What goes into making a cake?

I decided to create today’s blog after a conversation yesterday with a close friend about my pricing structure and why I charge what I do for my cakes.


Why do my cakes cost what they do? I get asked this a lot. When I started building Pumpkins to Pearls and a customer would ask how much a cake was I would dread giving them an answer and I would wait for the response of “oh that’s above my budget” or “wow, that’s a lot” and even sometimes have no response at all. Obviously I had lots of customers that were more than happy to pay the price I had quoted and that was how I built my business. Rather than getting upset that not every quote I gave was accepted I learnt to realise that we were just not right for each other, they were not my customer, I was not their cake maker, and that’s fine. It would never have worked out ;)


So today I want to fill you in on exactly what you get when you buy one of my cakes. They are not just eggs and flour as has been pointed out to me before! Making a cake that is just right for my customer, from the first point of contact to the delivery, it is a long process. This process is what I am going to cover in this post.


I can break it down in to 5 main parts:


1. The order

2. Sourcing the ingredients and equipment

3. Baking & Decorating

4. Delivery

5. Behind the scenes


The Order

The very first part is where you contact me and ask me to make your cake. I get super excited at this point as it’s an opportunity to find out exactly what you need. When do you need it? What size do you need it to be? What’s the occasion? What design would you like? Some know all of this before they make contact, other people need me to explain sizes, ingredients, designs etc. and that’s fine, all part of the job and so important so that you know exactly what you’re ordering. I can then design and cost the cake and get back to you with a quote. When you buy one of my cakes you are buying a one off creation made just for you. I never reproduce cakes of others designs or my own. Therefore no quotes will be the same either.

When you know a lot about something it is easy to forget how much you knew when you first started learning about that particular subject. Icing is a great example; there are so many different types. The two most commonly used on celebration cakes are buttercream and sugarpaste. When I ask which one my customers want many don’t know what sugarpaste is, it is more commonly referred to by cake muggles as ready to roll or fondant.

I once had a lady ask me to cover an eggless cake in royal icing. Royal icing is made from egg whites. No judgement here. She is not an expert in icing. I am though. It is my job to know these things and explain them to my customer’s so that they know exactly what they are getting. It turns out she wanted sugarpaste.

So just getting to the point of knowing exactly what my customer wants can take a few hours to a few days of emails and messages backwards and forwards.


Sourcing the ingredients and Equipment

So now I know exactly what I’m making I need to source the ingredients and accessories, of course I have a stock cupboard of standard sized cake boards, boxes, ribbon, colouring pastes etc. but anything I don’t have needs to be ordered.



It is so important to me that my cakes taste as good as they look. To make this happen I make sure I use quality, fresh ingredients sourced as locally as possible. Some items I get delivered in bulk others I need to shop for as each cake needs to be made.


Baking & Decorating

Now for the fun part! Well it is to me anyway. I get lost in a world of my own when I’m baking. But baking is a science and over the years it is another skill that I have had to master. I know why you use each of the ingredients, be it to for flavour or texture and I know how to combine them to get the perfect rise and how long to cook them for the perfect texture.

I have to line my baking tin (using parchment paper which is a cost); I have to use equipment to mix the cake that I have purchased, over time these things need replacing, like anything that is used often. I have to use gas to heat the oven to bake the cake, this is also a cost. To be fair these sundries make up very little of the overall cost of a cake but they do need to be included.


Once the cake is removed from the oven and left to cool, it needs to be levelled, filled, crumb coated and chilled to create the prefect base for decoration. If I’m making a carved cake then this part can take much longer as it forms the biggest part of the design and once covered in sugarpaste mostly just needs colouring and contouring to create the desired effect. Check out my Turtle cake for an idea of a carved cake.



Now time for the creative part. The time it takes to decorate a cake depends on the design. I have spent more long hours studying sugarcraft and perfecting my skills. The beauty of a handmade cake is that any design can be realised. I have made dinosaurs, mermaids, aeroplanes, bouquets, comic book characters the list goes on and the options are endless.






Delivery


I offer an option of delivery or collection however in some cases delivery is essential as sometimes the cake needs to be set up at the venue. This can take a couple of hours sometimes. I need to make sure that the cake is set up in a place that is safe and secure until the time of the party. I need to make sure that the environment is ok for the cake too. It would be a really bad idea to have a buttercream or chocolate cake left in an outdoor marquee on a hot summer’s day, these things will have been discussed when designing the cake in the first place though.

I always present my cakes on a cake drum, edged with ribbon in a strong cake box for transportation and storage.


It is soon to be a legal requirement but a practice I have followed for a while to include a full list of all the ingredients in the cake with allergens highlighted so they easily recognised. I also include any information regarding structural supports and how to remove them, and how to store the cake to keep it at its best. As each of my cakes is made to order I don’t have a standard list to print, I have to make sure each list is updated for each cake.


Behind The Scenes


I need to thoroughly clean my kitchen and all of the equipment I am going to use. It costs me to purchase cleaning products and cloths. It also costs me to heat the water to clean effectively. I don’t have pets but I do have children!



My kitchen is inspected by the Environmental Health Officer from my local council and I’m proud to say I have a 5* hygiene rating and I plan to keep it!


5* hygiene ratings don’t come easily. I have had to complete food safety courses every couple of years to keep up to date with food safety regulations and allergen updates. Before and after I use my kitchen I have to fill in a diary with fridge temperature checks, record anything that has gone wrong and a cleaning check. I need a full list of all of my current suppliers and I have to label of my ingredients so I know exactly when I opened it and when it needs to be used by. This is far from the fun part of my job but it is a necessity.

Unfortunately there are bakers out there and they are not insured or registered with their local council and as boring as all this sounds it is so important. These regulations are put in place for the safety of both myself and my customer and each one of the people eating the cake that I have provided.




So In conclusion my point is that my customers are not just paying for raw ingredients. They are paying for my time, not just in making their cake but in the hours over the years that I have put into perfecting my craft. For my expertise.


I absolutely love what I do. I have a real passion for baking and decorating cakes but as Nessa would say for all you Gavin and Stacey fans “at the end of the day, when all is said and done” I am a business and my goal is to earn a living. I choose to make my living by creating your dream cake and helping you to make memories that will last well beyond the last slice of cake.


Thanks for reading

Kristy

xx

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