One of the most frequently asked questions I receive is how long does a cake take me to make, and why are wedding cakes so expensive. So I thought i’d give you an insight into what is involved, as the baking is actually only a small part of it. So here is my week in the life of a cake maker.
So it all starts with an initial enquiry from a couple and that can be an email, through my website, at a wedding fair or a phonecall. Firstly, and most importantly I’ll check to see I am available to create a wedding cake for their special day, then I will get a feel from the couple of what sort or cake they want, want size they want and ascertain whether their budget for what they want is realistic, this stage oftens entails many emails back and forth and quite a bit of time sat at the computer, preparing ideas and quotes.
The average amount of emails from initial enquiry to the delivery of the wedding cake is on average 35, it’s not only the couple themselves we speak to but other suppliers such as florists, if there are fresh flowers on a cake and the venue to arrange delivery times. This is just for the cakes we actually create, but there are many more emails and calls we receive. Admin accounts for at least one full day a week and generally about an hour every evening, just to keep on top of it.
Once a couple are booked into my diary and their booking is confirmed they are invited to a consultation. I run consultations over 2 days usually seeing 8-10 couples. Consultation days are run 3-4 times a year. Preparing and baking for the consultations take a full day before, then its 2 full on days of meeting couples, talking about their dream cake, following up with quotes. In the days after the consultation a file is created for each couple which will contain their booking form, signed terms & conditions, a delivery note, allergy list for the ingredients which will be in their cake and a sketch plus any images, pictures, swatches or inspiration for their cake.
Assuming this cake is for a Saturday wedding day, Monday’s generally are my admin day, so i’ll follow up with couples after their consultations, answer any email enquiries, order any stock and equipment needed, speak to other suppliers, work on my social media pages and website, as well as keeping on top of legal requirements such as weekly reports for the environmental health agency who can inspect at any time, insurance, risk assessments, the list just goes on.
On many of my cakes you’ll see sugar flowers, these are very time consuming, this is one element of the cake that can be made a few weeks in advance, so whenever I get a week off or even a few days off I’ll be making the sugar flowers for upcoming cakes. During busy periods when I have no days off I have to do this in the evenings so means many late nights.
Tuesdays are all about shopping for ingredients, making sauces, gananches, buttercreams and all the extras that will be needed for the cake.
A Wednesday is bake day, this is a full on day and if I’m honest my least favourite day, especially in the summer when it’s hot weather and I’ve got mixers and ovens on all day and can’t open a window due to flies coming in. These days are physically draining and I usually fall into bed at the end absolutely exhausted.
Thursday is all about creating the blank canvas ready for decorating. This means every cake needs layering. Each of my cake tiers contains 4 layers of sponge and 3 layers of fillings. So for a standard 3 tiered cake that 12 layers of sponge and 9 layers of filling to prepare. Once the cake is layered and filled it needs a good firm ganache coating. It’s the smooth ganaching that gives the cake a smooth appearance once iced, with no bubbles, bumps or bulges. To perfect this on each tier takes upto an hour.
Then it’s time to cover the ganached cake with icing, this stage can’t be rushed and it takes time to achieve a flawless finish with sharp edges.
so again this together with the layering & ganaching takes most of the day. If I have more than one wedding cake in a week, the time to create each one is still the same, It just means I work late into the night to get everything done.
Friday’s are my favourite day, its the day I can get creative and the cake comes to life. I’m using the top featured cake as an example for the timing. So with this cake I start by covering my base board with fondant icing, sometimes i’ll do this the day before when I’m icing each tier. All of my cakes contain a lot of internal engineering to ensure safe transportation to the venue and stop any sinking of tiers. This stage is crucial and I’d question the expertise of any cake maker who doesn’t dowel a cake. The engineering starts with a central pole which runs throughout the height of the cake. Each tier is stacked onto this pole. So beginning with the bottom tier, it is positioned into place then begins 7 hours to achieve the ruffled effect. I can’t even describe the pain in my hands after doing this but every minute is worth the end result. Once the ruffling has been finished the top of this tier has its supporting dowels put in usually around 10 for a bottom tier but depends on the size.
The next tier is positioned on top of the bottom tier and once again dowelled, then 65 mini roses are made and placed around its base that’s another 2 hours gone. The next tier is prepared before stacking to ensure I don’t cover the whole cake in sparkles. This is a messy one, and there are glitter squares all over the kitchen. Once this tier is dowelled and stacked its time for a quick cuppa and kitchen clear up before I continue.
The top tier is then put in place and the sugar flowers are attached, I’ll then faff with it and check i’m 100% happy. It’s then boxed and covered and ready for delivery the following morning.
I will of chosen my time for delivery based on the weather, looking whether is too hot or raining for a certain time of delivery. I have 4 weather apps on my phone and the day before a delivery I’m keeping a close eye on it. Once at a venue, I’ll set up the cake, style the table if required and put any finishes touches to the cake. The last thing I do before leaving a cake at the venue is stand back and check all the way around the cake that it’s perfect. I’ll take a photo and get the venue to sign to say they are happy with it.
So this one cake took 5 days of work during the week, plus a day beforehand to make the sugar flowers and half a day delivering, on top of that you need to build in the admin time for an average 35 emails or calls and baking for a consultation and an hour for the consultation itself. Converting that to hours accounting for admin, consultations, sketching, shopping, creation of the cake and delivery from start to finish i’m looking at around 30 hours. Add onto that the cost of the actual ingredients, equipment, insurance, training, etc a £600 wedding cake doesn’t actually seem that expensive now.
I hope that gives you a little insight to my week and a week in the life of a cake maker. It’s a busy and exhausting job but I feel lucky to love what I do.