Sunday, July 27, 2014

Craftsy Class Review: Building Your Business- Smarter Display Cakes

Online Cake Decorating ClassBuilding your Business, Smarter Display Cakes is the best business-related class that I've seen on Etsy so far. The reason is that Chrissie Boone, who teaches the class and is the owner of Too Nice To Slice, seems to have a firm grasp on the concept that there's a customer involved in the buying process, not just a decorator.

This is one of my pet peeves as far as business goes...People who allow their egos to run their business plan. If you have a business you need to reach a consumer if you want to make a profit. If you're only thinking of what YOU want to do, or if you basically tell the customer that you won't do what they want but you'll do what YOU want, you're not going to get very far.

I'm always surprised at how often this happens with cake decorating, so this class was good for people who are starting out, but it would also be good as a kick in the pants for people who are so ego-driven they can't see that they're chasing customers away.

Now, this is not to say that you shouldn't find your niche. But the difference is that finding a niche doesn't mean that you're right all the time. Flexibility is the key to success, and thinking about what the customer wants is a huge part of that.

This class covers the ideas of different customers having different needs and different budgets, which would seem obvious, but apparently isn't. She shows you how to address multiple budgets by creating a variety of display cakes that represent different price points, thereby giving clients a better visual of their options. She also shows how to make the cakes that she's describing, so there are some decorating tips included.

This class would be most beneficial for someone who's starting out because it covers things like getting a portfolio together, how to network with other professionals, and how to price your cakes. But as I said, it would be worth it to watch just for the refresher course on customer service.

My final review:

Skill Level: Appropriate for someone who's starting out, but it's also a good refresher to keep you on track if you've been in business for a while and are trying to refine things a little.
Equipment you'll need:Cake dummies, fondant, the basics.
Sleep-Inducing level: Not very, I found this one interesting because of the business advice scattered throughout.
What it assumes you already know: It assumes that you have a business that you want to improve.
Unnecessary Level Of Difficulty For Techniques Shown: nothing...
Annoying Host Habits: Not a lot, but I really wish Craftsy would figure out their microphone situation so that we don't get so much inhaling from the hosts. It's in all the videos.
Level Of Helpful Hints Learned: Very useful for someone who's just starting out, but as I said, it's also good for someone who doesn't realize that there's a customer involved. Good tips for an attitude adjustment.

Go here for the class: Building Your Business- Smarter Display Cakes (these are affiliate links and I will be compensated if you purchase using them.)

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

Thursday, July 24, 2014

How To Remove Color From Gumpaste Flowers

I recently did some gumpaste roses, dusted them, then decided that I wanted some of them to be lighter. I didn't want to dust them with a pearl dust, so the only alternative was to remove some of the color.

That isn't so easy, though. If you're going to try this make sure the gumpaste is totally dry, and that you work with vodka, not water. You want the liquid to evaporate and not sit on the surface of the gumpaste to soften it.

Start with the flower, a clean paintbrush, some vodka and a paper towel.

 Take the paintbrush and vodka and slap it on one petal at a time. Make it wet enough that the color starts to lift, then rub it off with the paper towel.


Keep working, removing the color bit by bit.
If you need to get into the crevices, use the paintbrush to wet the area then take it and stuff the paper towel into the space between the petals using the brush.
This is going to take a while, so work slowly and get off as much color as you can while not softening up the petals. Eventually you'll get enough color off that you feel okay with it. Let the flower dry, then re-dust with a lighter color, or leave it the way that it is.

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

Monday, July 21, 2014

Craftsy Class Review: The Secrets To Perfect Stenciling

Online Cake Decorating ClassThe Secrets To Perfect Stenciling was taught by Alan Tetreault of Global Sugar Arts. This class actually did have some good tips in it, if you can ignore the advertisement for Sugar Dress in the middle of it.

He went over stenciling on fondant and buttercream as well as doing some cookies and plaques for cupcakes. I picked up some tips on how to adjust the stencils to fit different sizes of tiers and that kind of thing, and it's always good to see someone else do something like this since you can pick up some tips that will make it easier when you do it.

The section on Sugar Dress, which is a product that makes plastic-like sugar designs that you can pick up and toss around, store for months, apparently, then stick on the cake instead of stenciling or piping the design on, took up the middle section of the class. I don't know why this was included in the class other than to take up space and to advertise the product. It's not stenciling, and this and the sugarveil products kind of creep me out with their floppy textures and gelatinous creepiness. You also have to buy mats to use it in, and the chances of a customer asking for a specific design that the mats come in is very low in wedding cakes. Usually if a bride wants lace on the cake she wants HER lace, not a random pattern on a mat. So it ends up being easier to pipe it on.

So ignoring that section, the other ones are helpful and since you can make your own stencils, you could theoretically do that and customize those for brides. I've made stencils that looked like the invitation and monograms the couple had designed for them, so I'd say that the stenciling tips were worthwhile.

However, since the Sugar Dress stuff was in there, that takes points away. If I buy a class about stenciling that's what I want to learn. So I'd say to buy this one on sale, not full price, because it's really 75% about stenciling and 25% about other stuff.

My final review:

Skill Level: intermediate due to the need to be able to cover a cake with fondant and do a good job smoothing out the buttercream to get an even stenciling surface.
Equipment you'll need: Stencils, knives, icing, etc.
Sleep-Inducing level: I did fall asleep.
What it assumes you already know: How to ice a cake.
Unnecessary Level Of Difficulty For Techniques Shown: Not very much, it's pretty straightforward.
Annoying Host Habits: Nothing I can think of, he's pretty comfortable teaching.
Level Of Helpful Hints Learned: I picked up some tips about modifying the stencils, and if you haven't done any stenciling before you'll have a good idea of how to do it after you watch the class.

Go here for the class: The Secrets to Perfect Stenciling

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

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Craftsy Flash Sale This Weekend!


This is the time to buy classes...There are some good cake ones on sale. Get them now while they're cheap, then if you fall asleep during them you won't feel like you missed as much. Click on the banner to get to the deals.

This post contains affilite links and I'll be compensated if you buy something through clicking on them.

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

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Stop Complaining About Cheap Customers If You're One Too.

How many times have you seen someone (perhaps yourself) complaining that people just don't want to pay what they're charging for their cakes? They bitch and moan and whine about how people don't understand how much time and effort goes into a custom cake, and how they don't know why people are so cheap. They yap about supporting small businesses and post inspirational quotations about how you're not buying "just a cake" on facebook.

Then the next day they complain because when they ask a question about how to do something, people refer them to an online class, not a free tutorial. "But I don't want to pay for it" they exclaim with horror. "Isn't there a free lesson somewhere?"

Now I will admit that there are plenty of free lessons, tutorials, how-to blog posts etc. that you can find. But what I find ironic is that a lot of decorators seem to think that it's an insult to the cake decorating community if another decorator has the nerve to put a price on something.

When people ask about flower tutorials, I often refer them to one of Alan Dunn's books because they're thorough, clear, and worth the price. They generally ask if there's a free version they can download. No, not unless you're getting it illegally and not giving the author his paycheck.

I have a few good examples of this, but another that just involves me personally is the gumpaste that I sell on Etsy. I get a lot of comments on my youtube channel that never see the light of day because I moderate them. If someone writes me a nasty message about how I'm greedy and not sharing enough because I sell gumpaste instead of giving out the recipe that I've developed for myself, I'm not going to post that on my channel. I have no problem hitting delete.

I have a feeling that the irony of decorators complaining that other decorators have some nerve asking for payment for their work, while they also complain that customers don't want to pay them for their own work, is lost on the complainers. They're probably the same people who pitch a fit if someone takes one of their cake photos, but who happily take someone else's cartoon characters to use on their cakes.

Part of this comes straight from the idea that we should do cakes for love, not profit. There's a weird feeling out there that if you actually make a living at cake decorating you've "sold out" somehow. I have no idea why that sentiment exists, but I've run across it a lot lately. I blame the picture of the happy lady in a cute pink apron holding a tray of cupcakes that they use for every small business ad. Cakes are supposed to be endless fun, not work! Don't worry about making a living, do it for the loooooooove!

Personally, I'll pay for someone's book, or to watch a class on something that I'm interested in learning more about if it's worth it to me. I'll pay for a custom whatever if it's worth it to me. If people don't want to pay for my cakes that's fine, someone else who thinks it's worth it to them will.

I don't mind asking people to pay for my work, and I don't mind paying someone else for theirs. So if you're one of the people who complain about paying for other people's work, just remember to keep your mouth shut the next time a customer complains about paying for your work. That's only fair.

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