So You're Self Taught. Ok….

Lounge By AZCouture Updated 3 Aug 2014 , 12:15pm by bubs1stbirthday

AZCouture Posted 26 Jul 2014 , 6:06am
post #1 of 43

Why mention it on every photo you post, or every time you make a comment answering a "how to" question? Is it a badge of honor, or is it an excuse in case someone thinks your work isn't nice then you can blame it on not having formal training? :D Seriously just wondering, I see a lot of people do it here, there, everywhere. And in most cases the person is a fairly good decorator if not a really good decorator. And if you really are self taught, that means you don't watch YouTube videos or look up tutorials either, right? Because that's almost like taking a class….right? Just a Friday night rambling, waiting for some gum paste to set up. :roll: 

42 replies
cakebaby2 Posted 26 Jul 2014 , 6:55am
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I always stress that i'm a homemaker (mums cakes) if I answer a query I think I might be able to help with and only if the OP doesn't get any replies from the pro's.

Maybe its just folks making sure the OP knows this is not professional advice so they can discard it?

On the other hand self taught does suggest years of trial and error, not a library of DVD's and books.

IAmPamCakes Posted 26 Jul 2014 , 7:09am
post #3 of 43

ANothing wrong with being self-taught, but I don't need to be reminded all the time. It's almost like a preemptive excuse, in case your work isn't that great. I've never bought a tutorial or really used any learning tool other than my own trials & errors. I learn the hard way :). I should really work on that.

maybenot Posted 26 Jul 2014 , 4:40pm
post #4 of 43

AWell, I guess for those of us who aren't self-taught, we could qualify our answers/advice with, " I've spent thousands of dollars and hundreds of hours on professional training."......

MBalaska Posted 26 Jul 2014 , 6:31pm
post #5 of 43

Interesting question and thought provoking-- but perhaps each person’s reason for explaining that they do not have Formal Classroom Education, is really different.


For some perhaps a lack of confidence, shyness, being almost apologetic; while still wanting to join in and be part of the conversation and comradeship.  Thinking that they do  not belong in such esteemed company.


Some  may be proud of their accomplishments, and expressing their contentment with their advanced skills achieved without  being a full time dedicated Pastry Professional. Happy that they’ve been able to do well in spite of having a big family or a demanding job in something far removed from baking.


However you’re correct that by purchasing Books, DVD’s, tutorials, or internet searches and YouTube videos (even reading the instructions on the box of an item you’ve just bought)  You are not thinking it up yourself.  If there is no one else physically present teaching you, you are still benefiting from the brains of someone else.


Perhaps Self-taught could be replaced by “Self-learning” as in “I’ve been alone in the kitchen learning to do these things by myself. And now I’ve join in the CC community to reach out to other decorators.”

-K8memphis Posted 26 Jul 2014 , 8:39pm
post #6 of 43

 'self' taught means something different for each generation too -- maybe the next generation will be able to have instructor holograms appear right next to them to show them the ropes -- ooh that's kind of creepy actually--


shades of star cake trek

BrandisBaked Posted 26 Jul 2014 , 9:33pm
post #7 of 43

AReminds me of someone who never baked or decorated a cake talking about how he ran a successful bakery... I would rather have someone say "I have no formal training or experience" than to have some pretend they do.

scrumdiddlycakes Posted 26 Jul 2014 , 9:59pm
post #8 of 43

I tend to read it as an ego thing, "you spent thousands of dollars, but I was able to do it on my own!" *thumb in nose*


When it comes before advice, it's simply a disclaimer. "If you take my advice and it doesn't work, it's not my fault."


Or maybe I just need an attitude adjustment :)

morganchampagne Posted 26 Jul 2014 , 10:15pm
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AI always thought it was like a way to explain why their cakes aren't as "perfect" as some of the others on here....idk.

MBalaska Posted 26 Jul 2014 , 10:39pm
post #10 of 43

"Badge of Honor" or "Excuse"??  :detective:

jennicake Posted 26 Jul 2014 , 10:39pm
post #11 of 43


Originally Posted by maybenot 

Well, I guess for those of us who aren't self-taught, we could qualify our answers/advice with, " I've spent thousands of dollars and hundreds of hours on professional training."......


morganchampagne Posted 26 Jul 2014 , 11:04pm
post #12 of 43


Original message sent by MBalaska

"Badge of Honor" or "Excuse"??  :detective:

Excuse for $200, Alex ;)

vldutoit Posted 27 Jul 2014 , 1:29am
post #13 of 43

AThat doesn't annoy me as much as posting a photo of a cake asking for comments prefaced by "please be gentle". What they should be saying is " Tell me I am awesome even if I am not!"

cakefat Posted 27 Jul 2014 , 8:26am
post #14 of 43


Originally Posted by vldutoit 

That doesn't annoy me as much as posting a photo of a cake asking for comments prefaced by "please be gentle". What they should be saying is " Tell me I am awesome even if I am not!"


Agreed!  That is the worst.


Regarding the self taught comments..I usually take it as someone pre-excusing their sub-par work.  I've never taken it as someone saying "oh look how good I am w/o having any classes ever"..because usually that's not the case.

cazza1 Posted 27 Jul 2014 , 10:42am
post #15 of 43

I would like to add in here that taking classes does not necessary make you more knowledgable, nor better at your craft.  I have done many classes in different fields, including cake decorating,  over the years,  and too often they have been by someone who is excellent at their craft but can't teach for nuts.  Too often a class is just a step by step walk through of one particular project, without a lot of added content that is relevant to other things and not just that class.  I find these very disappointing.

TheNerdyBaker Posted 27 Jul 2014 , 11:00am
post #16 of 43

Maybe I'm just in a crabby mood tonight, but this thread is making my head hurt with the amount of useless bickering and nitpicking of fellow cake people.


I myself am self taught, and while I don't go around with a massive sign on my shirt that has lights and sounds declaring myself as such, I do completely understand the idea of using it both as a badge of honor as well as a defense mechanism.


A lot of CC members have never seen the inside of a professional bakery (not including myself in this), and these forums can be super intimidating to newer people.  There are people on here with more experience in their pinky finger than the combined total of several "self taught" bakers.  


I'm sure a lot of the "self taught" jabber simply has to do with people asking for honest opinions of their work and whether or not it surpasses "self taught" or "home baker" and could possibly be at least on the way to being deemed a "professional" quality cake.


I know my cakes are still fairly basic.  I am both self taught (all fondant work is self taught, I learned to assemble/frost cakes at a bakery), and a home baker.  I make roughly 4 cakes an year on average, but I can see exponential growth in each and every one I do.


This little self taught baker has made his way to being a Pastry Chef at the Disneyland Resort, as well as the lead cake decorator for a leading bakery.


It is 4 am here, and I am starting to ramble and lose my train of thought, however my main point was both sides of the "self taught" argument are valid and I think you guys are nagging for the sake of nagging.  


As applied to me:

   As Defense: My cakes aren't nearly as well constructed or designed, but I have both limited time and opportunity to grow from home (obviously going to change with the new           decorating position)

   As a Badge of Honor:  I was able to skip Culinary School and build my skillset vastly enough from home to be able to land both a Pastry Chef position, as well as a lead            decorators position.

-K8memphis Posted 27 Jul 2014 , 12:59pm
post #17 of 43
Originally Posted by TheNerdyBaker 

Maybe I'm just in a crabby mood tonight, but this thread is making my head hurt with the amount of useless bickering and nitpicking of fellow cake people... main point was both sides of the "self taught" argument are valid and I think you guys are nagging for the sake of nagging.  



i don't think you're crabby

MimiFix Posted 27 Jul 2014 , 3:18pm
post #18 of 43
Originally Posted by TheNerdyBaker 

... useless bickering and nitpicking of fellow cake people.



We excel at this... I'm self-taught, too. I saw this thread and figured I should never mention it again. Unfortunately, it's one of the key elements in my last book, as witnessed by the title, The (Faux) Pastry Chef: How I Found My Baking Fix. I wrote that book to show that even when our world is falling apart, it's possible to overcome our problems. Fall down seven times, get up eight.


But to redeem myself, the acknowledgement does thank all my CC friends.

-K8memphis Posted 27 Jul 2014 , 4:24pm
post #19 of 43

Afwiw -- my son was an established accomplished cook before he earned summa cum laude at the cordon bleu culinary program -- and he made the exact same wages before and after which is true of the entire industry-- it's mostly about time served and surviving plus being passionate enough to want to do it so that you're motivated to continue -- not school per se like it would be for a heart surgeon, engineer, school teacher

theresaf Posted 27 Jul 2014 , 6:38pm
post #20 of 43

I don't believe I'm guilty of saying 'self-taught' because I do learn alot from all of you and YouTube and looking stuff up and FoodNetwork, and my mother, etc. etc., but I do often preface with 'hobby baker' and I think often for the same reason. (And of course there are exceptions to this because there are some who like to brag about themselves!)


I know I don't have the same experience as those making many cakes a week, selling them, promoting them and making money.  I don't want to be perceived as knowing it all in a comment although I do believe that I have ideas to share and I do run another business.   I really don't want someone undermining my comment because they don't think I have the experience and I've got no problem if they disagree. I will note, however,  that the tone on this site has changed of late, mostly for the better, but missing some of the old regulars


AZCouture, I'm sorry you read self-taught as annoying.  While I may not always comment, I appreciate the info you and many others share here.


AZCouture Posted 27 Jul 2014 , 6:52pm
post #21 of 43

AI don't think I think anything about it, just wondering exactly why some people say it all the time, is all. Like someone asked, when they didn't. I don't care how anyone learned what they learned, if they do it right, what's the difference, eh? :D

Cevamal Posted 27 Jul 2014 , 9:15pm
post #22 of 43

AWere I to describe myself as "self taught" it would be to ensure no innocent parties were blamed for my "creations".


MBalaska Posted 27 Jul 2014 , 9:20pm
post #23 of 43

so that's the end of it then..........  just get it right in the end and no excuses.


{ vldutoit you can study my photos and be as rough as you please in posting your recommendations.  Not only would I benefit from your constructive criticism, so would anyone else who's interested. This is the only place with knowledgeable people who could help me.}  

MBalaska Posted 27 Jul 2014 , 9:22pm
post #24 of 43


Originally Posted by Cevamal 

Were I to describe myself as "self taught" it would be to ensure no innocent parties were blamed for my "creations".



HA Cevamal that's funny.

"No actual decorators were injured in the making of my cake!!"

vldutoit Posted 27 Jul 2014 , 10:03pm
post #25 of 43

AMBalaska, I really don't criticize anyone's work, for I am far from perfect. My point is you can never get better if you cannot take constructive criticism and asking people yo be gentle is just saying "I only want to hear I am great".

MBalaska Posted 27 Jul 2014 , 10:23pm
post #26 of 43

I'd welcome your thoughts anytime.......:)  and agree completely with your point. ;-D

enga Posted 28 Jul 2014 , 2:01am
post #27 of 43

Self taught, hmmmm. What does that mean to me? I have baked since I was a kid. I followed recipes and cooking shows, suffered through a lot of trails and errors to achieve the cake that looked like the one on the cake box. Self taught? I think so because no matter which recipe you read or expert you watch, you are the one who has to actually make the cake. You are the one who has to hone those skills to create something on a professional level whether you learn how to do it yourself or you are classically trained. 


Want to let you people in a little secret, just because someone is classically trained doesn't mean that they can whip out a breath taking work of art at the drop of a hat.  It takes time to learn that skill whether you do it at home or in a classroom. The only difference is a piece of paper saying that you have been trained to do it.


I have a Pastry Chef Associates Degree. What does that mean? Absolutely nothing when going to work in the field of cake decorating. They want experience. I had the basics for everything about cakes and baking but as far as producing a decorated cake in 15 minutes or baking the cake orders due in the next couple of days, how about staking a five tier wedding cake? Uh uh, nada! I had to start where everyone else coming in at entry level starts. And guess what, the girl that worked at Wal-Mart for a couple of months got paid more than I did.


If you are self taught, produce beautiful cakes, and make a profit, my hats off to you!  I'm trying to get to where you are at!  As far as going to school and earning your degree. It was very rewarding for me and it looks good on my resume. But it took a lot of sacrifice and determination to get my skills to where they are, it does whichever way you learn the craft. Is one better than the other? No, not necessarily. There are top cake designers that have never had formal training.


The one thing that I must tell you about entering the industry for employment in the cake decorating field. You can have your portfolios with all you nice cakes and products but unless you can produce them at the drop of a hat, in a certain time period they don't mean squat! There is no time for perfection. Your job will be to look at the cake order sheet, grab the cake, torte it, fill, ice it, and decorate it as directed on said cake order sheet, throw it in a box to the best of your ability NEXT! Until you have filled your orders for that day. It's hard work and not at all glamorous. But I loved the comradery and efficient atmosphere of working in a bakery. We were like a well oiled machine, working well together to get the job done. The smiles when the customers saw their cake was the cherry on top. There is nothing like working in a bakery or professional kitchen. It has its drawbacks but as far as gaining experience, there is nothing about it that you could ever learn in a book.



I also loved working for myself, going at my own pace and knowing the basics of building a cake very quickly helped tremendously so I can take my time with the creative artistic part of cake designing. I have lucky enough to have enjoyed the best of both worlds. I'm proud of the route I took to become a cake decorator.  I think that self taught cake decorators and bakers should be just as proud. After all we all have the same goal in mind, which is to produce a beautiful well designed cake.


If I had to say how I was taught I would have to say, by any means necessary. I'm still a work in progress :wink: 

oftheeicing Posted 28 Jul 2014 , 4:25am
post #28 of 43

AI have never had any formal training, but I grew up watching and observing my Aunt and Mother bake beautifully decorated cakes from scratch. I have watched countless YouTube videos, visited many tutorials, took a few Craftsy classes, and research every new technique I attempt. Am I a professional pastry chef? No, but maybe some look at it that way because I own a business. Am I self-taught? None of us are.... we all have to learn somewhere.

-K8memphis Posted 28 Jul 2014 , 12:38pm
post #29 of 43
adjective: self-taught
  1. having acquired knowledge or skill on one's own initiative rather than through formal instruction or training.
cazza1 Posted 28 Jul 2014 , 12:54pm
post #30 of 43

When you world starts to shake and you hear strange whisperings it is probably just me banging my head on the wall and swearing loud enough to be heard on the other side of the world because I am in a self teaching phase and everything is going wrong. 


I buy Craftsy classes for entertainment.  Does that mean it's not formal training?

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