Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Don't Take The Job If You Don't Know What You're Doing

I once received an email from someone I had never heard of, asking me for some cake instructions. Actually, it went something like "Send me detailed instructions on how to make your pirate ship cake. Thanks in advance."

Are you serious? Needless to say, I did not send said instructions, which I would have had to write up from scratch.

Today one of my friends received a similar request for instructions to a very complicated cake that she'd made. The worst part of this request, though, was that the person said that they had a customer who'd placed an order for it, and she needed to know how to make it.

One of the most annoying things that experienced decorators come across in cake forums and emails are the requests for detailed instructions for cakes from people who have already taken an order for said cake.

Don't get me wrong, I get requests for help figuring details out all the time and I don't mind that. It's when it's a "give me all the information that I made no effort to try to figure out on my own and I also need a recipe and I want it NOW" that isn't going to get a response.

Trying out new designs can be fun. However, if you have to ask someone for detailed instructions from start to finish, you might not want to take an order for that design QUITE YET.

"But Kara..." I hear the protests starting..."How will I be able to learn new skills if I can't do new designs? Everyone has to start somewhere!"

That's true, but a cake for a paying customer isn't the place to experiment.

If you can look at a photo of a cake and say "That's piped, that's made with gumpaste, I've seen how to do this tier, I can handle that" then go for it. But if you look at it and think "I've never seen that, is it buttercream or fondant? How do you make that effect on the tiers?" you might want to investigate before booking that particular job.

I did cakes for long enough that I can look at something and figure out how to make it. And I also know whether I'll be able to adapt it to buttercream, or whether it can be done in a less-complicated way, or whether I'll be able to do it at all. Some things can't be done, depending on the design, materials, reception site and setup, and any other number of variables.

If you're not sure, don't take the job.

Before you start experimenting with new designs and end up disappointing someone who will turn you in to Cake Wrecks, wait and investigate first. Google exists for the purpose of searching for answers, so start there. If you research and you're still not sure, pass on the job unless you have time to practice first.

And whatever you do, don't randomly write to people and say "I'll be waiting for the detailed instructions, just write that up for me, and I need them in a couple of days." Because chances are you're still going to be waiting when the couple of days are up.

Kara Buntin owns A Cake To Remember LLC in Richmond VA, and cake supplies online at www.acaketoremember.com and www.acaketoremember.etsy.com

Friday, September 23, 2016

Cake Scams and How To Spot Them.

Scammers are relentless...In the last few days I've heard of three scams going on, one involving cake, one involving an Etsy seller, and one involving my son, who got a phone call from a scammer trying to get him. Of course, since he's my kid and has heard all about these idiots before, he basically told them to go pound sand. But not everyone is aware of the ways that scammers try to get you, and they do fool people.

Here's a video explaining how the basic scams work, and some phrases and clues to look for when you're trying to decide whether something is legitimate or not. There are definite similarities and patterns, so familiarize yourself so that you don't get swindled.

To see some examples of common cake scams, read my Fun With Email Scammers page. 

And for more business videos, sign up for my VIP Club to get access to the private video channel for members only :)

Kara Buntin owns A Cake To Remember LLC in Richmond VA, and cake supplies online at www.acaketoremember.com and www.acaketoremember.etsy.com

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Colored Luster Dusts Vs. Regular Pearl Dust

I had to do some luster dusting of some red fondant pearls last week, right at the same time a question came up on The Cake Board about the best way to pearlize colored pearls so that the color didn't disappear.

I've used regular pearl dust on colored pearls before, and it basically changes the color so much they don't look colored anymore.

So I did three versions of the pearls. First, here they are, undusted:

Her are some with regular pearl dust on them:

Not really red anymore...So I added some red Crystal Color dust to it:

More red, but kind of speckly. that would work in a pinch, but the best potion was to use a colored pearl dust. This is the Crystallized Pearl from Crystal Colors in red:

That resulted in the best coverage and color, without leaving a speckled look to the pearls.

There are a lot of colored pearl dusts, but the Crystal Colors are FDA approved for food use, so people can eat them. In the case of fondant pearls that's helpful because the pearls are often attached to the sides of the cake tier and are served with the cake.

Kara Buntin owns A Cake To Remember LLC in Richmond VA, and cake supplies online at www.acaketoremember.com and www.acaketoremember.etsy.com

Friday, September 16, 2016

Quick Tip On How To Store Petal Dusts So that You Don't Have To Throw Out The Extra

I use petals dusts pretty much every day, so that would end up being a lot of wasted dusts if I threw away the extra each time I get them out.

Here's a quick tip on how I store my petal dusts for future use. Doing it this way prevents a lot of waste because you don't have to throw the excess out every time you have to dust something.

Kara Buntin owns A Cake To Remember LLC in Richmond VA, and cake supplies online at www.acaketoremember.com and www.acaketoremember.etsy.com

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Customers and Decorators Like Different Things. Who Do You Want To Impress?

I've been thinking about this recently because of a series of events that started with Russian piping tips. I really think that this is something that cake business owners should consider if they want to maintain their incomes (or grow their incomes) over the long run.

The basic idea is that decorators tend to spend so much time communicating with other decorators, we tend to forget that they're not the people we should be listening to. We should be listening to our customers, who are, after all, the ones who are paying us.

I've mentioned the sharp edges thing many times before...It used to be that a soft, rounded edge on fondant was what people aimed for. Then decorators decided that a sharp edge was the goal. It's not if you asked my customers, they all seemed to prefer a softer edge.

Listening to your customers is always good for business. Some of the best-sellers in my online shops came from suggestions from customers. I'm going to be designing some new products soon based on requests from customers, because that's the best marketing research there is.

So about the Russian piping tips...I did a video on how to use them, and the majority of decorators' comments about them were that they looked kind of sloppy, not precise enough, too soft, etc. etc. I thought it was interesting, then, that everyone who saw them who was NOT a decorator loved them.

I took some of the cupcakes that I made in the video to a birthday party, and I heard one guest say "I wish I could make my cupcakes look like this, they never come out this nice." The photographer who was doing the project with the tips looked at them and said "Those are beautiful!" and another person said "those are so cute!"

Another incident along the same lines...I took a cake to the same party, and I had to kind of dial it in because I ran out of time. It was fine, but it was a lot of colored icing piped on with round tips to make seaweed and some orange fish on it. So I was feeling guilty that it wasn't more elaborate, but when I put it on the table at the party people started taking pictures of it. There were people who didn't know that I'd made it who were talking about how good it was...again, a different idea of what's good.

My point is that we need to listen to our customers more. I think that people spend so much time online trying to get validation from other decorators, we tend to put too much pressure on ourselves to be perfect according to some random standard that other decorators have created. If you ask your customers what they'd like to see, you might find out that they want things that are totally different from what you think people want.

I used to ask the brides who came to tasting appointments a lot of questions about what they liked and didn't like about cake designs, and it was always interesting to hear their responses. They generally didn't know or care about what cake decorators thought was important. They liked what they liked, not what decorators were saying was "in" or "out."

So relax a little and don't worry about the opinions of people you've never met, who won't be buying anything from you anytime soon, and who live in places where the trends are totally different from where you are. Work on figuring out what's in demand in your area and do that. Your business will be more successful if you're actually selling what people want to buy.

Kara Buntin owns A Cake To Remember LLC in Richmond VA, and cake supplies online at www.acaketoremember.com and www.acaketoremember.etsy.com