Like me, you probably started off by taking small tentative steps into the world of sugarcraft. I had a little tool box holding just a few necessities, which fitted neatly into my smallest kitchen cupboard; but before I knew it, I realised that the only room which didn’t have cake decorating equipment in it was the bedroom (unless you count the chocolate body paste of course!)
When I first started cake decorating, I was looking for a new hobby that I could possibly turn into a bit of a money earner as well. I had looked at a few evening courses, and I managed to narrow it down to either sugarcraft or silver jewellery making. It was a close call, but I eventually decided on the cake decorating option. The main reason that I chose to do so was that I was partial to a bit of cake and it looked like lots of fun. However the deciding factors were because I thought it would be more cost effective than making silver jewellery, and I was under the impression that I wouldn’t need anywhere near as much equipment. Pah!
The course prospectus told us that we would need to buy a few essentials for the course, and for an initial outlay of around £100, it really didn’t seem that much to set up a new hobby. What the prospectus didn’t tell us was that, even though we would only need that essential equipment to get through the course, buy the time we had finished we would want to add about another grand’s worth of tools to our collections, and possibly have to build an extension to house it all.
For example, that non-stick rolling pin that I mentioned comes in a whole range of sizes starting with 5 inches which you will need for making edible miniatures, 6 inches which you will need for flower making, 8 inches which you will need for modeling, 10 inches which you will need for covering small cakes, 12 inches for covering medium cakes, 14 inches for covering large cakes, 16 inches for covering boards, 18 inches for battering burglars with, and 20 inches for…..well you might as well just get it, you have all the others!
I found that not only was there an already huge selection of tools and trickery to help with my new cake decorating habit, but new gadgets were, and still are, coming out all the time to make life easier. They help you work more efficiently, shave valuable minutes of your cake making time, and sadly, keep your purse nice and empty too.
I adore all the new cakey toys that come onto the market, as my groaning kitchen cupboards will tell you, but by the same token I have to say that I am a little bit ‘old school’ in the fact that I believe that sugarcrafting is a skill, and not one that should be tampered with by using too many cheats if you can help it.
Often I will have long drawn out arguments with myself about whether it is fair play to make two dozen edible handbags from a mould in a matter of minutes, or should I sit in the kitchen for four hours and hand craft the whole lot of them? I do generally end up making them by hand as I feel that I can’t really accept praise for making too many things from moulds. After all, all I’ve done then is to stick a bit of sugarpaste into some shaped rubber and pull it out again. Although on the flip side of the coin they are just….so…..brilliant!
I think maybe the answer comes down to time. If you are running a cost effective business, why indeed spend hours doing something that you can do in minutes with a fabulous result? However, if you have the time and enjoy what you are doing why wouldn’t you want to spend hours doing it?
My downfall is going to the big cake decorating shows. Every year I enter their competitions, but if I’m honest, what I really love doing is scouring all the stands while I’m there, to see all the amazing new innovations. I try and give myself a cash limit of what I am allowed to spend on ‘essential’ pieces for my kit, but after the first hour (and often only the first stand) I have already completely blown that budget out of the water, and am already running around desperately trying to find a cash point machine so that I can feed my addiction and buy more fabulous stuff.
Its all well and good when you are on your shopping frenzy high, and telling yourself that you will definitely find a use for the special offer cake stand shaped like a bright pink Cinderella carriage. But remember, you still need to sneak that bad boy into the house, and hide it were your partner won’t find it until you have thought up a reasonable excuse for having it!
Obviously sometimes you can get away with blaming your customers for the fact that you have to buy new items. They will always ask for completely different shaped cakes, which will involve the purchase of lots of tins, then of course it makes sense to have two of each size to make the baking process quicker. They will also ask for different flowers on their cakes which necessitates another flower cutter in your collection. I was absolutely thrilled to bits when one of my brides asked me to cover her cake in edible lace, as it meant I just had to go and buy myself a sugarveil kit, and as for the entire range of Lindy Smith stencils, well, I know I havn’t actually used any of them yet, but come hell or high water, I’m going to!
So for those of you who are just starting out, and taking huge enjoyment in making just a few nicely decorated cakes for friends, you may think you are safe with your piping bags and your cupcake cases, but before you know it you will be just like me…..storing cake stands in your bathroom, and being asked to appear on “Britain’s Worst Hoarders” on TV.