melroe1125 Posted 7 Feb 2014 , 7:59pm
post #1 of

ASo, I have only been on my own for about two months and so far, have loved every minute of it. Last week I took an order for a Minecraft themed cake and a Zebra striped with a blue bow. The customer sent me pictures of the birthday invitation to match the blue. I have never seen Minecraft so I looked up some ideas and then ultimately, she sent me a picture to copy. I spent all morning creating the accent pieces and building the cakes. But when she came to pick them up, she hated them. She told me they looked nothing like what she wanted and she could have done a better job herself. I now have two giant cakes and a lump in my throat. I think perhaps I should give up on this. I love baking but perhaps I am not very good at decorating. Maybe I am delusional about my cakes but I thought they were cute. Are they really terrible? Please be honest because I need to figure out if I am continuing on this path.[IMG][IMG]http://cakecentral.com/content/type/61/id/3182067/width/200/height/400[/IMG][/IMG]

31 replies
melroe1125 Posted 7 Feb 2014 , 7:59pm
post #2 of

A[IMG]http://cakecentral.com/content/type/61/id/3182068/width/200/height/400[/IMG]

matthewkyrankelly Posted 7 Feb 2014 , 8:16pm
post #3 of

They're cute.  You have a lot of promise.   But....they're not what I would have expected for sale.

 

Honestly,  the Minecraft one is not up to par for what is out there. 

 

Here for honest critique?

 

You are almost there on the basics.  Frosting could be smoother.  Fondant work on the zebra cake could be neater. The cake should be level with straight sides.  The bow should be neater.  the piping on the bottom should not have points on each ball.  Fix it or learn another border technique.  The medallion is pretty.  All cakeboards should be finished with cake foil or fondant.

 

The Minecraft cake:  All four figures should be more professional - these could be done well ahead of time.  The top scene should be more composed.  The lettering should be better.  Practice your cake handwriting and/or use fondant cutout letters.  The "grass" doesn't look like grass.  There are better grass piping techniques that would have looked good.  Again the piping around the bottom looks amateur.  Practice a better border technique.

 

So that's the bad news.  The good news is your cakes must be good.  You bit off more than you could chew this time.  Start with simple celebration cakes.  Add on one difficulty at a time.  Take it slower.  Keep on doing it, but don't jump off the cliff the next time.

AZCouture Posted 7 Feb 2014 , 8:53pm
post #4 of

AWhat matthewryankelley said. Keep plugging away and I wouldn't be selling in the meantime. I know I'm jumping to conclusions here, but I bet you're selling really cheap too, please don't take that offensively, it's just a given. You want to be able to command good money for good work.

Jackie Posted 7 Feb 2014 , 8:59pm
post #5 of

I agree with with @matthewkyrankelly critiques. 

 

Don't give up!  Just keep practicing!

Yes, you were a bit too ambitious with this cake order which was a mistake, but don't let this situation break you down. The first time I ever met Colette Peters she told me a story about a cake delivery in her early cake years that went horribly wrong, she spent the next few days crying her eyes out and and swearing she would never make a cake again. But she never gave up. She went right back at it, and she is one of the most celebrated cake decorators of all time.  

 

Try and set aside some time and materials and try to remake the same cake order as practice for yourself.  One thing I did in my early days learning to decorate cakes was I purchased some styrofoam dummies, covered them in plastic-wrap, and went to town covering them in buttercream, wiping them off, then covering them again.  Covering a real cake in buttercream is more difficult, but once you really nail down the movement of your spatual and become "one" with the buttercream, it really starts coming together. 

 

Once you have been practicing for a few weeks, remake the cakes and phtoograph them, You will be surprised how far you have come!

 

Recipes

Start with good recipes for modeling and buttercream

  •  http://cakecentral.com/b/recipe/buttercream-winbeckler
    the Winbeckler's buttercream recipe with step-by-step video
  • http://cakecentral.com/b/recipe/candy-clay-for-modeling-3d-figures
  • http://cakecentral.com/b/tutorial/make-use-modeling-chocolate
  • http://cakecentral.com/b/recipe/ultimate-buttercream-recipe

 

Some tutorials on smoothing buttercream

Experiment with different techniques to get crisp smooth buttercream

http://cakecentral.com/b/tutorial/upside-down-icing-technique-for-perfectly-smooth-icing

 

http://cakecentral.com/b/tutorial/buttercream-smooth-cake

 

 

 

Plus a lot more tutorials, videos and recipes

http://cakecentral.com/b/?s=buttercream

Jackie Posted 7 Feb 2014 , 9:12pm
post #6 of

I also wanted to add:

Here is quick video tutorial from Cake Darla on how you can practice getting nice bead buttercream borders:

 

 

http://cakecentral.com/b/tutorial/cake-decorating-piping-techniques-make-dots-beads

carmijok Posted 7 Feb 2014 , 10:00pm
post #7 of

AAll really good advice. Do the research...look at tutorials and practice...but not necessarily on paying customers yet. I dare say part of the problem with your situation occurred because you had a customer who thinks all decorators can produce works of art...and if they can get it cheap so much the better. Their expectations are often unrealistic and they act surprised when they aren't presented with a Ron Ben Israel masterpiece for $50. If your customer had seen the level of your prior work they should have been prepared for something similar. Again...it's not horrible...it's just not professional---YET!

You have a talent and now you just need to focus on taking your skills to the next level. Follow the advice given above and you are on your way! Good luck!

FlourPots Posted 7 Feb 2014 , 10:01pm
post #8 of

You've gotten such great advice already, but here's a tutorial for the zebra stripes because (to me personally) that's what's most wrong with the first cake...

 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zJoGKtopx3o

AZCouture Posted 7 Feb 2014 , 10:22pm
post #9 of

AI don't really think any of us put out masterpieces our first go round. Practicing and fine tuning should be part of the fun of the job, learning what to and not to do, learning about the business side of things before you start selling, etc. Take it easy and soak up everything you can before you accept an order again. You'll thank yourself in years to come if you stick with it.

cupcakemaker Posted 8 Feb 2014 , 12:15am

ANo one becomes a cake decorator in 2 months. Keep at it. You'll get there :)

morganchampagne Posted 8 Feb 2014 , 12:43am

AChin up! Even if you don't post that often hang around here....I learned so much in the short time I've been here...you can really elevate your game by picking up tips. Making mistakes is also how you learn! Dont worry

Norasmom Posted 8 Feb 2014 , 2:16am

And please don't cry, it will be okay.   I see buttercream that could be a bit smoother and gum paste that could use a little tweaking.  But you are on your way.  Keep practicing.   I think the medallion looks really good.

 

 Also, Minecraft is difficult!  Sometimes I get orders that seem too difficult for my skill level, so I turn them down.  But I still have a cake business!

 

I have, in the past, made a cake or two for sale that were not very good, and offered a refund. (Kindly, the customers did not take me up on the offer.)  That's how I learned what I was good at and what needed practice.  Now I stick to things I enjoy making and I feel confident making, like gum paste flowers and the occasional figurine.

 

So keep practicing, find out what kinds of decorations you are good at and then showcase those.  

 

I also think your customer was unkind in her wording, but custom cakes are something people want done perfectly.  So, as everyone has stated, keep going, practice, practice, practice!!

craftybanana Posted 8 Feb 2014 , 2:26am

AA suggestion about Minecraft: Minecraft is built around the "pixel" look, think early 16-bit Nintendo. With gamers, accurate detail is a must. Take time to research your design a bit more. The grass does look like grass, but Minecraft is boxy with everything: water, grass, figures, dirt, even the sun is a box shape, lols. If you need to, plan out your design a little more and then compare it to what the customer wanted. I'm not a professional, nor do I sell my stuff (yet), I'm just a Minecraft nerd... heh heh. Just take it slow and you'll get there!

AZCouture Posted 8 Feb 2014 , 6:06am

AGood point about Minecraft and it's very specific look. Some things you can get away with putting your own touch to, making it look a bit different, but something like that needs to be "pixel" perfect.

remnant3333 Posted 8 Feb 2014 , 12:34pm

Do not give up!!! With each cake you make you will get better and better. You definitely have talent but you need to keep practicing. No one does a perfect cake within 2 months of practicing.  You just need more practice!!! Hang in there and don't throw in the towel!!! You are going to be fine!!!! One day you will look back and say, wow, look how good my cakes look compared to when I first started!!! If you give up now then you will never know how good you can really be at decorating cakes. It takes practice, practice and more practice!!

LisaPeps Posted 8 Feb 2014 , 2:57pm

Everyone has to start somewhere! I agree with the first poster's comments and the comment about the zebra print. Make sure the board looks professional too, uncovered cardboard is not acceptable to a paying customer. 

 

My first tiered cake was awful:

 

But practice and you'll get better! This was my last tiered cake (after 3 years of learning) and I still found aspects of it challenging:

 

I still have imperfections but I know my standards now and feel comfortable agreeing to do cakes for paying customers. Thankfully the first cake was for my now ex-boyfriend! 

mandoopandoo Posted 9 Feb 2014 , 11:40am

AYou'll... what? I need to know!:-D

Your wedding cake is just stunning.

LisaPeps Posted 9 Feb 2014 , 11:43am

AIt was 'you'll never walk alone' one word on each side. Liverpool football clubs slogan. Awful lol!

Thanks :)

Claire138 Posted 9 Feb 2014 , 1:22pm

Either way, smashing result yesterday - YNWA;-D

melroe1125 Posted 9 Feb 2014 , 5:40pm

AThanks for all the great advice. I really started because I enjoy the creativity of it all. I was being asked to make cakes for a while but only charging for supplies. I started worrying that I was putting too much effort into something that didn't benefit me so I decided to charge for the cakes. This customer was a friend of a friend. She had seen the birthday cakes I had made for my friend and asked about me. I had never met her before which was a first for me. Also in our original agreement, she said she would be picking the cakes up at 4, then day of she called and told me she needed to pick up at 10:30am so I was super rushed. This was all supposed to be a fun side job for a stay at home mommy but this wad not fun at all so I think I will go back to doing it for fun.... By the way, this is the cake she saw that caused her to request infor about me. As you can see, totally different style.....[IMG]http://cakecentral.com/content/type/61/id/3183416/width/200/height/400[/IMG]

melroe1125 Posted 9 Feb 2014 , 5:46pm

A[IMG]http://cakecentral.com/content/type/61/id/3183420/width/200/height/400[/IMG] She also saw this cake in August. Both of which I did for free for a friend. As you can see, my technique was no where near perfect. But they tasted great! Which, ironically was her main reason for calling originally. She said that she remembered the cakes being cute but more importantly tasting amazing.

howboutbake Posted 10 Feb 2014 , 9:55am

In my view, those cakes are nicer than what I could find around here from the large big box stores. Certainly not perfect, but I am sure they are delicious!

 

I think those cake shows on tv create unrealistic expectations for the average joe, who has likely never thought of ordering a custom cake...sees Carlos or Duff whip one out in a half hour and figures that anyone can do that. I wish they would display how much each cake cost, and the actual time it took to make it in that giant professional bakery!

 

I know what it feels like to bite off more than you can chew, and be in a time crunch.  You had a lot of stuff going on there...two cakes at once, buttercream, fondant, modelling figurines, designing from scratch without the benefit of meeting the customer and explaining your limitations. 

 

You've received some wonderful advice here and I KNOW that you'll do better on your next cake.  Please post your cakes as you progress! Go back to doing cakes for loved ones at cost, and ask for honest critiques from them! 

cazza1 Posted 10 Feb 2014 , 1:20pm

Personally I think it is a waste of time asking family or friends to critique your cakes.  They generally have no idea and are quite often the ones telling people that they should be selling their cakes when they are nowhere near professional enough to be doing it well.  You are far better off posting them here on CC but look up the 'Peer Review'  thread and post them in there.

Crazy-Gray Posted 10 Feb 2014 , 1:42pm

A

Quote:
Originally Posted by cazza1 View Post

Personally I think it is a waste of time asking family or friends to critique your cakes.  They generally have no idea and are quite often the ones telling people that they should be selling their cakes when they are nowhere near professional enough to be doing it well.  You are far better off posting them here on CC but look up the 'Peer Review'  thread and post them in there.

 

Not my wife!! ha ha! sometimes I try to sneak cakes out without her seeing them lol ......maybe I should get her to start her own review thread........

AZCouture Posted 10 Feb 2014 , 2:46pm

A

Original message sent by cazza1

Personally I think it is a waste of time asking family or friends to critique your cakes.  They generally have no idea and are quite often the ones telling people that they should be selling their cakes when they are nowhere near professional enough to be doing it well.  You are far better off posting them here on CC but look up the 'Peer Review'  thread and post them in there.

Oh indeed! For the most par, friends and family are the WORST possible people to ask for feedback, unless they are directly involved in the business as well. They don't want to harsh your mellow. It's easier for most people to say "that's adorable", and move on without having been "rude" or nitpicky. But that rude and nitpicky commentary is anything but, when it's coming from those in the know, and it's exactly what one needs to advance in their field.

remnant3333 Posted 10 Feb 2014 , 5:20pm

The monkey cake is adorable!!! I think it is so cute!!! The cupcakes are pretty too!!  I know plenty of kids who would have been thrilled to have that cute monkey cake!!

howboutbake Posted 10 Feb 2014 , 7:37pm

A

Original message sent by AZCouture

Oh indeed! For the most par, friends and family are the WORST possible people to ask for feedback, unless they are directly involved in the business as well. They don't want to harsh your mellow. It's easier for most people to say "that's adorable", and move on without having been "rude" or nitpicky. But that rude and nitpicky commentary is anything but, when it's coming from those in the know, and it's exactly what one needs to advance in their field.

My family is not at all sweet to me, and full of great bakers so I know I'm getting solid advice! :lol:

I guess the idea was to get feedback from those who you will eventually sell to. Regional tastes differ, and while one always wants to do their very best, the threshold for what's considered professional here is much lower than say, Toronto or New York.

Psyched baker Posted 10 Feb 2014 , 8:30pm

AAnother bit of advice I would add is to research online other cakes similar to what you are trying to do as it can help you to visualize what you plan to create. Sometimes bloggers will even post how they created a particular effect which is very helpful if it is new to you. When I design cakes for customers, I often gather ideas from a few different cakes to come up with my design. The internet is a great resource! Good luck and I agree with the others not to give up and to make sure that you are charging enough when you are ready. Bargain shoppers are never happy!

MBalaska Posted 10 Feb 2014 , 10:41pm

Crying.......cake disasters.......you'll never walk alone that's for sure.

I visualize in my mind Old style Lambeth,

Yet my hand still pipes like Old Katherine Hepburn

so I make it a point for everything to taste as good as possible. 

810whitechoc Posted 16 Feb 2014 , 9:58pm

You said she had arranged to pick up the cake at 4pm and day of changed the time to 10.30.  I'm all for keeping the customer happy, but if it means you have to rush to finish the job, you can say sorry can't do that.  We are usually fully booked every Saturday with all kinds of cakes and we always arrange either pick up or delivery times with the clients.  Every Saturday and I do mean EVERY Saturday we have somebody either ring up or show up 5-6 hours early for their cake.  If we are able to move their time forward we do, but if we can't they get a polite but firm reminder of the time they specified for pick up and we rearrange their pick up time and the cake is moved up the ladder if possible.  If it's just not possible we say no - in the nicest possible way of course, keep it light and friendly, give a simply explanation of what still has to happen in order to finish their cake, and that it is not possible to do in the time they want it done.

 

Customer service and managing customer expectations is a huge part your job once you start selling to the general public, but they can be pushy critters, you need to learn how to put your friendly but firm self on when dealing with them - don't let them push you around, and don't let them see the whites of your eyes.

 

Hang in there and keep working on your skills.

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