Monday, January 31, 2011

Thanks, Cabe's Cakes, for the Mention!!

I am honored to share that my "famous" icing recipe has been included in the blog of Cabe's Cakes. I've shared my recipe with many cakers across the country and it is very popular because of it's crusting capability and how it can hold up in extreme heat and humidity, which is great for those outdoor summer weddings!

Cabe also gave me an honorable mention in her blog about my regular column in Cake Central magazine.

Cabe is a fabulous cake artist and I enjoy reading her blog entries. Please visit Cabe's site for some fabulous ideas and information!

Friday, January 28, 2011

How To Assemble a Stacked Wedding Cake

I've receive many requests for direction on how to stack a buttercream cake without "ruining" the icing on the lower tiers. Here are some step-by-step photos on how I stack a cake.

Start with a base cake, already doweled and ready to receive the upper tier......

I pick up the upper tier, supporting it with my hand and the icing spatula .....

I bring the upper tier over to the bottom tier.....

I lower the front of the upper tier into place on the lower tier. The reason I lower the front of the cake is so I can keep the spatula at the back of the cake, so if there are any errors, those will be in the back where the photographer won't see them!!! (and they are more easily fixable.)

I remove my hand from under the cake while there is still room. The cake is now being supported by the spatula. This works well for larger tiers, too.

Using the spatula, I lower the upper tier in place. I leave the spatula in place until I check the position of the tier, making sure it is centered properly. If it needs moved, LIFT the tier with the spatula. Do not scoot or push the tier without lifting it as this can cause the dowels to shift and become unstable.

I use a slight, almost imperceptible lift as I pull the spatula out from under the upper tier.

I'm not concerned with this slight marring of the icing that happened at the last second when pulling the spatula out. It will be covered with the border.

The final cake has a nice border to hide any mistakes made during stacking, then adorned with Buckeye candies.

This was a cost saving idea we came up with for the bride, who had wanted a groom's cake with Buckeye candies but she had a tight budget. We just combined the idea onto her wedding cake!

Thursday, January 27, 2011

My Cake Disaster Story is Published

I am honored that a story about one of my cake disasters was printed in the January 25th, 2011 email newsletter of "". They recently put out a call for disasters stories and I shared mine.

If you're in the baking business or just interested in baking, I highly recommend signing up for the e-newsletter from Baking Buyer. There are always interesting stories and information in the newsletter!

Thanks to Joanie Spencer for using the story!!!

The Story:

A few months ago, we called for cake disaster stories—those anectdotes that, while at the time weren't so funny, you look back on and laugh. We've received many great stories, and most of them have happy endings, thanks to bakers' ingenuity. Here's a memory from Debi Brim, a 30-year wedding cake veteran, on how a little imagination went a long way.

If you would like to share your cake disaster story, send it to us for consideration.

"A bride saw my City Skyline cake...and ordered one for her wedding. The groom was a fireman so she wanted flames coming out of the buildings with a plan to set a small toy firetruck by the cake. The cake turned out great; the red-yellow-orange buttercream icing flames were a great accent on the chocolate building sillouettes.

I had two deliveries that day. At the first delivery, which was a quick in-and-out delivery, I carefully parked the van to make sure the skyline made of chocolate would not be affected by the sun coming in the window. However, the first delivery, which was to take about 3 minutes, ended up taking 10-12 minutes due to some extra decor the bride wanted on the table. In that short time, the sun had moved ever so slightly, and one corner of my city skyline was melted. I raced back to the shop with no idea of how to salvage this. I cut off the melted parts of the buildings with my exacto knife. Then inspiration hit me. I added more icing-flames to the damaged buildings and headed out to deliver.

When I arrived at the venue, the staff marveled at the cake. I quickly drew their attention to the damaged buildings and told them, "Since the groom is a fireman, I took my lighter that I use to light candles and melted some of the buildings so they'd look like they collapsed in the fire. What do you think? Does it look real?" Well, they thought I was a GENIUS!!!

Saved by an inspirational moment during a point of panic!"

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Pricing: Add It Up!

I realize I seem to do a lot of articles on pricing and pricing issues, but in the (wedding) cake business, its a point of frustration for baker and client alike. I recently heard a story from a fellow baker that is a wonderful lesson and I'm happy that she agreed to let me share it here.

As I've written before, it is not uncommon for a baker to charge for a consultation or tasting. ( ) The baker incurs some expense in supplying various cakes, fillings and icings for the consulation, plus the "lost opportunity costs". Some bakers charge this fee, some don't. Some apply it to the order if the cake is ordered, some don't. It is one of the items I encourage brides to ask about as they make appointments.

In another article, I shared how my brides have told me that my higher-than-the-competition per-serving price can end up being cheaper than the "cheaper" place. ( )

As a bride does her comparison shopping (which I strongly encourage), she needs to take careful note of the various fees/charges that may apply and add them up.

Here's the story I want to share:

A client canceled a consultation appointment when she found out there was a $10 charge for the consultation, giving a reason that the competing bakery did free consultations. This competing baker's pricing was also higher per-serving than the first baker.

Let's do some theoretical math to see how this works out and to illustrate what a bride should look for.

Client is looking for a cake to serve 50 people.

Baker A charges $3/serving plus a $10 Consultation Fee.
50 servings x $3/serving = $150 + $10 consultation fee = $160 total cost.

Baker B charges $3.50/serving and consultations are free.
50 servings x $3.50/serving = $175 total cost.

It is costing the client fifteen dollars more to get the "free" consultation.

It is a given that the bride/client needs to also consider the taste of the cake, the quality of design and execution of the work, and not just the price per serving or not just whether a consult is free or not.

Baker A tells me that she charges the $10 consult fee because many of her clients know what they want and order their wedding cake via email or phone. She does not want to just add in the cost of the consults into the base price because she does not want to charge extra to those who do not need the private consulation appointment. It is how she keeps her expenses covered and her pricing fair to all of her clients.

When planning a wedding, people seem to forget how to "Do The Math" (see this blog article where I discuss that: ) and this article is to show why it is important to always, always, always ask questions and keep track of the details.

They add up and can sneak up on you!

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Color Basics

Over the past few days, I've managed to get into more than a couple of conversations about color and color combinations. This article is to touch on the basics of color, while understanding that color combinations are infinite and complicated.

In cake world, brides and clients have many color requests to match the theme, the dresses, the cardboard cake plates. These are usually not a problem and the cake designer can blend colors to create the masterpiece for the client.

However, I've come across some questions that hinge on "the basics" and so I thought I'd offer this primer in color combination.

One person asked, "How do I create blue?" Blue cannot be created. There are three primary colors from which all colors are derived. The three primaries are red, yellow and blue. These colors cannot be created. They just "are".

Another situation that comes up is "My black (or grey) looks green (or sometimes purple)?" Theoretically, when the three pure primary colors are mixed, we get black. I say "pure" because there are different grades of color and pure colors are usually only found in laboratory settings. When you and I mix the three primaries, we get something close to black.

But why does it look green? Here's a list of the color combos:

Yellow + Blue = Green
Yellow + Red = Orange
Blue + Red = Purple
Yellow + Blue + Red = Black

So if your black icing looks green, that means you have a lot of yellow and blue and you are short on red. The ratio of color is out of balance. Add a tiny touch of red to balance the colors.

If your black icing looks purple, that means you have a lot of red and blue and you are short on yellow. Add a tiny touch of yellow to balance the colors.

The base color used can also impact the color. If someone wants to tint some chocolate to a red color, remember that since red is a primary color, it cannot be created. Adding red to a brown chocolate makes a brown-red color ... not a pure red.

I make a cookie that has a butter-powdered sugar filling. Making a blue or a red filling is difficult because of the yellow color in the butter. Adding red coloring to yellow butter will give me orange, so I have add a LOT of red to the butter (and usually the best I can get is pink!) Adding blue coloring to yellow butter will give me green, so I have to add a LOT of blue coloring to the butter. Keep the base color in mind when mxing colors.

Color can be complicated but if the baker keeps in mind that all colors come from red, yellow and blue, it can be less stressful.

Knowing what you have (in the color mixture) can let you know what you need (to get the color desired).

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Bakers: Help in Pricing a Wedding Cake

A question asked frequently ...... FREQUENTLY...... in the cake world is "How much should I charge for this cake?"

It's not a simple question. Most bakers struggle with coming up with a good pricing structure that works for their business. There are SO many factors to consider: cost of ingredients, overhead, labor costs (most bakers overlook this because they fail to factor in their time as an expense), skill value and more. Even what part of the country a baker is in can be a factor. New York wedding cakes have a higher cost base than, let's say, one I would make here in Indiana simply because I can rent a shop much cheaper in Indiana than what a baker would have to pay in New York, making my overhead much lower than the NY baker.

One of the best articles on this topic is from my friends at Cakeboss Software for Bakers. Here is the link to their article. If you are a new baker who is just setting up a pricing structure for a new business (or an "old" baker who struggles with pricing in general!), I'm sure you'll want to print out this article and hang it next to your desk area for easy reference!!