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

Monday, July 14, 2014

Craftsy Class Review: Homemade Salty Snacks

Craftsy LogoHomemade Salty Snacks sounds like my dream come true, considering that I'm not a big cake fan after doing them for so long. Give me a bag of potato chips and I'm happy. This class has sections on how to make your own salty snacks at home, and includes seasoned popcorn and nuts, crackers, vegetable chips, pretzels, corn and pita chips,  and breadsticks.

The benefit to making these at home is that you can use whatever ingredients you want to season them, and you can salt them to your taste. The drawback is the time element.

As she was making the crackers, I watched her and thought about the time involved vs. the time it would take my 18-yr-old son to inhale them. The cost/benefit analysis didn't come out in favor of making my own. This is the kind of thing that you would do if you were having a civilized dinner party and wanted something fancy to use for cheese and crackers before dinner. This isn't the kind of thing that you'd do on a regular basis if you have teenagers or a husband like mine, who can eat any type of baked goods faster than you can make them.

I had the same thoughts for all of the other sections except the soft pretzels, which do take time but are a little more substantial. I think that one batch of those would last a day in my house. Maybe two if I made them in the afternoon and rationed them out.

I also can't fry anything in my house because of the way the heat travels through the hallway. Any time I have anything on the stovetop it sets off my fire alarm, even if nothing is burning. So the sections on making potato and vegetable chips is sadly something that I can't do.

There's a section on stocking your pantry with seasonings, which would be good if you do think that these kind of snacks are something you'd like to do on your own. And she gives you a lot of tips on how to change the recipes that uses so that you can invent flavor combinations that you'd like.

This is a very basic class. I went to check what the full price cost was, and it was higher than I thought it would be considering that it really doesn't teach anything too complicated. If you're totally clueless about how to do this kind of thing it might be worth getting, but I'd wait for a sale. If you've made salty snacks like roasted nuts or puff pastry thingies before you might want to skip this one unless you get it at a deep discount. If you're interested in savory baking, take a couple of the bread classes I've reviewed before instead.

My final review:

Skill Level: Beginner, very simple.
Equipment you'll need: Spices and other ingredients.
Sleep-Inducing level: Not bad but it's a relatively short class.
What it assumes you already know: How to turn the oven on.
Unnecessary Level Of Difficulty For Techniques Shown: Nothing
Annoying Host Habits: Nothing specific, but the Craftsy microphone people really need to learn how to adjust levels so that you don't hear the instructor breathing.
Level Of Helpful Hints Learned: If you've never done this kind of thing before you'll learn a lot, If you've made any kind of snacks like this before it's probably going to be way too simplistic.

Go here for the class:  Homemade salty snacks

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

Friday, July 11, 2014

How To Apply Gold Leaf---Videos

Here are a couple of videos I made recently that deal with applying gold leaf. One shows how surprisingly easy it is to apply gold leaf to wafer paper, and the other deals with applying it directly to a cake.

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