Hi all at Bakelife! I’m new here. Do I need to bore you with an introduction? Well, I’m 17 years old, a student and I love cake. I think that covers all the important details.
Since it’s my first post here at Bakelife, I thought what better than to share my experience of making my first ever (!!!) cake order. Needless to say, it was a very scary (but fun!) experience. I thought I would share some of my thoughts and tips for making cake orders. Take these with a grain of salt, I’ve only ever made one order! I don’t really bake as a side business and mainly bake for friends and family (a.k.a for free!).
So you have all the basic tips:
1) Make sure you get as much detail as you can from your customer.
This varies from what type of cake, how many layers, how many tiers (if applicable), how many servings they would like out of the cake, cake size, frosting flavours, filling ideas, toppings, colour schemes, personalised messages and anything else you can think of.
2) Plan, plan, plan!
Now with just general home baking, this is useful but when making a cake order, you really don’t want to have to be jetting off to the local Tesco’s because you ran out off icing sugar. Collect a list of all the ingredients you’re going to be needing and buy everything ahead of time. Buying more than you need (within reason) is never a bad idea. You can’t predict if a batch of buttercream may end up splitting on you or your cakes sink in the middle for no reason!
3) Charge the right price. Be confident in your cakes’ worth.
This was probably the hardest part of my experience! I had never sold one of my cakes before and everyone online said pretty much the same thing: it depends. Now, this is totally true but it didn’t really help me with my dilemma. So here’s what I did. I looked at the list of all the ingredients I bought and totalled up the cost (you can be really specific with toppings and sorts but I just added another £2 or £3 on top to cover that… I know, bad practice) and added extra on top for labour and time spent. The ingredients cost came up to about £12-£15.
Now, this cake was for a teacher’s leaving gift for her department, so I decided not to charge as much. I asked for £22, it gave me enough extra money. If I was doing this as a job, it would be a lot different but since this was just a one-off, I wasn’t really too bothered. However, after seeing the cake, she ended up giving me £30. I had people telling me I was charging too much, that they thought £10 would be sufficient or the price of a cake you can get at a supermarket. Don’t listen to this. Blunt as it sounds, just don’t. You know the quality of your cakes and you know deep down what they are worth. If your client wanted a cheap chocolate quake with overly sweet buttercream slathered on top they could very easily pop over to their local store and get one. You are making a custom cake, putting in hours upon hours of work when you could be finishing that assignment or treating yourself to a shopping spree (most probably the former). I spent two days working on this cake with all the prep it involved (not continuously), it was definitely worth more than £10. Be confident in your skills and your worth. You know your cakes better than anyone.
The most important thing when charging is to make sure you have enough profit. There’s no point putting a lot of effort into a cake that you’re not going to get to eat. I would say that the most important points to consider when pricing is: size, profit, ingredients cost and personal cost.
4) Think things through. Don’t take big risks!
This is sort of like #2 to plan ahead but it really is important. You might be able to deal with a messy cake for you to eat but if you’ve got a paying customer, you need to make sure that cake is near perfect. Obviously, things can go wrong; you might smudge your buttercream (I did this repeatedly and patched it up with decorations, haha) or your ganache may not be the right consistency. Try to sketch or at least clearly visualise how your cake is going to look like in your head.
Also, if something doesn’t look right, get a friend’s opinion. If you’re not satisfied with it, it might just be you. Get someone else to look at your cake before you make any drastic decisions. For instance, I have messed up my ganache drips many times and when this happens, I usually blend the ganache with my buttercream for a semi-naked look. While this was usually my gut instinct, I only ever followed through if my sister approved of my decision. Now, you are the baker, ultimately it is your choice. But it is important to not let your fatigue and frustration cloud your judgement.
5) Prep everything!
Prep is essential. Whether it is making your cake layers ahead of time, making your frosting the day before, painting your fondant roses before starting on assembling the cake or whatever it is you have to do, do it! The assembling process is the toughest stage in making the cake, and prep will help everything flow that much more smoothly.
6) Get the things you need to transport it.
Make sure you know how you’re going to deliver your cake. Do you need to drive? Will your customer pick it up? Is there a particular destination? Will your cake survive the drive? Whatever it is you have to get to make your cake happen, get it. You can get all sorts of cake boxes on eBay and Amazon (I bought an 8 inch cake box and a gold cake drum to match the gold theme) and make sure they are tall enough. I cannot stress that more. You can also find particualr cake boxes with height extenders which is something to consider if your cake is going to have a chocolate sail, for instance. Mine just about fit the box, thankfully. If you’re doing a tiered cake, definitely use dowels and if the trip is a long, rocky one, consider assembling the cake at the site to avoid toppling.
7) Enjoy the process. You live and learn.
There are probably some things I would have done differently with this cake if I could make it again. I’d probably change my caramel consistency, have thinner drips and all sorts. Don’t beat yourself up if it doesn’t turn out how you expected. Baking is never perfect. You live and learn. Take this as a learning experience. If you found that you struggled with getting your buttercream smooth, do your research and work on getting it that way.
There are probably a ton more tips that I’ve forgotten to include but these are the main ones… I think! Comment with any tips you have that I may have missed out for first-cake-order-making (??) so we can all make what seems like a frightful experience a lot more relaxing!
As for this gorgeous cake, it’s a carrot cake with toffee pieces swirled in the batter and is covered in a light and fluffy caramel cream cheese buttercream. The toppings include a silky caramel sauce, homemade toffee popcorn, fondant roses, gold leaf and other bits and bobs. The recipe can be found at my website HERE. Comment, like or share! And thank you to anyone who actually took the time to read this LOOOONG post.