Monday, September 29, 2014

Shameless Acts Of Self-Promotion

I usually do a Craftsy class review on Mondays, but last night we went to see Gone With The Wind on the Imax screen, so I didn't watch a class. I'll say that GWTW was better than most online classes I've watched, so if you ever have to make that choice, go with Scarlett.

In the meantime, here's some shameless self-promotion, starting with a link to previous Craftsy class reviews that I've done if you want to check any of those out: Craftsy class reviews

New in my Etsy shop this week were a few things.There's this extra-large seashell mold to make a 4" tall clam shell: Shell mold, and if you don't want to make them yourself, you can always buy them pre-made.

I also added a set of fondant pearls to my listings recently. These can be made in four different metallic and pearlized colors, and they're proving to be pretty popular. People are using them to do the cakes that have random-sized pearls scattered on them. Assorted Pearls

And if you've wanted to open an Etsy shop, here's a little guide that I wrote about how to work the customer service aspect of it. It's one thing to open a shop, but people seem to have trouble figuring out what to do once it's open, so here's your map: Etsy Guide to Customer Service.

And if you didn't see it, here's the Alice In Wonderland cake that I did this weekend :)

Sign up for my youtube channel for video tutorials and that kind of stuff: Youtube

And sign up for my monthly newsletter here: Newsletter

Kara Buntin owns A Cake To Remember LLC, custom wedding cakes in Richmond VA

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Alice In Wonderland Wedding Cake

This one was a lot of fun to plan and execute...I started with a bunch of ideas from the bride, who was doing a Wonderland-type theme for flowers and colors.  The issue was that the two ideas she had included the colorful wonky cakes and a more traditional "pretty" cake. So I wanted to do both the tone of the pretty cake but have it be more whimsical at the same time.

The sketch I came up with had a tree curving around the cake, which included scenes from the Classic Alice, not the Disney version. Disney is copyrighted and the classic version isn't, and I didn't want to do a cartoon cake anyway.

So this is the final result:

The tree had an internal armature and was covered with modelling chocolate. The leaves were wafer paper, and I painted some of them green and some white with black veins to match the black and white on the cake. I also attached some flowers in blue and purple, which were two of the colors that the bride was using. The bottom two tiers were buttercream and the top two were fondant. It was on a 20" wide board and it was about 30" tall including the tree.

 The figures were all cut out of flat pieces of gumpaste, and I drew the characters on them using food coloring. I piped the borders on and painted the buttercream gold. The buttercream background was done by starting with a white cake then spreading a light blue buttercream over that. I didn't want it to be too dark, so by doing the icing that way it makes the color look transparent. I also wanted it to look like sky in back of the characters, and that's a good way to make a sky blue color.

The bride had a topper that I put into the teacup that was the top tier. I had measured the height of the tree to make sure that it would both fit into my car and that the topper would fit under the top branch when it was sitting on the top tier.  The Cheshire cat was perched above the topper.
 Since this was going to be "cake in the round" there were figures and other decorations on all sides of the cake...This is the back view.
 The second tier had a book binding on it with gold-edged pages on the front. I cut out a section and inserted wafer paper pages with illustrations and text from the story on them.
 I also put text from the book around the base of the cake.
 Also on the base was a tree root that wrapped around the bottom edge of the cake. I thought about having the roots reaching up onto the cake itself, but I decided that would make it a little too creepy, which isn't what I was going for.
 The second tier from the bottom had trees and leaves painted on the buttercream, I used straight food coloring for that and just painted it right on. I also put some black and white flowers with faces on them to represent the garden of talking flowers.
 Around the back of the cake was a 3-D "drink me" bottle that I drew on in the same style as the characters to give it the same sketched look.
 I hung items from the tree, including a gumpaste pocketwatch, hearts, and card suit symbols.
 The rabbit was standing in front of the hole in the base of the tree trunk, and I put some cards on the side of the bottom tier.

My goal for this cake was to do something that was true to the book but also a little romantic like one of the pictures the bride liked. The light blue kept it soft...If I had gone with a deeper color it would have been cartoony, which is what I didn't want. I did put a brighter blue on the book cover to go with the deeper colors that the bride was using and to tie it together with the bottom tiers.

Kara Buntin owns A Cake To Remember LLC, custom wedding cakes in Richmond VA

Thursday, September 25, 2014

A Pesty Customer Story For Your Amusement

Some people are very persistent and seem to have the ability to ignore everything you say. I know that we all feel like we're the only baker who attracts "interesting" customers, but I was going through my email, and I thought other people would appreciate this.

Now keep in mind that I have an email folder full of these gems...I keep them for future reference and for my own amusement. When enough time has elapsed I feel safe in bringing them into the harsh light of day to share them with other people who might appreciate their weirdness. Enough time has passed for this one, so here you go!

The backstory is that this person had called and asked me if I would do a smaller wedding cake for 65 people, on a relatively short schedule. I said sure, and told her that it would be three small tiers based on her guest count. She asked if she could have samples on a day that she would be in town, and I told her that someone could pick some up on a day that I was already going to be doing them, but I couldn't do them at random times. This was a very long conversation with a lot of verbal meandering on her part.

I also said that I couldn't promise to do the very specific flavors that she was asking to try.

She then went on to ignore me and ask again if there was another day that she could pick up those specific flavors. I told her no, it wasn't a matter of the day.  I do extra of the flavors that I'm making that weekend for samples, so I can't guarantee that there will ever be a day that I'm making everything someone wants to try. There are a few flavors that I don't do for samples unless I happen to be making them for that week's cakes, and even then I probably don't do them. For samples I try to make things very general and I can't cater to one person if I'm doing samples for ten.

I asked her to email the friend who would be picking the cake up and to copy me on it so that I had her email address. This is what I received:

Please see attached wedding cakes that I like.  My color theme is hot pink & baby pink and the cake is for 40 guests.

Preferable flavors: Chocolate Raspberry, Orange blossom, Strawberry and Banana Truffle.

Feel free to call myself  or my friend Suzie Q  for further information.
Suzie Q,  Kara is willing to prepare the above flavors and ready to be picked up on  Sunday.
Please call her to coordinate a time.

Okay, what? 40 guests? She had said 65. And I had told her that I was NOT willing to promise those specific flavors. I'd told her a few times.

This is what I wrote back to her and her friend:
 he smallest three-tiered square cake I can do will serve about 50 people.
Suzie Q, you can call me to arrange a time to pick up the samples. I can try to do as many of the flavors as I can but I don't usually do fruit and chocolate combinations for samples. I also need to know what day you can pick them up. The dates that I have tastings scheduled are the 3rd, 23rd, and 24th, I live relatively near you, and my office where I do the tastings is off of 295 near Innsbrook, so if you're coming from church in Mechanicsville you could either pick them up after church, or come pick them up at my house later in the afternoon. Let me know which day is better for you and I'll box some samples up for you.

Now that's pretty accommodating...So then I get this:

Thank you for your response.
I would like cake for a maximum of 40 guests as I'll only have 26 guests.
Also I am sending you some pics of the cake I really really love.

All right, more cake pictures, that's fine. I don't take that seriously until the final design is on the contract anyway. But the guest count is shrinking pretty quickly, and she's ignoring the serving count I had quoted for three tiers. So I wrote back:

I can't do three tiers for 40, so would you be fine with two tiers?

She responded:

Yes two tiers should be fine.

I am just waiting for my friend to come and taste the flavors and then we can take it from there.

The friend emailed me and said that she'd be there on the 23rd. Guess who didn't show up? Naturally. She emailed during the appointments and asked if she could come on the 24th instead. Whatever, I had the samples boxed up anyway. Vanilla, chocolate and lemon with raspberry. Plus some extra raspberry so she could put that on the chocolate cake.

So she picked up the samples and I didn't hear from them. Fine, no problem, I have other things to worry about...And I was going on vacation a few weeks later, so I was ready to go to Disneyworld! Woo hoo!

So three weeks later we went on vacation, and in the middle of it I decided to check my phone messages. She had left three messages in one day, after no contact for three weeks. I wasn't happy to be hounded, so I sent her this:

I got your phone message this morning. I'm on vacation and I'll be out of town until next week, and I'll send an email then.

Pretty clear, or so I thought. I'm out of town and will deal with business NEXT WEEK. I guess I wasn't clear enough because I got this email from her an hour after I told her I'd email when I got back to town:

Thank you for the response I was thinking of two flavors chocolate with raspberry butter cream and vanilla with vanilla butter cream however; Suzie Q hasn't tasted the chocolate with raspberry butter cream.

1) Can you please advise when can she pick-up that flavor so that I can decide accordingly

2) Please see attached pic of the cake that I would like the top tier to be the second tier can be plain I mean without flowers. Your thoughts on it?  (My Color theme is baby pink and hot pink).

Oh hell no...Did I mention that I'd already given her samples of chocolate and raspberry? Are those such exotic flavors that you need to try them twice? And more pictures of different cakes? At that point I didn't want to say my thoughts on her cake, so I wrote this to her, then I enjoyed my vacation more than before:

At this point I'm unable to do your cake that weekend. You might want to try (Insert name of person I don't like here) to see if they can help you out, they have a larger shop than I do so they accept more orders per weekend.

So the moral of the story is to refer pesty people to businesses that you don't like...No, not really. But if someone chooses to have selective hearing or reading skills from the outset you might want to cut them loose. It isn't worth the effort of trying to keep up with whatever reality they've created for themselves.

Kara Buntin owns A Cake To Remember LLC, custom wedding cakes in Richmond VA






Sunday, September 21, 2014

Craftsy Class Semi-Review For A Free Class And It's A Good Thing It Was Free

Craftsy LogoI was going to review the free Cake Pops class because it was free. Not because I like cake pops, because I don't like dealing with little things like that. But hey, free is free.

So I tried to watch it, but it's so buggy it stalled and stopped and I kept having to reload the page. There were a few times that it ran okay, but based on the comments on the page it was clear that it wasn't just my problem. Plenty of people had commented that they were having trouble watching the class.

I managed to watch the first part where she was squishing the cake in the icing, and I saw some of the other sections. Based on that, IF you want to learn how to make cake pops, and IF you're willing to struggle through the class if it's buggy, it would be useful. And since it's free, you're not out any money if it freezes up on you.

However...The thing that makes this class worth checking out isn't the class itself, it's the questions that people are posting. Since the free classes are student-led, nobody is answering the questions other than the people watching the class.

I've said before that the people who lead Craftsy classes had better be paid a lot, because some of the questions people post would make me want to shove a stick in my eye. Because nobody is moderating this class, people are posting the same question over and over in different ways. Plus, because it's a Wilton class they use Wilton products, which aren't readily available in other countries. This is causing a lot of confusion that nobody is clearing up.

Go over there and check it out. I started going through the different sections just to read what people were posting. It will truly make you lose your faith in humanity. I won't even choose to highlight any of the questions here since one was better than the next. Well, maybe one...I think my favorite question, posted in a cake pop class, was "are the pops edible?"

So go over to read the comments, which are much more befuddling and far more amusing than the class. Creative Cake Pops

Kara Buntin owns A Cake To Remember LLC, custom wedding cakes in Richmond VA, and is a Craftsy affiliate.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Pink and Orange Painted Buttercream Cake

This cake was buttercream with hand-painted vines and flowers based on the wedding invitations. I added some three-dimensional painted flowers to the vines and kept it simple with a plain piped border around the tiers.

Kara Buntin owns A Cake To Remember LLC, custom wedding cakes in Richmond VA