Hi! I’m Robyn from Robyn Loves Cake. I’ve been making cakes professionally since 2005, and the thing I love most about my job is that I’m never bored because I am *always* learning. Literally on every project I learn a little (or big) something to file away going forward; even when I’m repeating a design I’ve done before, I am tweaking technique and trying to streamline my process. Lately I’ve been thinking about things I wish I knew at the beginning.
When I first started
The internet was in its infancy so I bought every book on cake decorating I could find. When I needed reference photos I had to go to the library! As free online cake tutorials and blogs started popping up, my life and work changed. I’m forever grateful to those early adopters who jumped in with both feet and were so helpful, and for years I have wanted to contribute my voice and experience.
My hope is that my little blog will offer helpful tips and ideas, as well as full tutorials eventually. I’d also like to offer a glimpse into my design process, which most often these days (another big change from the old days) is very influenced by photos found online, usually by my client. Since cake baking is limited to a local market, I’ve always felt that any baker using my photo as inspiration is totally welcome and I take it as a compliment. I’ve always been struck by the fact that most bakers feel the same, and I appreciate that generous spirit.
My intention is to offer info in a range of complexity, but in the spirit of starting out on a new venture, I have a couple of thoughts that may be helpful if you are starting out doing cake (things I wish I knew):
1. This may seem minor but it’s the first thing that springs to mind whenever I think of this question. Photo backdrops!!! As you can see, they make a world of difference.
I used to prop up poster board behind my cakes and it worked…kind of. But five years ago (ten too late lol) I finally bit the bullet and spent 100.00 on 4 vinyl back drops from Sugar High. I’m sure there are other options out there now but these still look brand new and have been a complete game changer for me (just take a look at my IG feed for proof 😜).
2. Learning. I would have looooved it if craftsy/bluprint had been around when I started. YouTube has lots of fantastic content, but it can take forever to find creators you trust to offer quality and be worth your time. I have purchased several craftsy classes and they have all been good value. Recently they’ve changed the model to a subscription service, and if I was starting out now, I would tell myself to sign up and watch everything! It’s really amazingly inexpensive for the quality and variety of classes.
(Added January 2020) I just made a discovery that I would recommend to *anyone* who makes cakes! I’ve known about Liz Marek’s Sugar Geek Show online school for a while and I thought it would be fun to see what info she had regarding blogging, because I’m learning about that obviously 😂. Also I was doing a fire-breathing dragon and wanted to see how she does isomalt fire – so I signed up, and long story short was blown away! As of now, she only charges 30.00 per month and I think that’s an amazing value. Highly recommend!
big unnecessary expenses
3. Kitchen space. I spent a TON of money unnecessarily building out a small commercial kitchen. Cut to: the restaurant I was behind (I rented the space from them and we shared utilities) had a terrible fire and I had to move the same day (on a Friday during wedding season). Suffice to say as life experiences go, I do not recommend this…it was a nightmare. The silver lining was I had to get creative about where to work, and I ended up renting space in a friend’s catering kitchen. This saved me about 300.00 a month, plus as a bonus I had company when he and his team were prepping for events (shouts to Ernie Price Catering, miss you guys!).
Lesson: think outside the box, network, call around…you may find an arrangement that helps both parties.
driving with cakes
4. Deliveries. Make sure you are really clear on how to structure your cakes. Like, really clear. Learn about supports and dowels, and use enough. Trust me when I say that will make your deliveries much more pleasant 😉 My other half drove about three times with a cake in the car, and never again. Haha! I never have had one go over (knock on wood), but being very confident that a cake is stable will save your sanity!
5. How to stick to your guns with customers/know your worth. This one will vary from person to person, but for me it has been a long struggle. Being told you are too expensive never feels good! But please believe me, if you don’t charge enough you will not last doing this…being creative takes a lot more emotional energy than I ever would have expected, and the baking and cleaning part is physically exhausting. There are a few people who specialize in helping bakers price appropriately, like Michelle at The Business of Baking. Starting again, I would have utilized a resource like that from the get go.
I’m sure I’ll think of more as we go along!
The above is geared more toward someone going into cake professionally…my next post will look at my favorite tips for home bakers to make their stuff look super pro.
My hope going forward is that my experiences will be helpful to people….if you have any topics you’d like me to cover please let me know!