I'm So Discouraged :(

Decorating By MrsMabe Updated 20 Jul 2009 , 11:46pm by MrsMabe

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MrsMabe Posted 19 Jul 2009 , 6:33pm
post #1 of 49

I spend hours and hours browsing through pictures and articles and tutorials and forum posts on this site. And I start to get really ambitious and think to myself "Hey, I could do that!"

Then I get the chance to try something....and it completely fails. To my cake-civilian husband and his friends, they still look great. But to me, it's awful.

My latest attempt was my first tiered cake and my first try and smoothing round cakes. I refrosted them about 8 times, trying different techniques, and the pieces of crap just would not smooth. I also tried every trick I've read for preventing filling leaks, and still ended up with bulges of filling around both cakes. I was so disappointed I cried. And although I'd intended for my husband to take it to work for the guys, I couldn't bear for anyone to see it. So it stayed in my house getting nibbled at until I threw it away.

I so badly want to decorate like the greatest decorators I see here (Boween, SugarShack, all the greats). But I'm so frustrated with how slowly I'm learning. It's almost gotten me ready to give up completely. But I love doing it (when it goes well). Any advice for this discouraged "decorator"?

48 replies
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Cheyanne25 Posted 19 Jul 2009 , 7:24pm
post #2 of 49

Hi MrsMabe, I'm a newbie at decorating myself, so the only advise I can give you is from someone else who has just started.

The inspiration you get from looking at the amazing cakes here on CC has its pros and cons. All the ideas and tips are amazing, but in your head you'll always be comparing your end results to those of the people on here. And alot of those people have been making cakes for years and years, and have made hundreds more cakes than you or I. We can't possibly expect ourselves to be able to have the same results as SugarShack or any of the rest after only a few cakes.

I've also found that it isn't necessarily all about which technique you use. There are so many out there, and each of them works for different people. I think the biggest thing is getting experience with one that works for you, and figuring out with hands on practice exactly how to get the look you are going for.

Personally I find Edna's technique for smoothing frosting the one that has been working for me so far (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dIXHFqpJK84&feature=PlayList&p=74C17A13B417A05B&index=1icon_cool.gif.

I had a period where in the middle of making each cake I wanted to smash it on the floor. I was upset that things weren't forming into the image I had in my head. In the end my friend's and family all loved it, but I was unhappy with them and wondered if it was worth all the stress.

A few cakes later and each cake I've done I've enjoyed every step in the process, I've learned that for me my work space has to be clean, organized, and structured, and that that reduces a lot of my stress.

As long as you are enjoying making the cakes don't quit. Figure out ways to reduce what it is about the process that is frustrating you and concentrate what it is about making cakes you love.


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CakeVision Posted 19 Jul 2009 , 11:10pm
post #3 of 49

Another newbie here <----, with a little more encouragement for you....I totally understand how you feel, but DON'T give up! I know that for myself, like Cheyanne25, I had to find the things to make it FUN, and be willing to laugh at the "disasters" that come from learning.

For me, the Whimsical - Topsy Turvy Cake is my nemesis! I cannot tell you how many times I have tried to make one of these without success. The first one I literally spent over 3 hours chasing one tier across the counter trying to crumb coat without the top layer sliding off! I went from frustrated, to aggrivated, to really ticked off, to finally hysterical laughter! Once I got it crumb coated and "assembled", my mom came in and said, "Wow, what a great chair. What's it for?" Needless to say, it never made it past crumb coat. But, I am determined to do one of these one day!!

The other thing I always make sure to do, is make a GREAT tasting cake, filling, frosting, etc. It's amazing how good it will look to others once they have tasted it. You know, drunk on cake!

Anyway, just hang in there! It will get better....I promise! {{{hugs}}}


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indydebi Posted 19 Jul 2009 , 11:47pm
post #4 of 49

Let me put a different spin on this for ya! When I found CC, I had been decorating cakes for over 25 years, and I thought I was pretty good at it.

Then I find CC and I say to myself, I said, "Self ......? You got SOME nerve calling yourself a decorator compared to the cake makers on here!" icon_surprised.gif

OMG, I was AMAZED at the work I saw! So many techniques I had never even heard of, let alone tried! Wow!!

Everyday, even now, these cakes are pushing me to reach outside the box. Even if I try just one new thing or one new technique, then I've grown by that much.

It's not just "newbies" who are intimidated and inspired all at the same time by the work seen on this site. And I learn new stuff from the super talented and experienced AND I learn stuff from the newbies with their ideas and designs that they share. I have cakes saved in my favorites file that are not the best looking cake you've ever seen .... but the design and the idea is awesome and I want to try it someday.

CakeVision is right .... it can only get better! thumbs_up.gif

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mkolmar Posted 19 Jul 2009 , 11:49pm
post #5 of 49

Just keep at it and practice-practice-practice! Take what you learn from each cake and apply it to the next. I learn from making mistakes--needless to say I've made too many to count just in cake decorating.
I've been doing cakes for a while now and I should be farther along advanced than what I am, but I keep trying and that's what matters.
It takes a long time to get everything the way you want it to be and even then it still may not be right but you find ways to cover up your mistakes.
Just try to stay positive and if you can't get upset, cry , whatever and get it out of your system and get back up on that horse. ERRRR, pastry bag.

Now when you are doing fillings are the buttercream or something else? I've learned when doing a cake that if the filling is the same I'm covering the cake with I don't do dams anymore. I just ice it smooth for the filling and move on. No more bulges that way. When doing it with a different type of filling I do a dam and then crumb coat the cake and let it set over night. If this isn't an option put a piece of film wrap on the top and place slightly heavy books on the cake for 3-5 hours. This will cause the cake to settle. Just take a scraper of off-set spatula and get off the excess and move on to decorating.
I had issues with bulges to until I started doing it this way last year, maybe it might work for you too.

Just keep at it. I can't tell you how many times I swore off decorating only to go back to it in a few weeks. It's a curse I tell you, an addicting curse.


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miss-tiff Posted 19 Jul 2009 , 11:50pm
post #6 of 49

Hi there, I'm sorry you're feeling discouraged. When I first started, I felt the same way ALL the time. My only advice is what has worked for me: I start early (I used to try starting Sat. night for a cake for Sunday and wondered why I got so stressed and hated it). If the cake is for Sunday, now I make up frosting on Wednesday and put in the fridge, bake on Thur. or Fri. and freeze it, etc. Any decorations that can be made in advance, I try to do that. Just a half hour every evening helps me not get too frustrated rather than spending hours all at once.

Also, I'm slowly realizing that I should start small. I used to see a picture and think, "How hard could it be?" I found out that, just like anything else, the pros make it look easy. So, I always try to pick the simplest version of what I want to do. I'm not as frustrated with myself if I pick something closer to my skill level. (Then the practice helps my skill slowly improve, I hope!)

Sorry for the novel. My husband used to hate when I made a cake because I'd be crying in the kitchen with a huge mess everywhere. Now, I still make the same mess, but I do realize that it will get eaten and I can try again another time.

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JoJo0855 Posted 19 Jul 2009 , 11:55pm
post #7 of 49

Must be a day for newbies! Yes, I'm one as well. I have always had an interest in cake decorating and put my best efforts forward. They never turned out the way I had imagined and like most, I was not happy with the results but the recipients were always thrilled.
For Christmas last year, Santa put a gift certificate for my favourite kitchen specialty store in my stocking. I decided to use it to enroll in classes ... this has to be the smartest thing I've ever done! The instructor has been terrific, she's always sending me and others info and sharing advice.
Taking proper courses is invaluable to perfecting your craft! You learn the 'proper' way to do things, take that knowledge and adjust it to suit yourself (I'm left handed, always have to adjust LOL).
At least I know now that if I'm trying to do a project and it's giving me grief, I can call on that instructor for guidance. She's my light at the end of the tunnel!!

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Doug Posted 20 Jul 2009 , 12:08am
post #8 of 49

did you ride your bike perfectly the first time? neither did I -- you should see the scars on both kneecaps (coal cinder paved streets are so unforgiving) --- in fact still mastering it

did you type perfectly the first time? -- neither did I --- still working on it.

did you have perfect cursive handwriting the first time --- neither did I -- still typing instead.

did you have perfect ANYTHING the first time? (and if you say yes, you LIE) well neither did I or anyone else.


let's lay one thing to rest


it exists only in heaven --- and I'm not ready to pay the entrance fee yet, are you?

little known fact -- if you look very very closely at any real hand-made oriental carpet there is always a FLAW purposefully woven into it -- in recognition that only the deity can make perfection.


rather -- practive makes PROficient -- that's what PROfessionals are -- proficient.

one only has to watch the greats you have named on any of those cake challenges to see even they have off days, bad day, oh good grief smash it into the floor stomp up and down on it days.

but PROS that they are -- they muddle on, pulling every trick in the book out of the bag until it's "good enough"


so -- practice makes PROFICIENT!

practice on and you'll be a PRO too.

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chefjulie Posted 20 Jul 2009 , 12:17am
post #9 of 49

I agree with all of the above wisdom!

Also, there are TONS of free videos on youtube that will help demonstrate any number of techniques.

I, myself, am a HUGE fan of all things Sugarshack! Sharon's videos are amazing and oh-so-easy to comprehend. I just watched the Topsy Turvy today and it has me SUPER excited to attempt one.

ETA: The reason I brought up Sugarshack: If you have the opportunity, you should really check out her Buttercream DVD. She teaches you how to make a buttercream dam that will pretty much guarantee that your filling wont bulge. She also teaches you how to trim any bulging off the cake itself and, of course, the art of smoothing your buttercream. I cant say I have her patience, but I've learned SO many valuable lessons from her DVDs. I know that my skill level has improved because of her!

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Jen80 Posted 20 Jul 2009 , 12:22am
post #10 of 49

I do the same thing too!! icon_lol.gif I'll look at all the pictures and posts for a specific cake I want to do and thinking I'm armed with all the knowledge I go ahead and make it. It never turns out the way I expected and in the process of making the cake I realise that it's not going to work the way I intend so I change things to suit my ability and in the end it still turns out to be an alright cake. I know this won't work at all when you want a customer who wants a cake that looks "exactly like that" but since I'm only new and it's only friends I'm baking for so far they are happy with the result anyway. I can't smooth buttercream so I let them know I only do cakes in fondant and they're happy with that.
Anyway I've had a look at your cakes and there's nothing wrong with them. Your piping is excellent. I can't pipe at all. I've practiced, practiced, practiced and still no luck. Rome wasn't built in a day. Good luck.

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forthwife Posted 20 Jul 2009 , 12:40am
post #11 of 49

Ha, I remember when I started a very similar thread to this once not too long ago. ALL of us feel this way sometimes, in baking and even in life! Keep your head up and keep on trying. It does take time and effort. Keep your chin up!

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CABBYJ Posted 20 Jul 2009 , 12:55am
post #12 of 49
Originally Posted by JoJo0855

Must be a day for newbies! Yes, I'm one as well. I have always had an interest in cake decorating and put my best efforts forward. They never turned out the way I had imagined and like most, I was not happy with the results but the recipients were always thrilled.
For Christmas last year, Santa put a gift certificate for my favourite kitchen specialty store in my stocking. I decided to use it to enroll in classes ... this has to be the smartest thing I've ever done! The instructor has been terrific, she's always sending me and others info and sharing advice.
Taking proper courses is invaluable to perfecting your craft! You learn the 'proper' way to do things, take that knowledge and adjust it to suit yourself (I'm left handed, always have to adjust LOL).
At least I know now that if I'm trying to do a project and it's giving me grief, I can call on that instructor for guidance. She's my light at the end of the tunnel!!

I am a newbie as well. I don't get too discouraged becuase I know in time I will get better. When I first started I couldn't even bake the box cakes well, but I'm better now.

As far as being left handed I am also, the odd thing is that everyone except for 1 person in my class are lefties, icon_lol.gif

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mrspriss0912 Posted 20 Jul 2009 , 1:09am
post #13 of 49

sorry to hear that you are getting discouraged but listen to alll the great advice I have been reading and you will be fine!! Also I agree that there are some really great cakes on this site but draw from your own creativity also.... If you see something or even get an idea just start thinking out hoe you would try it step by step then set aside the time and just play with it no stress and my family loves it when I use them as guinnie pigs !!! Good luck and keep trying it gets easier icon_smile.gif

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MyDiwa Posted 20 Jul 2009 , 1:22am
post #14 of 49

I understand your frustration. I think anyone who makes cakes at any level gets it. In trying to think of what could help, I really could only come up with one thing. Have you taken any classes? I found there was only so much I could teach myself starting from scratch and if you can afford it, consider investing in some. Either the wilton ones or find someone really good and ask them if they can give you a class on the basics over a weekend or something. The reason I say this is that people learn in different ways and what you comprehend from a sentence you read might not be what was meant to be conveyed. Also with videos, most people that do videos on youtube etc are very experienced and there are unspoken techniques they are using that are so second nature to them, they dont even realize they are doing them and so dont speak on them. So I really think having someone there physically doing it with you helps because you can see exactly how to do something and they can also pick up the small (or big) things where you are making mistakes and help you correct them and you can ask specific questions. Then after you have a handle on the basics, as you keep practising you find your own comfort zone and your own way of doing things. But like everyone has said, if you really have a passion for this, at some point it gets better bit by bit and you'll be looking for your next challenging fix.

Oh I just thought of something else - you might be so discouraged because you're setting yourself up for a fall. Set yourself tiny, silly goals and pick something simple to copy. Then allow yourself to gloat when you accomplish each tiny thing. It helps with the confidence.

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cherryz Posted 20 Jul 2009 , 1:23am
post #15 of 49

A newbie here. It's encouraging how everyone started. I hope to be a PRO in the "near" future. I charge my cake at a "friendly" price to get to practice & still get paid. CC inspires me to do better each time. Thanks people... you're saying newbies are not alone in our experiences... so we are in the right path.. just keep going.

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cherryz Posted 20 Jul 2009 , 1:24am
post #16 of 49

A newbie here. It's encouraging how everyone started. I hope to be a PRO in the "near" future. I charge my cake at a "friendly" price to get to practice & still get paid. CC inspires me to do better each time. Thanks people... you're saying newbies are not alone in our experiences... so we are in the right path.. just keep going.

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cas17 Posted 20 Jul 2009 , 1:48am
post #17 of 49

awesome advice here. please don't give up and keep practicing. we all wish we could fast forward to where we would already have lots of experience but it just doesn't work that way. enjoy the journey as best you can and celebrate your accomplishments no matter how small!

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Luvsthedogs Posted 20 Jul 2009 , 1:49am
post #18 of 49

I'm new to this too, took my first Wilton class in January. I'm having so much fun learning and agree with everyone else - it's practice, practice, practice.

One of the great things about this website is there are many levels of expertise and talent to appreciate. I do appreciate the differences and individualities - if everyone's work looked the same it would be kind of boring, I think!

Enjoy your creative work and don't be hard on yourself. Celebrate when things turn out the way you want them to and learn from your mistakes. This is fun!

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cutthecake Posted 20 Jul 2009 , 1:59am
post #19 of 49

The best thing about cake mistakes is that you can eat them. Try that with your mistakes from quilting or scrapbooking or knitting!
The older I get the more I realize that enjoying the process is just as important as the end result. I love learning new things. Even when I don't do things right the first time, I'm still learning.
Hang in there!

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MLand Posted 20 Jul 2009 , 2:15am
post #20 of 49

NEVER quit at anything that gives you peace or pleasure!! We are our own worst critics, I think ALL of mine look like crap, but they get compliments especially after tasting so on I go. And the peace I get from baking and decorating them are beyond words, the pleasure is the smiles and compliments. Just go at a pace that is comfortable to you and try everything imaginable for your end result. Like someone else suggested, try everything in all ways and find what works best for you.

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tonicake Posted 20 Jul 2009 , 2:29am
post #21 of 49

Welcome to CC from a fellow "lefty"! I understand your frustrations. Especially when we do things left handed that were meant for right hand motions. I continually remind my self that I am in my right mind! Unlike most of the world who is in their left mind! (Right brain controls left side!)

Any way, I do recommend Sharons SugarShack videos. I started buying one video at a time. The butter cream video is the first one I bought and I still pull it out from time to time to watch her techniques. It makes for a great refresher. Then slowly added one video here and there. Each one shows amazing techniques. BTW, Sharon is a fellow CCer and she has no problems communicating with anyone. If you have questions, just ask.

Just don't give up!

Hang in there!

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auntbeesbaking Posted 20 Jul 2009 , 3:05am
post #22 of 49


I feel your pain! I, too, spend hours upon hours looking at cake designs for each cake I do. I've already put in about 3 hours looking at photos for a Baby Boy's Baptism cake due next Sunday. I have some thoughts in my mind about what I want (or some things I'd like), but I can't make my hands do what my head sees (hey, that goes for my singing too - except my voice doesn't reflect what I hear!). Anyways I understand on so many fronts. I've been "decorating" cakes for ? 20+ years (or at least that's when I had my first class). To this day, I still cannot frost a cake with any speed - I spend hours trying to get it right!

My husband gets so upset with me being so upset that he's threatened to throw everything away! For some sick reason, I love doing this, and feel like a kid in a candy store when these great decorators give us the joy of seeing their masterpieces! I don't think I've done any cake without it turning into an all-nighter, and sometimes am still finishing as the cake hour draws nigh. In the end, I am so embarrassed about what my cakes look like, that my husband ends up delivering them. I feel ashamed and apologize for what I'm giving them. I wonder why I even post my pics and haven't posted many of them, but so many people are encouraging and I want to learn from them, so maybe they'll help me if they see what I'm doing.

Lately my mantra has been, "I can color a page in the coloring book, I just can't draw the picture to color it!" Sometime, I hope to make peace with myself in accepting my limitations. I KNOW I will never reach the level some of these cake artists do but I try remember why I do this - I bake for joy! It would help so much if I had any artistic ability, but that's not going to happen. You seriously cannot tell my drawings from a kids (ask my friends!). S0, I work with what I have - my heart. Each one of the cakes I do has a piece of me in it (the same for all of you). I have to accept that if I've done my best than so be it - even if it means I've spend 2 frickin hours trying to ice the cake! I know it will be a very long time before I can get Sharon's DVD's (we have significant medical bills), so I am more than grateful when all the "greats" and the "newbies" share their lessons and comments as we strive to keep perfecting our craft.

One last thing to share: when I'm at a grocery store, I walk over to the cakes and feel good about what I CAN do because I'm not giong to pay the money they want for the way the cake looks! (I do not mean to offend any cake decorators that work in the bakery- honest! But what I see in the store so often, no cake decorator could have done that!) My husband often jokes there should be a support group for husbands of cake decorators...at least we decorators have a support group here!

Grace, Peace and Hugs to you, my CC friend, we're all in this together!

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UncaBu Posted 20 Jul 2009 , 3:31am
post #23 of 49

I have watched eight-layer caramel cakes slide slowly into the floor after fighting with them into the wee hours of the morning. icon_evil.gif By the time dawn broke I was broken too. icon_cry.gif

BUT I learned to be patient.
Keep my cakes and my attitude cool and try to look at my "failures" as learning opportunities.

Don't let perfectionist ideals keep you from sharing your passion and talent with others.

As a painter I have learned NEVER spend too much time with one project.
Stop WALK away.
Get a cup of coffee.
Get some fresh air.
Come back and look at your project through rested eyes and nerves.
It makes a difference.

Don't forget a surprise FREE cake is a blessing to anyone.
Next time you think the topsy turvy cake looks like a "freight train in a twister" remember that the end result of any cake is to share it with others. After the first couple of slices, all cakes move from ART to EDIBLE.

PLEASE don't give up if this is a joy to you. Celebrate the triumphs. Take pictures put them on the fridge. Post them on CC. Accept your "learning experiences keep notes on how to remedy or avoid them in the future.

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sjholderman Posted 20 Jul 2009 , 3:52am
post #24 of 49

I agree with all the advice, and wanted to add that in a year you'll realize how much you've improved and it will feel great! I recently had the oppurtunity to "redo" my first wedding cake and it was a great confidence booster! One day you'll have the same experience and you'll give this same advice, it does get better!

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Irish245 Posted 20 Jul 2009 , 4:05am
post #25 of 49

Every year I teach a 26-week certificate course at the local college and I tell my students all the time:

1. It gets better.....just practice, practice, practice.
2. You are your own worst critic! Nobody sees the little mistakes that you know about.
3. Also, when you look at a professional book or online pics of professionally done cakes, please know that they are just like movie stars in magazine - digitally corrected!!!
4. There are always things you will not be good at.....find your niche!!!
5. There is always a back of a cake - that's where you hide the not so good side of the cake hehe....also leaves and flowers and decorations hide just about anything!
6. Someone will always be be better than you at something - you're not perfect and if you were, nobody would want to be around you!!!!

I have been doing cakes for about 9 years and have come very far very fast but every once in a while I'll try something new and take it to my family to see and we all have a good laugh when it doesn't work...but they still eat it! It happens sometimes... just laugh at yourself and move on to the next one.....it gets better!!!

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cs_confections Posted 20 Jul 2009 , 5:43am
post #26 of 49

Hello from another newbie and leftieicon_smile.gif I completely understand!! So far, not a single cake has turned out how I imagined it would be, and they all take much, much, much longer than I schedule to complete them. DH always has to cut me off when I hand over the cake and after they say how much they love it, I say, "thanks, but I messed up here, and this didn't turn out right, and I wanted to do this but couldn't, etc..."

One thing that helps me really take their compliments is realizing they are on here obsessing over all of the wonderful cakes. So compared to the Costco or H-E-B cakes they are accustomed to seeing, I guess mine to look pretty good to them.

So remember others can't compare your cake to your inspiration, most people just love great tasting free cake, continue practicing, and above all else...JUST HAVE FUN. After all, it's not worth spending this much time or money on something you can't have fun with! Good luck thumbs_up.gif

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serialbabe1968 Posted 20 Jul 2009 , 6:04am
post #27 of 49

I cannot tell you how many times i have tried to make cakes from the countless of books that i own. The cake never turns out like the picture. I don't know what is wrong with me. Some of the cakes do not look that hard and I still cannot make them look like the picture. So many people have asked me to make cakes for their events. My reply is always no because I do not want to ruin their special day.

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dhccster Posted 20 Jul 2009 , 10:02am
post #28 of 49

Hi from another newbie! I, too, know how you feel. I look at so many pictures here and get tons of great ideas. When I start decorating my cake, I am living in a fantasy world, because I always think my cake is going to look like the ones I put in my favorites. HOURS later when I am finished, I look at my cake and it DOES NOT look like the ones in my favorites. BUT, every cake I do... I can see myself getting better. AND after every cake I do, I always say, "next time I make a cake like this, I will do ____ differently!" I have not been able to take any classes, and I have only been doing this since the beginning of the year. I have a lot of fun decorating cakes and the people I make cakes for are really happy with them. We see ALL our flaws, but others really don't! (I have to remind myself of that a lot.)

Don't give up. Just keep on decorating and remember the reason why you got started in this! And remember all the "great cakers" here are so awesome and share so much of their talents with us newbies!!

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IHATEFONDANT Posted 20 Jul 2009 , 11:22am
post #29 of 49

Another leftie here.

You see my screen name? icon_cry.gif

I'm getting better at fondant. Practice..practice..lots of tears and frustration.

Keep at it.

If cake decorating were easy everyone would be doinig it.

I hate every cake I've ever made. I look at the mistakes and constantly think about how it could have been better. Then I deliver it and see the joy on the clients face and feel better about myself and my creations.

Trial and error are the key. You will learn how to do something better and different each time you do a cake!!

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MrsMabe Posted 20 Jul 2009 , 11:46am
post #30 of 49

Oh my goodness, thank you all so much! I'm overwhelmed, I never expected so many encouraging responses! There is so much great advice here. Thank you all.

My husband often threatens to throw all my supplies away and ban cakes from the house. Probably because of the bad mood and forgotten dinners bad cakes cause icon_lol.gif

Auntbeesbaking, you're right. Most people have only seen grocery store cakes and wedding cakes. I used to work at one...if none of us "experienced" decorators were sceduled, they'd toss anyone in there. And we only got about 10 minutes for most cakes. So I guess compared to that, my cakes are pretty good.

Man, I feel so much better now! I need to go bake something. Thank you everybody!

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