Friday, January 17, 2014

Lessons Learned in 2013

2013 was a HUGE year for me.
I won my first international cake competition.
I became a volunteer with Icing Smiles and provided four cakes to three wonderful families supporting children with health challenges.
I was finally offered a commercial kitchen to work from.
So many wonderful things, and of course so many lessons learned.
The lessons are what I am going to share with you in this post .

#1 If you are carving a cake with a tapered base, use more support than you think you may need. Physics will cause your cake to crumble at the base if not. I learned this with my Dr. Seuss hat caketastrophie

#2 If you are designing cakes for profit , throughout the year recalculate your costs. There was a considerable increase in shipping, butter , and the cost of my cake boards this year that went under the radar until I sat down with my receipts and started adding everything up.

#3 Always let your cakes settle if you will be covering them in fondant. I now allow mine to settle overnight. Level, fill, and let sit for hours. I also set a book on top of mine to force more air out if I am in a rush.

#4  To prevent the bottom of cupcakes from burning double up the cupcake pans. I haven't burnt a bottom since learning this trick.

#5 When making rice krispie treat accents allow them to firm up then smooth them with a fine cheese grater or zester.

#6 Pasta rollers are a cake decorators best friend. I don't know why I waited so long to give them a try. Mine has saved the wear and tear on my shoulders from rolling out fondant, allows me to roll my fondant to a perfect, even thickness, and I have noticed I use a lot less fondant each month now. Unfortunately this only works for accents and borders.

#7 Never devalue your work. You are not in competition with Walmart or your local grocery store. They do not make custom cakes, they make cakes, some are pretty pricey too.
Try taking a picture out of a wedding magazine and requesting a unique cake from them...or a fondant cake.
I realized our local grocery store charges 3 times more for this cake:

 Than I did for this cake :

Lesson learned.

Also, imagine taking your friends out to a chain restaurant to celebrate your birthday or event, and each person orders a slice of chocolate cake for dessert. Previously frozen, mass produced chocolate cake with no customization, you are looking at at least $3.50 per slice. The last restaurant we dined at charges $5.50 per slice for a generic piece of chocolate cake. Multiply that by the 10 people that were with us celebrating and you pay $55.00 for 10 slices of cake. That should help put things into perspective if you find yourself devaluing your work as well.

#8 Everyone starts somewhere, do not get discouraged. Keep a photo of your first cake on hand to remind you how far you have come. Cake decorating is not easy, it is a challenge, and you have to continue to challenge yourself. I watch Youtube videos, read other blogs, belong to cake community forums online, take classes....anything I can to learn and keep with the times.
Here is my first cake upon my re-entry into cake design:

(Fortunately it was for my son's welcome party)

Here is one of my last cakes:

Just keep learning, practicing and believing in yourself.

I'm sure I learned many more lessons this year, these are just the ones that stand out.

Have a wonderful 2014!