Tuesday, February 26, 2013

What is Reasonable?

As a cake decorator, there is a never-ending question being asked at all times... "what do I charge for my cakes?"  Any class you go to... any website discussion group.... this question has been posed a million times over and there is never a clear cut answer....

Nobody wants to charge too much, but we also want to be compensated for our time and artistry.  If you've ordered a custom birthday cake from someone who specializes in creating custom cakes.... most likely, everything for your cake was done specifically for "you".... The cake was baked for your order and not pulled from a stock of frozen cakes.... hopefully, it was made from scratch.... any tinted frosting or fondant was probably tinted specifically for your cake....

And what about the tools required to make these fabulous cakes?   You can only begin to image the amount of $$$ your decorator has spent on materials, classes, books, etc.... If we are doing this for a living (or trying to)... it's a passion... and we only want to be the very best we can.  Whether you went to culinary school or not, most cake artists have spent a LOT of time and money fine tuning, improving and perfecting their craft.

So, again... the million dollar question is always "what do I charge for my cakes?"  So while we, the cake decorator/baker/artist, continually asks "what should I charge".... perhaps we should be asking, "what would you pay?".  What is reasonable?  What are your expectations?   Before you answer, have you thought about the time and skill involved in creating your cake?

Let's look at this cake, for example.

All in all, it's a pretty straight forward design and not terribly complex... which was my initial reaction when asked to make the cake.   I'm not going to tell you what I charged for this cake, but... as it all too often happens... it was not enough.  Please don't get me wrong!  I don't feel taken advantage of or cheated in any way.  I was asked for a price to make this cake and I gave it... there was no "haggling" and my client was very pleased with the cake.  She's a repeat customer, a fantastic person, and someone I always want to please.

So let's talk about this cake... I baked the cake in 9X13 inch pans.  I had two pans of cake to work with.  I had to figure out exactly how to cut and assemble the cake to utilize as much of the cake as possible, create the desired shape, and minimize waste...  Okay... that part wasn't too bad.

Cost of the ingredients for the cake, filling, fondant, etc... I usually factor that in fairly accurately.  But... let's not forget that those things are a part of the expense of the cake.

And what about the board this cake sits on?  It's a foam board that I cut specifically to a size that worked for this cake.  Foam board costs money... then there's the covering of the foam board... also an expense... and what about the ribbon around the board?  Not a lot of money, but these little things can start to add up.

When you have a cake like this and the client is picking it up... they usually want their cake in a box... a typical, inexpensive cake box won't do.... for this cake, you need a corrugated box... another expense... and significantly higher than the typical cake box.

So now I would direct your attention to the wheels on this truck... they are cake... so if you break it down... they are four TINY little cakes... they have to be iced and covered in fondant.  Ask any decorator... covering tiny cakes is a PAIN... and it takes time...

Let's look at the structure of this cake... it sits on a foam board cut to the size of the cake... which sits on two pieces of styrofoam cut to size and wrapped in black... this is what the wheels attach to and create the illusion of the truck actually being on wheels.  This is actually a very cost effective and structurally sound way to create the illusion that the cake/truck is actually supported by the wheels.

There is another board mid-way up the front of the truck to add additional support.

Now... the fondant... fondant can be made or purchased... purchased fondant is pricy!!! But... the quality is consistent... homemade fondant (usually tastes better) is significantly cheaper, but you have to take the time to make it.  Time = Money.

Tinting the fondant... on this particular cake, I have yellow, red, black and grey fondant.  Red and black fondant I ALWAYS purchase because the amount of food coloring required typically alters the texture of homemade fondant...  Getting the perfect "dump truck" yellow was tricky and required I think 3 different shades of yellow/gold/orange to create that color.

So... moving on to putting this cake together.

First, large foam board cut and covered to go with the theme of the cake;
Tint yellow fondant (black and red were purchased);
Next,  the cake had to be cut into pieces that could be assembled into a truck like shape;
Tires/circles are cut for the wheels
Tires are iced, covered and scored to look like tread;
Small foam boards cut to hold the cake and provide additional internal structure;
cake for the body of the truck is assembled, carved, filled and iced smooth;
cover the main body of the cake in fondant;
create sides for the dump/bed of the dump truck (these must be made out of gum paste and allowed to dry/harden before they can be attached to the cake.)
Wrap the styrofoam supports for the body of the truck; hot glue to foam board;
place the covered body of the truck onto the styrofoam supports;
attach tires to the supports on the side of the truck;
roll out and cut details - windshield, windows, bumpers, grill, headlights, tail lights, "happy birthday" message;
Attach details to the truck;
add detail of luster dust to windshield and windows to create more of a "window/glass" effect;
Attach pieces to the back of the truck to create the standing sides to the bed of the dump truck... you'll have to get creative to find various things to place in and around the cake to hold these items in place while the "glue" (edible) dries making a sturdy and sound structure.

Whew!  I think that just about does it.  So... I would ask you... what is a reasonable price to charge for this cake?  What would you consider reasonable to pay?    Just asking... we, in the cake decorating community, are always discussing this among ourselves.. I was curious as to what your thoughts, the consumer, were on this matter?

Regardless... this is what I LOVE doing... I am passionate about it, and the joy of a well received cake is pretty darn rewarding....

1 comment:

  1. I just want to add that.. I truly LOVE decorating cakes for people's special events. Sometimes I under charge for a cake just because I want to make "that" cake... It's so much fun to see someone's reaction when they see their cake for the first time... It just feels like a fine line... If I was in a position to give half my cakes away, I probably would... It is truly a joyful thing to do... to make someone's special day or event that much more special.