Need Short-Cuts & Hints To Speed Up Decorating

Decorating By cakes4ck Updated 9 Dec 2010 , 5:24pm by LillyCakes

cakes4ck Posted 6 Dec 2010 , 3:55pm
post #1 of 14

I have been decorating cakes now for 6 years. I have pretty much self-taught. This past summer I took a couple of the Wilton classes in hopes of learning some short cuts or techniques to make my cakes quicker and better. Unfortunately, I didn't come away with too many. I did however, learn to make some flowers I had never made before. Anyhow, I know it is taking me too long to do a cake. I love to play with fondant and usually incorporate some into the design. This past weekend I did a 2 tier cake with 2 layers each of 12" square and 8" square. The baking time alone was 3 hours as I only have one pan of each. However, during this time, I did make most of my icing (similar to indydebi's) for the cake. The fondant (mff)was made earlier in the day and took about an hour in all. Then it had to rest overnight. Cakes went in the freezer. When I got home from work the next day, I pulled them out, leveled and began to decorate. After about 6 more hours of work, I was mostly finished except for waiting on the fondant bow to dry. The next morning worked another hour or 2 just making final touches and more fondant as I broke the bow. So, in all I figure I had 12 hours in the cake. Now, this was for a gift so $ wasn't a factor. But, at this rate I would have to sell this cake for $150 (time + supplies). I live in a rural area, and people don't pay that kind of $ even though it may be worth it.
I always get compliments on my cakes and asked to do some from time to time. It really is just a hobby for me, but I would like to make a little $ for all the time involved. I know for the most part it is a learning thing. So are there any other tips of the trade that I should be doing? When doing flowers I try to do them while sitting watching tv with my family on a cookie sheet. Fondant isn't that easy though as I take over the table.

Thanks
Christy

13 replies
-K8memphis Posted 6 Dec 2010 , 4:09pm
post #2 of 14

Break your work up into timed segments. Get a timer and set it. When the timer goes off and you're not finished don't beat yourself up--rather speak nicely to yourself & say 'I can do better next time'. Say, 'now I bet I can finish this in 5 minutes'--set the timer and go again.

Especially for decorating--we get in the 'zone' at 11:00 at night when everyone is tucked away--we're in the creative side of our brain where time literally does not exist and the next thing we know it's dawn.

Seriously--the brain flips from one side to the other depending on what we're doing and we simply need to stay in touch with the side that registers time--it is opposite the side that registers creativity so that's how we get lost there.

We need to check in regularly with the 'time' side--hence the timer. Like set it for five or ten minute intervals when you are decorating and when it goes off look back and figure out what you accomplished in the last five or ten minutes and encourage yourself to do better.

Plus just will your hands to move faster when assembling layers & icing cakes, the mechanics. Not rush youself but just get a freaking move on.

amyoungbl00d5 Posted 6 Dec 2010 , 4:28pm
post #3 of 14

Hi, I just want to say I understand how you feel. I am getting quicker at somethings, but because I always incorporate a new skill with each cake I find that It takes a lot of time for me to do these new skills. It's ok...give your self a break. Now as far a charging, I get what you are saying....I have the same problem..we live very rurally and most people don't make a lot of money and won't pay. That's why it's just my hobby too. That is why everyone charges 7-10 a serving..because this work is time consuming, not to mention the fact that these cake can't be made at the grocery store. I make sure I get at least 2-3 a serving it covers cost and I make maybe 20. I don't mind not making a lot because I am self taught and am still learning skills. And with each cake I get experience and I get to do what I love to do! icon_biggrin.gif

indydebi Posted 6 Dec 2010 , 5:45pm
post #4 of 14

I find the best tips are organizational, not skill.

I use a Pampered Chef cooking rack (the ones with legs - if you don't have one, turn 4 coffee cups upside down and put a cooling rack on those) to put my small supplies on..... merinque powder, measureing cups/spoons, bottles of vanilla, food coloring, etc. ..... all of those little things that get lost in the clutter. this gives me double space for storage while I work. I lay a sheet of wax paper under the cooling rack and this is where I shove my filled decorating bags. All in one place.

I use disposable decorating bags. These are personal preference and some people don't like them, but I liked being able to cut the end off (to retrieve my tip) then just throw them away. No mess ... no clean up.

cover the counters in wax or parchment paper. When the cake is done, just grab the papers and wad them up, into the trash. 99% of the clean up is now done. Keep a trash can right by your counter. you'd be amazed how those seconds you save add up when you don't have to walk "all the way!" to the other side of the room to the trash can.

Keep a sink of water going and wash pans/bowls, etc as soon as you are done with them. Clean up time is diminished.

Do you separate eggs? Do you know the faster way to do that? I spent years doing the back-and-forth between the two egg shells to separate until I learned this trick. Understand that when I baked in teh shop, it was not unusual for me to crack 36 to 48 eggs at one time. I'd break 12 or 15 into a large bowl, then with food-safety gloves on, just reach in and pull the yolks out. All that is left is the egg whites, which went into my white cake. This was SO much faster than the old way of separating eggs!!

It's the little things ... the 2-3 seconds here and there .... that make us faster.

CWR41 Posted 6 Dec 2010 , 6:40pm
post #5 of 14
Quote:
Originally Posted by cakes4ck

But, at this rate I would have to sell this cake for $150 (time + supplies). ...but I would like to make a little $ for all the time involved. So are there any other tips of the trade that I should be doing?




I understand the rural area thing, but really, if you aren't getting paid what you're worth or what the cake is worth, then I don't understand the point with putting forth the effort. You might think that people just don't spend much on the type of cakes that you make, but if they want it bad enough you might just find out that they're actually willing to spend more than you expected! If they truly can't afford it, they'll either choose a simplified design, go elsewhere, or do without. I believe you could/should be selling a cake that size for at least $240 for buttercream and more for fondant.

Think assembly line procedures while setting up your workspace, prepare what you can in advance, decorate similar elements during the same session on all tiers without putting your pastry bag down whenever possible, using a professional turntable (or two) is a must for streamlining the process. (Work in a bakery if you really want to gain more experience about speed.)

Once you're confident with your production skills and are able to whip out cakes faster than before, remember that you don't charge less simply because you spent less time than before--the cake's value doesn't decrease regardless of how fast or slow you are!

Apti Posted 6 Dec 2010 , 6:49pm
post #6 of 14

The single biggest thing I noticed is that you said you only had one pan to use, not 2. You can cut off a huge chunk of time by having 2 of every pan you wish to use.

holliellen Posted 7 Dec 2010 , 7:19pm
post #7 of 14

cakes4ck and amyyoungblood5, I think your both underestimating yourselves as far as price and charging. I looked at your pictures and you are both GOOD!! Only making 20 dollars for that kind of work is crazy! I would reconsider your talent and level of ability. You may be using new techniques and learning new skills but your skill set is already good. You shouldnt think that just because youre learning something new you dont need to be compensated for it. When my hair dresser is trying something new that she learned at a conference or something she doesnt do it for 20 dollars......she still charges me 100 bucks!

josweets Posted 7 Dec 2010 , 7:51pm
post #8 of 14
Quote:
Originally Posted by -K8memphis

Break your work up into timed segments. Get a timer and set it. When the timer goes off and you're not finished don't beat yourself up--rather speak nicely to yourself & say 'I can do better next time'. Say, 'now I bet I can finish this in 5 minutes'--set the timer and go again.

Especially for decorating--we get in the 'zone' at 11:00 at night when everyone is tucked away--we're in the creative side of our brain where time literally does not exist and the next thing we know it's dawn.

Seriously--the brain flips from one side to the other depending on what we're doing and we simply need to stay in touch with the side that registers time--it is opposite the side that registers creativity so that's how we get lost there.

We need to check in regularly with the 'time' side--hence the timer. Like set it for five or ten minute intervals when you are decorating and when it goes off look back and figure out what you accomplished in the last five or ten minutes and encourage yourself to do better.

Plus just will your hands to move faster when assembling layers & icing cakes, the mechanics. Not rush youself but just get a freaking move on.



This is great advice and I love how you explained the time vs creativity sides of our brain...thank you!

josweets Posted 7 Dec 2010 , 7:54pm
post #9 of 14
Quote:
Originally Posted by indydebi

I find the best tips are organizational, not skill.

I use a Pampered Chef cooking rack (the ones with legs - if you don't have one, turn 4 coffee cups upside down and put a cooling rack on those) to put my small supplies on..... merinque powder, measureing cups/spoons, bottles of vanilla, food coloring, etc. ..... all of those little things that get lost in the clutter. this gives me double space for storage while I work. I lay a sheet of wax paper under the cooling rack and this is where I shove my filled decorating bags. All in one place.

I use disposable decorating bags. These are personal preference and some people don't like them, but I liked being able to cut the end off (to retrieve my tip) then just throw them away. No mess ... no clean up.

cover the counters in wax or parchment paper. When the cake is done, just grab the papers and wad them up, into the trash. 99% of the clean up is now done. Keep a trash can right by your counter. you'd be amazed how those seconds you save add up when you don't have to walk "all the way!" to the other side of the room to the trash can.

Keep a sink of water going and wash pans/bowls, etc as soon as you are done with them. Clean up time is diminished.

Do you separate eggs? Do you know the faster way to do that? I spent years doing the back-and-forth between the two egg shells to separate until I learned this trick. Understand that when I baked in teh shop, it was not unusual for me to crack 36 to 48 eggs at one time. I'd break 12 or 15 into a large bowl, then with food-safety gloves on, just reach in and pull the yolks out. All that is left is the egg whites, which went into my white cake. This was SO much faster than the old way of separating eggs!!

It's the little things ... the 2-3 seconds here and there .... that make us faster.



I love this thread!

Thank you for these tips...especially the cooling rack one. I have that rack and a VERY small kitchen/dining area, so I will be using this tip FOR SURE. Thank you!

cakes4ck Posted 8 Dec 2010 , 11:16pm
post #10 of 14

Thanks all for your replies! I know I need to purchase some more pans. I have been adding to my collection everytime I do a different cake. Right now just have 1 of each as cost and space to keep them is crazy. I have recently turned my Pampered Chef closet into part cake closet. Yes, I am a consultant. I have sold for PC for 5 years and had once reached director but have pretty much stopped selling. So, I have LOTS of PC. I always use my cooling racks...love them! But never have used them for decorating organization. Need to get another.
I have a long bar area open to my living room and dining area. I usually fill the 12 ft bar with supplies. And my sink is directly to my left so I can clean as I go or need something again. Usually have a trash bowl and then dump it in can when I get time.
Fondant is fun but time consuming. I use a exacto knife, wilton cutter, or cookie cutters. Need to get a pasta roller though as I currently use a rolling pin on the PC mat. Any other tips on how to do fondant quicker?
I also find smoothing the icing can take time. I hate wrinkles or marks. Got a tip on that from Wilton instructor to use beaded interfacing.
The other problem I have living in IL, you can't have a licensed home kitchen unless it is one not used for family. However, I know of at least 4 others that make and sell cakes. Guess that is illegal. Would love to have own bakery but 2 near here have tried and not succeeded. Can't really give up a full-time teaching job to do that.

sillywabbitz Posted 8 Dec 2010 , 11:48pm
post #11 of 14

Funny, I do almost exactly what indydebi does.

In addition:

I make buttercream in advance and make plugs. There is a sticky thread on this. You take Saran wrap, plop icing in it and roll it up. Roll up both ends and place plugs in a zip lock freezer bag. When time to decorate, pull the plugs out of the freezer. The take about 10 min to defrost. Snip off one end and drop into your piping bag. When the frosting is gone, pull out Saran wrap and drop in the next plug. This has really kept my bc clean, my hands clean and I can make icing in advance. I too cover my counters in parchment or press and seal. I would rather have 2 of each pan and offer fewer sizes than have 1 of every size. Just my preference

holliellen Posted 8 Dec 2010 , 11:50pm
post #12 of 14

sillywabitz, great ideaa! how long does the frosting last in the freezer???

sillywabbitz Posted 9 Dec 2010 , 1:27am
post #13 of 14

I have probably had it in the freezer for up to 2 months. I know other people freeze there frosting and stir it when it comes to temp but mine has always been great straight out of the plugicon_smile.gif this is also great when I need a couple dozen cupcakesicon_smile.gif

LillyCakes Posted 9 Dec 2010 , 5:24pm
post #14 of 14

These are excellent tips. I am decorating a cake tonight for tomorrow. I really need the extra counter space so I will keep this in mind tonight.

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