Saturday, May 08, 2010

The Making of a Custom Cake…

cake delivered today for an awesome customer in Elk Grove!

Cake Making is both a tedious process and a passion…
…and not always so much a profit in the end. I wanted to explain the cake making process to some people out there who might get a little sticker shock when they ask for a cake quote from me and it comes back in the $100-$400 range. This is what special cakes cost, as they are not only food for your guests, but are focal points and works of art at your parties! :)

Before I elaborate, I'd like to thank the Bake Me a Wish Blog for contacting me and asking me to do a guest post.

I was given a little set of questions I'd like to answer before I go into the process of explaining one of my latest cakes. I'll address those first:

1.) What's your favorite cake flavor?
Come on!! That's like asking a mother about her favorite child. :) OK, I am partial to chocolate and love the incorporation of delicate mocha flavors in cakes... I love vanilla bean as well. I also really enjoy using flavors in cakes that are not used very often. Citrus zest is so delectable in buttercream. To answer the question though, I guess chocolate cake (brushed with Kahlua) with chocolate buttercream filling and vanilla frosting is my fave.

2.) What got you started in the cake business?
I got started in 1999 when I began taking decorating classes at a local Michaels craft store, and bringing the leftovers into work. A coworker asked me how much I would charge for a birthday cake, and it all spiraled out of control from there. :) Soon, I was making 4 or 5 dozen Christmas cookies for another coworker, and then a wedding cake for another co-worker. I decided to get certified with the health department and soon I had a small bakery business out of my apartment in Dayton. When I moved to California, things changed a little, and I was no longer allowed by law to have a home bakery. I became ServSafe certified and now rent kitchen space when someone orders a custom cake.

3.) What do you think it is about cake that really makes people go crazy?
I think it's programmed in from birth. Cakes are always in direct relation to celebration. It's a big cake when you turn 8 or 10, and then a huge cake when you graduate, get your first big job, or get married. Cakes are the centerpiece of a celebration. I guarantee that most times, you won't remember what you had to eat at a party, but you will remember the cake, and if it was good or bad. Sometimes this means grocery store quality--memorable in a bad way--or a spectacular centerpiece, of course memorable in a good way.

4.) What's your dream cake experience?
Dream cake experience? Kind of weird question, but I guess mine would be that my buttercream and cake didn't contain any calories?? Unfortunately they do, and so I don't get to have much of it.

5.) Share your favorite cake memory.
I have many favorite cake memories. Some of them have been cakes made for me, and some of them have been cakes I have made for others. But I always remember the CAKE making or breaking the party. I guess the most inventive cake was one I did for my 30th birthday party in the shape of a piece of sushi. It was green tea flavored cake with lychee buttercream.

Sushi cake for my 30th

So now I would like to detail just exactly what goes into a special celebration centerpiece like the custom cakes I design…

First, I collaborate to come up with a concept with my customers. Usually they have something in mind they want to convey, and an occasion to celebrate. For the cake below, it was the screening of Le Couperet for the Sacramento French Film Festival. The client and I decided to make the cake into a reel-to-reel. The star came about in my mind when I had leftover cake from baking the main two and wanted to incorporate it into the design. I cut out a star to add to the "Hollywood" appeal.

So, to backtrack a little bit the cakes are baked. This particular cake (to feed 60-80 people) took about 3-4 hours to bake and cool. Then, the cakes are cut into their needed shapes. For the rounds, I simply leveled the tops and torted them to fill them with chocolate filling. I cut the star by hand. Usually I make the fillings and frostings while the cakes are baking and cooling.

Then, after the cakes are cooled and cut, they are covered in a layer of buttercream and then a layer of fondant. Now, I do not use the boxed fondant by itself. I make a fondant from scratch with better flavor and mix 50/50. Mixing the fondant and getting all the colors I need takes about an hour or two, depending on how many colors I need. So now, we are up to 6 hours without any decorating time at all.

Then the main cakes are covered and I clean all the extra powdered sugar off of them as I go. In this case, I spray painted the cakes with edible spray paint to clean them up really well before I continued decorating.

Then I rolled out big circles of gray fondant and used a cutter to make holes in it to resemble a reel. When laid down on the black layers of "film" the cake began to take shape… :) At this point, I have put about 7 hours into the cake.

Little pieces of rolled out black fondant are formed into the film, connecting the reel-to-reel, then I paint the entire cake that I want to be shiny with an edible metallic paint made from lustre dust and vodka.

Here's the final cake that was enjoyed at the Le Couperet premiere. It was one of my most fun pieces to make and decorate and a memorable piece for a good acquaintance of mine. I am looking forward to the French Film Festival this June and will be involved with it in some way, and even more with the upcoming tenth anniversary. I am pretty sure I put in about 10 hours into this cake. The price of this cake would be $200, so if you do the math, you can safely assume that with ingredients and labor, I don't really make much profit. I do these projects because they promote this website, they are fun, they make people gorgeously happy, and they rock your event!!

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