But it’s just a cake…

Everyone loves cake right? Well most of the people I meet certainly seem to. When I tell people that I make cakes for a living I hear a lot of ,”Oooh I bet that is lovely”, and for the most part it is. I love baking, I love cake decorating… the constant washing up can get dull pretty quick, but hey.

Most of all I love that I do something that makes other people happy, and cake seems to make people really, really happy! There is a bit that I don’t like though… money. In an ideal world, we’d all love to be able to do what we love every day (even if that is sitting in your pj’s playing CoD) and not have to worry about money right? And I’m no different. I’d love to do what I do and be able to just cover costs, but that is no way to run a successful business. Making the leap from hobby baker to business baker hasn’t always been as smooth as I’d like, there have been a fair few stumbles, and most have all been of my own making.

My first mistake was to not recognise my value early on and price my cakes accordingly. I created the spreadsheets factoring in all the costs, but when it came to actually paying myself, I’d chicken out of giving myself even the equivalent of minimum wage. I was still stuck in hobby baker mode, but now with all the costs associated with running a business. I am ashamed to say that it has taken more than a few orders with me STILL working on a cake whilst watching my hourly rate go down to charitable status rates… wondering how on earth I have made the same mistake again.

So today I gave myself a talking to. And it went along the lines of… if I am serious about this being a successful business, then I need to start treating it like one, because if I don’t then who else will? So, as I am VERY serious about this being a successful business, I need to act the part.

On a purely practical level, there is so much that goes into that cake that is unseen. Obviously, you are paying for the ingredients (that only ever seem to go up in price), and when you taste the difference between a made-to-order cake using quality ingredients versus a shop bought cake (with a shelf life of 6 months because of all the preservatives in it), there is no competition.

You are paying for my overheads – the electricity, the cost of my beloved cake making & decorating tools, my liability insurance, taxes, marketing costs, the courses I attend to improve my skill set, the cake box, board and ribbon.

And finally, and most crucially, my time – to buy the ingredients, to design your cake, to bake the cake, to wash up, to prepare the cake, to decorate the cake, to deliver the cake. This is the part that I have struggled with… how much is my time worth? How much do you get paid an hour, or how much would you expect to pay someone else who does a job for you? Would you haggle with other professionals providing a service?

So yes, some people may think that the quotes I send out for cakes are expensive for just cake… but  that is what I am worth, and I should be proud of that. And let’s be honest, it never is JUST cake is it? If the cake is for a birthday or special occasion, then it becomes part of the memories of that celebration, if it is for a surprise for someone then it is something that that person will never forget. It is so much more than just the ingredients. It can even give someone the chance to do a little bit of showing off too… who hasn’t been to that kids party when the smug parents bring out this AMAZING birthday cake for little Jeffrey that makes everyone go WOW and raises the bar for everyone else’s kids parties?

Even after all the years I have been baking, it still staggers me the level of joy that giving someone a special cake can bring, that kind of reaction is priceless. It really never is just a cake…

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  1. As someone who designs experiences for a living, this rings so true Kate! It’s not just the flavour or even the amazing appearance, it’s the joy of surprising a loved one or recognising the magnitude of a once-in-a-lifetime event that people are buying. It’s certainly not “just cake”. If it was people wouldn’t need to hire you. I know your work helped make our day extra special, and we still cherish our photos of that cake!