Advice For Aspiring Decorator?

Business By J-Rex Updated 6 Nov 2014 , 12:51pm by embersmom

J-Rex Posted 4 Nov 2014 , 2:42am
post #1 of 15

I originally planned on being an artist, but I got a job in a grocery store bakeshop. When my boss saw my art, she decided to put me on cakes. I realized I love it so much that I would rather do this for a living.

 

I definitely don't want to open my own bakery or have a home business or anything. Too much stress! I'd rather get hired by an existing bakery as a decorator.

 

Any advice? What do bakeries look for in decorators? Should I take classes or learn from home? Or both?

When I've done basic job searches, the only listings that come up are for other grocery store bakeshops, even though there are nicer bakeries in my area. Should I go to bakeries with a resume and portfolio even if they don't say they're hiring?

 

Here's some of the stuff I've done at my store. It's not much (my boss doesn't like it when I take my time), so I've just ordered some decorating supplies to practice on my own.

 

 

 

14 replies
petitecat Posted 4 Nov 2014 , 12:26pm
post #2 of 15

Hi JRex, I've never worked in a bakery. But I read a thread some time ago about someone wanting to work in one and asking for advice. Speed is essential, as you've found out from your boss' reaction to the time you take to decorate. 

 

I'm fairly sure you need to be able to cover a range of skills- basic and advanced piping (all kinds), covering cakes in buttercream (square, round, etc) making sure they are level and smooth, piping flowers and leaves, mastering royal icing techniques, etc . I'm not sure where you are and what the preferences are in your area, but it may involve fondant work as well, such as covering cakes in fondant and creating fondant figures. 

 

The best thing to do is call and ask the bakeries if they have vacancies. They can tell you whether or not your existing skills meet their needs. If they do, rustle up a good resume with photos of your work as soon as you can and apply. If not, ask if they take anyone who is self taught. If they take self-taught people, I'd work on learning as much as you can on youtube, books, online tutorials (free) and there are loads of e-schools like craftsy, etc where you can pay to learn. If they don't take self-taught people then ask what sort of qualifications they seek in an applicant.

 

Good luck!

petitecat Posted 4 Nov 2014 , 12:27pm
post #3 of 15

And by the way, the chocolate cake with the roses is my favourite- really lovely piping work :)

Rose_N_Crantz Posted 4 Nov 2014 , 2:50pm
post #4 of 15

AI've worked in a grocery store and a storefront bakery. Both of them want a decorator that can work fast and efficiently. Time is money. You need to make every movement as efficient as possible. You have to go get something from the back? Look for some dishes to take with you. It was common practice to work on two cakes at the same time. Doesn't matter if they were the same or not, we would grab two boards, two cakes, ice both of them, border both of them, decorate both, box up both. Sometimes if I was doing a simple floral/balloon design for an order, I would do an identical cake at the same time and put the extra cake in the case.

Also, if you're shown how to do something one way at the bakery and you're used to doing it a different way, learn their way. For example, if they ice cakes using a piping bag with a speed icer on it and you're used to just using a spatula, learn to do it with the speed icer. Unless you can prove your method is quicker, just go with the flow. You don't want to be a stick in the mud.

leah_s Posted 4 Nov 2014 , 3:16pm
post #5 of 15

AFrom my limited experience working in a bakery, the #1 desired skill is speed.

remnant3333 Posted 4 Nov 2014 , 3:23pm
post #6 of 15

The rose cake is beautiful!!! Looks like you have what it takes to decorate. Like others said work on your speed at home. I am sure you will get faster and faster. You can always go to youtube and type in anything and everything to do with cake decorating, cake piping, fondant, buttercream icing, 3D cakes, cutout cakes, butterfly cakes, buttercream borders, buttercream ruffles, cupcake decorations,buttercream flowers, etc. These tutorials helped me immensely but practicing on wax paper at home or on the sides and tops of cake pans will help build up your speed at home. 

 

Type in anything you can think of and it is probably there. I am the type of person who can learn better by watching how they hold bags, which tips they use,  and how they angle their bags and tips to make the cake. There are so many tutorials out there that you can learn almost anything. Hang in there and keep your faith. Good luck in your future of decorating cakes. I am sure everything will fall into place soon for you!! Everything will work out fine I am sure!!

MimiFix Posted 4 Nov 2014 , 7:00pm
post #7 of 15
Quote:
Originally Posted by leah_s 

#1 desired skill is speed.

 

Speed and stamina.

thecakewitch Posted 4 Nov 2014 , 7:30pm
post #8 of 15

And a thick skin. 

kakeladi Posted 4 Nov 2014 , 10:40pm
post #9 of 15

............Should I go to bakeries with a resume and portfolio even if they don't say they're hiring?..............

 

I say definitely!  When they see what you can do it might make them consider you even if they were not in the market for another person.

The advice about getting a thick skin is right on.  Don't be offended when someone says no.   Just go on to the next one/thing.

 

Practice at home:  take one tip per day and do anything and everything you can think of with it.  Turn it around and around in different positions then it is normally held.  Try each and every border & design with that one tip.You will discover some unusual designs & borders that most people don't do :)

 

Did you do all the base icing on those cakes pictured?  The pink, white, black one could have been smoother - sure takes away *from the trained eye*. (The average customer probably would not notice/say anything.) Also, the tiers do not look level.  Really critically look at all your pictures and see where you can improve then work on that.  It won't take you long to discover what to work on nor to improve.

J-Rex Posted 5 Nov 2014 , 2:13am
post #10 of 15

Thanks for the suggestions!

 

Honestly, I don't think I work that slowly. It's just that since it's a grocery store, they really don't expect the cakes to look amazing; just simple designs. But I don't like making boring cakes so I do take a little longer to make them look good.

On the other hand, I wouldn't say I work very fast, either, so that's something I'll have to work on.

 

Quote:

Originally Posted by kakeladi 
 

............Should I go to bakeries with a resume and portfolio even if they don't say they're hiring?..............

 

I say definitely!  When they see what you can do it might make them consider you even if they were not in the market for another person.

The advice about getting a thick skin is right on.  Don't be offended when someone says no.   Just go on to the next one/thing.

 

Practice at home:  take one tip per day and do anything and everything you can think of with it.  Turn it around and around in different positions then it is normally held.  Try each and every border & design with that one tip.You will discover some unusual designs & borders that most people don't do :)

 

Did you do all the base icing on those cakes pictured?  The pink, white, black one could have been smoother - sure takes away *from the trained eye*. (The average customer probably would not notice/say anything.) Also, the tiers do not look level.  Really critically look at all your pictures and see where you can improve then work on that.  It won't take you long to discover what to work on nor to improve.

 

Like I said, my boss doesn't like when I spend time making things perfect, so that's the best I can get it without her freaking out. Our store doesn't do tiered cakes, but we made an exception for that customer. But yeah, this is why I'm doing more practice at home; they're definitely not as professional as I'd like!

Thanks for the advice!

embersmom Posted 5 Nov 2014 , 1:45pm
post #11 of 15

Quote:

Originally Posted by J-Rex 
But I don't like making boring cakes so I do take a little longer to make them look good.

On the other hand, I wouldn't say I work very fast, either, so that's something I'll have to work on.

Hi, supermarket decorator here :waves:  I don't like making boring cakes either, but what you could do is perfect a few techniques that are essentially "yours" so you can do them efficiently.  Mine are usually a riff of other cakes I've seen or maybe a pattern I remember from somewhere.  We're discouraged from doing roses for case cakes because they take too long, but that doesn't mean we can't do rosebuds, you know?

 

For example, I'm known for scrollwork, which doesn't take very long to do.  If I'm doing cakes for the case, I'll do a portion of them in scrollwork with some variations here and there.  I'll do a number of what we call "confetti and streamer" cakes in different color schemes.  Ditto balloon cakes.  I'll do some double borders with confetti and/or streamers or I'll get into what I call crazy zig-zag mode where I go geometric.  I've also developed several standard designs for different seasons/holidays over the years.

 

It took me a while to realize that thinking about a non-boring design slows you down either further.  If you develop a few stock techniques under your belt the less you'll have to think about doing them -- you just DO them.

 

Oh, and yes, use a speed icer and a scraper instead of spatula.  Saves A TON of time :)

leah_s Posted 5 Nov 2014 , 9:40pm
post #12 of 15

The rose cake is lovely.  Can you do it in 20 minutes?  That includes the base ice, scroll and roses.  That's what I meant by "speed."

J-Rex Posted 6 Nov 2014 , 12:30am
post #13 of 15

Quote:

Originally Posted by leah_s 
 

The rose cake is lovely.  Can you do it in 20 minutes?  That includes the base ice, scroll and roses.  That's what I meant by "speed."

20 minutes sounds right. That actually makes me feel more confident.

It's hard to gauge how efficient I am because my boss doesn't decorate and doesn't understand how long these things take. She's always nagging people to work faster. And then my coworker works super-humanly fast, though she's not as neat or as detailed as I am.

kakeladi Posted 6 Nov 2014 , 2:21am
post #14 of 15

...............my coworker works super-humanly fast, though she's not as neat or as detailed as I am..........

 

Maybe you could have a talk w/your coworker.  Tell her it would be nice if you two could come to an agreement on how fast and neat to work.  If you didn't have to compete against her time wise both of you would win in the long run.

BTW: how well do the coworkers designs sell compared to yours?  It's something you could point out to the boss &/or the coworker so the 3 of you could have a meeting of the minds that could make work sooooooo much easier and fun. 

embersmom Posted 6 Nov 2014 , 12:51pm
post #15 of 15

Quote:

Originally Posted by J-Rex 
 

20 minutes sounds right. That actually makes me feel more confident.

It's hard to gauge how efficient I am because my boss doesn't decorate and doesn't understand how long these things take. She's always nagging people to work faster. And then my coworker works super-humanly fast, though she's not as neat or as detailed as I am.


My current boss doesn't decorate either, but he's been around long enough to gauge how much time something should take.  For instance, I like to try different things for non Deco Pac orders within the customer's request (say, using flowers other than roses).   He and I both know that sometimes it might take me longer than our production time limit to do it, but if the customer likes it, s/he is more apt to be a returning customer who will tell her friends who will tell their friends...

 

One of my fellow decorators is super fast too.  I'm the slower one because of the detail.  Sometimes my boss muses, "Wouldn't it be great to have someone with X's speed and Embermom's creativity?"  It's a rare combination.

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