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Slow decorator= overpriced cakes?

post #1 of 38
Thread Starter 

I have been baking and decorating more involved cakes for about 6 years, but have only been open for business as home baker for about a year and a half.  Yes I am licensed, no I am not the cheapest baker around, and I try hard to not underprice my cakes.  icon_biggrin.gif  However, I do feel like it takes me forever to make and decorate my cakes.  I tend to have a lot of sculpted decorations, and I know that attention to detail takes time, but I tend to have a hard time with the hourly rate part of the pricing equation because I think it takes me longer than it should.  Many say it's a learning curve, but I really I think I'm just a slow decorator.  How to do you compensate in pricing for that?  For example, I baked the cake below and made the fondant one night, made the icing, torted, filled, frosted, and made & and applied all the fondant decorations the next night. From torting to final picture took about 7 hours.  It's an 8" four layer chocolate cake with coffee buttercream filling that's covered in vanilla buttercream with fondant accents.  The castle, pail, shovel, and sea shells are hand sculpted from marshmallow fondant.  Sand is crushed cookie crumbs.  Doesn't that seem like a long time?  Remember that doesn't include baking time, or time to make the frosting and fondant.  So all in all, oven time aside, it probably took me about 9 hours to make this cake.  If supplies/costs are about $20, and I pay myself a measly $10 an hour (never mind that sculpting time should be closer to $25 an hour!), that makes this cake $110.  Is that what you would charge? How long would this take you?

 

Sandcastle and sea shells with bucket and shovel in the sand. 8" round 4 layer cake covered in buttercream with marshmallow fondant waves and hand sculpted decorations. Sand is cookie crumbs.

 

Thanks in advance!

post #2 of 38

by 4 layers you mean 4 1" layers? Also are you saying you are not accounting your shopping, baking, cleaning, prep time? The 7 hours is just decorating? I am slow so to keep my prices reasonable I pay myself a lower hourly rate. As a business owner you would obviously give raises and compensation to your more productive/efficient employees

post #3 of 38
Thread Starter 

They were each a little over an inch high, but yes, 4 layers of cake and 3 of filling.  

post #4 of 38

edited my last reply

post #5 of 38

From what you are describing, I would quote price at $85 but I would estimate my time at between 5-6 hours total. (of course, I under-charge) :-/

post #6 of 38
Thread Starter 

As business owner, I think I'd fire myself!  No, I have not been including shopping, cleaning up, etc.  I wish I could see others work on their cakes so I knew why it takes me sooo much longer!  

post #7 of 38

You must work on your speed and there's a lot of small things you can do to lesson your time per cake.

 

Examples:

 

  • Instead of making fondant per cake, you should make much larger batches. Make enough for a month at one time.
  • When you mix your fondant colors make a little extra of each color and save those scraps. I rarely have to mix a new color....so often I use a combination of scraps I have left over from previous cakes. Say I need green, I'll mix all my yellow and greens (some blues too) into one large ball of color and use that up.
  • Make all your frostings for two weeks at one time. Separate it into portions and freeze what you don't need until latter.
  • While your cakes are baking allot that time to be the only time you use to make your decorations. The example shown should have taken you no longer then 1/2 hour to do completely. None of required drying times before completion.

 

Just for a reference, it would have taken me 1 hour to decorate that cake from start to finish. Honestly, the only way to get faster is to push yourself into an uncomfortable time allotment. You must take on more than you can handle or schedule way less time for your décor.

 

If you give yourself 4 hours you'll take 4 hours.

post #8 of 38
I move slowly as well. A more experienced decorator would not take as long as I do. So I price market value, as opposed to hourly rate. I am not baking as my primary income, though. If I were, I'd have to find a way to speed myself wayyyy up. Working too slowly is not efficient with baking. Same for a lot if trades. I would not hire a slow plumber or electrician who charges by the hour...I'm all about efficiency as it pertains to value.
post #9 of 38

I have arthritis, carpal tunnel and fibromyalgia. I will never be faster. That is why I do not do more than 2 cakes a week. It can take me 3 hours or 3 days to do a cake.

post #10 of 38
Great tips Stitches!
elsewhere.
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elsewhere.
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post #11 of 38
Quote:
Originally Posted by kikiandkyle View Post

Great tips Stitches!

If you worked next to me you'd hate me completely because I'm a very hard driving taskmaster. But I promise you if you really push yourself, you do become stronger, faster and better. Everyone would rather work at a leisurely pace and make lots of money....life isn't that kind though.


Edited by Stitches - 7/23/13 at 7:48pm
post #12 of 38
Quote:
Originally Posted by Stitches View Post

Just for a reference, it would have taken me 1 hour to decorate that cake from start to finish. Honestly, the only way to get faster is to push yourself into an uncomfortable time allotment. You must take on more than you can handle or schedule way less time for your décor.

Agreed, ideally that should be a 1 hour cake. Most cake decorators are natural perfectionists, it can be very difficult to fight against that and push the cake out the door once it is good enough for your market.

If you take some time beforehand to map out your entire process from start to finish you can identify ways to speed things up, especially when you have multiple orders or a single order that can be broken down into multiple components. For example, here is a process flow diagram for baking bread:
http://www.thefreshloaf.com/node/15336/bread-making-process-handout

If you need help with this, it might turn out to be an interesting exercise for an operations management class at your local business school, in my OM class we were constantly mapping out process flows. The downside to learning more about OM is constantly seeing inefficient processes everywhere you look and not being able to do anything about it.
post #13 of 38

Baking, icing, gum paste flowers... no problem, I'm captain speedy. However, I am so slow at modeling new things, it isn't funny.

That little castle would probably take me an hour, the rest of the cake, probably 45 minutes from torting to finishing.

What I do is charge for the time I think it should take me, lol, then put a movie on and take my time with the finicky details.

Tuesdays and Wednesdays are 'movie nights' for me, I make sure I get anything like that done while I watch.

I don't have kids, and Wednesdays were movie nights anyway, so it's not like I'm taking away from something else I should be doing. It also means I get to enjoy doing the fussy little things like that, whereas if I push myself, I get stressed and end up hating things.

 

Stiutches has great tips though. I do mine on a weekly basis, Tuesday is 'icing day'. I make everything I will need for the week, butter cream, fillings, fondant and ganache.

Then I don't need to turn my mixers back on except for baking, which I do Wednesday & Thursday, depending on what my orders are.

 

That way when it comes time to stack/decorate, everything is made, kitchen is clean, I can just go to it.

 

A lot of my cakes have the same base recipe, so I can make a massive batch of that, then split it up and add this or that to each batch. I get things done so much faster than doing everything on a 'per order' basis.

post #14 of 38

See, I would charge $90 for that cake, and it would cost me about $25, including overhead. I couldn't sleep at night if I only worked for an hour on the cake. It would be a mess! It would take me a good 3 hours. 

 

And the tappits...I despise them! It would take an hour or more just for the message. 

Beginners, be sure to parrot advice and get your post count up as fast as you can. After all, it's not what you know, it's what people THINK you know.
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Beginners, be sure to parrot advice and get your post count up as fast as you can. After all, it's not what you know, it's what people THINK you know.
Reply
post #15 of 38
Quote:
Originally Posted by scrumdiddlycakes View Post

Baking, icing, gum paste flowers... no problem, I'm captain speedy. However, I am so slow at modeling new things, it isn't funny.

That little castle would probably take me an hour, the rest of the cake, probably 45 minutes from torting to finishing.

What I do is charge for the time I think it should take me, lol, then put a movie on and take my time with the finicky details.

Tuesdays and Wednesdays are 'movie nights' for me, I make sure I get anything like that done while I watch.

I don't have kids, and Wednesdays were movie nights anyway, so it's not like I'm taking away from something else I should be doing. It also means I get to enjoy doing the fussy little things like that, whereas if I push myself, I get stressed and end up hating things.

 

Stiutches has great tips though. I do mine on a weekly basis, Tuesday is 'icing day'. I make everything I will need for the week, butter cream, fillings, fondant and ganache.

Then I don't need to turn my mixers back on except for baking, which I do Wednesday & Thursday, depending on what my orders are.

 

That way when it comes time to stack/decorate, everything is made, kitchen is clean, I can just go to it.

 

A lot of my cakes have the same base recipe, so I can make a massive batch of that, then split it up and add this or that to each batch. I get things done so much faster than doing everything on a 'per order' basis.

Modeling takes me a while too, as does coloring fondant, and coming up with a design. I have to take my time and relax while I model, or it will look like stirred...crud. 

Beginners, be sure to parrot advice and get your post count up as fast as you can. After all, it's not what you know, it's what people THINK you know.
Reply
Beginners, be sure to parrot advice and get your post count up as fast as you can. After all, it's not what you know, it's what people THINK you know.
Reply
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