Category Archives: Cake Business

Top Tips for Using Video to Market Your Cake Business

Video About Cake Business - Talk Sweet to MeYou are working hard to promote your business at events, on your website, and everywhere else you go (anyone gotten a customer from the grocery store check out line?), but there are only so many hours in a day. Too bad you can’t send a personal message to that potential customer on your site at 10:30 pm on a Saturday night since you’re:

a. in bed, like me.

b. out grabbing a drink or three with friends.

c. curled up on the couch with your family watching a movie and eating ice cream.

But there’s a solution! An online video is a powerful tool that can help sell your business for you whether you’re sleeping, on vacation, or busy in the kitchen working on another masterpiece. And I absolutely promise, it’s not too hard. If I can do it, you can DEFINITELY do it!

I didn’t use my video to its fullest potential (then again, there are quite a few things overall that I would do differently if I had it to do again!), and as a marketing manager I’m still kicking myself for that. Looking back I think I appear a little snobbish and would rework my script and tone to take some of that out. Be fun! Be friendly! Keep in mind that people want to work with people they like, not necessarily someone who knows it all.

Here are my top recommendations for using video to market your cake business:

  • If you are filming and editing yourself, be sure to use a good quality camera.
  • If you would rather work with a professional (I did), try to link up with a wedding videographer. We’ve talked about the importance of networking before, and this is one way you could really get to know one or two in your area.
  • Write your script carefully, and then have someone you know go over it with a fine-toothed comb to ensure your messaging is on-target. Then have someone you don’t know as well do the same thing. Ask for feedback (constructive criticism only, please!) and incorporate the ideas you think will work well for you. Tweak, tweak, and tweak until it is perfect.
  • You get to be a famous actress actor/actress for the day! Dress the part, pay special attention to your hair and make-up, make sure everything is in place before filming, and then GO FOR IT!
  • If you don’t have a commercial kitchen available, see if you can rent one out.
  • Pay attention to what is in the background.
  • Do something interesting while you’re talking, like…decorate a cake. You don’t want to just be a talking head, but remember that a talking head is better than a picture, which is better than no picture at all. Your customers want to get to know YOU, the person who will be an integral part of their celebration.

Once it’s complete, GET IT OUT THERE! Use it as an introduction on your website. Place a QR code that links to the video on your handouts or business card. Post it on all your social media channels (maybe not all at the same time – space it out so you’re not flooding your followers with the same thing over and over). Send it as a link in your next customer newsletter. Write a blog post about it.

Then sit back, relax, and let your video do some of the selling for you!

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Red and Aqua Wedding Cake – My First Cake Delivery!

The following was originally posted on my first blog, The Planet Cake Intern, as I learned the art of cake decorating and began putting together the very first pieces of my cake business in Kansas City. 

Flashback - talksweettome.com

Originally posted August 9, 2008

I met with a very fun couple back in July and was hired to make the cake for their early August wedding at Kansas City’s Uptown Theater.

They wanted a cake in these colors to match their invitations and the venue…

Invitation pattern

…and similar in style to the cake in this picture that they gave to me to match their fun and laid-back personalities:

Inspiration cake

Here is the design they chose:

Design drawing

They wanted a 3-tier white chocolate mud cake and two kitchen cakes in vanilla white and yellow butter flavors. It was a lot of baking, but of course, any amount of cake seems trivial now compared to the cake trials.

Baked cake

So the boards were prepared, the cakes were ganached, and the center pole was constructed.

Ganached tiers2

I hadn’t covered a square cake for a while, but got a whole bunch of practice at once this week.

Ganached tiers

Covered square tiers

After stacking the cake it was time to move on to the mixing of the colors. I spent at least a half hour (probably closer to 45 minutes), and made a colossal mess trying to come up with the correct shade of red to match the invitations.

coloring fondant

My hands ended up being nearly the same color…

red hands

Oh yeah…that’s what those gloves were for! Next it was time to carve the “K” for the cake topper. I cut it out of styro, secured it to the skewer, and covered it in the red icing.

Styro cake topper

Red K initial cake topper

The “K” cake topper was finished off with silver cachous around the outside to match the “i do” lettering on the middle tier.

I decorated the tiers from the top down so as not to mess up anything I’d already created by leaning my elbows on it or something similarly klutzy. The stripes:

Cake in progress4 - Talk Sweet to Me

The front rectangle piece for the ‘i do’ had to go on next, and was surrounded by red and aqua bubbles:

Cake in progress2 - Talk Sweet to Me

Starting the checkerboard pattern:

Cake in progress - Talk Sweet to Me

For efficiency’s sake, a piece of cardboard was cut to the correct width and used to cut all of the red and aqua squares. It made life a lot easier than measuring every time I needed to make a cut.

Cutting squares equipmentJust a few silver cachous added on for the ‘i do’ and here is the finished cake!

Decorated cake - Talk Sweet to Me

It was a bit late (or early, if you prefer) when I finished this one.

Finish time

The last thing I had to stress about was the delivery, but that went as smooth as silk because I had such great help (you know who you are)!!!

Red and Aqua Wedding Cake - Talk Sweet to Me

Am I proud of my first successful wedding cake delivery? Ummm…yes, I suppose I am.

Lisa at delivery

The best part of the delivery was running into the bride and her bridesmaids as they were coming in to set up for the reception. They were literally jumping up and down and shrieking with delight as the cake came out of the box. I think they were happy with it…

Bride and bridesmaids exclaim - Talk Sweet to Me…which makes me very happy too.

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Purple Striped Birthday Cake

The following was originally posted on my first blog, The Planet Cake Intern, as I learned the art of cake decorating and began putting together the very first pieces of my cake business in Kansas City. 

Flashback - talksweettome.com

Originally posted August 1, 2008

My very good friend Stacy had a birthday a couple weeks ago and needed a cake to celebrate – after all, what is a birthday without a cake? A yellow cake with dark chocolate ganache and the color purple were my only design constrictions, which left things pretty much wide open. I decided on a simple but fun striped cake with a big purple bow.

Cake design drawing

First I ganached the cake…

Ganached cake

…and covered it with white icing.

Covered cake - Talk Sweet to Me

Then it was on to the stripes. When doing the stripes on the Madhatter cake, Anna-Maria taught us to start with an “X” of colored stripes and fan the stripes out to the sides from there.

Putting stripes on cake - Talk Sweet to Me

Finally finished!

Stripes complete - Talk Sweet to Me

Moving on to the bow…

finishing purple bow - Talk Sweet to Me

…and then I just added a black rope around the base and a message on the board to complete the cake:

Purple Striped Birthday Cake - Talk Sweet to Me

When we got to the restaurant where Stacy’s birthday celebration was being held, I added on a candle…which was probably not really necessary since we forgot to light it. Whoops!

Cake at bar with candle

This cake brought a lot of attention to our table. People kept stopping on their way by and asking if it was a real cake (as opposed to a fake one that we were cutting into and eating?), asking if the bow was really a ribbon (no – shock!) and actually getting up from their tables to come see what all the fuss was about and talk about cake for a minute or two.

Stacy and me

 

Friends at birthday party - Talk Sweet to Me

We decided that it would be a good advertising scheme to make a cake and take it to a new place every weekend…then just hand out cards like crazy when people came over to check it out. Even if it ended up not working, at least we’d have some fun along the way!

Eventually it was time to cut the cake…

Stacy cutting the cake - Talk Sweet to Me

…and enjoy eating it!

Cake was delicious - Talk Sweet to Me

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Bookworm Birthday Cake – Step By Step

The following was originally posted on my first blog, The Planet Cake Intern, as I learned the art of cake decorating and began putting together the very first pieces of my cake business in Kansas City. 

Flashback - talksweettome.com

Originally posted July 26, 2008

I was delighted to have the chance to make a birthday cake for my friend Hannah (#32) from my soccer years…go Ames Flames! Her mom was having a pretty important birthday and she wanted to surprise her with “something different” for her birthday present – so contacted me to make a cake!

Hannah’s mom is a librarian and also loves to eat healthy food. We bounced around some ideas and finally came up with a cute little bookworm – complete with wire-rimmed glasses – coming out of an apple with a couple of books nearby:

Bookworm cake sketch - Talk Sweet to Me

I quickly went out to the store to buy the most perfect apple I could find to use as a model. GOR-geous.

apple

It is possible that this could have been done entirely of cake, with a board in the middle and dowels to support the top half of the apple. However, Hannah didn’t require that much cake and so I decided to do the bottom half in styro, top half in cake, with a dowel through the middle for support.

Ganached cake - Talk Sweet to Me

I had a momentary panic attack when covering this cake. One of the hardest cakes I ever covered was the soccer ball cake, and I was lucky that Handi was there to help me when I was doing that one. So, channeling some good Planet Cake vibes, I rolled out the icing a little bit thicker than normal to allow for some stretching around the shape and went to town. A little round piece was cut out of the red of the apple and I inserted black icing to make a hole for the worm to come out of.

Covered cake - Talk Sweet to Me

On to the books. These were made of cake with a cardboard base for support so that I would be able to set one at an angle.

Cutting cake for books

Ganaching…

Ganached books

I covered the sides with white and made marks for the pages first.

Covering book with fondant - pages

Then I added thicker icing overhanging the edges for the book cover.

Cake book - Talk Sweet to Me

Next I carved the styro for the worm and covered it with green icing. Then just added texture, wire-rimmed glasses (much harder to bend to shape than I thought they would be, by the way), and a face. My ninja brush was not cooperating. The black went on a little thicker than I would have liked, but ended up looking okay after some minor catastrophe-aversion techniques were employed.

Bookworm - Talk Sweet to Me

Next I added titles to the books and painted them gold.

Cake books finished - Talk Sweet to Me

Putting everything together…

Apple and bookworm cake from top - Talk Sweet to Me

…and the finished cake!

Bookworm cake - Talk Sweet to Me

My mom has been letting me use her fabulous silicone rolling pin. I told her how great it was and she immediately told me not to buy one because they (whoever ‘they’ are!) found toxic substances in them. I knew this could not possibly be true because Handi owns more than one, and surely if there were anyone who would know about those kinds of things, it would be Handi and the rest of the Planet Cake team (and they would have let me know about this on one of the days rolling pins came up in conversation, right?!). Turns out, this was her way of trying to get me to avoid buying one because she had one hidden away for me as a Christmas present. Anyway, Christmas came early this year, and I now have my very own bright red rolling pin.

Me with rolling pin

I’m one happy gal.

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How to Carve Styrofoam Base Elements for Custom 3-D Cake Decorations

The following was originally posted on my first blog, The Planet Cake Intern, as I learned the art of cake decorating and began putting together the very first pieces of my cake business in Kansas City. 

Take some of the lessons I learned on the below cake project to make your carved Styrofoam bases easier to cover with fondant for custom 3-D cake decorations!

Flashback - talksweettome.com

Originally posted July 2008

I recently designed a cake for a client whose husband was turning 60 and she wanted to give him a special cake at a surprise party with their friends, family, and neighbors. Apparently he likes to walk around the neighborhood park with their miniature dachshund…a lot. So she asked me to put together a cake with a figurine of her husband, the dog (no leash), and the fountain from the park he walks in. Here is what I came up with:

Cake sketch

Again, one of those really fast sketches on the same sheet of paper as one of my many “to-do” lists. It was kind of hard to tastefully incorporate all the elements she was looking for.

The covered cake:

Covered cake

Around their neighborhood there are signs for the streets that are embedded in the sidewalks.

Rockhill road sign

I got out the ninja brush again and made the sugar version. A pencil is in there for scale.

Rockhill sugar sign - Talk Sweet to Me

The sidewalk with road sign and a rock paving pattern were added to the cake:

Cake and beginning decoration

Next was the dog. Here is Max:

Dog inspiration photo - Talk Sweet to Me

This was much trickier than either Margie or Handi made it look…and since I’d never attempted one before, of course found a few things I’d do differently next time. I’ll tell you here so that if you’re making one yourself, you don’t have to make the same mistakes I did! I actually carved the legs out of Styrofoam, and they were a little bit stumpy.

Carved styro dog

A few days after the cake was delivered I remembered that Margie used skewers for the legs of the horse she did a few months ago. I’d probably do that next time, which would give me a better way to anchor the dog to the cake (I used royal icing this time) and also allow me to make the legs thinner. I’d also make the snout skinnier – either just with icing or with a skewer as a base there too – work on making the eyes more realistic, and add some texture for the fur. (I was reminded of this while watching Elisa Strauss’ YouTube video of the dog cake. If you haven’t seen it yet, check it out here.)

Dog figurine - Talk Sweet to Me

I covered a wire with icing and inserted it into the styro to make the tail, made a couple of ears out of icing, then painted the parts that needed to be black with food coloring. Overall, I think the attempt was okay, but I know there is room for improvement and learned a lot from it.

Finished sugar dog - Talk Sweet to Me

Next was the man. I saw Handi make a dancing groom one time and he told me that when you do the figurines where only one leg is anchoring it to the cake, you must insert the skewer up through that leg…but then make the skewer come out in the exact center of the shoulders of the figurine so the head will be centered. I had to make two attempts at carving the styro for it because I had such a hard time inserting the skewer correctly (Handi will not be surprised when he reads this!):

Man figurine 1

I was unhappy with my proportioning here, but share it anyway so all you cake people out there can benefit from my mistakes! The torso is too long, and the legs are too short and stout. The lesson: *measure carefully* when starting to carve, and remember that the styro must be skinnier than you want it to end up being since the icing adds bulk. Adding the shorts:

Man figurine 2

He usually walks his dog in khaki shorts, a yellow polo shirt, and black flip-flops with socks.

Man figurine - Talk Sweet to Me

The finished figurine:

Man walking figurine - Talk Sweet to Me

I was most proud of the fountain on this cake. Here is what I was going for:

Fountain inspiration - Talk Sweet to Me

So I carved the three bowls and the base out of styro…

Carved fountain - Talk Sweet to Me

…then covered them with icing.

Fountain elements

After that, it was time to make it more realistic with some piping.

Sugar fountain no water - Talk Sweet to Me

I added some water and secured it to the cake with royal icing:

Sugar fountain - Talk Sweet to Me

After that it was just a matter of adding the other figurines, piping on some shrubs and grass, adding flowers, and finishing the message and candles on the board. Here is the finished cake:

Man and Dog Birthday Cake - Talk Sweet to Me

It was fun to deliver the cake and meet Max…he’s even cuter in person! The client was very happy with it, so I decided I was too. I guess for a first attempt at a dog and a walking/dancing figurine (without Handi and Margie’s expert advice), it was okay. I learned enough to do better next time, at least.

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Cake Recipe Testing

Blast from the past - www.talksweettome.com

Maybe this early on in the life of Talk Sweet to Me I shouldn’t show you how cake-crazy and obsessed with perfection I am, but you’ll probably get that idea eventually anyway. For the past several months I’ve been sharing bits and pieces from my old blog which chronicled my start in the cake business. This post is one of my favorites.

“Cake Recipe Testing” was written shortly after I returned to the United States from Australia to show what I did to develop my go-to cake recipes. I hate to admit this, but on the very first order that I completed on my own, I was devastated when the customer complained that the cake was very dry and fell apart. It was the birthday cake recipe that was used in my family for years! That feedback inspired this frantic quest to find the best cake recipes EVER. Was I glad I did it? Yes…I developed a library of recipes I could count on again and again. Would I ever want to do it again? Heck, no. It was a lot of work!

Hope you’ll enjoy this blast from the past!

Written May 2008 - talksweettome.com

Over the past month and a half, I have been doing a bit of baking. By a bit, I mean that I tried 47 different cake recipes in order to narrow it down to fifteen that I can count on to be fabulous. It was tiring, it was messy, it was expensive, it was crazy, and it was worth it.

Do you know the looks you get when you walk into the grocery store and buy 4 packages of 18 eggs each, multiple large bags of flour and sugar, at least six pounds of butter, and mounds of (expensive!) chocolate bars? I got all of those when I went to pick up the ingredients. 75 eggs!

Ingredients for taste testing - www.talksweettome.com

I wanted to wear a sign on my forehead that said “I’m not eating all of this by myself,” (or maybe it would have been funnier if it said I was eating all of it myself!) but it turned out to be a good conversation starter. The guy who rang me up at the checkout counter asked me if there were real carrots in carrot cake. Seriously…

On Thursday afternoon I started making the box mix cakes. It is so easy…

Baking for taste testing - www.talksweettome.com

The first cake testing was held on Saturday, and I figured if there were any cakes that could withstand a couple days of being wrapped with plastic wrap, it would be the unnaturally moist, preservative-filled box mix cakes. Should I tell you how I really feel about box mix cakes??

And that’s not even half of what was made for the first tasting…I spent the next two days, right up to the 2pm tasting, making the rest of the cake. Luckily, my friend Kate, who also bakes and decorates cakes, was my accomplice in these extreme cake endeavors. She did everything from gathering supplies (who knew it would be next-to-impossible to find crème fraiche in Iowa?), to helping with the baking, to cutting the cakes and preparing for the tastings. It is great to know someone who is not only fun to hang out with, but who is also as obsessed with cake as I am. Here she is preparing for the first tasting:

Jones taste testing3 - www.talksweettome.com

Two friends of mine offered to host the tastings at their homes. The first tasting at Sarah and Dan’s house consisted of 26 different kinds of cake, some from a mix and some from scratch. Each of the mix cakes were paired with their corresponding from-scratch cake for the tasting for the ultimate in taste-testing analysis potential.

Jones taste testing2 - www.talksweettome.com

We learned from this tasting that 26 cakes, even when just trying a bite or two of each, was waaaayyyy too much cake and most tasters wanted nothing to do with cake for the next three weeks. No one should ever hate cake, and I think some of them did by the time we were finished.

Jones taste testing - www.talksweettome.com

That is why the second tasting at Katie and Kyle’s house had “just” 15 different cakes. Even fifteen different kinds of cake was pushing it for a few. But they were brave, soldiering on through the feelings of full-ness and sugar saturation.

Katie taste testing - www.talksweettome.com

To keep the tasting anonymous, I gave cakes different names and didn’t tell the tasters whether it was from scratch or from a mix. My scientific background finally came in handy with research methods!

Katie taste testing2 - www.talksweettome.com

For each kind of cake they tried, the tasters filled out a form that ranked the taste/flavor, texture, moisture, appearance, and perception of overall quality of the cake…and they also had to guess whether the cake was from a mix or from scratch. I realize this was just *slightly* over-the-top and I may have looked like a cake-obsessed fool with too much time on my hands, but in the end it was really, really helpful.

The results - talksweettome.com
From compiling the surveys, I found that most people can taste a cake mix accurately…but that doesn’t necessarily mean they don’t like it. I also concluded that there is no way I can use a boxed mix for my cakes. They are easy and inexpensive, but…for me they are cheating. And my tasters said that if a person is going to pay for a cake, they want to feel like they couldn’t have gone to the store and whipped it up out of a box themselves. Quite right. That is why I did all of this ridiculous work.

I am going to go rest now.

Looking back - talksweettome.com

When I look back at this, I’m fairly certain I’d do things differently this time around to develop recipes, but I still find this posting too hilarious to not share. One of the people who commented on this posting way-back-when said she concentrated on finding just one good recipe at a time and gathered smaller groups of friends to taste-test…a good vanilla recipe first, then a good chocolate, then red velvet, etc. It’s a great excuse to get friends together, and if you do one flavor at a time people might even go back for seconds of their favorite recipe, which is sometimes even more telling!

So…has anyone else out there done something similarly crazy? How did you come up with your go-to recipes? Please share your adventures with me in the comments!

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3 Small Business Legal Mistakes to Avoid

Today I just want to share a link to a great video and advice from Marie Forleo. Marie works to help people just like you create a business and life you love – I love the idea that you CAN have it all!

Her website is fantastic and full of great advice – I’d recommend signing up for the updates to your inbox if you haven’t already – but this post in particular offers some super-important advice for business owners. It’s something that every cake business owner needs to review and implement.

3 Common Legal Mistakes Small Business Owners Make

Do you have experience with this? Please share your advice with me and your fellow cake business owners below!

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