Staying Focused On Decorating

Decorating By Writecakes Updated 18 Nov 2009 , 9:42pm by Writecakes

Writecakes Posted 17 Nov 2009 , 7:22pm
post #1 of 15

One of the worst statements I ever heard was: You should do cakes as a business!

I knew it was meant as a compliment. I knew it meant "you are so good at this, you could make a living at it!" And it really did flatter me and got me thinking about possibilities: A bakery? A home-based business? My name on a sign somewhere? In lights? Competing on a Food Network challenge? Walking the champion cake decorator red carpet? I would sit and daydream about it.

I figured the first thing I needed to do to pursue this career was to determine the worth of my cakes. To do that effectively, I had to compare my work to that of others. Big mistake. My worked seemed so amateur - definitely not worth charging fees comparable to those extremely talented people.

Once that barely-average monetary value was placed on my work, my focus began to shift. I started obsessing about how to increase my value and catch up to the high standards of the professionals in my area. I started feeling like every job was a rush to learn something and then get to the next job. I needed the experience, the photo, the recommendation - and I needed it now.

I started disliking just about every creation I completed. Everything I did seemed rushed, flawed and sometimes, down-right embarrassing. I still received a lot of compliments, and knew they were sincere, but I was honest enough with myself to know I could do so much better. And even as more requests for cake came in, my cake-esteem continued to plummet.

The revelation arrived as I began planning cookie trays for Christmas this year. There were two categories: paying customers and gifts. While planning the trays for the paying customers, I felt stressed about design and confused about pricing. While planning the cookie gift trays, I felt exhilarated, had many ideas and could not wait to get started. There was a significant difference in my attitude of these same creations co-existing under all the same circumstances except for one: money.

I had to figure out where the blame belonged in my shifted or nonexistent focus. I knew it was not in the empty promises of success or my inability to ever reach the same skill level of those with more decorating and business experience. I knew it was not because I did not have enough client or opportunities.

Then I figured it out. The blame was in those words "You should do this as a business" Innocent, kind words, but like so many things in life, it's our interpretation that defines those words. To me, those words meant I had to be bigger, better and quickly brilliant along with being unique and creative and producing a beautiful, clean, perfect cake each and every time. Otherwise, I would be a failure - because those beautiful, clean perfect cakes = someone who was worthy enough to sell cakes for a living.

I had some decisions to make to get my cake feet back on the ground. I needed my dowel rods in place so my work wasn't so shaky. I need my icing to be as smooth as my approach to each cake and I need to take cake tips from the experts. I needed to stack these efforts evenly, seeking the answer until I fondant. (Okay, enough cake puns)

The answer was not in giving away my creations for free. That would simply mean I felt my time and skill was worth nothing at all. The answer was not in giving up any potential dreams for a business someday either. That would mean I would never be successful. The answer was simply in putting the value of my work in perspective.

So I made some simple rules for myself. A formula for me to have success each and every time. It does not matter how big or small the job is or if things go well or disastrous. The priority, every time, is for me to follow these rules (in no particular order):

1 Always approach every new cake as a creative adventure
2 Be honest about what I can, and cannot do. Try to learn something new with each new cake.
3 Do not try to learn to many new techniques with a solitary cake. Incorporate one or two new things in so each technique gets the time and practice it deserves.
4 Be patient. Every technique takes time to learn and time cannot be rushed.
5 Set aside at least two days for making a cake. One for prep and one for decorating. If both are done at the same time, the energy expelled on prep cuts into creative energy. When the "creative mind" is free and rested, it shows in the quality of the work.
6 Forgive myself for any thing that goes wrong in the process, learn something from it, and move forward. Do not look back or get overly-focused on something that went wrong or not as planned.
7 If someone compliments any cake or creation, look them in the eye and sincerely say "thank you" - even if you are not fond of the finished product. Just because you know something is flawed, does not mean they do, and every time you short yourself a compliment by explaining how you don't deserve it, you make the other person uncomfortable. Get over yourself, say thank you, and mean it.
8 Stay focused on one job at a time, taking extra pleasure in the things you enjoy most about cake decorating.
9 Make money the last priority. Charge accordingly, but make the quality of the work, the look on their face, the delicious taste of the cake and the celebration of the event the MAIN focus of every cake.
10 Each and every time you complete a cake, stand back and admire the things you did RIGHT. Know it is your best work (because it was!) and that you will continue to get better and better.

I know when I follow these "rules" I keep my focus on the joy cake decorating brings me. That's what lead me there in the first place, way before it was anyone's business icon_smile.gif

14 replies
CeeTee Posted 17 Nov 2009 , 8:52pm
post #2 of 15

This +1!

I cringe inside every time I'm told I should do cakes as a living. I love cakes, but it is very much my hobby and something I like to do when *I* want to do it, not when someone else is telling me I gotta do it and for X amount of $$$. Whenever I have tried to make money off my hobbies, it kills all creative drive and it goes from being something fun and relaxing to a source of never-ending stress.

I've almost become an anti-perfectionist. I don't want my cakes to be flawless and I can be rather sloppy in my technique. And yeah, it's in part because I don't want to be told "You should do this for a living". I'm not a professional, and I really don't want to be seen as one. I don't want to do over the top elaborate creations to rival the local high end bakeries (much less Food Network!) I want to be the proverbial Suzy Homemaker who bakes nice cakes for her family and friends. If I make a cake for someone, it's because I want to do something special for them, not because I want a profit.

I do like competing in cake shows, but that's more to show off my ideas than my skill level. I love trying new things out with cookies and cakes, even if the excecution is not spot on. I do appreciate the feedback I get on my techniques. I always learn something from the shows, and the people I meet there are always the best!

I do give away my cakes, but it's not because I don't value my time. It's because I do think it's valuable, and I'm gifting my time to those who I give my creations to. I'm very lucky that my friends, family, and boss recognizes this and appreciates it. I think that's why I don't have any hang-ups over doing that. I never feel taken advantage of anymore like I did back when I was trying to charge for my time.

tl;dr: Thank you for making this post! icon_biggrin.gificon_biggrin.gificon_biggrin.gif

tatorchip Posted 17 Nov 2009 , 9:17pm
post #3 of 15

I feel the same way, I didn't at first but I do now, kinda like CeeTee said, which is now so much more of a joy for me. I don't sell but maybe one day I will change my mine but for now it is all about the joy of learning and having fun with it.

edit for spelling

Marronglace Posted 17 Nov 2009 , 9:59pm
post #4 of 15

Excellent, excellent, excellent post!!!



Then I figured it out. The blame was in those words "You should do this as a business" Innocent, kind words, but like so many things in life, it's our interpretation that defines those words. To me, those words meant I had to be bigger, better and quickly brilliant along with being unique and creative and producing a beautiful, clean, perfect cake each and every time. Otherwise, I would be a failure - because those beautiful, clean perfect cakes = someone who was worthy enough to sell cakes for a living.

rings especially true for me.

I think I may print out your list of rules and post them beside my work area the next time I make a cake.

Lenette Posted 17 Nov 2009 , 10:13pm
post #5 of 15

This is the best post I have read on here in a long time. Just beautiful, and I think a lot of what you wrote is true for most of us.

Thank you for taking the time to post! icon_smile.gif

vagostino Posted 17 Nov 2009 , 10:27pm
post #6 of 15

you read my mind! You nailed it!

Specially number 7, when someone compliments my cakes i immediately start pointing out the flaws! My husband has said this to me many times! "just say thank you and move on!!"

creatingcakes Posted 17 Nov 2009 , 10:35pm
post #7 of 15

I absolutely love it! I will definitely keep a copy of the rules on hand for those 'down' moments I think everyone gets! Thank you for that!

turnerdmann Posted 17 Nov 2009 , 11:06pm
post #8 of 15

Thank you for posting this. I am always measuring my shortcoming in cake decorating. I will now read this before each cake, and just maybe enjoy the process more. Thanks thumbs_up.gif

sugarcheryl Posted 18 Nov 2009 , 2:10am
post #9 of 15

Thank you for posting this and reminding why I got into this business. I'm always pointing out my flaws instead of just saying thank you and move on. People tell me I'm a perfectionist and I think we all are. But I'm letting it go. Again thanks thumbs_up.gif

Michele01 Posted 18 Nov 2009 , 2:25am
post #10 of 15

Maybe you should pursue a career in writing. What you wrote was absolutely perfect. I love the rules you wrote as well!

FleurDeCake Posted 18 Nov 2009 , 2:30am
post #11 of 15

well said...

dl5crew Posted 18 Nov 2009 , 2:34am
post #12 of 15

Thanks for posting this. You are very wise...

sugarandslice Posted 18 Nov 2009 , 2:43am
post #13 of 15

Thank you for your eloquent expression. I am also 'struggling' with these issues and your set of rules are things I've had in mind but have never thought to write them down; so thank you!

Here's to enjoying the cake-buzz!

cakesweetiecake Posted 18 Nov 2009 , 8:13pm
post #14 of 15

I really enjoyed this post!

Writecakes Posted 18 Nov 2009 , 9:42pm
post #15 of 15

I'm so glad so many talented decorators can relate to my post. It really inspires me to be in your company icon_smile.gif

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