What You Are Really Buying With A Custom Cake
Another day has come to pass and I realize that I simply do not have enough cake tools. Sure, I have my cake pans. And my fondant tools. And cookie cutters. And plungers. And molds. And decorating bags and nozzles. Sure, I take up an entire wall of my kitchen, the lower half of my pantry, and an entire cabinet in my kitchen with cake supplies and simply do not have room for more but, I just do not have enough! I have too much, but too little. I know, it sounds like a weird problem to have. But hear me out. When you call and ask me if I can do a cake, I have to figure out if I have the proper tools to do the design you are asking for. If I do not, I need to figure out if I have enough time to track down the item I would need, as oft times, it is not something you can find in the local stores. And if I am not able to acquire the needed tools, can I fake it?
Cake artistry is a complicated thing. I have to work with an ever changing medium. Is the cake going to be sponge or mud? What about fruit based or milk based? And the frosting...am I looking at a crusting buttercream or a meringue? Is the customer going to want ganache or fondant? And then I have to figure in how I can make the cake without any collapses. Baking a cake is chemistry. Decorating a cake is architecture. I did not go to school for either of those things. Gone are the days when people would come up and ask for a simple sheet cake with nothing more than "Happy Birthday!" haphazardly scrawled across the face of the cake. Today the market is flooded with trends that are full of double barreled cakes, buttercream transfers, three tiered birthday cakes, gold leaf, and many, many more. Each cake takes a different skill set. A skill set that I either need to have or am able to quickly and aptly learn. Take tiered cakes for example. Did you know that you have to have a cake board under the tiers and it needs to be properly doweled? I do. Now. I did not know in 2013 however. It was for my daughter's 4th birthday. She wanted Snow White's cottage with Snow White and all of her little woodland friends. I as so excited to attempt this cake. I was still relatively new to cake baking. I had only been doing it for three years and while I had finally figured out recipes, I was still struggling with decorating. And I certainly had never made a tiered cake before. I spent over 40 hours on this cake. I hand crafted every little animal, handmade Snow White and the wicked, evil witch. I had a itty bitty bird nesting contently on some itty bitty eggs that I had created. I had a little wooden stump with a little wooden ax. I hand rolled the thatch for the cottage for 18 straight hours, trying to make it look JUST right. It was marvelous!
Imagine my horror when we opened the box at the venue and I saw a collapsed cottage. I was devastated. I cried like a baby. Several people said they could not see it but I know, deep in my heart, that they saw it. There was no way around not seeing it. In the end, my daughter did not care, she was super happy with the cake. And it tasted amazing. But I learned a valuable lesson that day. Dowel my cakes! And I have yet to have another cake collapse.
Why do I bring this up? Because this is the experience you are paying for when you buy a custom cake. Chen you buy a custom cake, you are saying you want something special with a guarantee that it will look great. Chances are pretty high you would much rather have had me have that mistake on my own child's cake than for me to have that mistake on your child's cake. And since I have had that mistake, I now know how to properly prepare for it so it does not happen again. When I say custom cakes are expensive, what I am really saying is, my knowledge, my time, my experience, my artistic ability is really what is expensive. Anyone can make a cake taste decent. But it takes a special skill to make it look great...a skill that sometimes comes naturally but is usually learned. And if it comes from me, it is guaranteed to always be made with love...from me, to you.