Bubbly fondant, rounded edges, floppy ruffles, buttercream craters, dry cake, split ganache, elephant skin & cracked cake pops. This was the story of my life in my first 6 months of cake decorating. And being a serial perfectionist, my frustration grew month after month in my futile pursuit of achieving a “professional” caking style. Anyone relate?
I’ve realised throughout the years of meeting, teaching and working alongside various cakers that this is a universal experience. Every dedicated cake decorator will traverse this season – the one where there is a massive divide separating where we are (skill-wise) and where we truly desire to be.
It’s so easy to feel like throwing in the kitchen towel but the fact is, it’s totally 100% possible for us to accelerate our cake skills in a matter of months. As embarrassing and exposing as this is, I’ve summoned the courage to share a little montage of my caking timeline. Why? Cause I think it’s important for you to know that you ARE capable of creating top-notch, sleek, professional looking cakes that (like me) you so desire to.
Here is the blog post I wish someone wrote for me 5 years ago. How I found my way through the crazy cake world … to eventually study & hone my cake craft in a systematic & strategic way; which enabled me to finally make cakes beyond what I ever dreamed possible.
Create a Learning Plan
Gosh, there are hunks & gallons of tutorials & resources on the internet and sometimes, we can get lost in all the content. Guys, it’s all good and I love the unexpected videos and novel tutorials that sprout out on my feed on a daily basis, but it’s important to have FOCUS especially in the early phases of one’s cake education. Have a cake diary (I have one right next to my laptop where I jot down designs, ideas, goals etc.) and in there, create 3 lists. The first, is a TOP priority list of all the skills you’d like to learn in the next 3 months. Smooth ganaching, the perfect vanilla cake, making a sugar rose..you name it. Keep in mind to be realistic with what your schedule allows. From this, you can actively pursue skills & information on these priortity topics. The second list consists of intermediate skills you’d like to learn in the following 6 months. And the last list? Bucket list cake skills. The stuff cake dreams are made of.
Having a learning plan is so important. I mean think about it, school teachers don’t just randomly pick topics for their students do they? Learning is done in stages, the essentials & foundations first. Then intermediate learning and finally, the tough stuff (specialisation & advance skills). The lists above is a very basic learning plan to ensure direction, and visible progress. As the saying goes, if you fail to plan, you plan to fail.
Align Yourself with a Cake Mentor
If you’re serious about getting fit, you’ll likely get a personal trainer. If you’re wanting to become the next Steve Jobs, you’ll likely decide to get a business coach.
Many cake decorators struggle on their own for months (even years) and later give up on their dreams due to frustration. What I’ve found to be a valuable (and forgotten about) growth tip is to connect yourself with Cake Mentors. Those who are further along in the game and are doing the very thing that you aspire to one day do yourself.
This isn’t a straightforward process, but is a secret weapon for acceleration in the cake industry (hey, it worked for me!). For a start, you can only learn from mentors who teach. There are a LOT of cake decorators out there, but not a lot of them are willing to teach and share what they know with others. So these decorators are unlikely to make good mentors as they hold a lot of their cards tightly to their chest.
Because I’ve experienced the benefits of this myself, I’ve now created an exclusive membership programme for aspiring Cake Decorators called the Cake Insider Academy, where these members get access to all my Courses, trainings and can ask me questions via our private members group. If you’re keen to check it out, you can find out more here.
Enrol in (just a few) Hands-on Live Classes
Let’s be honest, it just ain’t realistic to sign up to every top-shelf cake class that rolls into town. But it is important to take 1 or 2 foundational classes from quality teachers to really set yourself up with some sound cake chops right from the start.Here’s my tips for finding the right private cake class for you. Firstly, make sure that the person you’re learning from already teaches on a regular basis. Not all great decorators are great teachers and you definitely do not want to be someone’s guinea pig on this *no way! So for a start, hunt out decorators locally or interstate that you admire, who teach regularly and who display skills that you badly want in your repertoire. If you want to learn a wide range of skills, then gravitate towards teachers who are highly skilled in a wide range of abilities. Alternatively, if you would like to grow your cake style towards a niche, then link up with someone who has a definitive style that you adore.
Look into your learning plan and keep an eye out for classes from experienced teachers that will give you the building blocks and desired skills to growing your decorating repertoire.
On that note, in-person classes are a hefty investment (due to the customised lesson & one-on-one teaching). So work out how much you can afford to spend on your cake education (which is relative to what your ultimate cake / career goals are) and budget accordingly. Don’t blow your life savings on in-person classes; rather, be highly selective on the classes you take and when you find one that fits your specific desired learning outcomes, go all in!
Dive Into Online Learning
With this wonderful magical thing we call the Internet, we are able to now dive into the great wide world of online cake courses! My favourite things about online courses is that they are inexpensive (compared to live classes), can be rewatched repeatedly (if the course allows you to) at your own convenience and they give you access to teachers from all across the globe. Wowee! The important thing with Online Courses is to not just purchase them and let them sit unwatched in your account. Commit to finishing the courses that you Enrol for and then trying out the skills gleaned from them. The ones who do this benefit the most! (and in many instances, learn and achieve more than in-person classes). You can head to some of my premium Courses and Free Tutorials to kick start your online learning.
Books, Books & Magazines!
I’m a huge bookworm.. Nothing does it for me quite like a great baking & decorating book. Books are super for sourcing recipes, cake techniques, pastry skills, inspiration & step-by-step guides. Some of my favourites are Peggy Porschen, Bourke Street Bakery, Momofuku Milk Bar, Alan Dunn, Debbie Brown, Maggie Austen, Carlos Lischetti, Planet Cake, Cake Masters Magazine, Sweet Magazine & American Cake Decorating Magazine.
Online Cake Communities
Imagine being part of a group of like-minded, sugar lovin individuals from all across the globe. An exclusive society whereby you could ask questions or lend support at the wee decorating hours of the day… Buttercream split and in need of advise? Not sure how to conduct a cake tasting? Just holler to your cake peeps on Facebook for a sweet rescue! You may even make a friend or two (or perhaps a hundred)… If you join the Cake Insider Academy, our exclusive all-access membership, you’ll get connected to cake makers from all levels from all over the globe. We encourage each other’s progress, answer cake questions, pick each other’s brains on new methods and delve into monthly trainings. There’s nothing quite like a committed, passionate, positive and nurturing cake group to help you get further along in your cake journey. You can find out more Here.
Sidenote: I would personally stay clear of free online Cake groups as many of these are unfiltered groups and open to a lot of unwanted spam.
Practice Makes Pro
All the knowledge in the world ain’t gonna translate into skill and technique without practice. So as much as your schedule allows, keep making cakes that challenge you. Test new recipes, attempt those scary projects and try out skills learnt from online courses/books.
So there you have it, the steps I took to propel my cake skills forward within one year. If caking is your hobby and you’re happy to work at it at leisure, then that’s awesome too and you should totally rock it at the pace that you’re comfortable with. But if you’re driven and wanna go places with your craft, then I hope the ideas above help take you there. As a certain Mickey Mouse maker once said “If you can dream it, you can Do it”..
Supplement with Freebies
Free Youtube videos and IGTV’s are great. However, a cake education based solely on freebies isn’t a complete one. Here’s a little nugget of insider info for ya… As a full-time content creator, I can tell you that Youtube videos and timelapses are specifically tailored to be eye-catching and entertaining, with the main goal being viewership. So to keep things concise and snappy, a lot of necessary information is often left out of free videos. So whilst they are still incredibly helpful, inspiring and informative, remember that freebies should only be one part of the equation if you’re serious about becoming a bona fide cake decorator.
Feel free to comment below or DM me on Instagram if you have any questions on how to grow your cake skills or cake business. I love walking this journey with you, and hope my past lessons & experiences serve as a platform for your own growth.