Every time I do cake consultations, I have at least one person ask me how long it takes to make a cake. I know that the motivation is usually curiosity, but I'm reluctant to answer it because it's a loaded question.
Let's say that I made a cake that cost $500 once everything is added in. If I told you it took me three hours to decorate the cake, you'd mentally divide $500 by 3 and think that I was raking in the bucks. But that's wayyyyy off the mark.
First, you'd have to take out my expenses: The cost of the ingredients, boards, gas to drive to the store, and wear and tear on my car (if I didn't have to deliver the cake I wouldn't have hit all of those potholes). Also electricity to run the oven and refrigerator and the cost of the hot water I used to wash all of the pans. And insurance payments, health inspection fees, incorporation fees, etc.
Oh, and speaking of cleaning, I probably spend about an hour for every five hours of decorating and baking time doing the cleanup. (I rarely get sick, which is one benefit of that, because I have my hands in hot soapy water so much of the time.)
Then there's the baking time. A three or four-tiered wedding cake probably takes about three to four hours to measure out all the ingredients and bake, so you have to include that. And you also have to include the time it takes to do the prep work for the fillings and icing for the cakes, which is usually done in the days before it's baked. And you have to include any time that's spent making flowers, sugar bows, or other decorations in advance.
And then there's the shopping time, and the paperwork, and the time I spend answering emails and the phone. And I'm sure that I'm missing something, so if any other bakers have things to add, feel free!
So how long does a cake take? The simple answer would be "X number of hours," but the truth is that so much goes into the preparation and execution of each cake, you can't give it a definite number. I do cakes full-time, and I spend at least 40 hours a week doing everything needed, if not more. During the busy season I probably work closer to 60-70 hours a week.
After all expenses and time are taken into consideration, I probably make about $15-20 an hour. That's a far cry from dividing $500 by three. And that's also before I pay income tax and my physical therapy bill to fix the bad back I have from standing on my feet in the kitchen so much.
Now excuse me while I go raise my prices! ;)
Kara Buntin owns A Cake To Remember LLC, custom wedding cakes in Richmond VA, and cake supplies online at www.acaketoremember.biz and www.acaketoremember.etsy.com