How Long Would This Take You?

Decorating By CakesByJen2 Updated 29 Sep 2008 , 1:55pm by CakesByJen2

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CakesByJen2 Posted 26 Sep 2008 , 3:58am
post #1 of 16

I'm wondering if I'm really slow compared to most other decorators. I put in hours into every cake, and if I charged enough to make what I feel is a decent per hour wage, my prices would be way higher than anyone would pay, at least on birthday cakes (which is why I quit doing them).

For example, I did a b'day cake for a friend's daughter: 10" 1-layer square on top of a 12" 1-layer square, iced in buttercream, reverse shell borders, and decorated with 12 small run-sugar horses in two different color schemes, around the sides and one larger one on the top, and a few drop flowers around the bottom borders and on top. I figured up all together I spent at least 8 hours on this cake: 1 hour meeting with client and planning design, 2-3 hours making all the run-sugar horses, 1 hour making and coloring icings, 2 hours baking, 1/2 hour crumb coating and icing, 1-1/2 hours assembling and decorating. These are approximate based on what I remember, and considering I have interruptions and distractions the whole time.

I've been decorating for 13 years, but I feel like I haven't gotten much faster icon_sad.gif I'm not a real high-energy person and not good at multi-tasking and I know I tend to do things slower than some people in general, but I'm just curious as to how much slower I am than everyone else.

15 replies
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Spills Posted 26 Sep 2008 , 4:25am
post #2 of 16

Well, I've only been decorating for maybe 7-8 years and I can completely relate to your thoughts.

I spend hours on my cakes...and I absolutely LOVE doing birthday cakes, but they do tend to keep me up late hours and I know I don't make much on them considering the hours I put in them...but I can't reason with myself to charge more just because of that.

I always think when I come up with a price..."would I pay that for this cake?" And of course my answer is always "nope", but then again, (like people all around me tell me so often) "of course you wouldn't pay that amount for the cake - YOU MAKE THEM!!"

I think it'll always be an issue for me, and I'm pretty sure it's the one big reason (besides lack of $) that I don't make this a business of my own.

I guess what I'm trying to say is - you're not alone!! icon_wink.gif

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levinea Posted 26 Sep 2008 , 1:07pm
post #3 of 16

I have been decorating for about 3 years, and I am s-l-o-w. To do the cake you mentioned, I would probably be looking at around 10 hours.

I am good at multitasking, so while a cake is baking or icing is crusting I can get a whole lot of other things done for the cake, or clean up some messes I've made. But it still takes me forever.

I kept thinking I'd get faster over the years, and in some areas I have, but typically even an 8" round cake is a half-day project for me.

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BREN28 Posted 26 Sep 2008 , 1:29pm
post #4 of 16

ive been decorating for about seven months now since i finished taking the first three wilton classes, and i only do it as a hobby. i know i dont do as many cakes as you probably do,so when i make a cake,its an ALL DAY thing!! sometimes i try to make the cake the night before,so that all i would have to do the next day is make the icing,then ice and decorate the cake,but it still seems to take ALL DAY!! i dont think i could survive if i did this for a living right now,id only be able to do one cake a day!!lol icon_biggrin.gif

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margaretb Posted 29 Sep 2008 , 3:25am
post #5 of 16

Another slow cake decorator here! And I'm a procrastinator too, so I put off starting so late, then I am so slow, I almost always end up doing an all-nighter before my cake has to be ready. I just do this as a hobby, but I have been considering renting some kitchen space (at my church so I would only have to pay if I use it, no minimum or anything), but between paying the rent and paying my minimum wage, I'm pretty sure my cakes would be too expensive, at least for my little ole rural area.

I actually thought your time estimate sounded fast, but then I'm not sure what the run sugar horses are.

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Deb_ Posted 29 Sep 2008 , 3:46am
post #6 of 16

One thing I've been able to improve on over the years is my time management. I used to bake the cakes, make the icing and decorate all in 1 day.............I was in the kitchen for hours.

Now I take 1 day and make ALL of my icings for 2 wks. worth of cake orders. I distribute it into gallon size ziploc bags and refrigerate.
Than I take 1 day and make all the fillings that I'll need for the orders, etc.

This has helped me immensely. I always hated running out of icing in the middle of doing a wedding cake and having to stop and sift PS and mix it up.

I think if you try this it will really cut down on the cake decorating time. icon_smile.gif

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Kitagrl Posted 29 Sep 2008 , 4:00am
post #7 of 16

I break it up too so its hard to tell sometimes how much time I'm actually spending.

Say a wedding cake...

I usually bake and refrigerate or freeze on Tuesdays. I'll put the cakes in but then while they bake I can work on client emails, or laundry, or feed a kiddo, or clean the kitchen. Then wrap and freeze. Then the day I plan to decorate (or the day before sometimes) I take them out to thaw the night before....then make the icing and fill and crumb coat and ice the cake in the afternoon...say 2-3 hours of work.

Then in the evening, I fondant and/or decorate the cake. Another 2-4 hours of work (speaking very generally). That's maximum 8 hours of work for say 100 serving cake....charge $4/serving....and even if your costs are $100 that's still $300 profit for a day's worth of work.

The math is not perfect, and of course smaller cakes are worth less profit, but overall its not bad. The last two weeks I've had $100 party cakes and they are such a pain...I'm REALLY hoping some of my wedding cake ads pull in some wedding orders soon.

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joy5678 Posted 29 Sep 2008 , 4:08am
post #8 of 16

I thought I was the only slow decorator! I join your club. I get so engrossed in my cakes that I don't even try to do them fast. Just want to do a detailed, perfect cake that will be fantastic enough to make the receiver happy. If I charged for my time I would be "Duff Jr." icon_smile.gif I need to go to an OCD support group! Maybe they could help me get on track, ya think?

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Kitagrl Posted 29 Sep 2008 , 4:30am
post #9 of 16

I'm bad....I do look at my profit as to how much time I spend on the details. If its a smaller party cake, I'm not going to spend six hours on the details. I guess with four boys, I have to make sure my time is getting paid for! LOL. I kind of keep "You get what you pay for" in the back of my mind. For instance I recently had a lady want a two tiered wonky ballerina theme cake (I don't care for wonky too much...sigh). Anyway she wanted it all buttercream. I started getting ideas about making a pretty fondant topper and stuff and then I was like "Wait...she's paying for buttercream....I'm making a buttercream cake." LOL So I piped ballet slippers and roses and stuff on it but did not go all out making it super fancy with fondant and handmade designs. I gave her what she paid for (and she was happy with it!).

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auntiecake Posted 29 Sep 2008 , 4:33am
post #10 of 16

I sometimes help a friend w/her cakes and I can did 6 wedding cakes and 6 sheet cakes in 23 hrs, but she baked them. I can go pretty fast w/ no interruptions and when they aren't mine. My own I tend to dilly dally around til they are just right and it is harder to decide what to do than for someone else. Sounds crazy, but true.

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auntiecake Posted 29 Sep 2008 , 4:34am
post #11 of 16

I sometimes help a friend w/her cakes and I can did 6 wedding cakes and 6 sheet cakes in 23 hrs, but she baked them. I can go pretty fast w/ no interruptions and when they aren't mine. My own I tend to dilly dally around til they are just right and it is harder to decide what to do than for someone else. Sounds crazy, but true. I should add I have been decorating for 40 plus years, so that makes a difference if I stay focused.

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CakeRN Posted 29 Sep 2008 , 4:44am
post #12 of 16

I am slow at times...depending on the cake I am doing. I had to do a cake for my son in laws birthday that is on Wed. I baked on Thurs night since hubby was at work but then we worked in the yard on Friday and saturday. So today i got up at 8am and started baking again because I didn't like the cake flavor I baked on thurs. I let it cool then around noon started making the icing. I covered his cake in fondant and had it all done by 3p...not my best cake by far but it was a freebie for him and my time was limited too.

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Iloveweddings Posted 29 Sep 2008 , 8:22am
post #13 of 16

I am very slow also. I have gotten faster over time. I do like to bake and freeze the cake ahead of time. That helps. I buy my icing which saves me time and mess.

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cakeandpartygirl Posted 29 Sep 2008 , 8:54am
post #14 of 16

I am proud to be a part of the slow decorators club. I was just discussing with my DH the other day. I know that my kitchen layout isn't the most it seams like I do alot of going from one area to another. But time is money and I spent at least 5 hrs decorating each cake. Perhaps it is because I work at home. If anyone has any suggestions to help I'd really appreciate it.

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joy5678 Posted 29 Sep 2008 , 10:54am
post #15 of 16

I work from home also & I think that is why I dilly dally. Don't have to be in a hurry so I do many other things in between which makes it seem like it takes me longer. If I just sat down & did a cake & nothing else--my time would be much better. For now it works for me. It helps to have a seperate place where I can go to shut the door & be by myself (spare bedroom/sanctuary) set up for my "cake decorating room". I have also started making extras of things like flowers, cutouts, etc. & they come in handy for other cakes.

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CakesByJen2 Posted 29 Sep 2008 , 1:55pm
post #16 of 16

Well, I'm glad I'm not the only one! I know I was faster/more efficent when I was doing cakes all the time. Now that I only do like one a month, or less, it's not nearly as efficient. I don't have good, easy to get into storage, so I spend time searching for and dragging out all my supplies, too. I do break it up, making decorations ahead, making icing one day, baking and crumb coating the next, then icing and decorating on the third, so it doesn't seem so bad, but when I add it up and compare to what people would pay.....

Re the run sugar horses: WIlton calls the technique color-flow (so they can sell a product just for that, but I don't use it). I just use regular royal icing and trace an outline onto wax paper of whatever Im making. After that dries, you thin down the royal until it is runny and fill in the outline using a parchement bag. Let dry at least 24 hours, then remove. Its good for making a nice plaque, monograms, pieces to put on the sides, or stand up. For the horses, I went back and piped the hair for the mane and tails with a #1 tip, which was the time consuming part.

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