Cake-Pops and Other Trends

What’s happening? That’s the question you should periodically stop and ask yourself as a cake business owner. While you may have a great product, you should keep your eye on the trends that might impact your business. While you shouldn’t always be looking outward or second guessing your product-line, you don’t want to miss out on a profitable phenomenon that your clients want. Here are some suggestions on how to find out about new opportunities and the most effective way to use that information.

Network with other shop owners. Whether you do this in person as business colleagues (perhaps, a monthly group meeting) or online in industry chat rooms and forums (this may be the easiest for your time-crunched schedule, as well as the safest since you aren’t chatting with direct competition), having discussions with like-minded individuals will keep you abreast of what’s happening in other communities. I recently got back into the MeetUp community for small business in my area. It’s a great way to network and keep up with local business concerns. There are meetups for marketing, WordPress and web design, baking, entrepreneurship, business plan writing and more.

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Using Fresh Flowers on a Wedding Cake

Using Fresh Flowers on a Wedding Cake

Fresh flowers can be a beautiful addition to any cake however, there are also safety concerns to take into account when using fresh flowers with food.   As an alternative, you may wish to decorate your cake table with fresh flowers, and use sugar flowers on the cake itself to avoid any problems or concerns.

Below you will find general information on using fresh flowers, as well as a few questions you might ask your florist. Never hesitate to follow up with your florist if you have any concerns.

 

Fresh Flowers:

  • Fresh flowers should always be arranged in containers or taped into corsages to avoid contamination.  For food safety purposes, flower stems should NEVER be directly inserted into the cake.
  • If you as the cake decorator arrange fresh flowers for a cake be sure to add this as an additional charge. Include the cost of the flowers plus a $10 – 30 arranging fee (depending on estimated time required.)
  • Most cake decorators prefer to place the flowers on the cake for liability as well as food safety issues

 

Questions to ask a florist before using flowers on a cake:

 

·       Are the flowers toxic? Unfortunately, many popular wedding flowers are toxic. Be sure to double check.

·       Are the flowers organically grown? These are truly the only way to go as you do not want toxic pesticides near your cake.

 

·       Does the florist prepare the flowers in some type of container or pick? One simple way to avoid most contamination is to arrange the cake flowers in a container that can be sat on top of the cake, or taping them into a corsage type arrangement which will allow the stems to be placed into a special food safe plastic pick to be inserted into the cake, rather than inserting the flower stems directly into the cake.

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Learn Cake Decorating Online

Cakes from Martha's Country Bakery
As a  business consultant most of the questions that come to me are business-related and I can feel good about pointing someone in the right direction about getting their cake or cupcake business on the right track. Occasionally however, I am asked cake decorating questions and recommendations for the best way to learn cake decorating.

My books are written for the hands-on entrepreneur – someone with a dream and the desire to work in the day-to-day operation of a cake or cupcake business. In any food-service business two of the most important aspects of the operation are product creation and the management of the business. Most people who start bakeries from the ground up aren’t business people; they’re what The E-Myth author Michael E. Gerber calls “technicians” (i.e. people with a skill). For example, someone who loves to make pies and wants to reap the profits of their skill. If your bakery is to survive, you need both technical skills and business skills.

I cover the business skills in Start a Cake Business Today because most people have the technical know-how, but not the business experience. If however you don’t have the cake decorating skills but dream of running a bakery or cake shop, I’ve compiled a few education options for you:

Culinary School:
Are you passionate about the fine details of the science, culture and history of baked goods? A formal education may be right for you.  Learning the baking techniques in an academic situation gives you the credibility to approach a bakery for the type of job you want or eventually own a boutique cake business.

You can learn the best practices (both culinary and business) while applying that knowledge in a situation without real world repercussions.  Since a cake  bakery is your ultimate goal, your curriculum should include not only bread and pastry, but also nutrition, management, marketing and more.
The biggest drawback to pursuing a Culinary School Education is the cost. As an entrepreneur, you will need resources to start your bakery and school can be very expensive.

On-the-job-training:
Working in a cake shop will teach you the day-to-day tasks, the stress of customer and financial demands, the interaction with customers, the business processes and the lifestyle that you only gain on the job.  There is much to be learned in a working bakery. However, without some previous kitchen experience, you will most likely find yourself starting in a role that has little to do with your ultimate objective, such as janitorial work.

Self-study:
A third option is to educate yourself by practicing every skill you want to master; reading books, networking with other bakers and pastry chefs and getting experience anywhere you can. This might include volunteering, working in a school kitchen, job shadowing and working for family and friends. There are countless stories of food entrepre-neurs who started by sharing their product with those around them, and then growing into full-fledged businesses. Your personal path has everything to do with your current experience and level of passion for filling in the gaps of your knowledge.

Cake Education Resources

Sharon Zambito DVDs

Perfecting the Art of Buttercream DVD
A step- by- step process for icing a cake with a crusting buttercream.

http://cakesandcupcakes.com/buttercream-instruction.html

Flawless Fondant DVD
A complete A-Z education on how to prepare and cover your cakes properly with rolled fondant.
http://cakesandcupcakes.com/flawless-fondant.html

Successful Stacking DVD
The complete process of stacking a multi-tiered cake, using a method which minimizes the amount of damage that occurs to the icing during the process
http://cakesandcupcakes.com/successful-stacking.html

Online Training (paid)
Yummy Arts: As a member, you’ll get access to all the instructional materials as well as a photo gallery for members to share their creations, email support for questions or video requests, and a forum for sharing ideas and questions with other members and on-staff professional cake decorators. (Membership required)
Yummyarts.com

Universal Class: Cake Decorating 101
A self-paced course for learning cake decorating. “Whether you’re looking to start a cake decorating business or just make cakes for family and friends, Cake Decorating 101 will teach you all you need to know to turn out professionally decorated cakes.”
universalclass.com

FREE Online Training
King Arthur Flower
These step-by-step illustrated instructions turn you into the cake designer/pastry chef you always dreamed of being!
http://www.kingarthurflour.com

The Culinary Institute of America: On Location with Duff Goldman
This 20-minute podcast features 1998 graduate Duff Goldman, owner of Charm City Cakes and star of the television series ‘Ace of Cakes’. Topics discussed include creativity, objectivity and the art of cake decorating.
http://www.ciachef.edu

 

Advice and Inspiration for Beginners

Let them decorate cake:

Here’s an article about some women in upstate NY who find cake decorating  more than a hobby: 2 cake business owners, a decorator and a party store owner who offers classes.

New Berlin’s Kelly Banks started her own cake decorating business in 2005. Banks, who trained at the Culinary Institute of America, decided that she didn’t want to spend all of her time working for someone else after she had her daughter. With that decision, Kelly Banks Cakes was born.

“It started off just being something fun, extra income. Every once in a while someone would ask me to do something for them,” she said. “Now I just have cakes every single weekend. It’s definitely more of a business now that it was even last year.”

Cathy Wise, Party Perfect’s owner, knew she wanted to offer cake decorating classes from the minute she opened her store. Two years ago, “it all just fell into place,” Wise said. “It’s just a fun thing to learn and it’s a great skill to have.”

…Winnie Talbot not only teaches the Wilton classes at Party Perfect, she also decorates ice cream and wedding cakes…

Talbot didn’t intend to become a Wilton teacher.

“I took a bunch of Wilton classes and then I took other cake classes because I wanted to know how to do cakes for our business. Then Wilton started calling me asking me if I’d teach class. I kept telling them `no.’ I didn’t have time. Finally I said, `you know what? If you wait until late fall, then I will start,'” Talbot said.

…Cooperstown-based cake decorator Marjorie Landers has had a few odd requests as well.

“The most unusual cakes I do are groom’s cakes, which can be in any shape or form,” Landers said. “One groom’s cake I did that was a for a groom who was a serpentologist. So that cake was in the shape of a snake.”

But these challenges are part of what has kept her engaged in her work for the last 15 years. “I do enjoy doing new things. It’s fun for the artistic part of me. If you do the same thing over and over again, it gets to be no fun,” Landers said.

via The Daily Star, Oneonta, NY – Otsego, Delaware, Chenango and Schoharie County News, Sports and Opinion – Let them decorate cake: Local women find decorating desserts more than a hobby.

When Sister Is Your Cake Business Partner

Would you go into business with a family member?  Here’s an informative article about two sisters who started a cake business near Wrigley Field in Chicago.

There are several keys to note in this article about starting your own bakery.

First, they started off cautiously.

…holding down day jobs while they figured out their fledgling business concept. In 1998, Brenda moved to Chicago by herself and worked as an administrative assistant for a staffing company with the goal of gaining business skills and locating a viable market. “I don’t like to be one-dimensional. It allowed me to get my feet wet in Chicago and learn a variety of skills,” she says. By the time Mary came to Chicago (with a full set of professional baking and kitchen equipment) two years later—she had been working at an upscale Detroit-area bakery&—a sense of the business and the roles they would play had emerged. Brenda took the lead role in business and Mary focused on the creative side of cake baking and decorating.

Lesson 2: Word of mouth marketing was critical to their success:

“The Cakegirls got the word out themselves, telling friends and co-workers about their “night job” in the kitchen.”

Lesson 3: they used technology to market themselves:

“They gave prospective customers the impression they had a much bigger operation by using voice mail and posting their catalog online.”

Lesson 4: They were patient.

“They opened a business bank account with $500 and deposited any money they earned from baking into it. Within three years, the Mahers had saved $15,000 from sales, having continued to survived on the income from their day jobs.”

Lesson 5: They used the media for free advertising.

“When Chicago magazine ran a feature on them in 2003, orders flooded in, prompting Brenda to buy a minivan for deliveries.

Read the full article at Business Week.

via When Sister Is Your Business Partner – BusinessWeek.

10 “Crafty” Small Businesses for Budding Entrepreneurs | Outright Blog

10 “Crafty” Small Businesses for Budding Entrepreneurs

We all heard growing up that artists don’t make any money. If you had artistic ambitions, perhaps you put them to the side in favor of the daily corporate grind and the promise of a steady salary, health benefits and a retirement plan. Now though, perhaps your job is on shaky ground or worse, gone entirely and you are casting about for a new way to earn a living.

Why not, this time, take a new route that puts money in the bank AND leaves you creatively fulfilled?
The following are ten home based businesses for perfect for artistic types:

Cake Baking/Decorating – Everyone has birthdays, weddings, and other special occasions. Why not encourage them to celebrate with a custom designed cake of your creation? This business requires relatively little capital to start, but cake decorating skills are imperative.

via 10 “Crafty” Small Businesses for Budding Entrepreneurs | Outright Blog.

Success is sweet for passionate cake maker | CharlotteObserver.com

Success is sweet for passionate cake maker

Cynthia George made this four-tiered, heart-shaped chocolate cake for the Valentine’s Day Chocolate Extravaganza at Lowe’s Motor Speedway.

In this bad economy, sometimes all you hear is the negative: Unemployment is high and the housing market is slow.

But there’s a silver lining: entrepreneurship. Many employees who always had a dream to start their own business are taking the plunge and doing just that, especially now that working for someone else no longer seems secure.

I recently read that Donald Trump said entrepreneurs must be passionate about their business and love what they do in order to really be successful. Many women, in particular, are taking that advice. It also has been said that it has rarely been a better time for a woman with the will and an idea to start a business.

Cynthia George started Ms. Cindy’s Confections in 1998. But her passion for baking cakes started long before that.

“It takes a long time to build up clientele, so don’t be discouraged. Eventually things start to become profitable. You just need to be patient and always carry your business card with you wherever you go.”

via CharlotteObserver.com.

Marketers find Twitter a tweet recipe for success – USATODAY.com

A great article on how one cake business is using social networking to reach her customers for repeat business. If you’re not using Facebook and Twitter to market your business, read this article and get on these sites!

LOS ANGELES — Cake decorator Suzi Finer fills in spare time during the workday updating her “status” on Facebook, telling about 2,000 customers about what she’s working on.

It’s no frivolous exercise: Finer is looking to boost business for her employer, Hansen’s Cakes of Beverly Hills, and says that sales are up 15% to 20% since she embraced Facebook as a sales tool in September. “That’s even in a recession,” she says. “People are still having birthday parties and weddings, and seeing these little bits about cakes on updates get them excited about the possibilities.”

via Marketers find Twitter a tweet recipe for success – USATODAY.com.