Monday, August 1, 2011

Freak Baking Injuries

No, You don't want to see what's under there.
I cut my fingers open a few weeks ago because I was being "not as careful as I should have been" with the Agbay cake leveler while cutting styrofoam.

(I've since spoken to Maureen Agbay, and she told me that they have a special blade for styrofoam. Duh... So don't do what I did!)

This wasn't the first time I'd sustained a cake-related injury, and I'm sure it won't be the last. If you look closely at my forearms you'll see the many "Baker's Tattoos" that I have, which are the straight-line scars from burning myself on hot oven racks.

I've had to go to physical therapy and get needling treatments (which are awesome and really work, I recommend it) because of my lousy posture that comes from holding heavy cakes with my left hand while icing them with my right. This apparently throws you off balance enough that it messes up your hips and shoulders.

I get a headache every Saturday night after three days of standing at the kitchen counter tilted slightly sideways while I bake and decorate.
And speaking of shoulders, I have a bad one that results in my entire right arm going numb if I hold it in the wrong position. That comes from years of mixing things and generally abusing myself.

I'm lucky that I don't have carpal tunnel syndrome, which is very common among bakers. There's also a delightful condition called "occupational asthma" that you can get from inhaling flour and other small particles.

I live with aches and pains that come with this profession, so when I cut myself open I curse a little, wrap it up and keep working, no big deal. But I really don't want to develop asthma for the long run.

A little prevention can go a long way. Wear earplugs if you're using a loud mixer (I'm serious...I've dealt with enough deaf people to be concerned about this too.) Use a dust mask if you're airbrushing color so that you don't inhale it. Stop for 5 minutes every hour to stretch your shoulders out and stand up straight (your mother was right.)

And be careful with knives. They can be pretty dangerous.

 Kara Buntin owns A Cake To Remember LLC in Richmond VA, and cake supplies online at and


Maxine said...

I hear you loud and clear...

Every hour i stop and stretch and then do the bending over thing touching the floor with my hands so as to help ease my hip pain.

Last year i went and bought a piece of dense foam (about 3' x 3') which has worked a treat instead of standing on just the hard concrete/tiled floor)

Plus i have learnt to sit my cakes on a chest height bench now when i am decorating - so as i am not looking down all the time.

Just little things like this have helped me eleviate alot of should/hip and back pain.

Then after a hot shower at night time (cough, make that early morning) i rub either eucalyptus oil or tiger balm into my shoulders and if need be my right hip.... waking up feeling no aches or pains the next day.

I might smell like a tiger in the jungle but by god i feel good - lollll

A little spritz of perfume for the DH and we are all good... lolll

Probably toooo much informaion but hey - what ever helps us get through the night - :)


Anonymous said...

Thanks for blogging about this Kara. Sorry about your fingers & hope they will be good as new soon!

People do not realize just how physically demanding caking is. I have to admit that I was in the dark about this myself at first. I honestly get odd looks when I perchance get into a conversation with non-caking folks. They just don't get how UN-glamorous of a profession it really is. The looong amounts of time with body parts at odd angles and the repetition combined with hours of standing/sitting are killer! Occupational asthsma? I guessed all the flour, powdered sugar and Baker's Joy I inhale will get me somehow :\

Had to do all that Maxine listed and lol at the early a.m. shower comment as that is me just about every Fri nite.

Anyone get these hard tiny bumps on their fingers? They are hard, very sore and have a slightly dark center to them. I thought they were from kneading fondant with shortening but I get them other times as well. They just come and go but I never got them before caking. List them under weird caking injuries I guess.
cindy/cindy's cakery

Kara said...

That's a new one on me...I've never heard of that specificlly, but it sounds like something that would have appeared on my fingers when I used to do a lot of quilting. that was for stabbing myself with the needles, though.

SweetThingsTO said...

Great post! One tip I have is to wear gloves when washing dishes. You never realize how many dishes there are to wash and things to clean. One marathon day of caking - my hands were red and burning and I couldn't figure out why. It was from all the cleaning - caking isn't as glamorous as people think :-)