Sunday, May 24, 2015

Craftsy Class Review-- The Perfect Finish: 25 Realistic Techniques

The following contains affiliate links, but the opinions are all mine.

The Perfect Finish: 25 Realistic Techniques covers ways to get realistic-looking fruits and vegetables textures to use on cakes. It was taught by Amber McKenney, who owns Sweet on Cake in California, and who seems to do a lot of wine and cheese cakes.

She covers the fruit and veg textures, and also goes over how to make crackers, wine bottle cakes and the wooden-look fondant boxes for the bottles. Not much of this is new information, but the good thing about it is that she shows you have to do things using some basic tools. You won't have to go out and buy a lot of different tools to make the basic items.

The drawback to the class is that she does the coloring of the fruit and vegetables with an airbrush, so if you don't have one of those you're slightly out of luck. You can adapt the coloring to use with petals dusts or painted-on food coloring, but it won't look the same, and it will be more difficult.

She also uses a torch for the crackers, using the flame to caramelize the gumpaste. Again, is you have a torch you're fine, but if you don't you won't be able to do it this way. (Here's a video I did showing how to make pizza crust using the came method in case you're interested: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EGIRaENGOro )

The other drawback to this class was that it might not be the kind of thing that you're going to get a lot of orders for. She said that she's located in the Napa Valley, so she does a lot of wine bottle cakes with the grapes and cheese plates to go with them, but I can count on one hand the number of that type of cake I've been asked to do in the last 16 years. This is the kind of novelty decorating that people do that is cute, but isn't something that you're going to use a lot.

Having said that, you can use the techniques shown to make other things, and they might make you think of ways to do things that use common kitchen tools that you already have.

My final review:

Skill level: Beginners who own airbrushes.
Equipment you have to have: Basic gumpaste tools, airbrush, culinary torch, paintbrushes, etc.
Sleep-inducing level: Not bad at all. They kind of rush through some stuff that's repetitive, so that's actually a good thing compared to other classes I've seen.
What it assumes you already know: Basics of gumpaste.
Unnecessary Difficulty Level Of Methods Demonstrated: She warns repeatedly about gumpaste drying out really fast...She uses so much corn starch it's no wonder it dries out. I can leave my gumpaste out and it will come right back with a little crisco kneaded in, but if I was using as much corn starch as she does it would end up being dry and crusty. 
Annoying Host Habits: She talks really fast, which is okay but started to wear on me.
Level of Helpful Hints Learned: Lots of basics covered with a good number of tricks and tips thrown in.


Go here for the class: The Perfect Finish


Kara Buntin owns A Cake To Remember LLC, custom wedding cakes in Richmond VA

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Grey and Yellow Lace Wrap Cake


This cake had a grey fondant lace wrap at the base of the tiers and yellow gumpaste hydrangeas with a gumpaste bird's nest topper.

To attach the bird on the side of the tier to the cake, make it on a skewer so that you can stick the skewer into the cake and secure it that way.


Kara Buntin owns A Cake To Remember LLC, custom wedding cakes in Richmond VA, and cake supplies at www.etsy.com/shop/acaketoremember

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

What To Do When A Bride Cancels The Wedding

It will happen to everyone eventually...A bride will cancel her wedding. This leaves her vendors in the position of deciding what they should do and how to handle things on their ends.

Almost four years ago I wrote about this exact thing, but a friend recently went through this with one of her clients so I thought I'd add a few more thoughts.

First, have a policy in place about deposits and what is and isn't refundable. Non-refundable deposits are just that. They reserve a date and make you turn away other business. They also pay the cost of the time that you put in for meetings, emails, sketching, paperwork and planning. So always have something in your contract about what's refundable at what point in the process and what isn't.

Let's say a bride emails you to say that she's cancelling. The first thing you should do is make sure it came from the email address you've been using to communicate with the bride. I had a bride whose sister thought it would be hilarious if she cancelled a bunch of things that her sister had booked, including the honeymoon. So never take one email or a vague phone message as a verification of a cancellation. No matter how uncomfortable it is, speak to someone in person, whether the bride or her mother. Even calling the venue to see that they spoke to the bride or her mother would be better than nothing. Be sensitive, but you need to make sure that the reception is, indeed, cancelled.

Always get a cancellation in writing, though, so make sure that they email you eventually for your records!

When you decide on what should be refunded, any refunds should go to the person who made the payment, preferably in the same form that they paid you. Write a check if it was a check payment, or issue a paypal or credit card credit if that's how they paid you, It makes the paper trail much simpler to follow, and you don't want to get involved in a family fight about who got repaid if you refund to the bride when it was her parents who paid you originally.

What about the worst-case scenario? The cake is baked and decorated (or almost decorated) and you get the call. That's the worst...But you have to do the same thing. First verify the cancellation, check with the venue to make sure the event was called off, and get it in writing from the bride or her parents. Be careful not to ask personal questions no matter how curious you are about why she called it off, and keep the conversation professional and kind...She doesn't need to hear "You're better off cancelling before it's too late" right at that moment.

You can ask if they want to donate the cake to a local charity and offer to deliver it there and send them a receipt. The Ronald McDonald House, homeless shelters, and other groups are always willing to accept donations for the people who are staying there. They can send the family a receipt directly.

Some people will still want the cake. I had one bride who cancelled the wedding AFTER the rehearsal dinner when a few unsavory facts about her fiance came to light. The cake was ready to be delivered, but I unassembled it so that it was individual tiers and brought it to the hotel where her 150 out-of-town guests were staying. I guess they served it, but at least it didn't look like a tiered wedding cake to add insult to injury.

In cases like that the cake has been paid for and made, and there should be no refunds. But all of that should be covered in your contract in the section covering cancellations. If you don't have one of those sections in your contract, put one in right now. You may never need it, but when you do you really do.

And finally, if you're ever in a position where you have a wedding cancellation after the cake was paid in full, but before you've done any work on it, consider bending the rules in the spirit of not rubbing salt in the wound. Refund some of what they paid you after your time and expenses up to that point are covered. If you can't do it then don't, but if it's two weeks before the wedding and you haven't done any gumpaste flowers or ingredient shopping for it, consider it. Sometimes it's just good karma to throw some kindness to someone when they're having a crappy day.


Kara Buntin owns A Cake To Remember LLC,custom wedding cakes in Richmond VA


Monday, May 18, 2015

Craftsy Class Review: Sugar Flowers Off The Garden Path

Craftsy Cake Decorating ClassThis article contains affiliate links, but the opinions are all mine!

Sugar Flowers: Off the Garden Path was taught by Alan Dunn, who also taught the Tropical Sugar Flowers class. His flowers are highly detailed and realistic, but he makes the process of making them easy.

He covers a few different wildflower-type flowers in this class, so they might not be anything that you're going to be asked to make by a customer. I can't think of the last time someone said that they were having nasturtiums on their wedding cake. However, the techniques that he uses are transferable to other types of flowers, and the skills that you'll learn in the class are well worth watching it.

The downside is that the time involved in making these is a lot more than making a simplified version of each flower. If you're going to make your flowers this realistic you need to make sure to price them so that you're making more than $3 an hour, because they'll be time-consuming to do well.

He covers daisies, nasturtiums and foxgloves, plus their buds and leaves. He also goes over some filler plants including my enemy, Virginia Creeper. I can attest to the fact that Virginia Creeper creeps everywhere n Virginia and is highly annoying, so I doubt that I'll be making any of that. After pulling ten million feet of it out of my garden every year it isn't something that I want to spend time recreating in gumpaste.

My final review:

Skill level: Intermediate or a beginner who's willing to work slow and pay attention
Equipment you have to have: Cutters. veiners, wire, gumpaste, the usual.
Sleep-inducing level: Not bad, other than how long it takes to go through each flower because of the detail involved,
What it assumes you already know: Basics of gumpaste.
Unnecessary Difficulty Level Of Methods Demonstrated: He does things the slow way a lot of the time. He does acknowledge that he does that, though, but says that it works better for him and that you can do things a different way if it works better for you.
Annoying Host Habits: Nothing much.
Level of Helpful Hints Learned: There are a lot of helpful gumpaste tips in this class. Well worth the price at full price.


Go here for the class: Sugar Flowers: Off The Garden Path


Kara Buntin owns A Cake To Remember LLC, custom wedding cakes in Richmond VA, and is a Craftsy affiliate.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

How To Capitalize On A Trend

Prepare to make a naked cake and dessert buffets...They're trending.
We've all seen trends that we wished would die a quick death. (Can you say "purple"?) But when a trend comes along that you can use to increase your business, why not capitalize on it? Purple isn't so annoying when it increases your bottom line.

How do you identify trends? By being both proactive and also by reacting to what's right in front of your face. The trends that cake decorators push aren't always what brides end up ordering, so you need to think like a customer, not like a decorator.

If you're seeing tons of lace on the wedding dresses this season, the cakes will follow. Get your lace techniques in gear. 

If certain colors are going to be big next year because they're being used in fashion this year, use those colors in your display cakes.

Check on Pinterest and do a search for weddings to see what brides are pinning. Pinterest is both a nightmare of inflated expectations and a gold mine for seeing what's going around in bridal circles.

If you pay attention to what you see online and in print, you'll be able to predict what's coming. And you can prepare and ride that trendy wave.

Being proactive is important, but you should also be reactive when it comes to this kind of thing. Let's say that you have three clients bring in the same photo of the same cake one after another. Maybe you should do some kind of analysis about why that cake is popular, and do something similar to slap up on your website. If that's what's popular right now, you should capitalize on that glimpse of the bride's brain right now. It might not be the cake that they end up ordering, but it will attract customers and that gets your foot in the door.

Ask questions, too. If you ask those three brides who brought in the same pinterest picture what they like about that cake, you might be able to pinpoint something that you can use in other cake designs that will be equally as popular.

So ask questions, pay attention, and be ready to act on the information. Trends can work to your advantage if you're willing to use them to attract customers' attention. Whether they end up buying the trend or not, getting people in your door is the first step.


Kara Buntin owns A Cake To Remember LLC, custom wedding cakes in Richmond VA. Shop online at www.etsy.com/shop/acaketoremember  or www.acaketoremember.biz