Down For The Count!

Decorating By joeyww12000 Updated 24 May 2016 , 9:27am by joeyww12000

joeyww12000 Posted 20 May 2016 , 10:17am
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So after years of making cakes for my children, a few months ago I decided to attempt an at home venture with cake. My wife works during the week while I stay at home with my two year old daughter and get my eight year old son off to school and back each day. I also work at the hospital on the weekends. I cant remember the last time I did grocery shopping without it being to buy cake supplies! Needless to say my family are fast food junkies now. So in these last few months I have learned this about the cake business: It's not what you think! Oh, it can be and it has its moments, but it is hard, hard work and it takes time from those you love. That can be said for any job I suppose, but cake takes away home time if your doing this out of your home. You'll be up earlier than you'd like, you'll go to bed later than you'd like, you'll be frustrated, agry, and grouchy at times.....all because something with the cake isn't going as planned and your on a deadline. The whole feeling changes when money and customers become involved in your hobby. Don't get me wrong, it can be done and I may be somewhat Debbie Downer sounding, but doing this at home doesn't work for me. It complicates my home life too much. The free time I thought I had between 8-12,  after I dropped my son off at school and before my daughter takes her daily nap and the time after my wife got home from work was just a drop in the bucket to what, is required to get custom cakes done. House work, dirty diapers, breakfast, lunch, dinner, grocery shopping, baseball practice and games, family time all take a back seat to nothing!  Im going to follow through with my last two orders through Father's Day and daddy goes back to being daddy. I'm going back to doing cakes for the fun of it, for my kid's birthdays and family. Maybe in the future I can get back to the business side of things, but for now it's just not worth it.

23 replies
MimiFix Posted 20 May 2016 , 11:41am
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This business has changed over the years. It's always been a lot of work but worth the time and effort. Now, consumer attitudes and increased competition have teamed up to make it quite difficult.  

Thank you for posting; and I'm sorry for how things are going. Sometimes we have to learn these things on our own because very few people speak up. Sadly, many cake forums and Facebook groups don't address the current state of making custom cakes from home. Given the right circumstances it can still be profitable, but you are in good company. These days, it doesn't work for most cakers running traditional at-home businesses.

costumeczar Posted 20 May 2016 , 11:54am
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Thank you for posting this...I've had a custom cake business for the last 20 years, and after that long it also starts to mess you up physically. I stopped taking orders for cakes last month and am finishing up the ones that I have booked for this wedding season, but after that I'm concentrating on online sales of gumpaste flowers, wafer paper and cake supplies...All things that I like doing but don't make me feel like a 98 yr old who can't stand up at the end of the weekend.

In the time I've been doing cakes I've seen a lot of changes in the market. With the increase in cottage food laws and the recession that put a lot of people onto the track of finding ways to make money from home, the cake business is nowhere near as profitable as it used to be for people starting out. I'm pretty well-established in my area, but I've seen a lot of people who are also well-established have to close down their storefronts because the market won't support them anymore.

The next trend that I've seen is the people who didn't make a home-based cake business work try to teach other people how to have a home-based cake business. That's totally irresponsible in my opinion...One guy here who closed his business is telling people that he's going to be a cake coach, or whatever it is he wants to call it. The only thing I'd coach people to do if they asked me about starting a home-based custom cake business at this point in time is don't do it. You have to take a different approach to it now, and expecting to be able to make a living just doing custom cakes from home isn't the best business plan these days.

joeyww12000 Posted 20 May 2016 , 4:22pm
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I almost feel like you need a bakery and have other things to sell as well as cakes. I'm finishing up a graduation cake right now. Two tier, 3 layer 8", and 6". It cost me $40 in material and I charged $150 for the cake. I guestimated 10hrs labor including baking and cleanup. I don't want to work for less than $15 an hour, but I couldn't charge $190 because I didn't think the cake shop would charge that. I had them price a couple of my cakes before just to see where I stood. So being at home and dealing with home life while trying to do a cake with two hand cut fondant logos, a ladder, stethoscope, gumpaste number topper and other letter cutouts I've basically given the cake away. You've gotta be able to laugh and move on. I promise, when I'm working in the ER it's less stressful and I actually consider it a day off!

MimiFix Posted 20 May 2016 , 8:13pm
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Deciding on an hourly rate can really help people focus on the overall decision of whether or not to continue. Custom work should cost more, nothing wrong with that. It's unfortunate that undercutters have driven down the perception of what is a reasonable price for custom work. They've created much turmoil but are too ignorant, self-centered, and righteous to understand the implications of their actions.

But owning a retail shop (where, as you said, one can sell other items in addition to cakes) has its own issues. It takes determination and a good business mindset to make any business profitable. 

MBalaska Posted 20 May 2016 , 10:27pm
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Yes, @joeyww12000 ‍  it’s certainly refreshing to hear someone telling the truth about home decorating businesses.  @costumeczar ‍  and @MimiFix ‍   have been educating people for ages, and the smart people have listened to them.  Too many people (customers) want to purchase million dollar cakes with their pocket change is what I’ve learned from my few paid experiences.  It was apparent to me then, that those experienced cake ladies knew their stuff and knew it very well.


Caking, baking and decorating is hard work! It’s physically demanding, time consuming, and expensive. In our little town one person opened a ‘cupcake shop’ a few years ago and it is now on its third owner.  The cheapie cakes in the grocery store and the one established (decades old) bakery shop pretty much have the entire market.  They are certainly NOT mixing up little batches of every flavor scratch cakes known to man.  White or chocolate is your choice.  Then they spray paint the colors onto the cake, scooped out of their gargantuan sized bucket of icing.


The bakery appears to make the most of their money on their freshly baked donuts, not their breads & rolls, cookies or cakes.  Great big fresh fried sugar bombs that everyone loves.  No fussing over the exact placement of every single sprinkle, the perfection of the layer of icing, the super straight sides & tops. Big goofy looking imperfectly shaped messy sugar bombs.  Ok, I like them a LOT myself.


But customers will easily plop down that $10 bill for a half dozen donuts & a coffee.  But the cupcake shop does not turn over their product that fast and people don’t buy them daily. Quite frankly the ones I purchased out of curiosity were stale & dry.  It’s special occasion food.  There has to be an occasion or an event to need a cupcake in most places.  So I agree with you about needing other things to sell.


Having said all of that, I’m proud to see that you’ve spoken so plainly.  It’s a very pleasant creative outlet, and a satisfying pastime/hobby for me.  It’s a nice ‘Gift Genie’ also.  But when you’ve spent $35 on ingredients, box, ribbon, cake board, and 10 hours of your time, AND spent $5 in gas delivering it; and someone hands you a $20 bill and says “I’ll pay you for it, this should cover it.”  Well let’s just say that I posted that $20 on my fridge for a year to remind me of why I will not attempt a business adventure.    Wishing you the best is your next money making job.  I don’t think that you’re stepping down, You’ll actually be ‘stepping up’ to something more profitable.

-K8memphis Posted 20 May 2016 , 10:36pm
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the ability to make a living baking has been being eroding for the past several decades -- after wwll the writing was on the wall when wilton decided to make products targeted for the home maker extinguishing exclusivity for the baking industry -- exacerbated when big box stores and the world wide web have put the hurt on all retail and especially the fragile baking industry -- see it circle the drain for a few tax pennies when localities yield to the squeaky wheel of people scrambling for extra income selling home baked goods -- stick a fork in it -- it's done


-K8memphis Posted 20 May 2016 , 10:42pm
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here's a little aside -- the physical aspect of cake decorating? it is considered 'light' type work by social security-- not sure about the baking part if that is included but anyhow -- that's certainly laughable

costumeczar Posted 21 May 2016 , 12:18am
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Quote by @MBalaska on 1 hour ago

The bakery appears to make the most of their money on their freshly baked donuts, not their breads & rolls, cookies or cakes.  Great big fresh fried sugar bombs that everyone loves.  No fussing over the exact placement of every single sprinkle, the perfection of the layer of icing, the super straight sides & tops. Big goofy looking imperfectly shaped messy sugar bombs.  Ok, I like them a LOT myself.

Now I want one of those!

-K8memphis Posted 21 May 2016 , 1:08am
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and what do you need a decorated cake for if you can buy a candle like this

MBalaska Posted 21 May 2016 , 7:28am
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the old 'The Cake Test'  video.  It's always a hoot!

-K8memphis Posted 21 May 2016 , 1:06pm
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Quote by @MBalaska on 5 hours ago

the old 'The Cake Test'  video.  It's always a hoot!

hahahaha LOVED this! and the red spoon award goes to... clap.png

joeyww12000 Posted 21 May 2016 , 3:54pm
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Finished product, minus the "R" I fixed it after this pic!900_down-for-the-count_9541715740849f49b57.jpg

joeyww12000 Posted 21 May 2016 , 3:56pm
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joeyww12000 Posted 21 May 2016 , 3:57pm
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joeyww12000 Posted 21 May 2016 , 3:58pm
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joeyww12000 Posted 21 May 2016 , 4:00pm
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MBalaska Posted 21 May 2016 , 10:33pm
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that's a lot of detailing work, with a fancy cutter, plus a lot of lettering.  Yup you're right about one thing, if you can't get paid for your time why keep doing it for free.   I'd like to get the 'Red Spoon' myself.

-K8memphis Posted 21 May 2016 , 11:24pm
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-K8memphis Posted 21 May 2016 , 11:29pm
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cute cake -- i think i like it best without the 'r' blush.png   no but seriously nice clean work -- well done 

joeyww12000 Posted 22 May 2016 , 6:02pm
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I think I've decided I'm only going to accept only one order per week and have a $100 minimum. That may fix my issues. I don't need to be full time anyway and maybe it will still feel like a hobby. In the mean time it can be good practice till I get better and maybe make it full time some day.

-K8memphis Posted 22 May 2016 , 9:05pm
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sounds like a good idea -- be real firm about it with yourself -- it can be hard to say "no" -- and if that doesn't work got the $150 and every other week and so on 

best to you

ps. the best way to work full time in this business is to work for someone else -- all of the fun none of the headaches

joeyww12000 Posted 24 May 2016 , 9:17am
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No fancy cookie cutter for the logos, that's  all with a exacto hours to get those things right!

joeyww12000 Posted 24 May 2016 , 9:27am
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Ha Ha, I just watched the taste test video. I'm not a baker, I like the decorating part the most. However, I at least doctor my mix. By the time I add the extra stuff I may as well start from scratch. I use the WASC doctored recipe for all my flavors and I have had nothing but good reviews. After watching the video I guess I know box cake mix, 1 cup sugar, 1 cup all purpose flour, 1 cup sour cream, 1 1/8 cup water or milk, 2 tbs oil, 1 tsp vanilla, 1 tsp almond, 3 eggs. I also freeze right out of the oven in plastic wrap for at least one night, then I let the cake thaw completely in the plastic wrap. End result is super moist cake. But, yeah all you scratch bakers have my respect for sure.

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