How much is this “Cake Decorating” thing going to cost? A lot. I mean a lot, a lot. Like, you may as well get the second mortgage now, and save yourself the headache. Don’t think of cakes as a hobby, or a business. Think of cakes as a big black hole where time, and money vanish into thin air. Ooh, the Bermuda Triangle! Think of it as the Bermuda Triangle..
Now if you aren’t a cake decorator, my advice is, run in the opposite direction. But if you are reading this, I’m sorry, I’m afraid it’s too late for you. You made your choice. So put on your big girl panties and buck up. Or should I say pay up. Things are about to get pricey.
Cake tools are generally speciality items, custom made for a particular design or cake style. They almost always don’t come with instructions, or even a photograph of a cake they make. I honestly wonder how any one of us manages to make anything in the beginning.
The first thing you need is cake pans; in 50 different shapes and sizes. In the beginning, you will most likely buy a new cake pan for every cake you make. This will prove to be expensive, but you’re still in a cake euphoria, so it’s all sunshine and rainbows. Then you need a rolling pin, or three, a cake turntable, fondant smoothers, piping bags, tips, petal dusts, flower cutters, wires, boards, spatulas, and that’s just the basics. I’ve discovered it’s quite possible to spend $500 in one day on flower cutters, and food colours, lets just say $5-10 each, times around twenty main colours should get you started. Then there’s the petal and luster dusts, about the same. Not to mention you still don’t have anything to decorate the sides of a cake. Throw in around six cake stencils, a few embossing mats, lots of cutters, and a dozen molds. Sprinkles, sparkles, little pearly things, ribbons, edible markers, food colours, toppers, and a cake leveller should do it. Oh who am I kidding? You’re not even half way..
Our first year of being a proper business, we made -$7000. We already owned most of these things, but with each cake order, came a long list of tools we didn’t own yet, and an ingredients list worth almost as much as the cake order itself. It’s expensive too, to fully stock yourself with ingredients. Flour isn’t purchased by the cup for each order, nor is tiny amounts of vanilla, or fondant. In the beginning especially, you need to outlay more money than the order, and be left with excess of everything. Now that’s fine if you have another order the following week, or a house full of teenagers. But in the beginning, often a particular type of cake will leave you with either buttermilk, sour cream or fruit that goes off before you get a chance you use it. Not to mention people who want cakes decorated with M&Ms, Maltesers or Oreos. You always have leftovers, but if you try to charge them for the entire packet, they flip out! My cupboard is full of packets of jelly beans with one or two colours removed, Oreo packets with six cookies taken out, and a liqueur cabinet filled with Baileys, Frangelico, Peach Schnapps and Brandy. I don’t even drink.. Who pays for this excess? Me. Always me.
So once you’ve made the cake, you need cake boards, royal icing to attach and cake boxes. Who knew cake boxes could be up to $6 for just a square box? I certainly didn’t. Again, that’s often not included in your pricing in the beginning. Even once you are established, people think you are stingy if you don’t throw that stuff in for free. What else should I throw in for free? My dignity? My self-worth? Please, take it. I’m obviously not using it.
Now don’t think I’m being negative, and all “I hate cake” “I wish I had never started” “All my clients suck”. I honestly do love what I do. But I want to make it perfectly clear, if you are looking to make money from cakes, the initial outlay with be five times what you think, and the ongoing costs will be double. That’s just reality. Not to mention, your crappy little oven will break down, your hand held mixer will pack it’s bag, leaving a note saying “I wasn’t made for this shit”, and your electricity bill will soar. Knowing all this, I would still have started caking, and that tells me something. I’m nuts. There, I said it. You just agreed. It’s okay, I had an inkling in high school that I was a little left of centre and round the corner. Truth be told, I don’t regret a second.
You may have noticed today that on YouTube, they have started a hashtag called #DearMe. It’s about what you would say to your past self. So to my 21 year old past self, who just picked up two cake books, an Alan Dunn, Tombi Peck and Tony Warren “Sugar Roses” book, and a copy of Debbie Brown’s “50 Easy Party Cakes”, I say, you’ve found it! You’ve found your home, your passion, and your community. You are going to work harder than ever, stress more, sleep less, cry, smash things sometimes, and feel like a failure. But you are on the right path, and nothing will stop you. Not being a terrible baker, and I was at the start, not collapsing and being hospitalised from lack of sleep. Not even spending more money than you had to make your dream a reality. Turns out you are quite the fighter! You may feel right now like you don’t fit in with most people, and you don’t know where your life is headed. But you have the man of your dreams by your side, together you will build the most amazing cake creations, teach others, and make friends with the most incredible people, who love and accept you for who you are.
I love this cake community. I am proud to say almost all my friends are cakers, and I feel incredibly blessed to have them in my life. So young Ness, things are about to get amazing, if you just trust your passion, and work your lil’ butt off.