Thursday, October 15, 2015

No Caking for Assholes, Lesson 1

Hi, there! There's a good chance this blog post is not for you. I'm teaching a class called "No Caking for Assholes" at Cake Fest next spring. This is an introduction to the kinds of things we'll talk about in that class. If you are a Cakeapotamus client, you're already not an asshole. Thanks for that! This blog post and the class it goes with are for cake decorators who want more clients like mine. I make cakes for some of the best people in the world- it's only fair I should share how I got so lucky.

Alright, cakers, this is for you. Lesson One in No Caking for Assholes. And it's really easy.

First, we have to define what makes someone an asshole. For our purposes, an asshole is someone who doesn't appreciate what you do. We've all heard it:

"For a cake?!?!"
"What's the cheapest thing I can get?"
"I'll just watch youtube and make it myself."

I've talked to a lot of cake decorators in person and online, and the number of crazy stories about unreasonable client requests in amazing. I mean, really, really crazy. It's not too surprising though. Everybody who works with the general public has a crazy story.


Sometimes, it isn't the client who's being unreasonable.

Sometimes, we set the tone for assholery.

I know, because I've been guilty of it. There are those days when you have all the ovens on, all the mixers going, the sink is full of bowls and pans that need to be washed, and you know you'll be up at least until midnight getting your orders done. Then the phone rings. And someone wants "just something simple" for this weekend.

Really? Who do they think they are, right? Calling YOU to ask for a cake when you're already up to your ears in work... what are they thinking?

Ummm... they're thinking they want a cake. And they thought of you. That's not a bad thing, you guys. They're not insulting you by waiting until the last minute to order. No crime has been committed here. Whether you can squeeze them in or not, you should thank them for thinking of you. You're not their mom- it's not your job to educate them on manners. I don't even think it's bad manners to try to give somebody your business.

If they ask, heck yes, tell them that booking 2, 4, 95 weeks in advance is what most of your clients do. But don't be a jerk about it. You want them to come back next time.

I know this because I'm a huge jerk. I'm blunt. I don't have a B.S.'er that enables me to be nice to people I don't like. It's not what I do. It's why I have an extremely talented crew of people who host parties for me. And so, it's taken me a while to learn this:

Lesson 1: Your clients won't appreciate what you do unless you appreciate them. 

It's not just a custom cake that you're selling. These people are coming to you, inviting you to be a part of their special event. A wedding, a birthday, a naughty bachelorette party.... whatever it is, it's special to them and they're considering  allowing you to be a part of it. Appreciate that.

If you sell cakes, you are not doing your clients a favor by making them a cake. You are doing a business transaction. Should they say, "Thank you?" Of course they should! But so should you.

When was the last time you did something to show you appreciate your clients? We've got two events coming up at Cakeapotamus this year: a Halloween party and a Cookies with Santa event. Both are free and open to the public. Because I really like the people I make cakes for- and I want to have them around more.

Friday, October 9, 2015

Maleficent Horns DIY

You know we do a lot of costuming at this bakery. And the skills that go into making costumes aren't so different from the skills you use in making cakes. So when my kid said she wants to be Maleficent for Halloween, we started checking out the costumes in stores. They're kind of spendy for the quality- so I thought we could do better.

Here's how I made the horns:

The Materials:

That's an old pool noodle ($1), some black duct tape, some ribbon or twine, a sharp knife, and a wide headband from the beauty supply place ($1.99).

Cut the noodle to length:

Cut off the end at an angle:

Use tape to anchor the ribbon or twine to the noodle. You're going to be winding this pretty tight, anchor it well. 

Start winding:

Keep winding:

The cut/tapered end will become round in this step:

Start taping:

To make the curve, bend the noodle and put a piece of tape along the underside of the curve. Then tape over it. Three times.

Keep taping:

It doesn't matter how long the pieces of tape are. It all blends and the horns are supposed to be textured anyway.

For the end, add a little extra tape:

And twist it:

Now do it all again for the 2nd horn:

Hot glue the horns in place on the headband:

Warning: Industrial hot glue guns melt pool noodles. Learn from my fail.

Add tape to the base of the horns, around the headband to secure them in place:

All things are possible with time and duct tape:

I'll see if I can get the girl to model the complete costume later.

These horns are light weight and sturdy. And quick and cheap. I think I spent $3 getting supplies that I didn't already have around, and total time was less than an hour.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

How To Order Cakes Like a Pro Part II

This blog still gets a lot of traffic on the original How To Order Cakes Like a Pro post. I thought an update with some additional information might be in order. This time, I just want to define some cake terms that we use here at the bakery so that you can talk cake like a boss:

Sheet Cake:  a single-layer cake

At grocery-type stores, sheet cakes come to the store, frozen, from a factory and are usually rectangular. At a custom bakery like Cakeapotamus, all cakes are baked to order. Therefore, a rectangular cake isn't any easier (or cheaper) than a round, square, or paisley shaped cake.

Sheet cakes can take a while to decorate, too!
A sheet cake is a single layer of cake with no filling (because where would it go?), covered in icing.

Layer cake: a cake with two or more layers with icing, fruit, or other fillings between layers of cake

Most of the cakes we make at Cakeapotamus are layer cakes, and most of our layer cakes have three layers of cake with buttercream between the layers.

This cake has six layers

Icing: the stuff you cover a cake with (also called frosting)

We use a few different icings at Cakeapotamus:

American Buttercream (ABC): This is the fluffy, sweet stuff that's on most of our cakes. Our house buttercream is American Buttercream with a secret mix of flavors and extracts. But ABC can be colored and/or flavored all sorts of ways. We can even flavor it with coffee creamers, chocolate, or cream cheese.

Ganache: CHOCOLATE! This is a pretty flexible icing that we can use to ice a cake. It can also be used as that delicious, runny chocolate that drips down the sides of a cake.

Whipped Icing
: This is the less sweet, but very temperature-dependent whipped creamy icing.

Swiss Meringue Buttercream (SMBC): This is the rich, less-sweet buttercream that's a little more stable than the whipped icing. It can also be flavored all sorts of ways. Like all meringues, it is egg-based.

Royal Icing: This is the sweet icing that we use to decorate sugar cookies- it dries hardand can be painted on with food coloring

Fondant: Also called sugar paste (and occasionally "fondue"), fondant is the pretty, smooth sugar paste that goes on a cake over a layer of buttercream or ganache.

Modeling chocolate: This is a flexible version of white chocolate (that can be colored) that we generally use to make cake toppers and details. Modeling chocolate can be used to cover a cake, too.

Filling: The stuff between the layers

You can fill a cake with just about anything. Buttercream, fruit, jams, and ganache are the most popular fillings, But there are no rules for filling. You can put Nutter Butters between cake layers if you want. Or you can fill a cake with Skittles:

The inside of a cake can be as interesting as the outside if that's what you're into.

Carved/Sculpted cake: Cakes that didn't come out of the oven shaped like that

Carved and sculpted cakes are my favorites! But they're also difficult and time-consuming. They are made by baking a sponge or pound cake in standard pans, then using a very sharp knife to carve the cake into a custom shape.

Got any other cake words I should include here?