mrsb37 Posted 11 Sep 2009 , 7:55pm
post #1 of

I've been making cakes out of my home on-the-side for several years, and teach Wilton classes. I'm thinking of applying for a job as a decorator somewhere after my kids go to school, so I'm wondering:

1) How much do cake decorators usually get paid?

2) What kind of background/experience do bakery owners look for when hiring decorators?

Thanks for any advice/input!

29 replies
prterrell Posted 11 Sep 2009 , 8:08pm
post #2 of

Most grocery store decorators get paid between $7 and $10 an hour, depending on the store, your experience, and time with the company. A private bakery may pay less or more, depending on how much business it does and how upscale a place it is.

Take copies of pics of your best work with you when you fill out the application and give a copy to the bakery manager or store manager (whomever is doing the hiring).

Be prepared to ice and decorate a cake during your interview. You will at the very least be asked to demonstrate that you can make a rose and write legibly.

Be prepared to work really hard and to churn out those cakes! When I worked as a groc. store decorator, we had to ice and decorate 40 quarter sheet cakes per 8 hour shift. On a Saturday, we'd easily have over a hundred orders, most of them do for pick-up at Noon. Which meant we started on them on Friday and we started our Saturday shifts VERY early and did not have a break for a straight 10 hours. Seriously, we were lucky if we could run to the bathroom and grab a sip of soda here and there.

GottaLuvCake Posted 11 Sep 2009 , 8:11pm
post #3 of

working as a grocery store decorator totally sounds like it would take the fun right out of it!

ButtercupMama Posted 11 Sep 2009 , 8:51pm
post #4 of

I think amount varies greatly from area to area, and different bakeries and different skill levels!

If you have not worked in the field, be prepared to start at min wage, and work as a bakery clerk first. I'm not saying you won't score a sweet job right off the bat, especially if you have great photos, but just be mentally prepared!

I get a little wary when people call asking about a decorator job, because it seems that some have no intention of washing dishes, helping customers, mopping up, and etc. And some places can afford "just decorators" because they employ enough people to have a dishwasher, clerk, baker, etc.

So, I guess my advice would be to do a little research on the place you are applying at, and tailor your request, or resume objective accordingly. If you apply somewhere high production, place an emphasis on your speed, for instance.

Also, culinary students scare me when they come in, and say, I'd like to have a bakery of my own someday.... and I'm thinking, well let me pay you to teach you everything I know so you can open up a competing shop in two years.
HA HA!
Seriously, when you're looking for a job, put yourself in the shoes of the owner or person hiring... what do you want to hear?
HTH! Good luck thumbs_up.gif

cakesdivine Posted 11 Sep 2009 , 9:32pm
post #5 of

Actually that $7 figure is WAY passe! Min. Wage is currently at $7.25 per hour and cake decorators starting pay for inexperienced decorators has always been typically 2 to 3 dollars above min wage. Most grocery stores have a department cap for decorators at $16 per hour now. You can get way more sometimes at a private bakery. I worked one time for a private bakery that paid an very great hourly rate then an additional $1 for every cake you completed. These were all sheet cake birthday and other special occasion cakes, Don't know why her stuff was so popular she used BC cake mixes (the worst one imho) and the worst buttercream you ever stuck in your mouth! Only made with shortening, sugar and water...GROSS! At any rate each day there were at least 40 or more cakes to crank out and there were 2 decorators. This was about 15 years ago.

mrsb37 Posted 12 Sep 2009 , 1:18am
post #6 of

Wow! I had no idea about how much volume decorators crank out in some bakeries! Good point also about mopping up, helping customers, doing dishes, etc. I don't mind any of that, but I had never thought of it.

Someone told me that some decorators come in early, finish their work and go home. Is that right?

Thank you, everyone!!

prterrell Posted 12 Sep 2009 , 3:18am
post #7 of

Oh, I didn't realized they'd raised the min wage again. I left the groc store bakery almost 4 years ago now, so my comments were based on what was being paid then. Still, gives you an idea of the range, a dollar or two over min wage to start. Not that great of a wage for the work you do, honestly.

CakeDiva73 Posted 12 Sep 2009 , 8:44am
post #8 of

Just a little (sad) FYI icon_smile.gif, I was offered a bakery cake decorator job at minimum wage - right off the bat! They said possibly $1 raise after 6 months of hard work and working every Friday night and Saturday plus all major holidays. This was a regular chain grocery store bakery department.... I kind of thought I would get a few dollars above MW too - maybe the store I went to just sucked? icon_rolleyes.gif

Justbeck101 Posted 13 Sep 2009 , 4:30am
post #9 of

I worked in a grocery store bakery at our local store and after I started working they began to add more and more into my daily responsibilities. When they added "doughnut making" to the list, I quit. This only lasted about weeks!

Brandy982006 Posted 13 Sep 2009 , 4:52am

I work in a somewhat small town in CA as a grocery store cake decorator...I get paid almost $14 an hour. I didn't really know how to decorate cakes too well when I started...I was hired as a bakery clerk, I watched then slowly became the un-official assistant to the head decorator...they transferred her to another store and they asked me to become head decorator, I LOVE my job icon_biggrin.gif

To respond to prterell, we have to do a LOT more than 40 now, LOL

I have a cool boss, she leaves the doughnuts to the baker thumbs_up.gif

ApplegumKitchen Posted 13 Sep 2009 , 4:53am

Some will actually get paid what they are worth ..... and some .....

Will always complain that they are not being paid what they think they are worth - at least half of those should be grateful icon_wink.gif

Brandy982006 Posted 13 Sep 2009 , 4:56am
Quote:
Originally Posted by ApplegumKitchen

Some will actually get paid what they are worth ..... and some .....

Will always complain that they are not being paid what they think they are worth - at least half of those should be grateful icon_wink.gif




(raising my hand) I'm grateful...just to have a job

Rose_N_Crantz Posted 13 Sep 2009 , 4:58am
Quote:
Originally Posted by mrsb37

Wow! I had no idea about how much volume decorators crank out in some bakeries! Good point also about mopping up, helping customers, doing dishes, etc. I don't mind any of that, but I had never thought of it.

Someone told me that some decorators come in early, finish their work and go home. Is that right?

Thank you, everyone!!




The hours would of course depend on where you apply and how much they need the help. Typically, yes, you would be working mornings. The bakery I used to work at would hire some people occasionally, but they were given evening hours. This was because while we needed the help, the bakery room itself was so small that we could only fit (comfortably) 2-3 people in there per shift. And since those morning hours are pretty gravy, those that have been with the company longest would get them. If someone applied that simply said they were only available mornings more often than not didn't even get a call back because we didn't need people when they were available.

prterrell Posted 13 Sep 2009 , 6:44pm
Quote:
Originally Posted by Brandy982006

I work in a somewhat small town in CA as a grocery store cake decorator...I get paid almost $14 an hour. I didn't really know how to decorate cakes too well when I started...I was hired as a bakery clerk, I watched then slowly became the un-official assistant to the head decorator...they transferred her to another store and they asked me to become head decorator, I LOVE my job icon_biggrin.gif

To respond to prterell, we have to do a LOT more than 40 now, LOL

I have a cool boss, she leaves the doughnuts to the baker thumbs_up.gif




Ah, but the cost of living and thus wages are higher in CA than where I am (GA). I loved the job at first, even though it was a lot of work, then we got a new dept manager in and he was a total misogynistic jerk. I also needed double carpal tunnel surgery at that point, so I used the surgery as an excuse to quit. Actually felt very burnt out for a while after that, and am really just now getting back into baking and stuff again. If my boss hadn't been such a jerk, I prob would have gone back after my surgery.

11cupcakes Posted 16 Sep 2009 , 12:42pm

I think if you'll mention your experience, bring pictures of your cakes and apply to store that in need of cake decorator right now you can start at $10-12/hour.You more likely will have to work weekends and holidays.
Good luck!

JCE62108 Posted 16 Sep 2009 , 9:27pm

I worked at a grocery store bakery for 2 years and was only paind 9.50 when I left, only 1.00 more than when I started. We did about 40 cakes on a saturday with two people. In addition to that we had other responsibilities of the day as well as helping customers and answering the phone, taking orders, cleaning, etc, etc...

I really like being a decorator enough that this setting didnt discourage me. It was hard work, but I loved it. Only thing I didnt like is that I was FLAT OUT TOLD to sacrific QUALITY for QUANTITY. That annoyed me. A standard 1/4 sheet or 8 inch round cake had to be filled, frosted, and decorated in no more than 10 minutes. Wedding cakes needed to be done in no more than 2 hours, preferably 1 to 1.5.

Im trying it out on my own now, unfortunatly I lost my job a few days ago so we'll see how it goes. If I do go back to a bakery I think it wont be a grocery store. I think I can make more if Im working in more of a custom bakery as opposed to a production bakery.

kkay29 Posted 24 Oct 2013 , 10:06am

I would just like to say that I live in the middle of North Dakota town of about 25,000, where high cost of living is not an issue as far as wages go. I work at a grocery store and get paid $13.90 and time and a half on Sundays, which bumps my average pay up. I get a raise 3 times a year and GREAT benefits. I make about $30,000 a year, and have awesome affordable Healthcare. I don't think you can group all of these jobs together. I am in charge of everything in the cake dept. and have complete creative freedom. I make a lot of wedding, and special event cakes, and of course ENDLESS birthday sheet cakes. I do not have an assistant and I pump out about 60 cakes a week with usually 1 or 2 sometimes more (depending on the season) wedding or specialty (tiered) cakes. Oh, and by the way, I was hired with NO cake decorating experience or even bakery experience for that matter. I went to school for Graphic Design, and I am very artistic, and creative. My mother was a cake decorator, and I thought "Hey, maybe I'll give it a try!" I love my job! I am able to compete in contest and have lots of fun with my career. . I have only worked there for little over a year, and have already gained a large customer base. I hope that others are as fortunate as me.

embersmom Posted 24 Oct 2013 , 1:53pm

From somebody who still works in the supermarket bakery biz:

 

1.  Your pay is going to depend on the COL where you live, the chain itself, and your experience.  Where I am, experienced decorators are in short supply, so most of the area's chains are very competitive with their pay rates.  What you won't find:  Something FT.  FT positions are rare nowadays, given the direction the industry is heading, unless you're management.

 

2.  You may sacrifice quality for quantity cranking out cakes, but you know what?  It teaches you production speed, which is vital in this industry.  Do you honestly think that you'll be able to spend  X hours working on one cake at a private bakery as opposed to a supermarket?  Think again.  At one of the private bakeries I worked at years ago the decorators were basically part of an assembly line. The bakers would bake the cakes, the frosters would ice/tier the cakes, and the decorators decorated, one cake after another.

 

3.  Don't except to just decorate.  This is by far the biggest mistake most decorators don't realize they make when they walk into a supermarket bakery.  All bakeries run on a very thin profit margin, which means you've gotta make a lot of product to sell a lot of product.  A very thin profit margin means EVERYBODY has to chip in with chores and customer service IN ADDITION to their primary job.  Prima donna decorators are not looked upon kindly by the rest of the staff nor upper management.  Actually prima donna anyone isn't looked upon too kindly.  I've witnessed people being written up, and in some cases, fired for it.

 

4.  Because of #3 -- refer to #2.

 

5.  Mind you, I can only relate to what I've experienced in this industry.  I've always worked in large, busy stores in large, busy bakeries.  The few smaller stores I've worked in?  They never could find a decorator because they couldn't afford to pay one because they didn't have enough business to warrant one.  Or they might had already had one, but they couldn't afford to hire another.  Yeah, if business is slower, the decorator, of course, has a little more time to be refined/creative, but because there's less people working in the department, they also have to be more mindful of everything else.

 

6.  Expect to see a lot of turnover because of all this.  OTOH you will also find old-timers like me still hanging in there :)

 

7.  I've learned so, so much from being in this business.  I've worked with some amazing decorators, I've picked up probably a book's worth of tips and tricks, I've taught brand spankin' new people the basics, upper management has asked me my opinion about certain issues more than once...it's been a wild ride, that's for sure!

Kiddiekakes Posted 24 Oct 2013 , 2:03pm

Here in Calgary,Canada a cake decorater will make about $14.00 and hour...but the grocery stores have changed the way they do cakes...Most have frozen cake that comes in slabs in either chocolate,white or marble..that's it..They add venetian cream in the middle of 1 inch layers.Icing is Brill from Bakemark.....plastic kits are from Decopac...They do no wedding cakes what so ever...Specialty cakes are also brought in frozen and then cut to size and a cut strawberry,drizzled chocolate and cigarillo added...all the cake is brought in frozen..nothing baked anymore.How do I know....I worked at Sobey's for 3 months as a decorater..All I did was assemble these display cakes.nothing creative...lots of cleanup and headache when the icing was like glue...Grrrrr..Good experience though...made me get off my duff and get legal from home...Now I work my hours with my ingredients...;-D

 

 

Laurel :-)

PinkLotus Posted 24 Oct 2013 , 5:24pm

AKiddiekakes, what does it take to get legal in Alberta? Just curious. Sorry to hijack the thread :)

Kiddiekakes Posted 24 Oct 2013 , 5:32pm

There are 2 ways...

 

-your own home based Separate kitchen which has to be built and approved by both the City of Calgary Planning and Alberta Heath Services.

 

-rent a commercial kitchen which also has to be approved by Alberta Health Service and a City of Calgary Business license.

 

-You have to also take and complete a Food Handling Course through AHS at a cost of $125.00.Provincial certification is given upon completion.

 

You will need to purchase liability insurance company for either your own property or the kitchen you rent.

PinkLotus Posted 24 Oct 2013 , 5:50pm

AAwesome, thank you!

Kiddiekakes Posted 24 Oct 2013 , 6:00pm

It's a lot of red tape and such.Are you planning to open up a business in Calgary?

PinkLotus Posted 24 Oct 2013 , 11:05pm

AI'm in Edmonton, but I've been looking into it and getting a lot of conflicting info. I was pretty sure you needed a separate kitchen but it's good to have confirmation. I'm pretty sure it's the same throughout the province.

Kiddiekakes Posted 24 Oct 2013 , 11:14pm

It probably is close to the same..It has been a lot of red tape...Lots of running around and Yes....I got a lot of conflicting answers also..I called 3 separate times speaking to 3 different people until I finally got the actual license I needed...Good thing I called too because the first guy made it sound like I had to hire an architect etc and cost me thousands of dollars...

 

I told the last girl.."Man..I just wanna bake there I don't want to buy the place'" LOL

 

AHS was also another issue...but I am finally all done and licensed..Yahoo!!

 

 

If you really want to do it it can be done but be prepared for a few months of hassle...

 

Good Luck to you!!

 

 

Laurel :-)

mommy1st Posted 25 Oct 2013 , 12:18am

The grocery store I work at starts decorators out at mw.  Be expected to do at least one cake when interviewing to show icing skills, roses, and hand writing.  If you are good you might be able to negotiate a higher rate.  I was lucky and hired in at $12.50.  The bakery job I had prior, I was making more, but was willing to settle for less because I wanted earlier hours.  With kids in school, and sports, I wanted a better idea of the hours I would be working.  I am expected to pull stales and restock the floor every morning.  Make the icing I needed for the day, buttercream and whip cream.  Go thru orders and what I planned on making for the day and pull cakes from the freezer to use.  Ice, decorate, package and label all cakes made.  For the most part, It isn't bad.  They want quantity more than quality, but are starting to look for quality,  One of the decorators I work with isn't happy.  Her favorite line is "I hired in as a grocery store decorator, not a fancy decorator.  Unless the plan on paying me more, this is the best they are going to get."  It would be funny, but she was working there when I started, and  the two decorators hired since then who had no decorating experience when hired on, are able to decorate circles around her.  (And she wonders why she isn't making more than what she is.)  We also are expected to answer the phone, take orders, clean up at the end of the day including dishes, and moping the floor.  I average 38 hrs a week.  Expect to work holidays and weekends.  I am finally moving up enough, I can get a holiday off now and then, though they are starting to talk about having more decorators working on the holidays.  I guess what I am trying to say is that you get out of it what you put into it.  If you get a good manager, they appreciate the hard work and effort you put into the job, and are willing to work with you on hours, and time off needed.

Kiddiekakes Posted 25 Oct 2013 , 1:01am

Well Mommy1st.....Not here in Calgary anyways..Doesn't matter how good your Boss is...when you work for the big box grocery chains they don't care about you or what time you want off or if you have small kids...I had a great boss but she wasn't authorized to offer PT too much per hour...and it wasn't much...I worked hard like your self but I am a decorater at heart and not a clean up gal or prep person...I was mopping floors,cleaning industrial size mixing bowls...climbing step stools to reach high items...lifting heavy boxes and bakery trays...and at my age..45 I am getting too old to do that crap..I did that when I was 18...worked nothing but night weekends,and holidays so I resigned...It wasn't worth the time away from my family...

BrandisBaked Posted 25 Oct 2013 , 1:11am

AMy last bakery job started at $12/hr and I was up to $15/hr after the first year. I worked my butt off though and proved I was worth it. My last paycheck there was over $2,000 because of all the overtime I had to work. You really have to decide if you want to be married to the bakery.

howsweet Posted 25 Oct 2013 , 4:28am

Cranking out cakes can ruin your wrists - just something to keep in mind.

mommy1st Posted 26 Oct 2013 , 12:47am

Kiddiekakes, I agree I am a decorator at heart also. I am 47, and have been decorating for over 20 years, the past 6 here at this store.  I am giving it about 1 1/2 years until my youngest graduates, then I am going to see if I can find something easier. If it were not for the fact I love decorating, I would have quit a long time ago.

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