Cake Competitions (part 2)

As I said in my previous post, I learned a lot from entering my first competition, although some lessons are harder to learn than others.

Once I was back from Birmingham, I checked the date of the next competition at the NEC, saw that it was only 4 months away, had a small panic, took a deep breath and started planning my next design(s).

I decided to enter a wedding cake this time and also another decorative exhibit.  I started drawing up a few designs for the wedding cake.  I had already decided that I wanted to use edible lace in my design but also wanted to incorporate as many skills as I could.  Personally, I love wedding cake designs that include two, high contrasting, colours.  I picked pale blue and black for my cake.

When I first started working on the cake, I added frills and drapes to two of the tiers.  I knew how I wanted it to look but it just wasn’t working out right and the response from my mother was less than enthusiastic.  At the same time I discovered Pretty Witty Cakes a brilliant website full of tutorials (a lot that are free), a shop, forum and more.  I watched a video presented by Nivia Rodrigues about entering cake competitions.  She put a lot of great advice in the video, reiterating what I’d already picked up, give yourself time and if you’re not happy with anything, change it.  It was at that point I pulled off the frills and drapes, recovered the cakes and started again.

This is the wedding cake in its spot at the NEC

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I was thrilled to get a Bronze award and the feedback from the Judges was lovely.

 

I also entered a decorative exhibit.  I completely changed the subject of my design for this as I wouldn’t have had time to complete my original idea. I’ve been a Bowie fan for over 30 years and wanted this entry to be about him.  I decided on a Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars theme.  My design being Mars, with ‘Ziggy’ sitting on top, surrounded by spiders.

Another thing I learned from this entry; don’t try using a new medium for the very first time. I’d ordered some Flexique at the last minute, hoping to use it to make the kimono that Ziggy wore.  Unfortunately, when I placed the order I couldn’t buy the edible glue to use with the Flexique and discovered, without that, the product on its own is impossible to stick together.  In the end I used the Flexique with a fondant icing sheet that’s used with edible image printing and managed to stick the ‘clothing’ together with edible glue.

I think I made the head for the figure at least 3 times and tried various techniques for the hair before I was happy(ish) with it.  I know its not a very good likeness of Bowie but as the Judge said, its more difficult to try to get a good likeness of a well known face.  Overall I was happy with the result and the Certificate of Merit.

I really didn’t give myself enough time for this entry so knew it wouldn’t get a high award but it was done more as a tribute to Bowie than to win anything.

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Cake Competitions

I know, I know its been a while.  I find it hard to understand how other people manage to write regular blog posts.  I mean to post more frequently  but so many other things seem to get in the way. However, I have a few spare moments so I’m back!

I’ve been visiting cake shows for a few years now and had a wish to enter one day.  There was one thing stopping me, was I good enough to compete with the amazing cake artists that I follow on social media? My answer to that was a huge NO but I decided to give it a go anyway. (Not long after I started making my entry I read this post on one of my favourite blogs  http://thebizofbaking.com/cake-international-birmingham/  and that inspired me even more.

I love make figures for my cakes so wanted to make that part of my entry.  My inspiration was one of my favourite musicals, Chicago.  I spent a bit of time considering which aspects of the musical I wanted to incorporate into my design and eventually decided on using Cell Block Tango as my starting point.

I won’t go into all the planning, mind changing, making and re-making that went into the piece but want to concentrate on what I learned from that first experience.

To be very honest, when I was looking at my completed entry sitting on my dining table ready to go, I was pleased with how it had turned out. I knew there were a few things I could have done better but overall I was happy with it.  When I got to the NEC to deliver my piece it was a different story and I very nearly turned round and walked straight back out without entering when I saw some of the other entries in the same category.

But, I was there so I registered and placed my entry on its designated spot. Phew!

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What did I learn about entering the competition?

When you think about entering, give yourself plenty of time to make your piece.  This is one thing I failed in.  You need to give yourself time to re-cover, re-make, redo any little part that isn’t perfect or you’re not 100% happy with. If I’d given myself more time I would have re-made some of the figures and re-painted the wording on the ‘walls’.

If you do enter, take the time to get feedback from the judges.  It is invaluable.  I queued for over an hour and a half for my feedback but it was worth waiting for.

Read the instructions for each category carefully!  I have seen so many beautiful cakes at shows disqualified because they haven’t followed the rules (not using flower picks on dummy cakes, the piece being too big, using inedible items etc).

I got a Certificate of Merit which I was completely happy with, knowing I had masses of room for improvement and it spurred me onto do better the next time (yes I’m hooked now and entered again this year, blog post to follow on that experience).

If anyone is considering entering a competition I’d say ‘just do it’, what have you got to lose?

 

 

Pricing Revisited

Pricing of cakes is a much talked about topic on social media.  I discussed it previously on this blog but my views have changed recently for a few different reasons.

Firstly, I have become more business minded.  When I first started my business all I wanted to do was make cakes and get paid for doing that.  I lacked experience and didn’t feel I could justify charging a lot for my cakes.  I still feel it was right to do that to a certain extent but the problem with starting off charging low prices is that its easy to become known as the lady that makes cheap cakes.  That is not how I want to be known!

I have spent money, time and effort perfecting my product.  As well as the ingredients and other consumables relating to a single cake, there is equipment to buy, insurance to pay for, training, advertising, paperwork and all the other little things that every business uses.  This cost has to be passed onto my customers or I’d very quickly go out of business.  In fact I had got to the stage where if I didn’t start making money from my cakes I would have had to give up my business.

I’m not sure customers always consider all that is involved in producing bespoke items and as I’ve ready many times online, it is our job to make sure our customers are aware of what it takes. As business owners, we should not undercharge or undervalue ourselves and our product. I spend many hours producing designs for customers, quoting for different cakes, filling in paperwork etc before I even start making the actual cake.  Most cakes take about 2 hours to get to the ‘covered, ready for decorating’ stage (tins need lining, ingredients need mixing, cakes need levelling, filling, crumbcoating and covering with fondant), the decoration can take several more hours after that or even longer if flowers and models are required.  That is just for a single tier, round or square cake.

One piece of advice I read recently that made a huge difference to me (I’ll try and credit the author when I can find the blog) was to ‘take the emotion out of selling’.  I know I’ve been guilty of dealing with some customers on a emotional level in the past so, every time I feel emotions creeping into a conversation about cake, I remind myself that this is business. Yes I want to give every customer the very best cake that I can, I want them to be excited about it and I care about producing a high quality, delicious cake every single time but I cannot do that unless I can charge accordingly.

What advice would I give to anyone thinking about starting a cake business? Spend time perfecting your skills, take classes, practice, practice and practice some more and do not consider starting a business until you can produce a high quality product.  Then, as far as pricing is concerned, you can start off with realistic prices and your business has more chance of being successful.

 

 

Defining Success

Cake art is big business; more so than ever it seems.  There are many famous ‘cake people’.  I guess a lot of them are only famous within the cake world but if you are in any way connected with making and decorating cakes, there are some names that you will definitely be aware of.  There are also, of course, those that have appeared on our TV screens that a larger audience are familiar with. Did they set out to be famous or just to be the best at what they do?

Does having a cake business mean that I should also strive for ‘fame’?  Would I want to be famous?  Is that the definition of success for a cake artist?

Making a healthy profit would also be seen as being successful, I’m still working on that! Future success for me would be to have a book of cakes published.

At present I feel successful every time I make a customer happy with the cake I’ve made them, especially if the cake has been a challenge. I’m content with that, for now.

How do you define success in your business?

 

 

My Top 3 Online Fitness Inspirations

Rebecca Lynda

There are so many platforms online to share your lives – personally I enjoy watching youtube and I’m a big fan of a lot of fitness ‘youtubers’. These are my top 3!

1. C A R L Y   R O W E N A 

Words cannot describe the love I have for this lady! I always look forward to her videos, which are consistently brilliant, and she is such a beautiful and hilarious person. I love her honesty and her advice, she seems very down to earth as well as she usually replies to everyone on twitter or instagram. I’ve gotten a few replies which is nice as I’d consider her a ‘famous’ youtuber. She posts videos like: ‘How To Reach Your Goals And Stay Motivated’, ‘How To Warm Up, Stretch And Foam Roll’ and ‘Different Ways To Keep Fit’ as well as her gym routines, short workout routines, healthy eating…

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How do I exercise at University?

Rebecca Lynda

For the majority of students, exercise is the last thing on their minds. While P.E is compulsory at school, there is no one at university telling you that you need to be active and do sport or exercise. So, it’s all down to personal motivation!

 I don’t have time!…I don’t have the money!…I’m too tired to exercise!..I’ve got too much else to do! Sound familiar?….

Parties, alcohol, junk food, late nights, early lectures, work load – all influence health and at the end of the day, it’s all about priorities. I understand that to some people their health isn’t a priority – whether this is intentional or not! Obviously considering the career I want to go into to – health is a major priority for me and I really want to try and influence that in others. I will mention that exercise is something I enjoy which is obviously a…

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Youtube Tutorials

I confess that I am addicted to watching cake decorating tutorials on Youtube!  As my television gives me access to Youtube, I frequently watch tutorials while I work. I thought I’d share some of my favourite videos, the ones I’ve found most useful and hope they help you too.

One job I used to hate was cleaning piping bags/nozzles.  I use the tips in this video all the time and it has saved me so much time and hassle over the years!

 

I used to make a lot of cakes with fondant pearls around the bottom edge but it irritated me a lot if they weren’t even in size.  I use the technique in this tutorial every time I make them now.

 

I love Cake Style videos, not just the decorating tutorials but these type too.  Here are two of my favourites. I’d definitely suggest checking out Cake Style on Youtube, Instagram and their website http://cakestyle.tv/

There are so many awesome and talented cake artists willing to give away their knowledge and I appreciate every single one of them.  Yes I am also willing to pay to learn (I’m also a Craftsy addict) but I love how helpful the cake community is.