Saturday, March 17, 2012

The Legalities

As a cake baker / decorator you are required to weed through a lot of legal jibberish in order to develop a plan to produce and market your cakes, cupcakes and confections. Many people are not aware of the laws, many cannot understand the laws, and some just don't care about the laws.
I recently took the Wilton 4 course and  met a few people interested in making cakes for profit that were just not aware of the requirements. I was able to answer a lot of their questions in regards to New York's Home Processor Certification, also known as Cottage Food Law in many states. (New York just has to be different. ) This is a hot topic for those who care , and have a sincere desire to bake , decorate, and sell from home.
So, for those who are in New York and trying to make heads or tails out of the information provided on the .gov website here is the watered down version of the Home Processor Certification.
~get your umbrellas, I have a feeling I'm about to rain on a few parades.
You can produce cakes, cupcakes and confections from your home without having a separate commercial kitchen. If you plan to market these cakes for profit you must receive certification from the Department of Agriculture in your county to be a Home Processor.
Someone will visit your home, inquire about your plans and give you a list of things you cannot use in your products or produce as a home processor, ie. dairy products, custards, jams, fruit pies and a host of other substances they consider "hazardous".
Before you contact the Department of Agriculture and schedule an inspection of your kitchen there are a few things you will need to have in place or you will be wasting your time.
Here comes the rain...In NYS under the Home Processor Certification you can bake and decorate right in your own home's cannot sell from home, or deliver.
You do have a couple options though...

1. You can rent a space at your local farm market, it's Regional Market here in Syracuse, and you can sell cakes and cupcakes from your booth. I remember starting out thinking this was the way to go, I could set up some dummy cakes, put together a book of my designs, and bring along mini cupcakes for tastings. Ready for the fine print?  The farm market must be the point of sale, so your customer is required to pick up their cake /cupcakes from you at the farm market. You cannot deliver to their venue.
~Yeah, thats' practical, I'm sure a lot of brides want to run to the farm market before their wedding, transport and set up a 5 tier wedding cake and then go to the ceremony.
The mere though of my customer transporting and setting up anything over 1 tier is frightening. So this option is for the brave, and for those who feel they can produce enough cakes per week to cover the booth rent and insurance.

2. You can enter into a contract with a retail establishment stating that they will purchase the cakes/ cupcakes from you for resale. It can be any type of retail establishment, BUT, they will be required to be inspected and certified by the health department and /or Department of Agriculture if they are not already a licensed " food business."
So you can approach a local store or restaurant with your designs but they have to be willing to accept the liability of selling your cakes to your customer.
Some places may allow you to set up a display case and operate from their store which is great..
OOOhh wait..are those storm clouds I see?? Yes, you can enter into a contract with a retail establishment, BUT, again, you CANNOT deliver cakes directly to the end consumer, the store must . So the customer would have to pick up their cake at the store, transport and set it up themselves, unless you can cook a real sweet deal with the store or restaurant and they would be willing to take on that task for you.
Most won't...and most won't know how.
On top of all that, you must abide by the regulations on what can and cannot be used in your cakes & cupcakes and submit to random kitchen inspections.
I also suggest purchasing some insurance to CYA,  who ever you enter into a contract with be it a farm market or a retail establishment will probably require you to be insured also.
Be sure to have your contract in hand before your kitchen inspection.

You can start your cake business from your home kitchen, but the laws are very discouraging.
If you have the funding and motivation another option is setting up a commercial kitchen at home. You must have a separate room and  entrance, and be inspecting by the health department for a Bakers License.
With a Bakers License you can sell directly to the end consumer, only stipulation with that is you cannot place any signage on your kitchen designating it as a bakery.

If caking is your passion I encourage you to go after it. Don't let the laws discourage you, where there is a will, there is a way.

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