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People Don’t Get it
Posted: 09 September 2011 09:18 AM   [ Ignore ]
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Ok…just need to sound off a tiny bit. I have been invited to quite a number of events recently (birthday parties, various celebrations etc) where gifts are usually given by guests. Being in a somewhat tight financial position, and since my cakes are often a “hit” (If I must say so, myself) I will often offer to provide the cake. Most of my friends know what goes into making such a cake (I talk about baking a lot…to anyone who will listen…and even to people who won’t), and everyone has been really appreciative. (One of the nicest “Thank you” cards I have ever gotten was for a huge red-velvet cake I made for my friend Donna’s 50th b-day party).  The typical guest, however, hasn’t got a clue.

I made a cake for a birthday party last week (I didn’t get a picture of it…sorry).  The request was “chocolate and strawberry”.  There was going to be a large number of people…not sure how many…anywhere from 20 to 50 people.  What do do?  So I decided on the chocolate domingo cake…since it is so dense and rich, you can easily slice it small if necessary.

I made four batches of batter (baked in two 9 x 13” pans). I filled the layers with ganache (Made from very good chocolate, and flavored with really good congnac). I frosted the cake with strawberrry mousseline ( I pressed the puree through the finest strainer you have ever seen…to be sure that the frosting was very very smooth and would pipe well).  I decorated the cake with fresh strawberries and (if I must say so myself) beautiful hand piped decorations.  All in all I probably spent about $40 or more on ingredients (food is really expensive in NYC) and about 6 hours baking and decorating. At the party the Brother-in-law of the “Birthday girl” who I have known for several years, said to me:  “You should go into business…you could get $50 for a cake like this”.  AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!

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Posted: 09 September 2011 10:06 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
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I think most people aren’t aware of the costs of operating various types of businesses; they just see a large price tag and think “huge profits”.  Even people who operate their own businesses make the same mistake when looking at an area outside their own expertise.

I’ve also received the “you should start a bakery” type of comment, and my products couldn’t touch yours.  The idea of entering what is probably a very low margin business gives me the shivers.  There’s nothing like being concerned about making a profit that could provide incentives for driving down your quality and satisfaction.  That said, if you were operating professionally as a baker, you probably could halve your ingredient costs and would discover ways to vastly increase your personal productivity.  Still, best case scenario is that you’d earn only a fraction of what you do in…dentistry?  It’s just crazy talk.

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Posted: 09 September 2011 10:26 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
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Actually…Dentistry is definitely not what it used to be…especially in NYC where dental insurance doesn’t begin to cover the costs that we have.

There is a small chain of bakeries here in NYC, the owners are family friends. I don’t want to mention the name…but their product is, shall we say, not so good.  Their presentation and merchandizing is amazing.  They recently sold the business for millions and millions of dollars to a company that wants to take it national…sort of like a Dunkin Donuts for cake.  What am I doing wrong? LOL

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Posted: 09 September 2011 10:28 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]
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Bill - 09 September 2011 01:26 PM

AWhat am I doing wrong?

Integrity?  wink

Cooks Illustrated evaluated the cupcakes from all of those famous cupcake chains and pretty uniformly thought they were all lousy.

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Posted: 09 September 2011 10:33 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]
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I was at a party given by the relatives of this bakery chain. (they have 15 locations in NY and NJ). I brought two cakes…my standard chocolate butter cake with white chocolate mousseline (Rose’s recipes) and a cheese cake (Not Rose’s recipe).  There were assorted cakes and cupcakes that were brought from the Bakery.  My cakes were gone by the end of the evening.  The stuff from the bakery was barely touched.

The problem is, baking one cake at a time…I would have had to charge $400 to make it profitable.  LOL

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Posted: 09 September 2011 10:41 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]
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Hmmm, Bill, it looks like you’re actually giving this some thought.  Have you actually investigated the economics?  What would your cost of ingredients be if you bought them wholesale?  If you were to produce on a larger scale, how much could you realistically reduce your labor input per product?  How much extra would people actually pay for a superior product?

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Posted: 09 September 2011 11:02 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]
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NO….LOL….I was just making up a number.  I wouldn’t even consider opening a business at this time.  I going crazy trying to run a small dental practice…a bakery is out of the question.

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Posted: 09 September 2011 11:09 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 7 ]
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Bill you are so right, people have no clue.

My husband’s co-worker gets to taste some of the cakes my husband brings for lunch. She loves them and jokingly asked for a chocolate cake.

I was brand new to baking and opted for the Banana Chocolate Stud cake in RHC. That cake cost over $30 to make ( I use mostly organic ingredients).

I don’t think anyone realizes how expensive a non-commercial cake can be.

P.S. I didn’t know you are a dentist. Cool!!

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Posted: 09 September 2011 02:43 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 8 ]
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I run a small cake business out of my house and basically break even.  I refuse to compromise on quality of ingredients to make more of a profit.  I have a lot of people that don’t purchase cakes from me once they find our the price but the ones that do, rave about how tasty they are.  I think that cake making is a labour of love and that you do it because you love to bake and make cakes not because you want to be rich.

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Posted: 09 September 2011 02:50 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 9 ]
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Bill,

I know exactly what you are saying.  These people have no idea what goes into baking from scratch - the cost of the ingredients, going out and shopping for the ingredients - sometimes running to several stores, the baking time, the decorating time, the cleaning up time, the worrying if everyone is going to enjoy the cake, if it will survive the car ride to the party, etc.  And don’t forget all the time spent researching our recipes:) I just started baking 2 years ago and love it!  I have been taking fondant/carved cake classes and those cost a fortune.  People love my cakes.  However, when they ask what I would charge for a party they are throwing their mouths fall to the floor.  I have only gotten my price on 2 cakes.  The others I have to decline.  I learned to tell them to call the custom cake shops in the area and ask what they are charging for that same cake.  I hear the same complaint you have from everyone in these cake decorating classes.  Your work is beautiful and I think you should pursue it as a second job for now.

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Posted: 09 September 2011 07:06 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 10 ]
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I wish that I could, but the laws regarding selling food cooked in a home kitchen make it impossible.  In the state of New York, it is not legal to sell food prepared in a home kitchen…and should someone get sick (heaven forbid) and decide to sue me…I wouldd be in very very hot water.  I know that some people are willing to take the risk…but I would worry too much.

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Posted: 09 September 2011 08:17 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 11 ]
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I agree…people just do not have a clue.  They have little appreciation for the cost of goods.  And, they do not recall (conveniently) that the cost of eggs and butter rise every time gas goes up but does not fall when gas goes down.  One friend said I should lower the price to get volume but does not get that I cannot produce in volume like that nor acquire ingredients to account for that. The laws that prevent selling home baked goods make it impossible to build a customer base.  A customer base is, of course, necessary to justify paying for kitchen space….and, do not let me get started on the folks that will go to a famous (DC) cupcake shop or another famous cake shop and pay $5.00 for a cupcake but will balk at your just slightly more than ingredient costs. 

Yet, I took a cake to a baby shower and some folks said it was the best cake they ever tasted.  I wondered what rock they had been living under.  LOL.  I think, what a pity that more folks do notget to have cakes from scratch, especially Rose recipes

Of course, if I piped as well as you Bill, I would certainly put more effort into selling.

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Posted: 09 September 2011 09:47 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 12 ]
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Bill - 09 September 2011 12:18 PM

  All in all I probably spent about $40 or more on ingredients (food is really expensive in NYC) and about 6 hours baking and decorating. At the party the Brother-in-law of the “Birthday girl” who I have known for several years, said to me:  “You should go into business…you could get $50 for a cake like this”.  AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!

He’s clearly been ordering cakes from the local grocery, or else having someone else do the ordering! 

If it makes you feel any better, I’ve had the same comment made to me, and the person thought they were giving me a compliment.  I’ve also had someone say, when I referred them to a local professional who has a home baking business, that they thought the professional would be too expensive and would I consider doing it (the assumption being that my work would cost far less).

I looked into it for about a nano-second once, and the only way to make cakes profitable is economies of scale- you have to mix and bake a large batch of cakes at the same time (which, with the right equipment, doesn’t take much more labor than making one cake).  Similarly, you have to buy ingredients in those huge 50 lb bags to get costs down.  There’s just no way a one-cake-at-a-time business can compete with that.

Your chocolate strawberry cake sounds just lovely, you’re a good friend to bring it to the party. smile

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Posted: 09 September 2011 10:59 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 13 ]
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I have to agree with everyone’s comments.  I have been asked many times - “why don’t you start your own business, you could make tons of money ”  Thanks, but no thanks.

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Posted: 10 September 2011 01:26 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 14 ]
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Too sad… and too funny as well.  Not to mention having to deal with bride-zillas or other-zillas who require absolute aesthetic “perfection” (I’m thinking of the Bar Mitzvah cake of Rose’s that was “not fancy enough” as an example of this type of clientele).  My favourite is…“Oh, I bet your son has the cutest birthday cakes!”  Actually, I know what they are thinking and the answer is “no!”  He does not get a sugar encrusted, food dye laden rendition of Mickey Mouse….  He gets a damn decadent chocolate cake with some small chocolate plastique cutouts.  I want him to know what good baking tastes like! 

May I add I am finding the cost of baking with quality ingredients to be a challenge as well.  I don’t have reasonably priced (or even available) good quality chocolate—as such, I am grateful I can order this online, but shipping becomes a huge expense as well.

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Posted: 10 September 2011 05:37 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 15 ]
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Julie - 10 September 2011 12:47 AM
Bill - 09 September 2011 12:18 PM

  All in all I probably spent about $40 or more on ingredients (food is really expensive in NYC) and about 6 hours baking and decorating. At the party the Brother-in-law of the “Birthday girl” who I have known for several years, said to me:  “You should go into business…you could get $50 for a cake like this”.  AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!

He’s clearly been ordering cakes from the local grocery, or else having someone else do the ordering! 

If it makes you feel any better, I’ve had the same comment made to me, and the person thought they were giving me a compliment.  I’ve also had someone say, when I referred them to a local professional who has a home baking business, that they thought the professional would be too expensive and would I consider doing it (the assumption being that my work would cost far less).

I looked into it for about a nano-second once, and the only way to make cakes profitable is economies of scale- you have to mix and bake a large batch of cakes at the same time (which, with the right equipment, doesn’t take much more labor than making one cake).  Similarly, you have to buy ingredients in those huge 50 lb bags to get costs down.  There’s just no way a one-cake-at-a-time business can compete with that.

Your chocolate strawberry cake sounds just lovely, you’re a good friend to bring it to the party. smile

I have come to the same conclusion.  Noway, that one cake at a time can compete with a bakery of any sort.  All one can hope with one cake a time is to pay for your passion.

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