Have you ever been working on a project, whether at work or at home, that you started off excited about and then halfway through you lost that excitement? That happened to me while working on a cake recently. It didn't help that it was the little things that went wrong along the way. I mean I didn't have a huge cake disaster or anything like that, but things just didn't turn out the way it was supposed to. The only thing that I didn't have an issue with was the actual cake... it baked up great and tasted delicious! I made up the frosting, which was great too (cream cheese always is!), however I made just enough. I've never cut it that close before, I usually have plenty left over in the end just in case I need more for whatever reason. The cake was a 2 tiered cake with a winter theme. I found this amazing cake with these dainty snowflakes made with Royal Icing, it was absolutely beautiful! I kept looking for an excuse to make this cake, and then one came up. A customer wanted a cake for her daughter's 1st birthday... the theme was Winter Onederland. Perfect!! When I saw the picture of the original cake, first I thought, that's way too many snowflakes. Then I thought "I bet it would look awesome with a dark blue icing and the white snowflakes." It would make those snowflakes really pop! So I made up my royal icing and started piping snowflakes. My icing never hardened and the snowflakes were too fragile to put on the cake, as soon as I touched them they broke. Ok, plan B. I have a set of snowflake cookie cutters, ok so I can make up some fondant and cut out snowflakes. It's not going to be as lacy and beautiful as the original but it'll still be alright. Good, I got that all figured out, now let me go color my icing. The customer wanted a pale blue rather then a dark blue. I pulled out my blue color wanting to add a drop or 2 of color, instead a bunch of color came out. I mixed it up and it was a medium blue... well no turning back now. It was time to add the borders, which I was going to do in white icing. I wanted to use my flower tip, which makes a 5 pointed rounded star shaped flower that could sort of look like a snowflake. I did the border around the bottom and it turned out fine, but the day was heating up and my hands were warm, which made my icing melt. I tried putting the icing in the fridge but it would harden up too much and I couldn't get a good shaped flower out of it. I started the border around the bottom of the top tier and it turned into a gloppy mess! I had to remove the border and start over... it was a no go. Then I switched to a small circle tip, and decided to do a pearl border instead. Maybe it would look like snowballs?? Got the borders all on, now it was time for the snowflakes to go on. I wanted them just on the bottom tier every so often. I started to put them on and got about halfway around the cake when my 1st few snowflakes started falling off. GREAT!! Now what?? Well I still had some royal icing left, maybe I could use it like glue. Got them all on, and it looked like everything was holding... whew! I used one of the cookie cutters as a template to pipe a snowflake on the top of the cake (the small tier was to become a smash cake) and then free handed the writing. Happy went on great, Birthday turned out pretty good, but Lilah went on all crooked. I removed the writing and tried piping it again. Much better! All done, got the cake in the box and put it in the fridge until the party the later that day. I went out to check on it the next morning and thank goodness everything was still holding!! So glad that was over!
Did I mention that I'm 8 1/2 months pregnant and though I got most of it done the night before the party, I woke up at 5am just sick about how the cake was going to turn out. I got up then and finished the cake about 7am, went back to bed and the customer picked it up at 11am. All that said, it turned out great and the customer was very happy with the finished product as was I. It was just one of those cakes that gave me fits throughout the process of making it, even though I was so excited about it to begin with.
I've heard several times recently comments like "kuddos to you for doing this, I couldn't handle the stress," or "more power too you," "you are so creative, I just don't have the patience." So I started thinking, why do I continue to make and decorate cakes? The answer is simple, so that I can continue to live my dream.
I started Punkadoodle Sweets about a year ago (April/May of 2011) out of necessity. My husband was out of work, we had a 1 year old baby and there was NO money coming in!! We didn't know where our next meal was going to come from. We started selling off anything we owned that had any kind of value. I started thinking what can I do to bring in some money? I've tried direct sales (Partylite, Creative Memories)... I am not a sales person!! I figured that out real quick! I could go back to work, making $10 an hour as a receptionist (I was a counselor at a treatment facility for $8 an hour 10 years prior). That would leave my husband at home trying to go on interviews, mailing out resumes, etc all while trying to watch our daughter which was going to be tough. Let's face it, I could only hope to make $10 an hour where as he would minimum make $50 an hour. I needed to do what ever I could to help him get a job, but we needed some cash!! Short of prostituting myself or selling drugs (and yes, when you are that desperate, those things do enter your mind), cake decorating seemed like the best option at the time.
I had taken a few cake decorating classes a couple years prior and had made a few cakes for fun that turned out really well, so I thought why not. About this same time a friend of mine asked me if I would make her daughter's 1st birthday cake, she wanted her party to be something special but needed to save money too. After seeing the cake I made for my daughter's 1st birthday party, she wanted to know how much I would charge. I quoted her a fair price for a cake, cupcakes, and chocolate pops.... and Punkadoodle Sweets Bakery was born!
So, back to my dream... No cake baking is not my dream, but it does allow me to live my dream and still feel like I can contribute financially to this family. My dream job, happened 2 years and 3 months ago when my daughter was born. I decided a long time ago that I wanted to be a mom, a full time mom. I want to be a stay at home mom, I don't want daycare to raise my kids. For those of you reading this who chose a different path, that's fantastic for you! But for me, I feel like I would miss out on so much if I wasn't at home with my daughter. Everyday she does something new, she says something cute and she experiences a new aspect of life. I want to be there to experience it with her, the good and the bad. My friends secretively wonder what I'm going to do when Rowan goes to school... I will be here waiting for her when she gets home with open arms and ears so that she can tell me about her day. I want to be the room mom when she's in elementary school and go on all the field trips. When she gets older and gets involved in sports or music, I will be the mom that travels with the group, I will be the "band mom" or "soccer mom" (I may even drive a mini van one day). I will also take a huge interest in my child's school and education... either the school that Rowan attends is going to love me or hate me, because I will be one of THOSE moms. I want to be the cool mom, but still keep my child in check. THAT is my dream.
Father's Day is coming up, this is the one holiday that I have mixed emotions about. Since my dad passed away in 2008, I knew that Father's Day was going to be tough. It became increasingly difficult after my daughter was born in 2010. You see, my husband and I had tried for 10 years to have kids. We did some basic fertility treatments that didn't work out, we had 2 failed adoptions within 3 weeks of each other at the beginning of 2008 and had a miscarriage at the end of 2008. 2008 was not a good year for us! I spent the first father's day after my dad's death with his family, which made it a little bit easier. Now as I watch my daughter turn into this little person with her own little personality, I think about how much fun my dad would have with her. I think about all the things that he isn't here for and all the stories and anecdotes that she will miss out on. My dad was famous for his stories, no matter the situation... he had a story! Even now, I hear his voice in my head in his cool logic intellect. He didn't just tell me to do things a certain way or not to do something, but he always told me why and he would put it in such a way that went along with the laws of physics and how the universe worked. That was my dad.
While I mourn the death of my father and all the things that both he and my daughter will miss out on, I rejoice with my husband! After 10 years and many heartaches and heartbreaks, our precious child is here. She is the apple of his eye! There is nothing more sweet then sitting back and watching them play together. He loves making her laugh! We both still look at her in disbelief that she's here and that she's ours. I couldn't have asked for a better father to my child!
Go to my facebook page and share with me your favorite Father's Day memory. www.facebook.com/punkadoodlesweetsatl
I've gotten a few orders under my belt, one major disaster and a few more already in the works. One thing that I've noticed is that no one likes to talk about money, and people are real touchy when the subject is brought up. It's almost as if it's a dirty diaper and no one wants to take responsibility for it, much less touch it. Some people even loose their ability to speak or think clearly. I get a grunt and a check or cash shoved in my hand as if we were a couple of cavemen. So, I'm going to try to lay it all out there.
The first big question people want to know is how much is it going to cost me? Well the answer depends on what you want and what you are willing to accept. Can I do a 3 tiered wedding cake with cupcakes and cookies for under $200?? Sure but it's not going to be some elaborate design with a lot of intricate detail work. It'll be a plain white cake, simply iced cupcakes and a simple cookie design. As uncomfortable as it is, money should be the first thing discussed. Whether it's with me, or another bakery or any other service specialist, we need to know your budget. An actual number, don't just say "as cheap as possible" because "cheap" to me may not be as "cheap" to you. Don't be ashamed to say that your wedding budget for cake and/or confections is $200 or for a kids party all you can spend on the cake is $50. I, and any other bakery will more then likely be happy to work within your budget.
The next thing that goes through most people's mind is why are you more expensive then the grocery stores? I know that you can go to Publix or your local grocery store and pick up a 1/4 sheet cake for $20 but is it custom made for your event? Even if you ordered a 1/4 sheet cake out of their catalog and have it decorated in a specific theme, the quality of their cakes just aren't as good as a specialized bakery can do. They also have several people to work on one cake, there is someone that all they do is bake the cakes, there is someone else who ices the cake and another person who decorates it. (As a side note, most of the grocery store cakes are loaded up with white icing and then airbrushed rather then using different colored icing to put the details on the cake). I am just one person, I bake the cakes, I ice them and I decorate them and I do it all based on what I've discussed with each individual client. I have never made the same cake twice. So, yes, I'm going to charge a little bit more then the grocery store is going to charge.
Lastly, and here's smelly part of the dirty diaper we discussed earlier... Should I tip?? I mean we agreed on a price and gosh it's just more expensive then if I had gone to the grocery store, Right? Wrong! The answer is yes, in this country, you should tip anyone who has performed a service (even more since I don't charge a delivery fee and the price of gas these days...), whether it's a florist, a caterer, a DJ or a cake baker... you should always tip. The tip should absolutely be based on how well their job was done. Don't write the check until after the job is done. If the cake is everything you imagined and more, then tip well. If the cake is just ok and you aren't very happy with it, first of all don't be shy and bring it up to me or the bakery, I'm sure something can be done to make you satisfied and then tip accordingly.
Don't be afraid to talk about money, it'll save a lot of stress for both parties involved if it's just all out there.
I spent all day in my kitchen today baking and making icing and fillings for what was going to be this extremely cute Tinkerbell cake. Fortunately, this cake was for a good friend of mine and part gift. It was supposed to be a 3 tiered cascading woodland scene with a waterfall flowing down through each tier and featuring a Tinkerbell figurine along with several of her fairy friends. I'm attaching a picture of what it is supposed to look like. The bottom of the cake was a yellow cake with a strawberry cream cheese filling. The strawberry filling was the first thing to go wrong. I followed the recipe but somehow must have added too many strawberries... the filling was delicious but a bit runny. I added more cream cheese and more powdered sugar just to stiffen it up to a manageable consistency.
One problem averted. The top 2 tiers were to be chocolate with a cream cheese filling. My chocolate cake recipe is so yummy but it isn't easy to work with, unless it's just a single layer cake. I'm going to have to tweek my recipe. I got the chocolate tiers carved and ready to stack by putting them in the freezer. By freezing them it stiffens the cake which makes it easier to move from the tray onto the cake. It was a little tense getting the chocolate layers onto the bottom of the cake but it was on there. I walk away to grab some icing to finish the base coat, and upon returning to the cake... it starts falling apart and crumbling away. OH NO!!!
I do what I can, I have some extra cake so with the help of my husband (Dan... you will I'm sure hear more about him in future posts), I start shoving bits of cake up under the layers of chocolate to build it up in hopes to salvage the cake. That didn't work, it may have made it worse! As I sit there trying to figure out what to do with the cake, it continues to crumble and fall apart in front of me! . There is no way of saving the cake and even if I did... it wouldn't make the 2 hour trip to where my friend lives.
What I learned:
1. ALWAYS level your cake!!!
2. Make sure the cake you are working with isn't too spongy..
Come on in, the oven is on and the smell of cake is wafting through the air. Pull up a cozy seat and settle down with a nice cup of tea. This is where I get to talk about all of my greatest creations and my latest disasters in the kitchen. Creating the perfect confection for your event is what I do but I am also starting up an event planning business, so not only will I be talking about all the yummy treats here but I will also bring in some party planning ideas as well as etiquette. I hope you gain information, I hope to spark your imagination and creativity and I hope to thoroughly entertain you!
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