We get asked this question a lot! This is the first in the series of how things work behind the scenes. Being a cake decorator is a wonderful career. Its creative, fun, and very satisfying to be able to make something really beautiful. Nothing compares to the look of wonder on a small child's face when they see the cake you have made for them. It's also very stressful. Working to deadlines, regular late nights and long hours, and the anxiety of ruining someone's special day if something goes wrong.
1. Commercial kitchen costs
Making food for sale is an expensive business. We have rent, power, telephone bills, internet, pest control, contents and liability insurance, accountants fees, bank fees, vehicle costs, health licenses, equipment to buy and maintain, to name a few. This is before we even purchase a single ingredient and sell anything.
2. Food costs
Buy in bulk and you get things cheaper right? Not necessarily. The wholesale cost of items is often more expensive than the prices you pay in a supermarket. Supermarkets buy everything by the truckload and can discount as its spread across all of the stores. This may not be as easy for the farm who supplies your eggs, or the fruit and veggie supplier who provides your carrots and lemons.
To make your cake taste really beautiful we also buy really high quality ingredients. Good quality butter, free range eggs, real vanilla extract with seeds, and high quality chocolate are not cheap. Can you taste the difference? We think so. The difference between a packet mix and the real thing is like trading your 10 year old car for the top of the range new model.
In professional kitchens we spend a lot of time cleaning. I mean, a lot. Cleaning ovens, mixers, sinks, worktops, sweeping, mopping floors, and washing dishes. All of this can take around a third of your day. That third of your day not making cakes still has to be accounted and paid for. With minimum wage on the rise, many kitchens do not have the luxury of a kitchen hand to do dishes for them.
Like fashion, the style of cakes and trends change. Along with that are the tools to go with it. If you are wanting something different or sophisticated we may need to buy in tools to do the job. Impression mats, air guns, etc are all neat tools that make a massive difference to the final finish of your cake. They also cost a truckload of money.
In addition to the tools, there are the foundations that keep your cake supported. There are cake boards. The boards to support each tier and a cake board underneath. Ribbons to edge the boards, and supports between tiers to stop our creations combusting before they get to the party. There is also grip mat to stop your cake flying.
For finishing your cake there can be a decent amount of fondant, flowers, toppers, edible gold leaf, and all the other bits and pieces that make your cake gorgeous, and expensive.
Time is the enemy of every cake maker. Underestimate your time and it can cost you far more to make a cake than you have charged your customer. For a three tier cake we can spend a day of labour before we even start on decoration. That time is taken up by baking, weighing out ingredients. making buttercream & ganache, assembling the layers, smoothing the outsides of each layer and stacking cakes. Angles need to be straight and level, and everything set up at the correct temperature.
7. The tax man
15% of what we charge you goes straight to IRD as GST. If we make profit on your cake, we pay tax on that too.
Your cake maker is skilled in their craft and often it has taken many years of experience and culinary school to get to the level where they can sell a cake. As such labour costs need to be charged at a level where they can work for more than minimum wage. Many cake makers work alone and absorb all of the costs we have already talked about. By this point their real wage is more likely to be comparable to a sweat shop, or worse, nothing at all.
The necessary evil of every job these days. Taking telephone calls, photographing work, updating a website, sending invoices and generating quotes. They all take time, which costs money.
How can you help to keep costs down?
A good start is to decide how much you realistically you are prepared to spend. We cannot make a cake like either of these above for $100 or anywhere near. It is good to share what this budget is from the outset, so that your cake maker can work on the best option for you.
Also helpful for us to know is how many people need to eat the cake, any special diets and the flavour you want. A picture says a thousand words and can also help us to work out a cost for you. But do not send us 10 cake pictures and ask us to quote each. Choose either a design, or a budget you want to work with and we can take it from there.