I have written about the ‘just a cake’ opinion before, but with all the furore going on over the royal wedding cake, I felt the need to revisit the topic…
Now opinions are great, thank gawd we live in a society where we are able to express them, and from what I have seen on the matter, opinions on the royal wedding cake have been somewhat divided. That is fine, not everyone likes the same thing… but what is not fine is publically denigrating someone’s hard work due to a perceived idea of what it should and shouldn’t have been like, and how much it should have cost.
Whether you liked it or not, some of the comments about the cake I’ve seen have been unnecessary, but more importantly, irrelevant. The cake was for Harry and Meghan, what I think or anyone thinks doesn’t matter a jot. The cake maker, Claire Ptak, was given a brief from the couple that fitted with how they wanted their wedding day to be. Nothing about that wedding was conventional, so why should the cake be any different? The dress, the car and the flowers showed that they obviously wanted a feel of understated elegance, and that cake was exactly that. It takes bravery to step outside of what is expected, so I applaud Claire Ptak for following what the couple wanted rather than be swayed by what a royal wedding cake SHOULD be. Blimey wedding cakes can be whatever you want now, isn’t that the point? I may not always like the style of every cake I make, but I respect the customers decision and understand that it is their cake not mine.
The ability to use the artistic creativity I have is why I love what I do, and whereas I am not quite making a living out of it just yet, it is amazing to be paid to do something I love. It is great, but it is hard graft being a caker, we are a dedicated and slightly crazy bunch, and in general my experience in this community has been one of mutual support and admiration for each other’s work. We build each other up, and most of all encourage each other to see the value in what we do, because it IS so much more than JUST cake. It is hours and hours of buying ingredients, designing, baking, making buttercream, ganaching, icing and making bespoke decorations. It is creating something wonderful for someone, who will remember that cake for many years.
So when I see in the press and on social media, even from professional cake makers, such a backlash against Claire Ptak for being paid £50,000 to make it, I get a bit narked. Let’s say that was indeed the figure she was paid, I can pretty much guarantee that Claire Ptak is not sitting at home with £50,000 in her bank account, probably not even a quarter of that.
From the moment she took the job on she would have lost money. She would have had to take time out for meetings, security checks on her and her staff, possibly interviews etc to hire more staff and researching recipes, ingredients and suppliers. She would have had to factor in time for designing the cake, testing recipes and dealing with media enquiries.
Nearer the date she would probably have had to close her shop for at least a week, and certainly wouldn’t have been able to take any other orders on for at least that week before and quite probably had to pay for extra staff to help her prepare. Trust me, for 600 day guests and 200 evening guests there would have been more cake in the kitchens than just those pictured, and that is a lot of cake to bake and decorate… which means a lot of hours.
Obviously there are the cost of ingredients, and for at least one practice run, if not more. Then the additional costs of flowers, stands and transportation.
And let us not forget dear old HMRC, who will have taken a tidy chunk out of that money.
So, if she did get paid £50k then good on her for being a savvy businesswoman in understanding her worth and asking to be paid properly for it, because taking into consideration all the costs involved in making the royal wedding cake, by yesterday there wouldn’t have been a lot of that £50,000 left. Also, I for one am not sure how much the stress and scrutiny of being the royal wedding cake maker is worth. This cake will change her life, and as we have already seen, that change is not all for the better.
As well as being a businesswoman, I have learnt to view myself as an artist whose canvas just happens to be cake. And I charge what I charge for cakes because I value my time and skill as an artist. I hope that more cake makers do the same, because when you create something that provokes such a strong emotional response that it makes people cry, or laugh or remember it for the rest of their lives, what you are creating is so, so much more than JUST a cake.