This cake related blog post has been brewing for a LOOONNNG time. The real reason I’ve never written it is because part of me doesn’t even know where to begin, sometimes it feels like a rant, other times it’s more like a “help-desk” for ordering custom cakes.. and sometimes it’s just plain facts! So now that I’m a multi-tasking mom of three who runs a cake-shop from home, I’m just gonna roll it all in together. ‘Cause that’s just how we roll around here… (this should read, “I really only get done the bare necessities and my hubby is a rock-star”).
SO here we go:
1. Custom cakes take a lot of time. Yes, (you roll your eyes, you KNEW that), but really they do. We have first learn the trade which has a crazy long learning curve and there’s always something new to tackle. There have been countless articles written on this fact alone, normally circulated among bakers/cakers, so I won’t bore you with my randition. But time = money. Period. And custom things take a lot of time and training.
2. Know your audience. How many people you need to serve and what other desserts you are going to have your guests will really help you and your baker decide what you need for your group. Which brings us to our next point….
3. Price per slice. (There have, again, been many wonderful articles written on this, but normally directed to cake artists. I’ll list a number of great articles at the end if you’d like to read more on the subject!) Cakes and sweets are typically priced based on how many you need to serve. These numbers are not arbitrarily pulled out of the air! Cake artists take time to calculate all of the baking costs, utility costs, decorating costs and time to determine a base price (ie. $5/slice) and then go up from there if something requires more work. I’ll give you some examples of this one. (Keep in mind, if you go out for dinner to a nice to high end restaurant, how much are the desserts? Typically about $7-$10 ea. And most of those are prepped and ready to go in the back, made in large quantities, no customization, so $5/slice doesn’t sound so high anymore! Location also dictaes this, just think a tiny town compared to downtown Toronto).
Let’s say your baker has determined their price starts at $5/serving(slice) and show you an image of a cake you’d like to have created. You’d like to to serve 100 guests. So the base price here would be $500 for the cake, it has some detail and then it has about 10-15 sugar flowers on it. The price of that cake will be very different from the initial $500 when you add them all on. If you’re trying to save, sugar flowers and other such hand made details (like figurines) are a few things you can cut down on to keep the price in your budget.
4. Simple doesn’t mean cheap. We’ve all gotten that email. “I’d love a cake to serve 150 guests but just want some thing really simple!” Ok so sometimes this really is what they mean, they like a simple style and that’s great. (I think “JUST” might be the key word from emails like this). But I can probably count on one hand the number of times the images I received after hearing the words “simple” were FAR from it (extra hint, just because it’s all white doesn’t make it a simple design!) Remember the base price? We create that because there is always a base amount of work to be done on your cake regardless of whether you deem it simple or not. The simple case will never fall below that base price…and this is why.
If you’ve ever tried your hand at cake decorating you’ll know that sometimes the most “simple” of tasks take the longest to execute with precision. For example, a totally plain white wedding cake with almost no trim and very few designs looks very “simple” in design. Guess what? Those designs sometimes take longer than the cake covered in texture and flowers takes. Why? Because it has to be perfect! Every blemish in your fondant will be seen, every jagged edge of your trimmed areas exposed. These are techniques that take years to conquer, and require very high technique. So what we’re really saying is that a “simple design” doesn’t equal a “easy cake” and that doesn’t equal “cheap price”. (If you have any doubts sign up for a beginner cake class and try your hand at it! You’ll have some fun and have a great appreciation for all the work your local cake artist does!)
5. Cake is cake! I don’t descriminate. If you’re ordering a birthday cake; baby or bridal shower cake; christening, baptism, dedication cake; or yes, even a wedding cake, I price it the same. Why? Because they all take that same base amount of work. If you’re ordering a birthday cake but you want to serve 75 people, you’re paying about the same as someone ordering a wedding cake for 75 people. (I say about because of course the detail and design might differ – sometimes the birthday cake is more!) The extra costs come in delivery and set-up, and that’s it. I charge high for these items because I don’t think it’s right (for my business) to charge everyone for a wedding cake delivery when it’s only the bridal couples cost.
This also relates to minimums. I use to make lots of little 6″ cakes, I was making tons of them and I wasn’t charging very much. Why? Because I felt guilty charging so much for such a small serving (12) cake! But I would spend sometimes 2-3 hours decorating one little cake, and create a larger 30 serving cake in the same time. Bakers have minimums because cake is cake! We take just as much time preparing the cake and decorating it whether we’re working on a smaller scale or larger.
6. Custom isn’t always necessary. I know it might sound like I’m shooting myself in the foot here. “What? Why aren’t you telling everyone to buy a custom cake all the time?” Well because then it’s not special! We’re in the thick of it right now, a culture saturated with tv shows about beautiful custom cakes for every occassion. But it’s not realistic! Most of these shows do not show much these things cost. And they’re A LOT. We’re talking in the thousands for some. Save that custom cake for a special time or celebration and find a great bakery that makes fresh delicious bakery cakes for the other times. We’re not competing with bakeries because our roles are different! I also am a believer of living within your means, if you can’t afford it right now, save a bit and enjoy one later! You’ll appreciate it more and won’t feel guilty enjoying such a special and delicious treat!
I hope this was a helpful list! I also hope I don’t come across as ungrateful for my clients. I have some of the best clients in the world (totally unbiased opinion) who have supported me for the last five years and I am so grateful and blessed! Many of them have become friends and I treasure their part in my life!
There many much more talented writers out there who have amazing blogs encouraging cake artists and giving very good advice about business. I’ll list them below if you’re interested.
Thank you again, I hope it helps and makes navigating the cake world a little bit easier =)
Blogs to keep an eye on!