Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Cake Forums--Caveat Emptor

Every now and then I'll mention something about online cake forums to brides, and they always seem to be surprised that they even exist.

Oh, yes, they exist. They exist, all right.

There are three or four big ones in the U.S. that get a lot of traffic, and although they do have uses they also contain a hideous amount of weirdness much of the time.

When I tell brides why they should hire someone established with insurance and a business licenses, I'll often refer them to these boards. I tell them about the number of posts that say things like "I told my friend I'd make her wedding cake. How do I make a wedding cake? Do I need special pans? How many ingredients should I buy? Oh, and it's for tomorrow night, so should I do it in the morning or wait until the afternoon so it will be fresh?"  The brides don't usually believe me, but I just tell them to go take a look for themselves.

These cake communities are a totally mixed bag. Some of the business owners on some of them are very successful and you can trust their advice, but others...not so much. The problem is, they're all giving advice, and they all present themselves as successful. Unless you know who they are and what their track record is, how do you know who to believe?

I don't really consider the big boards my "community" other than for seeing what's going on in cakes outside of my little part of the world. I do have a smaller board that I go on that's a private one made up of about 10-15 people who met each other on one of the larger boards, and that's where I go for REAL advice about cakes.

Do you use facebook as a meeting place? Is that too big to really be a community? It's fun to have ten million fans, but what does that really mean? Not a whole lot if you don't know who any of them are. There might be ten out of that ten million who you do know, and who post regularly. That would make them your community, I suppose.

Where do you go if you're looking for cake advice? Is there one board that you like, or is there a specific group that you refer to when you want a straight answer?



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

6 comments:

Sweet Flamingo Cake Co. said...

I can't agree more. I am a member of one of the big ones, and over the last couple of years I have gotten more and more frustrated with the advice & information (or lack thereof). The idea of being able to learn from (and get to know) a small close-knit group of knowledgeable people would be wonderful.

Kara Buntin said...

Definitely...The group that I belong to is a good group of people of all skill and professional levels. Some work form home, some own shops, some are hobby bakers. But they all know what they're doing, and many of them are on the larger boards and still get flack from people for answering a question when it's asked. People don't always want their question asked when they post them on those boards, they want someone to say that it's okay to do what they want to do. If you want a real answer, you could get together with a smaller group and start your own board for professional advice or baking help, with the rule being that you have to actually give a straight answer!

cakesandcruffles said...

I created a small forum on my website that is private (so people don't just stumble onto it while browsing my website) for this exact reason. It is composed of just a few bakers within about a 50 mile radius of me. We are all legal bakers - state inspected and insured (wink, wink... you know what that means if you also belong to one of the big cake communities). Some of us are legal home bakers, some have commercial kitchens and one I personally "pen-pal" with has a storefront bakery. The reason I started a personal, private forum is because of the craziness on the large cake community boards. Sometimes I read a post that I want to know the answer to - and the discussion turns so sour that I don't end up reading far enough to see if the question ever was answered. I have also had a question, but never posted it because I was afraid of how ugly it can get. Now our little group can bounce ideas, problems and suggestions off of each other without all the weirdness. A private forum is a great solution!

Kara Buntin said...

I tried to do something similar about 5 years ago for local bakers here, but it never caught on. It's good to have a group of people who are close to you geographically so that you can talk about trends in your local market and refer business to each other. You have to be careful who you invite to be on that kind of board, though, if you all know each other personally and you're also business "rivals." ;)

Canterbury Cakes said...

I contribute to a smallish closed facebook group which started out from a mummies-network. I guess a few people found they had a common interest of setting up a home baking business while they had young kiddies and it grew from there. I found it incredibly useful when I first started out. Generally it's a really nice supportive group, although occasionally it's been invaded by trolls, but the admins soon dispatch them...

Cat said...

I was also a member of a "big caking community" and was fortunate enough not to be able to log back on when they "upgraded" to the site to a vastly inferior format.
There were about a dozen posters with good sound advice. You were one of them Kara.
The rest just vanished so I never bothered creating new passwords/usernames etc. I am strictly a hobbyist though I've baked for 40 yrs.
This forum is now an ego stroking bland and barely used place only useful if trawling ancient posts, however it did lead me here so I can keep up to date with what's happening in the "real world" of cakes.