Friday, May 31, 2013

The Business of Cakes

I'm not entirely certain where to start with this post, so I guess I'll just start at the beginning of this journey.  When I started toying around with cake and fondant and what not, I had no clue what I was doing.  But I LOVED it.  It was so intriguing to learn new things.  I had successful attempts.  I had crushingly horrible attempts.  But I enjoyed it.  My husband is a chef and he knows what he's doing.  He's "been there, done that" so to speak.  Somehow though, he still enjoys the process.  Even though his successes are far more frequent than his defeats, he still loves to cook.  His satisfaction comes at the end result.  I, on the other hand, am a process person.  I like the learning and the planning that goes in to the attempt.  The end result is just a by product of that. 
When I started making cakes for people, 99% of those were friends.  They knew that I didn't know what I was doing but they took a chance on me anyway.  And those people are AWESOME for that!  I got some confidence under me, took on bigger and more complicated cakes.  Unless you do this (or something like this) you have no idea how awesome it feels to take a cake somewhere and have everyone literally stop everything to stare at your creation.  Your baby.  You put your blood, sweat and tears into some of these cakes.  Not literally of course, that would be unsanitary, but on any given day, the temperature and humidity outside, the temperature and humidity inside, the precipitation for that day, and more measurements that really only meteorologists and sugar artists give two cents about can affect your canvas.  Nevermind the logistics that go into making sure the cake will hold up at the venue.  Woosh.  It can boggle the mind.
Before I lose you in barometric readings and dew points and such, let me get back to my story.  At this point, I started taking on other clients, as in people I didn't know.  Here's where the joy started creeping out.  It's not that I didn't love the process anymore.  It's that then I had to start setting prices and flavor lists and bookkeeping and blobbity, blobbity, blah.  The process that I love so much was getting pushed further and further back.  It started becoming a job.
And here's the real kicker.  Because this is a hobby, I don't charge "cakery" prices.  I can't do it.  I still don't know what the heck I'm doing half the time.  So it's become a job that I'm not getting paid to do.  To be perfectly honest, what I charge for a cake barely covers what it costs me to make it.  There is very little profit if any (some cakes cost me money) and I make nothing.  At this point you're probably thinking, "Charge more.  Problem solved."  And you're right.  That would solve that.  But it also undermines what I really want to do.
I have lost sight of the process in all of this.  That's no one's fault but my own.  I should have learned to say no earlier.  The sheer volume of cakes I turn out sometimes means that it's all about the end result and very little about the process.  And it's kind of sucked the joy out of it.
I have never set out to have this be a job.  At its core, this is a hobby for me.  There is so much more I want to learn and attempt.  Plus, I have four little people who depend on me as their sole source of emotional support when their Daddy is working out of town.  It's unfair to them for me to be tethered to the kitchen from sunrise to bedtime because I couldn't say no to just one more small cake. 
I hope this explains why my work load has been decreasing and will continue to be so small for the time being.  My favorite cakes are almost always the ones that I make for friends and family and I will continue to do those on a case by case basis.  I hope if I tell you "no" that you won't take it personally.  Even if this does become a job eventually, I want it to be one that I enjoy doing.  For now, I hope my hobby continues to make people happy.  And that includes me!
Joyfully,
Jen

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