The most common question I get asked by Friends and Family and customers alike is 'How long does a cake take you to make?'
I am the worst for working though the night because I always completely underestimate how long a cake will take me to decorate. If I accurately charged for my time I probably wouldn't have any customers!
Cake decorating has become an art form in it's own right and the things people are able to create from cake and sugar is mind boggling. I look at some cakes and stare at them trying to figure out how on earth I would quote for a cake 'like that' or how long would a cake 'like that' take me to make?
Sugar flowers take hours upon hours to prep, models for the top of your cake can take up to three hours sometimes more, and sometimes less - basically everything takes time and makes up our working days, and ultimately the price of your cake.
So here's a basic run down of the steps taken to complete your cakes;
Consultation - some cake makers charge for this time. This is the part where you discuss the cake in which you are seeking. For me usually via facebook, telephone or through my website enquiry page. I spend roughly around half an hour to an hour speaking to the majority of my customers at this stage I would also include any research/references needed for the cake. Although I don't 'Charge' for this time, it's still a period of time which needs to be taken into consideration.
Preparation - I usually like to prepare any models or details that need to dry to keep their shape i.e flowers, straight objects etc a couple of weeks prior to the cake date. So they dry and so I can keep up to date with other orders too. Models and flowers can take hours. One sugar rose takes around 45 minutes to complete, and if you have a cascading rose cake that needs 20 roses - that's 9 hours work! A whole days work just for the preparation!
Baking - Baking does not mean turning on the oven and popping in a cake. If you've ever baked you'd know that the mixture does not just appear in the pan and away it goes! Preparation, baking and cleaning all fall into this category for me. At most I can fit 3 trays of cupcakes in at once (I'm lucky I have a double oven) so 36... If I have an order of 100 that's a lot of mixing and washing up
Also here I would include the fillings for the cake.
I make buttercream fresh and Ganache the day before I need to use it.
Preparing the cake- This is where I would tort the cake (Level and fill) and then crumb coat the cake with Ganache.
Some cake makers will offer a buttercream crumb coat and some offer ganache - some not at all (but I would avoid those!). A crumbcoat is the stage in which a layer of either buttercream or ganache is spread onto the cake and smoothed over so your cake is left 1) FRESH - it locks the cake in away from any air and 2) super smooth (if done correctly) for a even and lump free layer of sugarpaste.
At this stage I leave the cake for a few hours to firm up ready for decoration.
Icing- Kneading, securing, smoothing, creating sharp edges - around half an hour for me. This time will range from cake maker to cake maker and depending on the size or shape of the cake. I use my trusty Acetate smoothers to create sharp edges quickly and effectively (you can buy a fabulous set from sheerans cakes on facebook or ebay)
Decorating- simply depending on the design you have chosen. I wouldn't even like to say an average because each cake is unique. Your quote from your cake maker should have included the time taken to decorate the cake you have asked for. This is usually where the price is generated from - you are paying for our time and skill not just the cake.
Stacking - This part is usually done before the decorating although not always as some wedding cake tiers needs to be transported separately and stacked at the venue. this stage consists of cutting dowels and securing the tiers together.
Packaging- Not too long hopefully although 100 cupcakes never take just a couple of minutes to box up!
So depending on the design of the cake your asking for, it's not a case of 'whipping it up'. Give your cake maker PLENTY of notice for them to produce the best product they can. Leaving your order to last minute means rushed production and that rarely leads to the best results.
I hope this has given you a bit of an insight into the time that goes into creating custom made cakes and a bit more of an explanation to where your money is spent!