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.
Reach Out to Cake Mentors for Private Classes
Private Classes have been one of THE MOST valuable cake decorating investment in supercharging my cake techniques. Some of the best decorators around (you know..cake stars & the like) have poured tons of funds flying interstate/internationally to take customised classes from skilled teachers in their early decorating days. I myself have flown interstate & internationally for the sole reason of taking a private or customised cake class. Are they expensive? Yes. But if you hook up with the right teacher, then honey, you can expect major leaps forwards in your cake decorating skills.
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. 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.
Secondly, get in touch! Ask them if they are able to design a private class with the specific skills you want to learn. Don’t just message “I want to learn EVERYTHING!!” Be specific. I always ask my private class students of the exact skills they’d like to learn and design a customised class that will help them achieve their learning outcomes. If the decorator you are getting in touch with refuses or is unable to do so, then my personal advise would be to look elsewhere.
Thirdly, budget & save up for the classes. They are a hefty investment (due to the customised lesson & one-on-one teaching) but are well worth their weight in gold. 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. “But can’t I just learn off Youtube videos for free…?” Well, you can. And don’t get me wrong, free tutorials & videos are great (I love em’). But this article is all about acceleration and bringing your cake skills from zero to pro in a matter of months. If this is your goal, then (from experience) using free content as your primary source of education won’t quite cut it.
Enrol in Foundation Hands-on Live Classes
I’ve said it before in a previous post, it just ain’t realistic to sign up to every top-shelf cake class that rolls into town. But it is important to take a number of foundational classes from quality teachers to really set yourself up with some sound cake chops right from the start. 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.
Supplement with Online Learning
Once you’ve done a few basic decorating classes & an in-depth private class, you would have a strong basis for then expanding your cake knowledge. This is the time to delve 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. I wouldn’t recommend a cake education built ONLY on online courses. That said, with the foundations laid through hands-on lie classes, online courses are an excellent way to further expand and nurture your cake craft. 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, 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 thousand)… You can hop onto the Sugar Sugar Cakes Society on Facebook to get into our cakie loop.
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”..
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 & struggles serve as a platform for your own growth.