“Hi, can I get a 2 tier cake with polka dots and a teddy bear topper tomorrow?” The all too familiar email pinging at 5pm on a Friday evening. Cue the exasperated groaning & facepalming. No my dear sweet desperate lady in my email, sadly I cannot. What is the issue here you ask? A lack of understanding of the workflow involved in creating a novelty bespoke cake.
A cake decorator’s workflow is EVERYTHING to the making of cakes (not to mention, the sanity of the baker). It’s finish, finesse & freshness all rides on the strategic planning & duration of each process. Every professional cake decorator has a slightly different work process tailored to their personal schedules. Workflows also tend to alter slightly week-to-week, taking into consideration factors like:
- high peak or off peak (number of orders)
- preferred methods of obtaining supplies (online or in-person)
- available assistance
- family life
- skill level
- health (physical capacity)
- preferred working time (day/night)
- available facilities
- event days (Friday/Saturday/Sunday)
So to my fellow caker makers & cake eaters curious to know what a systematic cake making workflow looks like, in this post I’ll be sharing a basic breakdown of my personal weekly timeline to creating cakes from start to finish in a cake business setting. The metamorphosis of flour, sugar & eggs into stunning edible works of art…
I’d like to emphasise again that this was what a typical weekly cake-production schedule looked like for ME personally, and that this may not work exactly the same for YOU. But I hope this forms a baseline to help you tailor an ideal cake production workflow that suits you and your lifestyle.
My personal grocery day where I make my purchases of fresh ingredients (eggs, butter, milk etc). As our baby came along, I shifted to online grocery shopping and my husband picks it up on the way home from work. I also do a double check to make sure all supplies (e.g sprinkles, special structure materials, edible leaves etc) are on hand [ordering of non-perishable supplies are typically done at least 2 weeks in advance, this is just an extra check]. Monday’s are also when I tackle my emails all at once, so I spend the morning clearing out my inbox of enquiries. If sugar flowers/figurines are required for the week, then this is when I’ll start making petals & blooms as they require extended drying times. If fresh flowers are required, this is usually when I’ll call my regular florist to place my order for the coming weekend.
Baking day! This is when I crank up the radio, and spend the full day baking my cakes, cookies, cupcakes etc. Cupcakes typically go in the freezer, cookies stored in air-tight containers and cakes glad wrapped and stored in the fridge. This is also when I’d continue any work required on sugar flowers/figurines (adding wrapping dried petals together, adding more elements to toppers etc)
Torting, filling, ganaching day! I start the day by whipping up big batches of the silkiest Swiss Meringue Buttercream & Chocolate Ganache. I then get onto slicing up all my cakes and filling them with their respective fillings & flavours. Each cake is then masked/covered in ganache and kept in the fridge (not all decorators do this, but I do this to increase shelf life). Leftover ganache & buttercream is kept in the fridge in the meantime.
This is where the hard-core decorating begins. Cakes are removed from the fridge, covered in fondant and the first of decorative elements applied. Cookies are iced & decorated and stored in air tight containers. Finishing touches on toppers/figurines/sugar flowers are applied. Thursdays are also when I’ll ring up wedding venues and discuss delivery times & logistics.
This is when I finish off my cakes completely. This is slightly earlier than most cakers, who finish off their cakes on Saturday, but as my personal schedule doesn’t allow me much work time on Saturday mornings, I tend to make sure all my cakes are completed today (with the exception of fresh flowers). Sugar flowers & decorative elements are placed and any final flourishes added. During cooler months, my cakes are left on the bench overnight (all my cake elements now shelf stable) whilst in warmer months, I either place my buttercream cakes overnight in the fridge or leave sensitive fondant cakes on the bench with the air-conditioning running. I’ll also pop over to my local florist (nearby) to pick up my pre-ordered flowers ready for the next day. Cookies are packaged (if requested) and cupcakes topped with buttercream (made on previous days).
This is when I’ll wrap & prepare my fresh flowers and apply them on onto my cakes prior to delivery. Handover sheets are prepped and delivery routes confirmed. All cakes are then packed into the vehicle together with emergency cake decorating supplies, cake stands & cameras (if photographed on site). We (or I) then make our journey delivering & setting up cakes in their respective venues, providing last instructions to venue management & taking happy snaps of the week’s work. It’s then off to some R&R as the caker’s weekend officially begins!
Sunday is my rest day, a day to regroup, and not do any baking work. Of course, there are instances where weddings are held on Sundays but this is something I have moved away from in my business. Should you have to cater for such events, then this day would look slightly similar to Saturdays.
I hope my weekly cake workflow illustration helps give you some ideas on how to build a workflow that suits your life, family & business. Should you have any questions on this topic, feel free to direct them onto our Facebook Community or get in touch via Instagram! 🙂
Thanks for this insight into your daily cake life..
Unfortunately I’m still working the day job as well as cakes at night but your info is still helpful.
I’m just wondering how you deal with cake enquiries that come during the rest of your week after dealing with emails on a Monday?
I find it hard to keep on top of quoting as I feel it needs to be done asap so as not to lose a possible job..
Quoting and general engaging with clients seems to take up a lot of time, I can’t seem to find the right balance.! Just not sure if I’m supposed to drop everything and tend to each enquiry immediately??
Hoping you can shed some light on this?
Hello Jacqui, thank you so much for taking the time to write your question 🙂 So to clarify, Mondays are when I carry out the bulk answering of emails. I make sure my brides/clients have my contact mobile 2 weeks prior to the event and I let them know that if they need to contact me urgently, they can do so via phone.
I set up an automated email that provides info (eg. i require 2 weeks notice, when I am fully booked up till, when they can expect a response from me which was usually within 1 week). Mid week, I do check into my email briefly and reply urgent emails, but those that can wait, I will leave for the next Monday.
If you are worried about losing clients, you could tackle emails twice a week (spread the time out so you are catching all your potential clients). That is what I did when it was quiet season & also in the early stages of business.
This was my generic work schedule about 2 or around 3 years into my business when all they cogs were really turning. I found this worked for me with a very busy cake calendar, as a 1 woman show gig.
Hope this helps! xx
Hi Amanda, When storing you ganached cakes in the fridge do you return them to room temp before coving in fondant? Thanks.
Hello Clare, yes I try to, my ambient room temp (when working) is under 25 deg celcius. 🙂 Doing this helps reduce condensation when covering in fondant so it is recommended, though condensation doesn’t affect me too much I find personally… 🙂
Pauline Tam says
Great article Amanda, so so useful! What I find tends to take up oodles of my time is the time spent on the custom design process. Where does this fit into your schedule because you’re presumably doing this week’s in advance of the actual day?
This is done during my email days. It does take oodles of time, so I find having that fixed amount of desk time the place for me. Another great way to do it, is to focus on email correspondence for a set amount of time, and during that, make note of sketches that need to be done (you can write down the email address, event date & some short notes). And reply in the email “I will get back to you by xxx with a proposed design”. After which, you can set aside a “design hour” to bang out those sketches all at once.
Bulk working is the most efficient way to go about things 🙂