Friday, August 16, 2013

If You Can't Say Something Nice...Tell The Truth.

I've noticed that a lot of newbie decorators are overestimating their abilities in a not-so-good way.

It's one thing to be confident and try new things, but it's another to go online and post questions about "how do I make this cake" with photos of carved tiers covered in fondant and gilded royal icing  scrollwork. I've seen a lot of extremely complicated photos being used to demonstrate what the final cake needs to look like alongside a request for tips on "what pans do I need to buy to make this cake."

The problem with this isn't that people are trying to do something new, it's that they're trying to do something new but they've already promised someone, usually a bride, that they can do it for their wedding cake. This is a surefire way to end up on the cakewrecks "what the bride ordered/what she got" page. This won't only affect the beginning decorator, it's going to affect someone's wedding reception, and not in a positive way.

I'm going to suggest something that a lot of people (probably the ones who go online to ask how many cake pans they need to make a wedding cake) won't like. If you are an experienced decorator, and you see someone asking questions that guarantee that they're trying to reach waaaay outside their ability level, tell them to stop. You can be nice about it, but be honest.

Tell them that the cake they're trying to imitate is probably more ambitious than they realize. Tell them that if they're asking if anyone has a recipe for a wedding cake they shouldn't be selling cakes yet. Tell them that they shouldn't be experimenting on someone's wedding cake. Tell them that if they have to ask how to make a gumpaste rose, they shouldn't be trying to do a Sylvia Weinstock design. Just tell them.

Don't worry about being called mean, or being called a bully (the most overused term of the year, IMO), because that's what's going to happen anytime you tell someone what they don't want to hear. It's one thing to encourage someone, but when I see people respond to this kind of question with "Oh, you're going to do fine!" I shudder for the bride's sake. I know they're not going to do fine, you know they're not going to do fine, and isn't it better to tell them that they should probably scale their plans back a little?

There's nothing wrong with having the first wedding cake that you make be a simple design. There's nothing wrong with learning to bake before you start selling baked goods. There's nothing wrong with learning new skills before you need them. There is something wrong with using a paid cake as your learning curve.

If you can't look at a picture of a cake and see exactly what you need to do to make it, don't promise anyone that you can. Investigate it first, then let them know yes or no about whether you can pull it off. And if another decorator tells you that you should practice before promising, don't call them a bully, tell them thank you for giving you a reality check. Then start practicing.


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

15 comments:

Jamie said...

Amen! Sharing this in many places!

Lize van den Heever said...

Well said! I could not agree more! You do not accept an order and only THEN try and find someone to teach you how to do it, 2 days before it is due! What makes me even angrier, is that it is these "decorators" that sometimes grossly under-quote, and thus get the business, only to end up ruining someone's special day. All you are doing in that instance is giving a bad rep to decorators in general, and contributing to the public perception that designer cakes can be cheaply done by anyone with an oven.

Kara Buntin said...

Lize, not only that, but when there are enough people who drain business from competent decorators by overpromising what they can't deliver, it drives good people out of business! People need to stop telling newbies that they can do things that they obviously can't and give them a dope slap of reality instead.

Jamie said...

I say this applies to any occasion cake too, there are plenty party cakes nowadays outshining and out costing a lot of wedding cakes!

giraffescanbake said...

couldn't agree more!

krista54 said...

exactly

Le Cupcake said...

Can I add to this...those who can't make cakes AND use other cake companies photos!!!

Le Cupcake said...

Can I add to this...those who can't make cakes AND use other cake company pictures!!!!!

RoyalBakery said...

I had someone ask this question on my Facebook Page last month: "I have taken an order for a Ferrari cake and have not idea how to do it. Can you make me a tutorial?" I was incredulous and told her so, and was told that I had hurt her feelings. Unbelievable. I couldn't agree more with this!

Kara Buntin said...

Royal Bakery, I can't even think of anything to say to that because it's so bizarre and yet totally typical. If I can use it as an example of what not to do I'd like to add that to my list of things to blog about, though! Holy cow...

Buttercream Dreams, LLC said...

I too have noticed a lot of that, and just shake my head. I have personally turned down job because I am not comfortable with what they are asking for...no way do I want to end up on Cake Wrecks. :-) Not sure I could tell them not to do it, but have thought it. I would rather lose the job than promise to do something I cannot deliver on. Good blog...

lyndsay said...

oooh i absolutely agree. if someone inquires with me for a cake that is above my head, i will politely pass them along to a few other stellar cake makers in town. in my earlier days i did take on work that i wasn't quite sure how it was made... but i would work very hard (and be very stressed!) trying to figure it out... nowadays i know what's smart and just pass it along to those who know what they're doing!! (ie, ferrari cake!!!)

Pure Indulgence said...

Hi everyone, to add to your comments, I am a newbie, a student. One thing I have learned in my short two years is if I see something I like, I practice and practice the design technique and change it to make it mine. I also pull every tute I find online and practice until I can do it in my sleep, I get advice from my instructors, go to every competition and trade show that I can,and practice, practice, practice. It's gotten to the point where I only have cakes in my frig. But I love this industry and will be doing this for the rest of my life. I also never promise something that I can't deliver.

DianeB said...

This is a great article, very well written! After 10 years of decorating I'm NEVER afraid to say something is out of my comfort zone (3D cars, for example), and my customers always appreciate my honesty. I'm also happy to recommend someone that does specialize in this, so it's a win win for all involved. Thank you for this article!

holdoll said...

Thanks for your honesty Kara, you are always so refreshing!