wanting more dessert type cakes? If so, I'll check and see what I have at my shop and will let you know.

It's really tough for small businesses right now. I suggest marketing the heck out of your business while you're researching recipes. Post on Craigslist, and there are many wedding web sites that provide free advertising as well. I think it was Indydebi that said pass out business cards, at least ten a day.

Have you asked any of your clients why they chose to contract with the other decorator? Don't be afraid to ask for feedback. Just be prepared for constructive criticism. Getting feedback may help you pinpoint the problem rather than reacting and changing what you do. Sometimes making too many changes can confuse customers and have the opposite affect of what you intended.

FromScratch Posted 2 Feb 2009 , 3:55pm
post #11 of 68

You could be the best scratch baker in the world, but if you aren't actively marketing yourself to your community you still wouldn't be getting business. Cards and flyers and a website are all great tools, but if you aren't out there pushing your product it isn't going to take off.

Are you only going to be in the business of making cupcakes? Or will you be doing cakes as well? I only ask so I can see where you are heading. icon_smile.gif Being sucessful in business takes lots of hard hard work. It also takes money to make money. You are going to have to invest in your business to bring it forward.

You need to sit down and really think about what you want your business to be. Who are you catering to? What are your costs and what do you want to be making as a profit? What is your product? Answering the basic questions will help you focus your efforts. Will you market yourself to birthdays or weddings or both? Will your customer base be able to handle the added cost of you being a scratch baker? If you do go all scratch it gets more expensive to make your product and if YOUR costs go up so do theirs. You can't sell scratch cupcakes for $2.00 each... I start mine at $4.50 each. I have to to make enough to make them worth my time.

Not to sound like it's scary, because it's not, but you need to think about the whole picture. It's not just about making great tasting cakes. Business is business and it's HARD. If you want to make it past the occasional few extra bucks then you need to approach it as such. icon_biggrin.gif

Karema Posted 2 Feb 2009 , 4:05pm
post #12 of 68

So far I make my cupcakes usally from box and they taste good. I do a few scratch and want to add a few more. I just am on the lookout for some signature cakes that make people in this area say wow what is that and where do I get it. I am looking for something that people dont really make in this area so only I would offer it and they would have to come to me because its a specialty. Maybe I'm asking for too much. Maybe I'm not really cut out for this business and I'm too soft and dont have enough experiance. I dont know. Thanks for trying to help me anyway.

karema

tx_cupcake Posted 2 Feb 2009 , 4:15pm
post #13 of 68

Check out this thread about gourmet flavors:

http://forum.cakecentral.com/modules.php?name=Forums&file=viewtopic&t=614554&postdays=0&postorder=asc&&start=0

MacsMom has some FABULOUS sounding combos. Maybe you could be the "gourmet" cake lady!

FromScratch Posted 2 Feb 2009 , 4:18pm
post #14 of 68

That right there is a sign. Too quick to say that you can't do it. Come on girl... get up... look yourself in the eye (use a mirror)... and tell yourself you CAN!

What kind of cakes are you looking to get into? From what you are saying, you sound like you are wanting to do dessert cakes (that aren't highly decorated but are delicious) more than what one would call a decorated cake (to match themes and the like). Are you staying clear of the wedding industry all together? If you are focusing in on the people who are going to want to grab a cake for dessert or to bring to a holiday dinner then that is more than okay. Doing so from home can prove to be a challenge though since most people who are looking for this sort of a thing tend to be looking last minute, but some do plan. Those of us who have been at this for a bit tend to tell you what you don't want to hear. That it ain't easy. That you need to look past the cakes and see the bigger picture. That a business isn't going to grow itself. If you make it... they won't come, but if you SELL it... they will. If you are a good sales person you can sell anything. You have to make people think that they NEED your product. People want lots of things, but if you can get them to feel like they need it... you are on your way.

I won't lie... it's not something that happens overnight, but if you are willing to work for it anything is possible. Don't be so harsh with yourself. Come up with a business plan and attack it. icon_biggrin.gif

FromScratch Posted 2 Feb 2009 , 4:20pm
post #15 of 68

I see you are newly pregnant too... congratualtions!! The hormones don't help when you are trying to think big either so take it doubly easy on yourself okay?? icon_smile.gif

tcakes65 Posted 2 Feb 2009 , 4:22pm
post #16 of 68

I started that thread. icon_lol.gif I was in a rut that day, and many flavor combinations just didn't sound "wow" to me so I asked for ideas. Try not to take the attitude that you're not cut out for this. This business takes a lot of work and dedication. Having some wow factor cakes isn't going to be the sole factor in taking your business to the next level. All businesses have their wow factor cakes, and it's all about marketing yourself. Come up with a signature design for your cupcakes. I see many cupcake businesses that have a unique icing style or decorations that sets them apart. That may be a good direction to go.

kkitchen Posted 2 Feb 2009 , 4:25pm
post #17 of 68

Karema - anytime you tell yourself you can't; you have already convinced your mind that it can't and thus you won't. Please do not be down on yourself. The best things in life takes time. I was like you once, down on myself feeling like I will not get to make money doing this, but, no - I used that time to work on ways to enhance my products. I started to make GP flowers, try out recipes - and overall develop my skills.
I understand what you are saying about competition, but, I think that no matter what business you are in there will always be a COMP.
Look at the airlines, they all compete - and they all make money - well maybe all. But, I mean to say, take the quiet time to look at something that your comp do not offer and work at mastering it.
I am certain that you will do very well in time.
All the best,

2508s42 Posted 2 Feb 2009 , 4:34pm
post #18 of 68

Karema,

What are you charging for cupcakes? Think about what YOU would spend, or what you DID spend before you started making your own. In my area, there are some MAJOR stores that are selling cupcakes for 25 cents each. It is hard for people in this economy to spend $1-$3 on a cupcake when they can get the same thing (in their mind) at a grocery store. You need to do something to make them special, filling, custom decorations etc. Things that they can't get at a grocery. I don't know about you, but I can't compete with a grocery because I don't have a large factory that makes all the cupcakes with a machine and sends them out. Be sure to emphasize CUSTOM, DESIGNER, GOURMET, etc.

As far as adveritising, you have to spend a little to make a lot. Make sure your card looks professional and your flyer. You may bake from home, but you dont want to look like someones mom from school. Make sure that the over all look says... I'M A PRO. THEN...make some awesome cakes, flavor, decoration etc, (I would do small ones) Deliver them to wedding people and give them cards and flyers. Wedding planners, location vendors, florists, photographers are all people that my brides have gone to before they came to me. Build a rep with THOSE people and they will refer you.

Enter "auctions" for school. Give away a customed designed cake and let people bid on it. You can write off your expenses on the cake, but with your poster or flyer of all the coolest cakes you've done, put a stack of cards. Especially go to the upper class private schools to "donate". (Private schools, etc) I have done this 4 times, and each time it was a top seller at the auction. Each time the cake cost me about $20 to make, and each time the auction brought in about 5 new customers, who tell their friends, who tell their friends....Just be sure to go to the places where there are people with disposable income. People in my neighborhood will not spend $50 on a cake, but people on the other side of my town will. Also, a thank you cake to a nursing staff at the hospital will do wonders. Don't bother with the firestation, they are mostly men, and will not remember to tell the wives about the awesome cake. WOMEN are who make these purchases. Go to the women.

Last, make sure that you are putting out a professional product. Package it in a cake box, if you use fancifoil, be sure to put a ribbon around the base, make sure your sides are smooth, make sure this are no smudges on the cake board, etc. Then mark your box, or tape your card to it and give them a few extra cards to give away.

Hope this helps. These are things I've learned in the two paltry years I have been doing this, and the first year, my business doubled, this last year I had FOUR TIMES the amount of business. Still not where I want to be, but getting there.

Remember, if she is undercutting you...those people are NOT YOUR MARKET. Let her have the people who will buy cheap cakes. You are a HIGH END baker. Keep telling yourself that, and make it happen. When you find out someone bought from someone else, well, they are not your market....There are people who will spend money are quality, but they have to know where to find it.

Hang in tough. You have talent, it is just getting exposed to the right people.

Ayanami Posted 2 Feb 2009 , 4:40pm
post #19 of 68

I bake from box mixes 99% of the time just cause it's so much cheaper, faster, easier, etc etc etc. (you know) I get compliments alllll the time about how moist, fresh, delicious, fabulous, blahblahblah my cakes are & no one knows that it came from a box mix. Scratch vs box mix doesn't necessarily mean a whole lot. (to my customers at least) i totally agree with previous posts that the key to your success is going to be advertisement. There is a market out there for CUSTOM cakes vs cheap, assembly line cakes & you just have to get your name out there.

__Jamie__ Posted 2 Feb 2009 , 4:44pm
post #20 of 68

And in my opinion, yes you absolutely need to be baking from scratch. That helps people get the "I can get the same thing from Walmart" idea right the he** out of their head. The same thing eh? You mean mass baked, flash frozen, shipped in bulk to 400 stores on a Wednesday night to be used all week? Chocolate, white and marble as the only choices? Fillings from a plastic bag made with God knows what preservatives.....I could go on and on. Yuch.

__Jamie__ Posted 2 Feb 2009 , 4:48pm
post #21 of 68
Quote:
Originally Posted by Ayanami

I bake from box mixes 99% of the time just cause it's so much cheaper, faster, easier, etc etc etc. (you know) I get compliments alllll the time about how moist, fresh, delicious, fabulous, blahblahblah my cakes are & no one knows that it came from a box mix. Scratch vs box mix doesn't necessarily mean a whole lot. (to my customers at least) i totally agree with previous posts that the key to your success is going to be advertisement. There is a market out there for CUSTOM cakes vs cheap, assembly line cakes & you just have to get your name out there.




And I'm certainly not bashing mix users. I use them too occasionally, for friends and family. I just reached a point with my baking where I wanted to be able to say everything I make is custom from start to finish.

Win Posted 2 Feb 2009 , 4:50pm
post #22 of 68

Karema,
I tend to agree that it is not an issue of scratch vs. mix, but more of a marketing issue. --You are getting some great marketing ideas from the above posters. I am only a hobby cake maker, but have successfully run a national brand cosmetics business from my home for years. One of their motto's is: "The Power of Three." Make a minimum three contacts EACH day. Since you are licensed and can advertise go for the magnetic car sign, ALWAYS, always, always, go out in public wearing a tee shirt which has your company name/logo "emblazoned" across it. TALK YOURSELF UP ANYWHERE AND EVERYWHERE and have a ready supply of business cards available to hand out even in casual conversation situations. Make sure your friends and family have your best interests at heart... have them keep their eyes peeled and their ears to the ground. You have to go out and provide samples, leave cards, etc. School faculty lounges are great places to leave a box of courtesy cupcakes and your sales info. I know you have mentioned your pregnancy and hormones in an earlier posting and that can really make an impact on your confidence level as well as your energy level, but you can make it work if you are truly determined. In the meantime, continue to perfect those scratch recipes that allow you to set the competition bar higher. Keep your chin up!!! You CAN do this!

edited for typo

__Jamie__ Posted 2 Feb 2009 , 4:57pm
post #23 of 68
Quote:
Originally Posted by Win

In the meantime, continue to perfect those scratch recipes that allow you to set the competition bar higher.




Exactly...setting the bar higher, and removing it all together from the cake mix aisle at the grocery store!

Ayanami Posted 2 Feb 2009 , 5:02pm
post #24 of 68
Quote:
Quote:

And I'm certainly not bashing mix users. I use them too occasionally, for friends and family. I just reached a point with my baking where I wanted to be able to say everything I make is custom from start to finish.




I would love to be able to make everything from scratch. icon_cry.gif I hope to one day be able to say the exact same thing about all of my products. thumbs_up.gif

kelleym Posted 2 Feb 2009 , 5:05pm
post #25 of 68

Here's Ina Garten's lemon cake - it's like a pound cake in texture and density, and you can bake it in the loaf pans like is shown in the picture, or do like I do and bake it in a bundt pan. icon_smile.gif IMO it's as good as anything that comes from a high-end bakery.

http://www.leitesculinaria.com/recipes/cookbook/lemon_cake.html

Dizzymaiden Posted 2 Feb 2009 , 5:06pm
post #26 of 68

[I can't wait to make this cake! Thank you! (I always have left over coffee in the morning..and since I insist on grinding expensive whole beans this recipe ROCKS)


quote="prterrell"]This recipe works for cupcakes (mini, reg, or jumbo) and for 8 or 9 inch rounds:

NOTE: this is a recipe that I personally developed. If sharing with others, please give me credit! Thanks, Promise.

Nine Cup Chocolate Cake

fresh brewed coffee     1 cup
granulated sugar      1 cup
brown sugar      1 cup
cake flour        1 cup
AP flour        1 cup
cocoa pwder      1 cup
chopped dark chocolate    1 cup (about 6 oz)
buttermilk        1 cup
unsalted butter      1 cup (2 sticks)
baking soda      1-1/2 tsp
baking pwder      1 tsp
salt       1 tsp
eggs        4
vanilla        2 tsp

All ingredients except coffee room temp

combine butter, chopped chocolate, and hot coffee, stirring until butter and chocolate are melted. blend in buttermilk and vanilla.

in a large bowl, mix eggs, granulated and brown sugar until light and tripled in volume.

sift dry ingredients together.

add 1/4 of coffee mixture to egg and sugar mixture and blend until incorporated.
stir in 1/3 of dry ingredients.
repeat until all coffee and dry ingredients are incorporated and the blend until batter is smooth.

batter will be thin.

bake at 350, 30-45 min.[/quote]

Janette Posted 2 Feb 2009 , 5:07pm
post #27 of 68

My 2 cents on scratch - I've been baking for 41 years and have tried my share of recipes I still say that it's hard to beat Duncan Hines.

When cake mixes first came out (Swan) they were awful but women that just didn't bake used them. Over time have improved a great deal. Yet they still are labeled.

There are people out there that has it in their head that scratch is better and you're not going to get them to change. I don't say I use boxed cakes, I use my own recipe and I do. I start with the box as my base and make my own changes here or there to make them mine.

tx_cupcake Posted 2 Feb 2009 , 5:11pm
post #28 of 68
Quote:
Originally Posted by kelleym

Here's Ina Garten's lemon cake - it's like a pound cake in texture and density, and you can bake it in the loaf pans like is shown in the picture, or do like I do and bake it in a bundt pan. icon_smile.gif IMO it's as good as anything that comes from a high-end bakery.

http://www.leitesculinaria.com/recipes/cookbook/lemon_cake.html





Oooooo! Ina Garten has some fantastic recipes. I can't live without her brownies. If you want to wow some people, make these brownies. They are the BEST!!!

http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/ina-garten/outrageous-brownies-recipe3/index.html

FromScratch Posted 2 Feb 2009 , 5:21pm
post #29 of 68

I wasn't impressed with her brownies.. I am still on the quest for the perfect brownie recipe. It's been a long road. It's a good thing that the "failures" don't taste too bad. icon_wink.gif

tx_cupcake Posted 2 Feb 2009 , 5:36pm
post #30 of 68
Quote:
Originally Posted by jkalman

I wasn't impressed with her brownies.. I am still on the quest for the perfect brownie recipe. It's been a long road. It's a good thing that the "failures" don't taste too bad. icon_wink.gif




icon_surprised.gificon_eek.gificon_confused.gif

Are you pullin' my leg, woman? I'd take a bullet for those brownies! Well, maybe that's a little extreme... a rubber bullet, maybe. icon_lol.gif

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