Getting Started with a Cake Decorating Business
Getting Started with a Cake Decorating Business
So you enjoy baking and have decided that you are willing to put in the time, effort and money to grow your cake decorating business. Great! More power to you! First things first: Love what you do. If you love what you do, it will show. Creating a five tiered masterpiece from flour, sugar, eggs, and butter is a labor of love. It takes hard work, long hours, creativity, engineering, and lots of practice.
Note: In some states it is illegal to sell food items from a home kitchen. You would need to either rent or build a stand-alone kitchen. However, in other states you may be able to operate under "Cottage Law". You will not find legal mumbo jumbo or advice here. That will require extensive research on your part and will vary greatly depending on your location.
Recipe Research and Development
Now, back to the fun stuff. You will need good recipes. If a cake looks good but tastes horrible, you will not get repeat business. For real. That's it. You are finished. Washed up. But, if it tastes as good as it looks, your clients will return again and again. $ Cha-ching $
- You want a cake recipe that is moist. What do I mean by moist? If you can eat a piece of cake and not leave any of those tiny dry crumbs on the plate (you know what I'm talking about) then it was a fairly moist piece of cake. If you can press the back of the fork into a bite of cake and have it stick to the fork without falling off as it journeys from plate to mouth you have achieved the proper cake moistness.
- You want a cake recipe that has a good flavor. This can vary wildly depending on the palate in question. Some people like a heavy vanilla while others prefer a subtle hint of lemon. Dark chocolate or milk chocolate... The list goes on forever. Your friends and/or co-workers will gladly give you their opinions in exchange for free cake samples. And if your recipes are successful, you may end up with an order or two.
- Icing. Icing can make or break a cake. It has been said that cake is nothing more or less than the vessel that delivers the icing. A good icing will not be too sweet or overpowering. There is an endless number of buttercream icing recipes online. Try a few and see which one works best for you.
Tools of the Trade (a.k.a. TOYS!)
- Overwhelming! The vast sea of cake decorating tools and accessories can be a bit overwhelming. Yes, most of it is fun to play with but is it really necessary? Probably not. You will need pans, piping bags, decorating tips, a practice board and a few other items. I suggest getting a starter kit from Wilton. You can find a good one here that has all the basics.
- Appliances: I would quite remiss if I did not mention that you really need a good stand mixer. My choice? Kitchen Aid. Period. If you can't fit a Kitchen Aid into your budget, any good mixer will do. However, it will not hold up to the strain and stress over the long haul. Also, a backup heating element for your oven is a very good idea. You don't want to be in the middle of baking a wedding cake and have to scramble around looking for a replacement. Speaking from experience here.
- Cake pans. Shaped cake pans make cake decorating easy for the beginner, but they take up a lot of room and are expensive. If you stick with the basic shapes (round, square, rectangle, oval) you can carve the cake into whatever shape you desire. This does take practice. Don't give up. You do want to get good quality pans 2" high pans. I recommend Wilton. This round set is ideal.
- If you plan to do much work with fondant, candy clay, or gumpaste, you will probably want to get the tools for that over time. Those include but are not limited to: shaping tools, cut outs, embossing mats, rolling pins. And don't forget those 40% off coupons when going into your local craft supply store.
Pinterest is a cake decorators best friend. Ideas and inspiration abound. That being said, be careful not to bite of more than you can chew. (Really? A pun?) Anyway, creating the professional masterpiece in the picture is harder than it looks. Those perfect edges and flawless piping designs take years of practice to master. Even what looks to be an easy border can be tricky. Stick with simple designs at first and practice, practice, practice. Oh and in your spare time you might want to consider more practice. And a wrist brace for when you are not decorating. Carpal tunnel is real, people.
You do not need a Bachelor of Engineering degree, but it may help. Just kidding, mostly. What you can't see from the outside of a tiered cake is the structure that keeps it upright. You want jaws to drop when party/wedding guests see your creation for the first time, but you don't want it to be because it is leaning at a 45 degree angle to the table. Each tier should have it's own cake board and each tier should have dowels (I like Wilton's Hollow Dowel Rods) holding the tier above it level. Sounds simple in theory, but of course this too takes practice... and youtube videos. Cake and icing is heavy and the top tiers will crush the bottom tiers if not properly supported. Ask me how I know this. Okay don't. The memories are too painful.
That About Wraps It Up
These are just a few basic tips for getting started in a cake decorating business of your own. Do not underestimate the power of word of mouth. Your network of friends and social media can be a great way to get some free advertising. If you make a great practice cake, post a picture before it's devoured. You never know who may have a birthday party coming up and will need a cake. May your efforts be blessed!