vgcea Posted 2 Apr 2012 , 6:58pm
post #1 of

I had posted this in the business forum, but then realized it has more to do with decorating skill levels than business per se, so I'll post it here.


I got my first request for a wedding cake this morning, and promptly turned it down. I am nowhere near ready for wedding cakes, and probably won't accept to do one until the end of the year or early next year (Lord willing).

I have been known to over-analyze myself to paralysis LOL and while I think I can probably pull it off, I refuse to put someone's big day, and my reputation in jeopardy.

So how did you know you were ready to do wedding cakes? Did you go by how long you'd been a decorator, or by how many cakes you'd done? Did you just dive in or did you have a more calculated approach to it?

What challenges did you face (special permits, venue restrictions e.t.c)?

29 replies
jgifford Posted 2 Apr 2012 , 8:44pm
post #2 of

In my case, I had no choice. My very first wedding cake was my dd's. I obsessed over that cake for a year. All she told me was "XX number of people, and XXXX colors - go for it!" About 6 months later, she told me she wanted a castle theme. icon_confused.gif So I did my very first 4-tier, first fondant, first wedding, first castle, etc. And I flew to NY and made the cake in her tiny apartment.

I made all the decorations and flowers ahead of time and very carefully took them with me on the plane. I was surprised noone gave me any flack over that.

The learning curve on that one cake was immense. After that, I figured I could handle anything in this world. thumbs_up.gif

Elcee Posted 3 Apr 2012 , 2:08am
post #3 of

My first wedding cake was my DD's, too! In my case, ignorance was bliss icon_lol.gif as it was just 6 months into my cake decorating journey and I had no idea of the things that could have gone wrong and had no idea that I "wasn't ready". I've since done 3 more and they're my favorite cakes to make. I love everything about doing wedding cakes, from meeting with the brides and doing tastings, to the planning, the baking, the decorating, the delivery. Now that Colorado has a CFL, I'm hoping to do more and not do them for free! icon_lol.gif

Wildgirl Posted 3 Apr 2012 , 3:19am
post #4 of

My first and only was for a dear friend who wanted whatever was easy for me. Even so, it was a scary experience. But then I am still new at this and freak out under stress. I learned a ton though, and one of the things I learned is that (even though it turned out wonderfully) I am NOT ready to do this again! lol!

crumbcake Posted 3 Apr 2012 , 3:31am
post #5 of

I turned down my son's wedding cake a few years back, even though I have improved, I am afraid to do one for others. He hired a baker/decorator that did a fantastic wedding cake for my daughter, and his was not what they had ordered. Now 3 years later, that's all he remembers, his cake was not nice. So I would hate to be in that position, and I think that's the biggest problem, confidence!

mcaulir Posted 3 Apr 2012 , 3:36am
post #6 of

I'm 3 years in and have just done my first. I felt like I was ready when 3 friends asked me to do their wedding cakes for the same month. I figured I must have been good enough! I'm not sure I could do it for a paying client, though. Too much stress!

vgcea Posted 3 Apr 2012 , 5:15am
post #7 of

Thank you so much for these responses. I'm glad I'm not underestimating the mental and 'skill work' it takes to execute an excellent wedding cake. It's not just any cake, and it holds so much meaning for the couple that it has to be right.

Apti Posted 3 Apr 2012 , 1:55pm
post #8 of

vgcea~~I've been watching this thread; it was an interesting question. I've been a hobby baker for 2 years now. Last September I did a 100th birthday cake for a wonderful woman. About 200-250 were going to attend her party. My cakes were a love gift, but the skill level needed and the mental pressure was very similar to a wedding cake.

Although I did well and was not disappointed in any aspects of the cake presentation, it was an overwhelming task. I learned a TON of stuff doing these cakes. Logistics, expense, timing, transportation, cutting, table prep, size of cake boards, prep of cake boards, having a friend to help, the sheer number of hours (especially the 24 hours before the cakes were due!), on and on and on.......

Because these cakes were my love gift, I had total control of the design, colors, flavors, everything. I was able to change aspects of the design, etc. at the last minute in order to get them finished and out the door. It would have been 100% more stressful if I'd had the necessity of adhering to a specific design (such as a bride's design).

Here's a link to my thread on Wilton.com where I have some photos and explanation of the cakes:
"MY BIGGEST CAKE PROJECT, EVER! (whew.........)"
http://www.wilton.com/forums/messageview.cfm?catid=4&threadid=156177&FTVAR_MSGDBTABLE=
----------------------------
I would suggest you identify a source where you can donate, design, transport, cut and serve a large stacked cake and make a "practice run". (You can contact local homeless centers, hospital emergency room Staff Lounges, Convalescent Staff Lounges, Police Stations, etc., anywhere there are a large number of healthy people on staff.)

A "practice run" would give you invaluable experience and then you'll be ready for the real thing!

jgifford Posted 3 Apr 2012 , 2:12pm
post #9 of

I honestly don't think you can be "ready" for your first BIG ONE. It's something that's forced on you or that you agree to in a weak moment. The only way you're going to stretch yourself to that point and find out how much you can do is to just do it. Yes, it's scary. Yes, there will be moments you wish you lived somewhere else. Yes, there's the possibility of monumental disaster. BUT if you don't ever take the plunge, you'll never know how capable and creative you can be.

As Apti said, practice runs are great. And they would help you immensely. However, until you do it under the stress of an actual wedding with all its attendant jitters and potential disasters and come out on the other side, you won't understand what causes us to keep putting ourselves through this on a regular basis. You may decide you don't ever want to do another one, and that's okay - a lot of bakers don't do weddings at all.

You have loads of people here to help and advise you with every aspect of the process. Go for it! thumbs_up.gif

Apti Posted 3 Apr 2012 , 3:32pm

jgifford~~I was astonished at how much I learned doing those 4 large cakes! If I HAD to do a wedding cake, at least I'd know what I was in for now, and would be able to approach it without an abnormal level of stress & fear.

Fortunately, my grandkids are 9, 10, and 12. Whew...... I have a little while yet....

jgifford Posted 3 Apr 2012 , 3:36pm

When I was assembling my dd's cake at her venue, I realized I had never stacked a cake before! Sometimes ignorance is bliss - - on the other hand, knowing what you're doing is a little more calming. icon_lol.gif

jgifford Posted 3 Apr 2012 , 3:48pm

Oops!

I don't want you to think I went into this completely stupid. icon_rolleyes.gif I had searched and researched the entire design/"manufacture"/assembly of the cake for months. I knew (in theory) exactly how to proceed and what to do, and had everything I needed to do it. I had just never physically stacked a cake before.

I was very pleased with the result, and now years later I'm still rather pleased with it. thumbs_up.gif

vgcea Posted 3 Apr 2012 , 5:42pm
Quote:
Originally Posted by Apti

vgcea~~I've been watching this thread; it was an interesting question. I've been a hobby baker for 2 years now. Last September I did a 100th birthday cake for a wonderful woman. About 200-250 were going to attend her party. My cakes were a love gift, but the skill level needed and the mental pressure was very similar to a wedding cake.

Although I did well and was not disappointed in any aspects of the cake presentation, it was an overwhelming task. I learned a TON of stuff doing these cakes. Logistics, expense, timing, transportation, cutting, table prep, size of cake boards, prep of cake boards, having a friend to help, the sheer number of hours (especially the 24 hours before the cakes were due!), on and on and on.......

Because these cakes were my love gift, I had total control of the design, colors, flavors, everything. I was able to change aspects of the design, etc. at the last minute in order to get them finished and out the door. It would have been 100% more stressful if I'd had the necessity of adhering to a specific design (such as a bride's design).

Here's a link to my thread on Wilton.com where I have some photos and explanation of the cakes:
"MY BIGGEST CAKE PROJECT, EVER! (whew.........)"
http://www.wilton.com/forums/messageview.cfm?catid=4&threadid=156177&FTVAR_MSGDBTABLE=
----------------------------
I would suggest you identify a source where you can donate, design, transport, cut and serve a large stacked cake and make a "practice run". (You can contact local homeless centers, hospital emergency room Staff Lounges, Convalescent Staff Lounges, Police Stations, etc., anywhere there are a large number of healthy people on staff.)

A "practice run" would give you invaluable experience and then you'll be ready for the real thing!




Apti those cakes are HUGE and beautiful. I love the colors.

The time investment along with the mental pressure in the last few hours of decorating is what freaks me out. 2 weeks ago I made a 2 tier SMBC cake at the last minute. It was STRESSFUL especially because my 2nd batch of BC took forever to go from curdled to smooth. I think my stress level must have changed the atmosphere in my kitchen amplifying everything. There I was running out of time, and waiting on my BC without which I couldn't go ahead with finishing my cake. So I'm looking at the clock, and my crumbcoated stacked cake, and the BC and freaking out! And it was a free cake too lol.

I'm going to have to find an avenue to do bigger cakes.

debbief Posted 3 Apr 2012 , 5:47pm

My story is very similar to the rest. My niece asked me to make her wedding cake (a gift) a year in advance. So since I had a whole year to obsess, stress, research, design, practice, etc...I figured I'd give it a try. I also let her know I was very nervous and not to expect a professional quality cake. And let me tell you I stressed and obsessed for the entire year!

I was already comfortable making tiered cakes so I knew how to properly support the cake. But the most I'd done was a 3 tier cake. This one was a 5 tier cake to feel 200 people. That for me is the most important aspect of a wedding cake. If you don't know how to support your tiers and stack them properly, you are setting yourself up for a cake disaster. All the hours spent baking, decorating and obsessing will be for nothing if your cake topples over or caves in because it's not supported correctly. lol Can you tell I've read a lot of "cake disaster" stories on here?

I had a few issues with the execution of the particular design, but I kind of just went with plan b on that and it worked out. I spent a bazillion hours on that cake but I was so happy I actually did it.

I've since made another smaller (3 tier) wedding cake and felt so much more comfortable since I knew I was capable. I have another one to do in June.

These were all gifts but I'm with Elcee. I'm in Colorado and now with the CFL I'm hoping to actually pick up a real paying order as well! Somehow that makes me more nervous than doing it as a gift...

vgcea Posted 3 Apr 2012 , 5:47pm
Quote:
Originally Posted by jgifford

I honestly don't think you can be "ready" for your first BIG ONE. It's something that's forced on you or that you agree to in a weak moment. The only way you're going to stretch yourself to that point and find out how much you can do is to just do it. Yes, it's scary. Yes, there will be moments you wish you lived somewhere else. Yes, there's the possibility of monumental disaster. BUT if you don't ever take the plunge, you'll never know how capable and creative you can be.

As Apti said, practice runs are great. And they would help you immensely. However, until you do it under the stress of an actual wedding with all its attendant jitters and potential disasters and come out on the other side, you won't understand what causes us to keep putting ourselves through this on a regular basis. You may decide you don't ever want to do another one, and that's okay - a lot of bakers don't do weddings at all.

You have loads of people here to help and advise you with every aspect of the process. Go for it! thumbs_up.gif




Thank you so much for these words jgifford. Somedays I think taking the plunge is the one way to get myself moving. I tend to do better under stress. I hate how I feel during the process (short-tempered is an understatement) but I'm usually so immersed, so focused that things turn out ok. I hate the feeling, love the results. I'm training myself to work just as well, but with less stress.

CC is such an invaluable source of encouragement and support. It's like any cake emergency can be tackled because we have so many gifted and experienced people here who are willing to share. Thank God for CC and its members.

vgcea Posted 3 Apr 2012 , 5:51pm
Quote:
Originally Posted by debbief



These were all gifts but I'm with Elcee. I'm in Colorado and now with the CFL I'm hoping to actually pick up a real paying order as well! Somehow that makes me more nervous than doing it as a gift...




THIS alone is a super stressor icon_lol.gif

Apti Posted 3 Apr 2012 , 6:25pm

I'm waiting for the California Cottage Food Act to be decided. They are supposed to have some kind of vote April 10, 2012, but who knows if that will even be the "final" vote. IF it is passed, then I will definitely be doing some cakes for extra money for the kids' college fund (or their parents' broken car fund, or..... well, you guys know the drill.)

vgcea, I REALLY, REALLY recommend doing a "practice" stacked cake that would serve at least 200 people. [Thank you for the lovely compliments on the cakes! I really wanted to do a huge, in-your-face-stacked-cake, but logistics for the 100th birthday party simply didn't allow time to cut/serve/plate unless I went with separate cakes.]

As debbief said: "I've since made another smaller (3 tier) wedding cake and felt so much more comfortable since I knew I was capable."

You can have a friend play the role of "bride" and give you an "order" for what SHE would envision as her dream cake with a specific day that the cake has to be delivered. You will learn SO MUCH that it will give you a HUGE amount of confidence and reduce the stress of your first paid order.

If you haven't used SPS, that is the ONLY way to go. LeahS has great, easy to follow instructions on her sticky.

vgcea Posted 4 Apr 2012 , 3:30am

I've heard SPS mentioned so many times here. I think I'm going to check it out. I'm also looking to order Sharon Zambito's Successful Stacking DVD.

Any other DVDs recommended? I might as well go ahead and order everything I need at the same time.

debbief Posted 4 Apr 2012 , 3:58am
Quote:
Originally Posted by vgcea

I've heard SPS mentioned so many times here. I think I'm going to check it out. I'm also looking to order Sharon Zambito's Successful Stacking DVD.

Any other DVDs recommended? I might as well go ahead and order everything I need at the same time.




I use bubble tea straws for all of my tiered cakes and I feel very confident with them. HOWEVER, when I did my first wedding cake (the 5-tier one) I used sps. I'd never made a cake that big and heavy and I didn't want to take any chances. That helped relieve the stress more than I can say. I would definatley recommend it.

Search youtube, you can get a lot of great tutorials there.

vgcea Posted 4 Apr 2012 , 4:46am
Quote:
Originally Posted by debbief


I use bubble tea straws for all of my tiered cakes and I feel very confident with them. HOWEVER, when I did my first wedding cake (the 5-tier one) I used sps. I'd never made a cake that big and heavy and I didn't want to take any chances. That helped relieve the stress more than I can say. I would definatley recommend it.

Search youtube, you can get a lot of great tutorials there.




debbief your cake is stunning! How did you get your roses so glossy?

Apti Posted 4 Apr 2012 , 5:46am

Here's the link to the SPS instructions provided by Leah_S:
http://media.cakecentral.com/files/sps_104.pdf

Here's the link to a 60 page thread about SPS if you want more info:
http://cakecentral.com/cake-decorating-ftopict-603925.html

Here's an excellent place to buy SPS and other online cake supplies:
http://www.fondantsource.com/bacrsiplse.html

Here's a thread with a ton of free information and links for newbies:
http://www.wilton.com/forums/messageview.cfm?catid=8&threadid=160184

Before you purchase the Sharon Zambito DVD's, contact your local library and see if they can be ordered so you can check them out and view before buying. (Sometimes you can, sometimes you can't.)

vgcea Posted 4 Apr 2012 , 5:57am

OMG Apti! I can't thank you enough for pulling up this wealth of information. I know how I'm going to spend the next few days icon_biggrin.gif

Apti Posted 4 Apr 2012 , 2:01pm

vgcea~~When I started this cake hobby 2 years ago, I knew NOTHING. I mean, zero, nada, zip, bupkus. I asked a million questions and spent countless hours looking at threads and videos and reading books. The Wilton thread is a compilation of all those hours.

My avatar on Wilton is whoknew? because nobody was more surprised than me that I could learn to do lovely cakes. The information provided should give you a very solid foundation. So many people helped me out, that it's great to pass it on.

debbief Posted 4 Apr 2012 , 2:04pm
Quote:
Originally Posted by vgcea

Quote:
Originally Posted by debbief


I use bubble tea straws for all of my tiered cakes and I feel very confident with them. HOWEVER, when I did my first wedding cake (the 5-tier one) I used sps. I'd never made a cake that big and heavy and I didn't want to take any chances. That helped relieve the stress more than I can say. I would definatley recommend it.

Search youtube, you can get a lot of great tutorials there.



debbief your cake is stunning! How did you get your roses so glossy?




Thank you so much vgcea! I airbrushed the roses with a pearl sheen

vgcea Posted 5 Apr 2012 , 4:07pm

Pearl sheen huh? They look so real and fresh from the garden. Great job, I saved your cake in my faves.

chelleb1974 Posted 5 Apr 2012 , 9:16pm

Once I felt I had a handle on small stacked cakes, I started doing bigger stacked cakes for family parties, functions, etc... that I was invited too. I didn't tell anyone I was bringing cake, I just made it and brought it. No one turns down free cake, lol. Once I did a few of them, I knew I could handle a wedding cake no problem. I only do them for friends and family, and have done two wedding cakes to date. There will be a few more coming up in the next few years though. There is a cake competition that I go to every year and they have a wedding cake division. I have been entering a wedding cake in it for the past 6 years, so that is some practice also - though it's not the same as a real wedding cake.

~Chelle

mommachris Posted 5 Apr 2012 , 10:15pm

My first was for a bride that was also a cake decorator. I was asked by her to bake the cakes and ended up being the only decorator when another friend of hers backed out the day we began to assemble the cakes. ( I'd baked them on my own.)
I had TWELVE cakes to do in just under two days. ( A 14, two 10 inch, three 8 inch and six 6 rounds. And I'd never stacked cakes before....yikes....and actually forgot to put dowels in one of them. My husband saw it leaning at the reception, but I was able to remove it ( it was on a plastic plate) off the columns and put it back just long enough for pictures.

I really didn't have time to think about what I was doing. It just happened and I keep swimming for three days of baking and decorating.
By the way my five month old baby was at the church and I kept having to stop to nurse him. I had to have one of my teenagers with me at the church to be my baby wrangler.
It was just the craziest experience I've ever been through.

I look back on it now and think, "I could have done that piping SO much better."
It's the big cream colored wedding cake in my gallery.


My daughter ( who took the Wilton classes with me about a year earlier) kept telling me, "You've got this Mom. It's going to be great."
Amazing what a little positive reinforcement can do for you when the pressure is on.

mommachris

vgcea Posted 6 Apr 2012 , 8:07am

Mommachris your experience is so encouraging! It seems like for many people necessity was the driving force.

mommachris Posted 8 Apr 2012 , 3:33am

Vgcea, thanks.
It really is true that if you don't have time to get anxious, you just do it.
If I had known ahead of time that I was decorating the cake, I might have freaked. Once my friend passed it on to me...I just put my head down and covered things in frosting.. icon_smile.gif

mommachris

vgcea Posted 8 Apr 2012 , 8:52pm
Quote:
Originally Posted by mommachris

Vgcea, thanks.
It really is true that if you don't have time to get anxious, you just do it.
If I had known ahead of time that I was decorating the cake, I might have freaked. Once my friend passed it on to me...I just put my head down and covered things in frosting.. icon_smile.gif

mommachris




^^ That expression made me chuckle icon_lol.gif

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