Sometimes, for many of us, thinking up cake decorating ideas can be really difficult, and can create many sleepless nights of dreaming and endless hours spent googling. I am going to write a simple process, that I follow, to get easy decorating ideas for my cake artistry.
When I receive requests for specific occasions, I get really excited, but what excites me more, is when I am asked by my customer to surprise them with any unique design; I can pretty much do whatever I want.
However, despite this permitted freedom, I ensure that the people, I am making the cakes for, are involved in every step; from start to finished product.
Regardless of skill level, this simple process will assist anyone to design and create unique cake art.
The Occasion or Purpose
When I receive a cake order or request, I try to have an initial consult with my customer. My first question is always: what is the occasion or purpose.
Getting this information, is crucial so that, designs can be customised according to the occasion. Some cake art designs, factor in cultural backgrounds, or to portray funny memories/thoughts, or even weird items/themes.
You find out about any diet requirements too, during this initial consult.
My cousin’s children graduated from university recently and I had the pleasure of creating their cakes. She requested that some of our Tongan culture be included in the decorations. I created each cake with the university logo and decorated the sides to look just like our Tongan tapa mats (all hand painted by the way).
Another aspect to finding out about the occasion is, to get details to where the ceremony will be held. For example, if the venue/ reception will be outside, and during summer, the design of that cake will need to withstand bugs and the heat.
Therefore, finding out the occasion or purpose, will give you, an idea of the ingredients needed and how the cake should be designed.
Sometimes, the amount of money that the customer can afford, will have an impact on your cake art design also. I personally like to customise my cake art to how much my customer can afford.
For example, if a young couple cannot afford a lavish cake design, I try to offer them a more affordable yet beautiful design. This is my way of giving back to the community, nothing gives me more pleasure than to see people happy. Money does not make beautiful cake art, people do.
For people who can afford to pay, I ask for a small non-refundable deposit (20%) to guarantee that I am paid for my time, should there be an early cancellation.
I would list down all the required items including my labour and make up a budget. This budget is what I use as foundation to what I use, as a final price to quote for my service and end product (less the pre-paid deposit).
I usually give ‘mate’s rates’ for friends and family, which is usually a large discount (if you are reading this and you are my friend/family – this is how much I love you, but all good since, I do get to take home a mat or large ‘doggy bag’ in return).
I suggest that you try and get a mutual agreement for the final price, before giving your service and heart to any new project (verbal agreements are fine, if its someone you know but I suggest having it written via quote/invoice).
Another thing to consider when agreeing on a budget and also for your decorating ideas, is, to ask about, the amount of people attending and eating the cake/s that you will be creating.
I sometimes make an extra cake or two, as a back up, not only for any extra people (uninvited gate crashers are normally expected at our Tongan celebrations), but also, in case of any unwarranted accidents and I need to fix any cakes at very short notice (especially, for long distance deliveries).
Note: If you make a full-time earning from your cake creations – include any taxes to be paid (GST or Income Tax) in your budget/quote/invoice.
Icing Type, Colors & Flavours
Okay, this should be quite straight forward. Getting the right icing type, colors and flavouring are crucial to your cake decorating ideas/designs – this is where, constant communication with the customer is advised.
When I was working on a recent wedding cake order, the customer changed the colors about four times during the process, because she couldn’t make up her mind what colors to use for her bridesmaids. So expect to have a few leftover unused decorations after your cake art is completed.
Another way to get the exact coloring is to request a sample color of the fabrics being used for the venue decor, or bridal party. A photo with the intended colors is also very helpful.
Sometimes, I make a 6-inch sample cake for the customer to test, with all the required icing, coloring and flavours. I then, tweak the cake art according to the customer’s opinion.
If my customer gives an outlandish, impossible flavor, I advise them so. However, I am always up for new challenges and if I do not find a recipe, I create a new recipe (my poor family have to test drive these new flavors of course – before I offer it to the customers).
About 95% of the time, though, I can say, without a doubt, that I have been able to accommodate most of the flavours requested. My nephew’s wedding will be held in October next year, and he requested a yam flavored cake, which I look forward to posting about later.
Some designs or decorations require different mediums for greater effect. My main specialty is hand painting and sketching on fondant. This takes great patience and time, but the special effects are worth it. I encourage you to find which medium that the customer might wish to have. If you like to specialise on a specific cake art medium, using photos of your previous work, can help your customers to choose what you prefer as well.
I am not a fan of sticking on pre-made or pre-bought decorations on my cakes – as this will not be true, to what I believe true ‘cake artistry’ is all about. I do my best to create everything to at least over 90% edible decorations, rather than have plastic or non edible stuff, including sweets and ‘what nots’ added, for the sake of saving time.
Adding fresh flowers too, for me, is not being really creative, because they were not created by you! personally, I think real flowers are just another added expense and for all their glory, leave cakes looking naked once they are removed.
Now that I have said it, feel free to add your own thoughts into the comments section. However at the end of the day, if you disagree, just do you, so please don’t shoot me!
This is my favorite part. After, I have gathered all of the above information from my customers, I make myself a cup of coffee and sit in a comfortable spot, with an art sketch book (used specifically for my cake art) and draw to my hearts content.
This is similar to ‘brain storming’ but I call it ‘cake storming’. I lose myself in my drawings (very therapeutic) and when I believe I have a design, I take a screen shot with my phone and send it to my customer for their final comments/approval.
Sometimes, if time is not an issue, I create a miniature 3-D cake model, made from glued cardboard paper and foam, and decorate with the colors. This helps me to visualise a final product and to stay focused during my work.
I try to remain true to my customer’s requests, in my cake art. If I am given no requests, I try to use the customer’s personalities and likes, to allow them to be still a part of the process.
Sometimes, I ask permission to view their social media pages. In this way, I am always focused on what my customer’s wants are, and not about how good I think my cake art is.
I would like to conclude this blog with a brief summary of what I have just written. In order to create unique cake art, you must have some cake decorating ideas or designs in mind. Sometimes this is the most difficult hurdle to jump.
Have a consult with your customer and find out: what the occasion is and/or the purpose for the cake/s; how much your cake art will cost for both the customer and yourself; get detailed information on icing type, colouring and flavouring; ask what decorating mediums are required.
With this information sketch a basic design or make a miniature model of your cake.
Last but not least, always keep in mind that your customer’s needs and wants are more important than a showcase of your own creativity. Therefore, by following my simple process, anyone can easily discover cake decorating ideas for their own cake artistry.
Please comment if you have found this post useful or would like to share how you get your cake decorating ideas. Despite my suggestions, I encourage you to always remain true to you.