Newbie To Cc, Looking For Advice (Long, Sorry)

Business By SugarNSpiceDiva Updated 17 Nov 2009 , 3:29am by LaBellaFlor

SugarNSpiceDiva Posted 11 Nov 2009 , 1:44am
post #1 of 16

Hi everyone. I recently joined CC and have been lurking on here everyday since. LOL. The sign is right. This place IS addictive.

Anyway. So I have been a bakaholic since I was a little girl. But I only started really getting into it about two years ago. I really love cakes, but I also enjoy all aspects of baking and sweets. So, two years ago, I decided I wanted to put my interests to work, and hopefully make a job of it. But, we live on an Army base in a very remote area of California, so it's really difficult to get any formal training. So I'm mainly left to teaching myself, and spending hours upons hours of researching the net for tips, ideas on the whats, whys, and hows.

I'm really finding this site incredibly useful. I had originally intended on selling cakes out of my home. But then I read on here about the legal issues. I had no idea! lol. So thank everyone for that. So then I did some research and found a way I can sell cakes from home here on post. The process is fairly simple, and doesn't cost much at all.

We are going to be hopefully moving around the end of next year, so I really want to get enough practice and research, because we want to start saving money to start a small bakery where we move. (I know there is going to be snickers and laughs at this comment based on what people said to others saying the same thing. I would just like to mention that I dont think Im going to be rich or famous, or be on some television show. I just genuinely love doing this. I realize it is a lot of time, work and money, and Im ok with that. The way we see it is if we are successful, great. If we arent, then thats ok too, and well just change the game plan.)

So, I really want to do this home baking opportunity here on post. I really think its possible. My only issue is, Wow, now Im feeling overwhelmed! Im really concerned if Im good enough to do this. Most of my recent work has been trial and error, and testing out ideas Ive seen or come up with. Im not even half as good as many of you wonderful bakers on here. Not to say that one day I wont be better, but Im just wondering how experienced should you be before you start to sell them? I figured, if I do start selling, I can just request people order so long in advance (that will give me time to practice and get it right, so I dont embarrass myself).

So, when I talked to the lady, she told me that my request would be sent to a board to determine if my business is approved. She said I have to provide pricing and enough information about the business as possible. So Im working on figuring out a list of cakes and other baked things I want to do to start, including trying to pick common flavors and fillings. I figure I can start off with a simple list, then expand as time goes along. But I am at a complete loss for what to charge! I know people get what they pay for, and like I said, Im not as experienced as others in my area. But another thing Ive learned on here is not to sell yourself short. Im having a hard time finding that happy little medium in between.

So, if you are still here, BIG THANK YOU! Lol. I guess Im just trying to organize myself, and see if I can really put this into action. Does anyone have any tips or advice on organizing, pricing or anything that would help someone just starting out? Im aware of the legal issues, and already have the information.

Also, if any of you dont mind, I was hoping you could take a look at my pictures (I dont know how to post them on here, so they are in my photos). Im really interested in seeing what other people think, if they think Im good enough to take my interest to the next level, and maybe an idea of what my work is worth.

If you made it this far through my post, thank you very much. Im open to all tips and ideas from anyone. Ive learned a lot from CC and my own research, but I know theres still so much more.

Thanks Again,

Sarah

15 replies
JanH Posted 11 Nov 2009 , 1:56am
post #2 of 16

Hi and Welcome to CC, SugarNSpiceDiva. icon_smile.gif

Everything you need to know to make, decorate and assemble tiered/stacked/layer cakes:

http://www.cakecentral.com/cake-decorating-ftopict-605188-.html

Above super thread has popular CC recipes for American buttercreams, several types of fondant and doctored cake mix (WASC and other flavor variations) - and so much more!

What do I need to open a bakery:

http://www.cakecentral.com/cake-decorating-ftopict-358713.html

HTH

tatorchip Posted 11 Nov 2009 , 2:05am
post #3 of 16

I took a look at your photos and you do very good work, I wish you the best of luck. I am a hobby baker but I sometimes wonder myself how it would be to have a shop.

LaBellaFlor Posted 11 Nov 2009 , 2:18am
post #4 of 16

As a former military wife who was stationed in Heidleberg home of USAEURA Headquarters with all those lovely retiring officers & lovely retirement parties, the rules are different for home-based businesses on a military instulation. It's actually easier, cause in the state of California they wouldn't allow it. I'm also a Cali girl and I hope you are not stationed at Ft.Irwin. If you are, I feel your pain. Now, you don't need any special classes to learn. How you are learning is fine. LOTS of people learned without taking classes. Me for one. With that said, I think your figures are very nice. I do think you could use more practice though. It's one thing to decorate a cake for free and decorating a cake that someone is paying their hard earned money for, especially it's for something like a wedding. You really don't want to be the one that wasn't able to come through for someone's very important day. I'm sure lots of people will say I'm mean for telling you this, but I feel honesty is what you wanted and I will be honest. I feel how else will you learn where you need to improve to grow. So with that said, Good Luck. You are on the right path and you WILL eventually get where you need to be.

alene Posted 11 Nov 2009 , 2:19am
post #5 of 16

Welcome to CC! I also think you do very good work. Love the Charlie Brown cake!! I think if you have the passion and patience, you can do it. I took just a few basic decorating classes and everything else, I had to learn on my own. I've learned by trial and many errors. But like they say...practice..practice..practice! Sorry but I can't help you with the pricing but I'm in time you will figure that out also. You're off to a good start, you found this web-site! People on here are very helpful. There's a lot I don't know but I'll help as much as I can. Good luck!

SugarNSpiceDiva Posted 11 Nov 2009 , 2:21am
post #6 of 16

JanH,

Thank you very much for that information! That is very helpful. icon_smile.gif


tatorchip,

Thank you so much! Seeing all these amazing artists here on this site, I have been really nervous about my own work.

SugarNSpiceDiva Posted 11 Nov 2009 , 2:35am
post #7 of 16

LaBellaFlor,

I don't think you are mean at all. I truly appreciate your honesty. And you are right. I DO need a heck of a lot more practice. Especially to be at the level that i want myself to be. As for wedding cakes, I'm not trying to be unrealistic. lol. I don't think I'll be ready for those for a while. I really started seriously thinking about the idea, because a lot of my cakes and other baked stuff, my hubby takes to work and shares with the office. Then he said that they were lucky getting so much cake for free. LOL. People have even begun to expect it, and have been asking when he's bringing in the next one. And, yes, unfortunately, we do live in Ft. Irwin. icon_mad.gificon_cry.gif I really don't like it here. It's awful. Thank you so much for your comments and advice.

alene,

Thank you! I'm really glad you liked the Charlie Brown cake. I worked really hard on that one. My hubby even helped with the drawing. Contrary to other people's opinions I have read, I think fondant is easier than buttercream.

LaBellaFlor Posted 11 Nov 2009 , 2:39am
post #8 of 16

Well you know how the military is, they're always on a budget...at least they were when I was a military wife many,many,many,many, did I mention many moons ago. Free cake is where its at and your husband is right. Tell him to tell them like my husband does,"Yah want something? Order it!" Still, be proud. For just starting out your figures are really good.

SugarNSpiceDiva Posted 11 Nov 2009 , 3:09am
post #9 of 16

Yeah, I know all about the budgets of military personnel thumbsdown.gif lol.

In the beginning of last year, one of DHs friends asked me to make his wife a really pretty birthday cake. He offered to pay for it (I PROMISE that was before I knew it was wrong. lol.). So I spent 2 weeks making detailed roses (I know longer than it should have taken, but I'd never done it before). It was two tiers. The bottom was 12in and the top was 8in, both covered in fondant. I didn't like how the cake came out, but his wife absolutely loved it. He paid me $40 for the cake. When I told one of the home cake decorators here on post, she said to say I got ripped off was an understatement. After reading here on CC, I realized she was right.

DH said the same thing you did. If they want more than the practice cakes I already send, they can pay for it. But that requires getting the vendor's license and everything set up, so I can stay within the legal limits.

jenmat Posted 11 Nov 2009 , 4:38am
post #10 of 16

the best thing you can do for yourself (besides learning how to bake one heck of cake) is to learn how to base frost. Purchase sheet cake and round cake dummies, make your icing recipe and ice, scrape, repeat. You can make the best figures in the world, but if you put it on sloppy icing, it won't look as nice. once you can ice in your sleep, you can move on to fondant. Really, the basics are so important- people often move on to other skills before they can really ice a cake! (not directing it at you, just people in general)
Your pics are cute, but it would be better to see more before we could make a judgment.

SugarNSpiceDiva Posted 11 Nov 2009 , 6:19am
post #11 of 16

jentreu,

Thank you for your advice. That's a great idea to practice on dummies. I never thought of that. I'll have to look online to find some. I recently realized that a bigger spatula would help me get the icing smoother. icon_rolleyes.gif That was a big DUH moment. Through practice, I've been learning a few things that work and a lot that don't. lol. As for not enough pictures, I thought that might be a problem. I really have made a ton more than just those. I just didn't like them or didn't take pictures of them. So that sucks. ha ha. But we do have plans for plenty more to come. We have 4 kids, so besides practice cakes, birthday cakes won't be in short supply. LOL.

I'm guessing you were referring the sloppy icing to the Charlie Brown cake. I think I kinda rushed over that part, cuz I spent a long time making the figures. I figured since it was just for practice and not for anyone else, it wouldn't make a difference. But I didn't think about making it pretty for pictures' sake. Lesson definitely learned.

Thanks again! Everyone's advice is really helping. Hopefully one day, I will be good enough to have some real stuff to show off!

jenmat Posted 11 Nov 2009 , 2:43pm
post #12 of 16

actually, I wasn't being specific to any one of your cakes. There's not enough of them to look at to make a real judgement. I trained a lot of decorators when working at a big box store and that was my biggest pet peeve. Its so much fun to do the rest of the design elements, that beginners often overlook the "behind the scenes" parts- structure, fillings, supports and smooth icing. Then they have a really bad mishap and wonder what happened. If someone were to come to me and ask how to make a great cake, I would start with those.
I don't usually use a spatula to get smooth icing- that takes too much time for me. But, whatever works for you and gets you the results you want is great! I like to use a bowl scraper, or icing scraper (google that too). Some people like a bench scraper. However, whatever works best for you is best for you.
Try googling cake dummies and you should be able to find a couple. You won't be sorry!

sweet-thing Posted 11 Nov 2009 , 3:40pm
post #13 of 16

Okay,so here is my bit...I have been decorating for years as a hobby and for friends and family. I recently decided I was ready to actually start a small business from home. Got myself all in order and it took off! Yay! So exciting...yeah well, the biggest shock to me (and maybe I'm just an idiot for not realizing this sooner) was that it is WAY different making something for someone you are close to or for free than for a paying customer. When my best friend says, I want a pretty purple cake with flowers for my mom, I can come up with my own design and course I will do something I know i am good at. She will never know if it didn't turn out like my original plan. And she will be thrilled and impressed by it. On the other hand, a client will come to you and say I want it to be specifically like such and such and if you end up messing it up or it doesn't turn out, they won't be as understanding as a family member or friend. If you call yourself a business people will expect you to BE a business. Don't get me wrong, I am thrilled to death that my little business took off and I am loving it. It is just much more stressful than i imagined it would be. I guess my point here is that before you start charging people money be absolutely certain you can deliver the custom cake they are asking for. I have lost a few nights sleep fixing or redoing things. So after all that yapping, let me say you seem to be off to a great start. I love your Charlie Brown figures! Good luck and I hope things work out for your business! icon_biggrin.gif

marmalade1687 Posted 11 Nov 2009 , 3:41pm
post #14 of 16

If you are looking for a different way to smooth your icing, there is an article on here called the Quick and Easy Smooth Icing Using a Roller - the Melvira Method.

http://cakecentral.com/articles/126/quick-easy-smooth-icing-using-a-roller-melvira-method

I use this most of the time now, and it works really well for me. I start out with a scraper, let the icing crust, and then finish off with the roller. thumbs_up.gif

SugarNSpiceDiva Posted 12 Nov 2009 , 6:22am
post #15 of 16

I wanted to thank you all again for your advice. I have really been taking everything everyone has said into deep consideration.

I was talking to my husband last night, and told him maybe I should spend a few more months to a year practicing before I throw myself out there. And then he asked a question that I found interesting and wanted to ask everyone here. Exactly what should you practice (of course besides the basics)? With so many different variations and options out there, how is it possible to practice everything? He said that there is always going to be someone who wants something that I've never done before, and maybe that's where a lot of the learning comes in.

So I spent a long time last night thinking what the heck I should do. lol. My husband (I know I use him a lot. He has more faith in me than I do. icon_rolleyes.gif ) suggested I go ahead and get the necessary licensing, and start out with people we know, and people who they know. A lot of people at his work have seen and tasted my work, and he thinks they would be a little more forgiving than complete strangers. He suggested, after doing that for a while, then start a little advertising and go from there.
Also, after much research into some things, I found some sites that I found extremely interesting. Im going to be using them. I dont know how many other inexperienced bakers are on here, but maybe someone else could get some use out of them too if they dont already know them.

www.universalclass.com
This site has several online courses I found that would be useful. Right now, I am taking their online cake decorating course. They also have lots of other courses on business and other things. Its really cheap too. You dont get any kind of formal credit for it. Just a certificate to say you did it. But I think the learning itself is enough.

www.shapeformation.com
This site is based in Georgia. They sale all different types of cake dummies for extremely cheap, some even under $1. You cant order online, you have to call. But Im really glad I found it. Im just going to buy a whole bunch of different sizes for practice and portfolio purposes.

jentreu and marmalade1687,

Thanks so much for the info. I still have a ways to go. But thanks to help from people here, I feel like Im a little bit closer to doing what I love.

sweet-thing,

Thank you for the compliment! Hubby said you had a good point, which is why he suggested starting off selling to people we know. I think thats a great idea.

Crap, I'm sorry this is long again icon_rolleyes.gif

LaBellaFlor Posted 17 Nov 2009 , 3:29am
post #16 of 16

Sweet Thing I love you! Thats all I ever want people to understand when they get into the "selling" aspect of cakes. This is not your frineds & family, these are paying clients, and if you can't deliver, please don't take their money. And if you can deliver, CHARGE FULL PRICE and to heck if you think your a "professional". And then people say I'm rude, when I'm sincerely looking out for the OP.

SugarNSpiceDiva we were stationed at Ft.Irwin, but lived in Barstow. If I had a gagging smily you would be seeing it right now. Your husband has a point as far as how else will you learn, but like I said, just don't take on the wedding cake if you don't think you can handle. THAT has got to be one of the most important cakes anyone can make. I wish you the best & let us know how it goes. And go give your husband a big kiss for being so supportive! icon_wink.gif

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