Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Groom's Cakes

I had a groom who was an outdoorsman. I made this Tree Stump cake for them. The 3-layer cake is covered in fondant, then hand-painted to look like a tree stump. The bride and groom's initials were carved into the trunk and I hand painted the carving with a dry gold luster dust to make it stand out. The green foil covered base resembles a grassy base.

This was then displayed on my Slice-of-Tree cake stand, handmade by Bill Dickinson of Dickinson Custom Furniture in Greenfield IND. I had asked Bill to keep an eye out for a nice big slice of wood just for this purpose and it took him about 3 months to find the right piece for me. He did a great job!

Adding some decorative fall leaves and some rose petals added to the look of this autumn wedding groom's cake.

The history of a groom's cake are vague and varied. In ancient times, it was believed if a single girl slept with a slice of groom's cake under her pillow, she would dream of the man she would marry. Groom's cakes were usually a fruit cake, or a dark (read "chocolate") liquor soaked cake.

Today, groom's cakes are getting very creative, reflecting the groom's (or sometimes, the couple's) interests, such as a hobby, favorite sports team, etc. They are served at the rehearsal dinner, as a midnight snack after the wedding, and sometimes alongside the traditional wedding cake.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Sheet cakes .... why?

Gosh, I hate starting an article with "back in my day" because that makes me officially old, but back in my day, I'd always hear the adult women, who were helping plan the family weddings, tell a bride to always get ".... an extra sheet cake, just in case." I always wondered "Just in case of WHAT?" I finally figured out these women were ordering a "just in case" cake because they wanted to be covered "just in case" they had more people show up than they anticipated.

Which never happens. I know you shouldn't use the word "never", but seriously .... in 30 years, I've never had a wedding where the couple/family invited 100 people and 130 showed up. Never.

I always wondered why they figured these extra people would show up just for the cake, because they never ordered an extra 10 lbs of chicken "just in case". And they never ordered 50 extra rolls "just in case". Nope, only cake.

Over time, I've observed that ordering sheet cakes has moved from the reasoning of having enough cake "just in case", to a cost saving method recommended by all the wedding magazines. The problem is that the magazines assume ALL bakers offer sheet cakes cheaper, which is just not true.

Many cake designers won't do sheet cakes. They just won't. They find it inappropriate to serve some of the guests a slice of wedding cake with multiple layers of cake and luscious filling .... and some of the guests get a piddly little square of single layer cake with no filling. And dont' kid yourself ..... the relatives who get the cheap knock off cake? They notice. They really notice.

My wedding sheet cakes are not cheaper and for a very logical reason. They are more work for me. Let me explain.

First, I dont' charge for 99% of design elements. That means a 4 tier basketweave designed cake with cascades of buttercream roses rolling down the sides will cost my bride the same money as a plain cake with just ribbon around the base. I dont' charge for most designs.

Ergo, since I dont' charge extra for ornate design, then I don't have anything to deduct for plain design .... which is the whole premise behind the "sheet cakes are cheaper" theory.

More work for me: To make a 3 tier cake for 150, I bake 3 tiers, using 6 cake pans that need prepped and washed. I ice and decorate 3 tiers.

But when a bride requests a 3 tier cake for 100 and a sheet cake for 50, I now have to bake 3 tiers using 6 slighty smaller cake pans that need prepped and washed, and I ice/decorate 3 tiers. PLUS I now have to bake a sheet cake and ice and at least border it. Another pan to wash, more baking time, more prep time, more space taken up in the delivery van. It takes longer to set up because instead of making one trip, carrying one 3-tier cake into the venue, I have to make 2 trips to the van to get the sheet cake. That may not sound like much to you, but the time (read "labor cost") adds up.

It's less work for me to do a 3 tier cake for 150 than it is for me to do a 3 tier cake PLUS a sheet cake that totals 150. If you order something that is more work for me, then you're not going to get it cheaper. It's just logical.

The good news for my brides is that this means they CAN get that grand creation of sugary centerpiece art for their reception at the same price than they would pay for a dinky little cake with some secret sheet cake hidden in the back room.

It's not that my sheet cakes are "not cheaper". It's that my wedding cakes are not "more expensive". We don't nickel and dime a bride for every little decorating aspect of her cake. It's easy for her to pick a design she likes instead of having to compromise her vision of her grand wedding cake design simply because of budget restraints. It's just our way of keeping it simple for our brides!

Saturday, October 10, 2009

The Lowest Price Isn't Always the Cheapest

This blog entry is being written shortly after a bride told me, “Even though your per-serving price is higher, you ended up being the best bargain for a cake.”

I’m learning a lot from my brides as they come in for their free cake sampling/consultation for their wedding cake. The biggest lesson they are learning is that the cheapest price doesn’t always mean it’s the cheapest cake.

Let’s share what my brides are discovering and sharing with me.

Many bakers have a “starts at ……“ base price. Then they add all the nickels and dimes for what my brides are referring to as “every little thing!” Now, some of the extra charges are justifiable because there are extra expenses involved …. Fondant is more costly than buttercream, any hand-molded figures are labor intensive, gumpaste flowers are very labor intensive (some gumpaste flowers take an hour to make just ONE).

Ask good questions during your consultation appointment. Keep a calculator handy and keep track. For example:

One bride was quoted $65 to wrap a ribbon around the base of a cake (a very popular design right now). And the bride has to provide the ribbon. For a wedding for 100, this adds $0.65 to the per-serving “base price”.

As a decorator, it takes me way less time to wrap a ribbon around a cake than it does to pipe an icing border around a cake. So this charge is very confusing to me.

Another bride was told to add the icing dots on a cake (another popular design being used with wrapped ribbon), would be an extra charge “….because the decorator has to put those dots on there one at a time.”

My reaction? “Duh! We put ALL decorations on one at a time!” I suggested she ask for the decoration that they put on all at once. The additional charge? $0.50/serving. For a wedding for 100, that’s an extra $50.

Many bakeries charge extra for more than one cake flavor in a wedding cake. Additional charge is ranging from $0.25 to $0.50/serving. Many charge extra for a filling other than buttercream icing (for example, if a bride wants red raspberry filling or chocolate fudge icing as a filling). Most common charge is $0.25/serving.

Ask about the delivery fee, then break that down by the number of servings to determine the real cost of your cake. For example, a $50 delivery fee breaks down to $0.50/person for a 100-guest wedding.

So let’s compare my cake price to a bakery who charges all of the above nickels-and-dimes. For the record, Cater It Simple does not charge an extra fee for any of the items listed above, with the exception of a delivery fee *IF* the delivery is way outside the Indianapolis Metro area.

Assuming a cake for 100, 3 tier, 3 different cake flavors with red raspberry filling in two of them and lemon filling in the 3rd tier, ribbon on the base with dots and scrolls as the design, delivered 15 minutes from the bakery location.

Cater It Simple’s price:
Base price of $3.50 x 100 = $350. Simple.

Other Bakery:
Base price of $2.25 x 100 = $225 (wow! Big cost savings! But wait ……)
Add: $0.65 for ribbon = $65
Add: $0.50 for design = $50
Add: $0.25 for cake flavor x 2 additional flavors = $0.50 = $50
Add: $0.25 for filling x 2 flavors = $0.50 = $50

ACTUAL per-serving price = $4.40 = $440

At first, the bride thought she was saving $125 with the other bakery, but she was actually going to spend $90 more.

Ask questions. Use a calculator. Don’t assume the lower price is the best bargain.


Monday, October 5, 2009

Is it "Tacky?"

I came across this blog and I just loved it! What is tacky to one is wonderful to another! I'm big on proper etiquette and doing things right, but like the author of this blog, I'm tired of people exerting their "personal" preference as the all time "right" way to do things and anyone who doesn't agree is "tacky".

Read this. I think you'll like it. http://offbeatbride.com/2008/07/tacky

I'd love to hear feedback on your view of "tacky". Are some things really 'tacky' or is the word overused? If some things ARE still viewed as tacky, what are some of those things, in your view?

Let me know by posting your comments or send them via email to info@cateritsimple.com .