Wednesday, April 23, 2014

How To Make Gumpaste Baby's Breath

Here's a little video showing how to make quick baby's breath out of gumpaste. Well, it isn't so quick, but it will give you a nice effect when you have a lot of them. And there's no perfection necessary.

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

Monday, April 21, 2014

Craftsy Class Review: White Chocolate Wrap-Undersea Adventure with Paul Bradford

Online Cake Decorating ClassThis Craftsy class covered how to make a very specific white chocolate-covered cake with an undersea design. It was taught by Paul Bradford, who runs his own cake classes online and in the UK. I thought that this class was kind of snuck in on us, since I haven't seem a lot of promotion of it on facebook etc. There's a facebook page that's supposedly a cake decorating fan page but really just promotes Craftsy classes, and I don't remember that it has posted about this class too much...I could be wrong, but it just seems to have been overlooked.

The techniques that he covered were pretty basic if you've worked with white chocolate and ganache before, but on the other hand, there was a lot of information included. He covered different types of ganache, assembling the cake, carving the shape, supporting it the right way, ganaching the final shape, covering it with modeling chocolate and making the decorations. There were a lot of tips that he gave along the way for working with white chocolate, and it would be worth it just for that.

This does teach a very specific design, but you could use the techniques to do different versions of it. Undersea cakes are very popular, and I sell a lot of shell molds and gumpaste shells in my Etsy shop, so adding the white chocolate coral and seaweed to your repertoire would be good.

I also liked that he went over the pricing for this cake, which seems to be what everyone is complaining about these days. I know that for my cakes my cost of ingredients is generally about 15% of the cost of the cake, and that ended up being what he said he would charge for the cake that he made. It was 300 pounds for the ingredients, and he said that he'd charge 2000 pounds for the cake. That's right, 2000 pounds. It served about 200 people, and the cost for white chocolate and ganache add up, so yes, that's the correct price.

The one thing I'll warn you about is that he has a fairly heavy Scottish accent, which can be hard to understand if you're not used to that. You do have to pay attention. One of my cousins from England once came to visit us when I lived in Florida, and I deliberately took him to meet an old guy who worked at a gas station near us. Really friendly guy, but he talked like Boomhauer with a mouth full of rocks, and you couldn't understand 90% of what he said because he had the thickest southern accent I've ever heard. When my cousin was finished "talking" to this man we drove away and he turned to me and said "I didn't understand a word he said." I laughed very hard, but there were times during this class that I felt the same way.

Here's my final review:

Skill Level: Beginner to Intermediate
Equipment You Have To Have: Rollers, luster dust, basic stuff.
Sleep-Inducing Level: Slightly soporific
What It Assumes You Already Know: Not a lot, but he also says "don't worry about it" about ninety million times, so he's assuming that you're willing to not have every single thing explained in detail for you. If you're the kind of person who needs to have a template for everything that you cut out, this might make you nervous. If you're like me and you're more loosey-goosey with how you do things, it won't be an issue.
Unnecessary Difficulty Level Of Methods Demonstrated: Nothing specific
Annoying  Host Habits: Just the accent...While this isn't really annoying, you do have to pay more attention to catch everything he says. If you tend to fall asleep if you sit still for more than two minutes you might miss a lot.
Level of Helpful Hints Learned: A lot about working with white chocolate.

Go here for the class: White Chocolate Wrap:Undersea Adventure

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

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

A Rambling Post About Cake Businesses And Why You Shouldn't Necessarily Have One.

One of my cake friends pointed out this blog article last week and said that people on facebook groups were going nuts screeching about how horrible the author was. In talking about why this was happening, we decided that facebook is like middle school.

No, not really, I decided that on my own, not that other people haven't thought the same thing, I'm sure. But we did decide that people are too quick to assume that other business owners are trying to "keep them down" and that they don't want to read. Because the article is pretty basic advice similar to what I've been saying for years. Nothing wrong with that.

(The one thing I disagree with is the don't copy things, because replicating designs make you faster, which means that you make more profit. That isn't bad. Other than that, I'm on board with what he's saying.)

I'm going to copy my comment summing up what I think is going on to make people offended: "I think what's going on now is that there are so many people opening under cottage baking laws, or just selling illegally, that the market is glutted. Since the market is glutted, people who have been in business longer are losing business to cheaper businesses. Since they're losing business, everyone starts whining on cake forums. Since everyone starts whining, people see themselves being complained about and get sensitive. Since they're sensitive, they're ready to attack anyone who suggest they're taking business from other people. And since cake people are so frickin' psychotic something minor blows up into something ridiculous."

Another baker also made the point that the majority of cake decorators have no clue about running a business, and that results in them losing focus of what running a business is for. The answer to that is that a business is to make money. A business isn't to give you something to do that you enjoy all the time, nothing is ever going to be all hearts and roses. A business exists to make money so that you can pay your bills.

Something that I hear a lot is that cake decorators have businesses because we love cakes so much. No, but that's why people whose hobby is cake decorating start a cake business and think that it will be lots of fun. Then they realize that the business of cakes takes far more of your time than the decorating of cakes, and it isn't fun anymore. Have you ever noticed that when decorators scale down their businesses it's always the cakes that go first? They might still be involved in the cake industry by teaching, writing, designing websites for supply sales, doing tutorials etc, but making and decorating cakes is usually the thing they cut from their schedule.

If you want to have fun with cakes then keep it as a hobby. There's no law that says you have to sell them, and there are plenty of studies that show that when you pay someone to do something they lose interest in that activity. It's a matter of extrinsic vs. intrinsic reward.

Anyway, back to the original point. My point is that if you think that people are trying to blacklist you and say that you're an undercutter, then maybe you secretly think that about yourself. Look at why you get so offended by this kind of thing and maybe adjust your attitude. The last part of the article talks about paying attention to yourself and not worrying about other people. Yes, do that.

If you're spending all your time on cake forums and in cake groups with people who post whines about undercutters and this and that and boo hoo, you're wasting time that you could be using to improve your business. Instead of taking time to spend in whiners groups, why don't you go read a Hubspot article about marketing, they have a lot of good advice. Or do searches for wedding trends so that you can design a couple of new display cakes. Turn off facebook and go to a networking meeting where you'll be talking to people in real life who might actually refer business to you.

Ignore the online rabble-rousing and pay attention to your local market. While everyone else is getting worked up and complaining to each other, you could be improving your bottom line by paying attention to your business. That's where your income comes form, not from facebook groups made up of people who will never buy a cake from you.

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

Monday, April 14, 2014

Checkout51 Coupon App Review

Checkout 51I'm skipping Craftsy this week because I came across a coupon app that I wanted to review instead. It's called Checkout51, and it's one of those things where you shop, then get money back on top of the coupons you used. So since I'm cheap I decided to try it out.

It's available for android and apple, so you put the app on your phone, then check on Thursdays, which is when the new offers are loaded onto the system. The offers are good for one week, and all you have to do is buy the item, then take a photo of the receipt and upload it. The website has all the info on their FAQ page about how to do it, so it's not hard.

When you get to $20 worth of savings logged, they send you a check for the total. I also use Saving Star when I remember it, but you have to submit the store cards, then keep track of what you have loaded onto them. I forget to do that, but I think I can easily check a list of what's available then send a photo of the receipt...It's more like rebates than coupons.

What I liked about this is that even though there are the basic coupons for cereal and cleaning supplies, there were also ones for milk and fresh vegetables. I have weird kids who like broccoli, and there was a coupon for broccoli. Really, do you ever see a coupon anywhere for milk and fresh broccoli? I'll take it.

One thing to be aware of is that there are a limited number of offers per week, so you should check what's available before you go shopping then upload the photo right away. I checked it on Sunday, so I assume that there were things that were offered on Thursday that I missed. But there were still enough that I got $7.50 back on just a few items. Plus, they give you a $2 bonus for trying it out the first time.

You're also not limited to any specific store. You can upload receipts from any store as long as the item is clearly shown on the receipt. I came home and uploaded two receipts from CVS and the grocery store, and it takes the photo then asks you which ones of the offers are on that receipt. The process was really easy other than having to verify your email address, which it asked me to do a couple of times until I just closed it out and restarted it. It worked fine after that.

I like this app enough that I'd recommend it if you do coupons, and I added it to my affiliate partner list on my blog. It's pretty straightforward and it's nice that you don't have to load all of your store cards, or even have a card for the store, just the receipt with the item listed on it. I could go to a random convenience store I've never been to and as long as the receipt has the item listed on it I can get the rebate.

You can also stack the discounts. I got some sunscreen at CVS, used a CVS store coupon and a manufacturer's coupon there, then submitted the receipt for the same items. If you have other savings apps or store coupon apps you can get discounts from all of them if there's overlap in the items that are listed.

In the interest of full disclosure, I get an affiliate fee for everyone who signs up through my links. Also in the interest of full disclosure, this is the money that I use to do giveaways, so I'm not going to be retiring on the $20 a month I get from affiliate links. In addition, if I think something stinks I'm not going to recommend it.

Go here to sign up: Checkout51

Kara Buntin owns A Cake To Remember LLC, custom wedding cakes in Richmond VA, and is a Checkout51 affiliate.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Weekend Craftsy Sale

Craftsy is having a flash sale this weekend and a couple of classes that I've reviewed (and are worth getting) are included. This includes the Classic Flowers class and the Wafer Paper class. The bobblehead cake class, which wasn't about bobbleheads, and the one about how to start a cake business are also in there, as well as a couple others that I haven't watched. Click on the banner above to check out what they have available.
Remember too that there are more than cake classes on there...There are a couple of food classes and some photography and jewelry ones that I'm going to go look at later today when I get a chance, and since they're all up to 50% off I might grab a couple of those.
Kara Buntin owns A Cake To Remember LLC, cusotm wedding cakes in Richmond VA, and is a Craftsy affiliate.