FrostedMoon Posted 23 Jul 2013 , 11:09pm
post #1 of

I have been baking and decorating more involved cakes for about 6 years, but have only been open for business as home baker for about a year and a half.  Yes I am licensed, no I am not the cheapest baker around, and I try hard to not underprice my cakes.  icon_biggrin.gif  However, I do feel like it takes me forever to make and decorate my cakes.  I tend to have a lot of sculpted decorations, and I know that attention to detail takes time, but I tend to have a hard time with the hourly rate part of the pricing equation because I think it takes me longer than it should.  Many say it's a learning curve, but I really I think I'm just a slow decorator.  How to do you compensate in pricing for that?  For example, I baked the cake below and made the fondant one night, made the icing, torted, filled, frosted, and made & and applied all the fondant decorations the next night. From torting to final picture took about 7 hours.  It's an 8" four layer chocolate cake with coffee buttercream filling that's covered in vanilla buttercream with fondant accents.  The castle, pail, shovel, and sea shells are hand sculpted from marshmallow fondant.  Sand is crushed cookie crumbs.  Doesn't that seem like a long time?  Remember that doesn't include baking time, or time to make the frosting and fondant.  So all in all, oven time aside, it probably took me about 9 hours to make this cake.  If supplies/costs are about $20, and I pay myself a measly $10 an hour (never mind that sculpting time should be closer to $25 an hour!), that makes this cake $110.  Is that what you would charge? How long would this take you?

 

Sandcastle and sea shells with bucket and shovel in the sand.  8" round 4 layer cake covered in buttercream with marshmallow fondant waves and hand sculpted decorations.  Sand is cookie crumbs.

 

Thanks in advance!

37 replies
BatterUpCake Posted 23 Jul 2013 , 11:15pm
post #2 of

by 4 layers you mean 4 1" layers? Also are you saying you are not accounting your shopping, baking, cleaning, prep time? The 7 hours is just decorating? I am slow so to keep my prices reasonable I pay myself a lower hourly rate. As a business owner you would obviously give raises and compensation to your more productive/efficient employees

FrostedMoon Posted 23 Jul 2013 , 11:19pm
post #3 of

They were each a little over an inch high, but yes, 4 layers of cake and 3 of filling.  

BatterUpCake Posted 23 Jul 2013 , 11:20pm
post #4 of

edited my last reply

lunawhisper0013 Posted 23 Jul 2013 , 11:21pm
post #5 of

From what you are describing, I would quote price at $85 but I would estimate my time at between 5-6 hours total. (of course, I under-charge) :-/

FrostedMoon Posted 23 Jul 2013 , 11:31pm
post #6 of

As business owner, I think I'd fire myself!  No, I have not been including shopping, cleaning up, etc.  I wish I could see others work on their cakes so I knew why it takes me sooo much longer!  

Stitches Posted 23 Jul 2013 , 11:47pm
post #7 of

You must work on your speed and there's a lot of small things you can do to lesson your time per cake.

 

Examples:

 

  • Instead of making fondant per cake, you should make much larger batches. Make enough for a month at one time.
  • When you mix your fondant colors make a little extra of each color and save those scraps. I rarely have to mix a new color....so often I use a combination of scraps I have left over from previous cakes. Say I need green, I'll mix all my yellow and greens (some blues too) into one large ball of color and use that up.
  • Make all your frostings for two weeks at one time. Separate it into portions and freeze what you don't need until latter.
  • While your cakes are baking allot that time to be the only time you use to make your decorations. The example shown should have taken you no longer then 1/2 hour to do completely. None of required drying times before completion.

 

Just for a reference, it would have taken me 1 hour to decorate that cake from start to finish. Honestly, the only way to get faster is to push yourself into an uncomfortable time allotment. You must take on more than you can handle or schedule way less time for your décor.

 

If you give yourself 4 hours you'll take 4 hours.

Norasmom Posted 23 Jul 2013 , 11:57pm
post #8 of

AI move slowly as well. A more experienced decorator would not take as long as I do. So I price market value, as opposed to hourly rate. I am not baking as my primary income, though. If I were, I'd have to find a way to speed myself wayyyy up. Working too slowly is not efficient with baking. Same for a lot if trades. I would not hire a slow plumber or electrician who charges by the hour...I'm all about efficiency as it pertains to value.

BatterUpCake Posted 24 Jul 2013 , 2:03am
post #9 of

I have arthritis, carpal tunnel and fibromyalgia. I will never be faster. That is why I do not do more than 2 cakes a week. It can take me 3 hours or 3 days to do a cake.

kikiandkyle Posted 24 Jul 2013 , 2:35am

AGreat tips Stitches!

Stitches Posted 24 Jul 2013 , 2:42am
Quote:
Originally Posted by kikiandkyle 

Great tips Stitches!

If you worked next to me you'd hate me completely because I'm a very hard driving taskmaster. But I promise you if you really push yourself, you do become stronger, faster and better. Everyone would rather work at a leisurely pace and make lots of money....life isn't that kind though.

jason_kraft Posted 24 Jul 2013 , 3:22am

A

Original message sent by Stitches

Just for a reference, it would have taken me 1 hour to decorate that cake from start to finish. Honestly, the only way to get faster is to push yourself into an uncomfortable time allotment. You must take on more than you can handle or schedule way less time for your décor.

Agreed, ideally that should be a 1 hour cake. Most cake decorators are natural perfectionists, it can be very difficult to fight against that and push the cake out the door once it is good enough for your market.

If you take some time beforehand to map out your entire process from start to finish you can identify ways to speed things up, especially when you have multiple orders or a single order that can be broken down into multiple components. For example, here is a process flow diagram for baking bread: http://www.thefreshloaf.com/node/15336/bread-making-process-handout

If you need help with this, it might turn out to be an interesting exercise for an operations management class at your local business school, in my OM class we were constantly mapping out process flows. The downside to learning more about OM is constantly seeing inefficient processes everywhere you look and not being able to do anything about it.

scrumdiddlycakes Posted 24 Jul 2013 , 3:25am

Baking, icing, gum paste flowers... no problem, I'm captain speedy. However, I am so slow at modeling new things, it isn't funny.

That little castle would probably take me an hour, the rest of the cake, probably 45 minutes from torting to finishing.

What I do is charge for the time I think it should take me, lol, then put a movie on and take my time with the finicky details.

Tuesdays and Wednesdays are 'movie nights' for me, I make sure I get anything like that done while I watch.

I don't have kids, and Wednesdays were movie nights anyway, so it's not like I'm taking away from something else I should be doing. It also means I get to enjoy doing the fussy little things like that, whereas if I push myself, I get stressed and end up hating things.

 

Stiutches has great tips though. I do mine on a weekly basis, Tuesday is 'icing day'. I make everything I will need for the week, butter cream, fillings, fondant and ganache.

Then I don't need to turn my mixers back on except for baking, which I do Wednesday & Thursday, depending on what my orders are.

 

That way when it comes time to stack/decorate, everything is made, kitchen is clean, I can just go to it.

 

A lot of my cakes have the same base recipe, so I can make a massive batch of that, then split it up and add this or that to each batch. I get things done so much faster than doing everything on a 'per order' basis.

Annabakescakes Posted 24 Jul 2013 , 3:31am

See, I would charge $90 for that cake, and it would cost me about $25, including overhead. I couldn't sleep at night if I only worked for an hour on the cake. It would be a mess! It would take me a good 3 hours. 

 

And the tappits...I despise them! It would take an hour or more just for the message. 

Annabakescakes Posted 24 Jul 2013 , 3:34am
Quote:
Originally Posted by scrumdiddlycakes 

Baking, icing, gum paste flowers... no problem, I'm captain speedy. However, I am so slow at modeling new things, it isn't funny.

That little castle would probably take me an hour, the rest of the cake, probably 45 minutes from torting to finishing.

What I do is charge for the time I think it should take me, lol, then put a movie on and take my time with the finicky details.

Tuesdays and Wednesdays are 'movie nights' for me, I make sure I get anything like that done while I watch.

I don't have kids, and Wednesdays were movie nights anyway, so it's not like I'm taking away from something else I should be doing. It also means I get to enjoy doing the fussy little things like that, whereas if I push myself, I get stressed and end up hating things.

 

Stiutches has great tips though. I do mine on a weekly basis, Tuesday is 'icing day'. I make everything I will need for the week, butter cream, fillings, fondant and ganache.

Then I don't need to turn my mixers back on except for baking, which I do Wednesday & Thursday, depending on what my orders are.

 

That way when it comes time to stack/decorate, everything is made, kitchen is clean, I can just go to it.

 

A lot of my cakes have the same base recipe, so I can make a massive batch of that, then split it up and add this or that to each batch. I get things done so much faster than doing everything on a 'per order' basis.

Modeling takes me a while too, as does coloring fondant, and coming up with a design. I have to take my time and relax while I model, or it will look like stirred...crud. 

scrumdiddlycakes Posted 24 Jul 2013 , 4:03am
Quote:
Originally Posted by Annabakescakes 

See, I would charge $90 for that cake, and it would cost me about $25, including overhead. I couldn't sleep at night if I only worked for an hour on the cake. It would be a mess! It would take me a good 3 hours. 

 

And the tappits...I despise them! It would take an hour or more just for the message. 


I got mad and sold my tappits on eBay, haha.

I have this adorable silicone mold from Martha Stewart, so much easier! I think I will actually go buy a couple more with a 40% off coupon at Michaels, in case something happens to it.

http://www.eksuccessbrands.com/marthastewartcrafts/Products/Alphabet_Silicon_Mold_43-00012.htm

Annabakescakes Posted 24 Jul 2013 , 4:22am
Quote:
Originally Posted by scrumdiddlycakes 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Annabakescakes 

See, I would charge $90 for that cake, and it would cost me about $25, including overhead. I couldn't sleep at night if I only worked for an hour on the cake. It would be a mess! It would take me a good 3 hours. 

 

And the tappits...I despise them! It would take an hour or more just for the message. 


I got mad and sold my tappits on eBay, haha.

I have this adorable silicone mold from Martha Stewart, so much easier! I think I will actually go buy a couple more with a 40% off coupon at Michaels, in case something happens to it.

http://www.eksuccessbrands.com/marthastewartcrafts/Products/Alphabet_Silicon_Mold_43-00012.htm

I have those! SUPER easy to use! And SO CUTE! 

 

I think I cracked the tappits code, though. I use 50/50 or add tylose to fondant, roll very thin strips, then stick them to the edge of a very flat counter with shortening. Let dry for about an hour or more, then cut. Wiggle it around, then lift. Should be clean cut, and stuck to the counter. Let dry a bit more, and then lift with a razor blade. Pop right up! 

 

I am still dyslexic, though, and have to recite my alphabet for almost every letter I need, so I know where to find it on the little sticks, lol. And them being backwards outlines doesn't help, either. 

BatterUpCake Posted 24 Jul 2013 , 10:41am

That's awesome! My Michael's only has the wilton letter cutters which are crapola. I will have to check online for the Martha Stewart ones

scrumdiddlycakes Posted 24 Jul 2013 , 10:50am
Quote:
Originally Posted by BatterUpCake 

That's awesome! My Michael's only has the wilton letter cutters which are crapola. I will have to check online for the Martha Stewart ones


These are sold in the little Martha Stewart section, by all her overpriced glitters and tissue paper balls, nowhere near the cake section in my local store.

BatterUpCake Posted 24 Jul 2013 , 11:17am

Thanks...

DeliciousDesserts Posted 24 Jul 2013 , 11:30am

AThink like a mechanic. The labor hours are standardized.

My Michaels has 2 Martha sections. Those aren't in either of them.

BatterUpCake Posted 24 Jul 2013 , 11:36am

Exactly. I worked in an autobody shop office and would fill out the invoices. If the customer had a fender removed and installed there was an inductry book Iwould look up the time in. We charged say 1.5 hours whether it took our experienced techs 15 minutes or a newbie 2 hours....Good way to look at it DD. The problem with this industry is that there is not a cheat book!!

kikiandkyle Posted 24 Jul 2013 , 12:40pm

AStitches I would have definitely appreciated the chance to learn, it's hard to find a job with a quality decorator! PS if any of you Houston bakers are hiring...

shebysuz Posted 24 Jul 2013 , 2:36pm

Annabakescakes, have you watched " how to create cake font: The Krazy Kool Cakes way" on YOUTUBE? I was about to throw my stupid tappits out because I was tired of fighting with them. This video shows a great way to use them and now it only takes me a few minutes to write on a cake board or cake.

sixinarow Posted 24 Jul 2013 , 2:40pm
Quote:
Originally Posted by Annabakescakes 

I have those! SUPER easy to use! And SO CUTE! 

 

I think I cracked the tappits code, though. I use 50/50 or add tylose to fondant, roll very thin strips, then stick them to the edge of a very flat counter with shortening. Let dry for about an hour or more, then cut. Wiggle it around, then lift. Should be clean cut, and stuck to the counter. Let dry a bit more, and then lift with a razor blade. Pop right up! 

 

I am still dyslexic, though, and have to recite my alphabet for almost every letter I need, so I know where to find it on the little sticks, lol. And them being backwards outlines doesn't help, either. 

I watched a video on youtube by a cute little British lady that helped me figure them out. It's still every 4th one or so that gets mangled. Luckily, I don't use them that much!!

Stitches Posted 24 Jul 2013 , 5:11pm

I hope this doesn't sound too basic.....(for the people who say they are slow at modeling) do you all do some research online before you begin? That's VERY important. You cheat (simplify) where ever you can! If you can find a way to make that castle simply by finding what someone else has done previously, it saves you so much time trying to dream up how a castle looks.

 

Even though I've been a professional artist (in a previous career) and I can do just about anything art wise, I still have to cheat! I couldn't dream up a great looking castle off the top of my head either. It's soooo hard to re-invent the wheel every time you sit down to create something.

 

(Showing my age) Today, being able to do a google image search or a pinterest search is life changing!!!!!!!!!!!! In minutes you can see how dozens of people have already tackled the subject. Once upon a time I saved photographs from magazines of everything I thought I might ever need as references. My husband makes fun of that (and I still haven't gotten rid of many files) I have file upon file of cake photographs for instant reference. It's only been since pinterest began that I stopped saving and tearing apart magazines.

 

When you recreate items in 3D you need to think of the items as basic shapes and model them as such. Once you build your basic shape (a rectangle for the castle) your simply adding a couple cylinders (tootsie rolls) to each corner. The OP's design choice was PERFECT for her skill level! If she had chosen something more elaborate think of how many more hours she'd have spent on the cake. So when your looking for references pick designs that fit your own skill level. I could choose harder more time consuming designs myself and do them well, but WHY? Unless the client is willing to pay me for my skills, I don't have to give them the best thing I could ever do.....no I give them what they want to pay for and I adjust the design to that.

AZCouture Posted 24 Jul 2013 , 5:33pm
Quote:
Originally Posted by scrumdiddlycakes 


I got mad and sold my tappits on eBay, haha.

I have this adorable silicone mold from Martha Stewart, so much easier! I think I will actually go buy a couple more with a 40% off coupon at Michaels, in case something happens to it.

http://www.eksuccessbrands.com/marthastewartcrafts/Products/Alphabet_Silicon_Mold_43-00012.htm

I love that mold! I use isomalt in mine too.

BatterUpCake Posted 24 Jul 2013 , 8:28pm

Wow that Martha Stewart mold is less than $9 here....that's less than the Wilton molds

kikiandkyle Posted 24 Jul 2013 , 8:35pm

AI have the Martha Stewart mold but I haven't had a cake where it looked right yet. I've ended up piping every time instead because I didn't like the way the mold or the tappits looked.

Annabakescakes Posted 24 Jul 2013 , 8:37pm
Quote:
Originally Posted by shebysuz 

Annabakescakes, have you watched " how to create cake font: The Krazy Kool Cakes way" on YOUTUBE? I was about to throw my stupid tappits out because I was tired of fighting with them. This video shows a great way to use them and now it only takes me a few minutes to write on a cake board or cake.

*googling now...*

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