If there is one phrase I hear very often in my online cake community, it usually goes like this… “I wish I could be like so-and-so…”
After all, isn’t that what goes through our minds as we scroll through the many beautiful feeds on Instagram of Facebook? We wish we had other people’s feeds and we often wish we could make cakes like the bakers we admire.
I’ve totally been there… In the first year of my cake journey, I copied so many cake designs and tried desperately to emulate everyone else’s creations that I very quickly became known as the local caker who could recreate any ol’ design really well. It’s not something I’m terribly proud of, but to be completely honest and real with you here, that’s what I did.
I quickly found myself in the “anything and everything” caker category. The category that a majority of cake decorator’s find themselves in. I realised very quickly that by simply emulating other people’s work and putting myself at the mercy of my client’s requests, the consequences meant that:
- I lacked creative freedom in my cake decorating
- I was easily replaced by other cheaper cake businesses (because we were all replaceable)
- I was not able to make the cakes that I really wanted to make
- My cake business had no brand identity
- I struggled to attract clients as I was not unique
- I struggled to get a significant social media following
If any of the above described your current cake situation, then you really need to read on my friend.
Here’s the big crucial step that most cake decorators miss in their caking journey, and that’s creating the time & space to develop our own unique cake style from very early on.
If you have failed to do so, you eventually find yourself in the same place that I was in. If you’re there, you’ll know it’s not a very fun place to be.
I often do an exercise with a lot of my cake business mentorship student’s whereby I ask them to write down their top 5 cake decorator’s whom they admire on a piece of paper. I illustrate to my students that chances are, at least 4 out of 5 of the names they wrote would have a very recognisable cake style that they’ll be able to describe to me in a few words.
How did these cake makers get to such a place of recognisable style?
Well, I’ve found that the secret lies in continually discovering, honing and showcasing your unique personal cake style (note: all 3 are of equal importance).
Finding your own cake style takes time for sure… it’s an ongoing process of discovery, trial and practice. We often might be tempted to skip over it and just “make that Mickey Mouse or Minecraft cake” that our clients want to buy; but by ignoring this process, we are certainly robbing ourselves of the best cake future we could potentially have.
So, onto the million dollar question.. Just how do we go about developing our own cake style? I’ve developed 6 key points from my own personal journey and from my experience working with previous mentorship students to help nudge you towards finding your own unique cake voice.
So go on and sit down with a nice cuppa as you mule over and thoughtfully consider these next few questions:
1. What are you drawn to the most?
More specifically, what is aesthetically pleasing and visually attractive to you? You want to pay attention the type of art and decorations you buy, the Pins you save and the colours you are frequently drawn to. I’ve been told so many times “I love your earrings, they remind me of your cakes” or “You blouse is so colourful like your cookies”. Your personal tastes and visual choices are a good indicator of where your creative inclinations lie. If you are drawn exclusively to abstract art, chances are you would like creating abstract cakes. If you love pinks and lots of florals, it could be that you have a knack for designing fresh floral wedding cakes in beautiful pastel hues. Your unique cake style does very often flow from your natural style and visual preferences.
2. What are you naturally good at? (OR what do you have the POTENTIAL to be really good at?)
Some of my students tell me “I simply do not like working with fondant, but I love buttercream”. I often tell them, “Great! Then specialise in making the best buttercream-only cakes in your area”. The response I often hear then is “Really? Can I do just that?”.
The answer is a big resounding yes! YOU get to decide what you make for your consumers and this can come out of your natural strengths and abilities. You might find that certain skills and techniques come easier to you or bring more enjoyment; this is another signpost of what your unique cake style could be. For instance, painting on cakes with a variety of mediums comes very naturally to me because of my art background in my teenage years, and so I’ve carved out a unique style from that.
The thing is: you don’t have to be everything to everybody. Sometimes, just focusing on what we are REALLY good at is the best way forwards.
Sidenote: If you are new to cake decorating and don’t quite know what your strengths are, then start LEARNING & PRACTISING. Exposing yourself to as many different cake techniques as possible will help you discover what your natural strengths are. Once you have been exposed to a wide variety of mediums, you’ll start to discover what works for you and what doesn’t.
3. What are the local market demands or gaps in the market?
Whilst the path to finding your unique cake voice is mainly an internal process, it also pays to be aware of local demands and “market opportunities”. For instance, if there is a demand for rustic wedding cakes in your area and you know that a majority of bakeries predominantly offer “classic” style wedding cakes, then perhaps you could consider specialising in rustic style wedding cakes to capture the demand & gap in the market.
Similarly, you also want to ensure that your personal cake style is palatable to the general public. I once had a student who was so focused on creating artistic cakes that it often pushed the boundaries a little too far. She struggled to get orders for her funky sculptural cakes as she never once considered whether they were “commercially viable”. Her cakes looked like they belonged in a gallery and not so much at a birthday party or wedding (which made selling cakes a bit of a struggle).
Ultimately, your unique cake style has to be something that other people find attractive and desirable if you are hoping to promote/sell your work to the general public.
4. What businesses & cake elements do you admire the most?
If you’re a cake maker or baker, chances are you follow about a 100 other cake makers on Instagram or FB. One way to develop your own personal style is to pay attention to the types of cake makers that you admire.
For example, when I first started my cake business, I realised that I usually followed cake businesses that had a sleek modern style. I also realised then that I only followed bakers that made cakes with sharp edges. Since these things kept on being the things I admired the most, I started to work this into my own personal style and paired it with the other things I uniquely could do really well.
You may find that you especially fancy romantic wedding cake businesses or are frequently drawn to sugar flowers. These are all things that could help point you towards finding your own cake aesthetic.
I should mention as a sidenote that that whilst looking up to or admiring other cake makers can be a positive and helpful thing (if we do so mindfully with our self-esteem in check), there is also a danger for us to fall into the deep, dark pit of the ‘comparison trap’. If you struggle with caker’s comparison or feelings of inadequately on social media, I truly encourage you to take some time out and read this article here about How to Overcome Caker Comparison.
5. What fits your lifestyle, resources & schedule?
Whatever you want to make & be known for, is something that you need to be able to maintain in long term. For instance, choosing to specialise in intricate wedding cakes as your main cake work would only be viable if you were able to work on weekends. It might be a something you can’t physically commit to if you are a nurse who works tons of weekend shifts.
Similarly, if you want to specialise in bulk cupcake orders for corporate clients but only have an old small oven, this might not be viable either as you would struggle to manage large batches of baking.
Tailoring your cake style or specialisation to fit into your stage of life is something very beneficial and necessary to both your mental and physical health. To give you another example, ff you’re a time poor mum juggling multiple responsibilities, you could consider designing cakes that are high impact but low labour.
6. Master the basics (and keep on mastering)
After all’s said and done, at the end of it, your personal cake style will only ever be as good as your skills. So mastering the basic cake techniques is a non-negotiable on the road to building a recognisable cake style. Every notable cake maker you’ll ever meet will tell you stories of countless nights perfecting their cake skills and the numerous baking mistakes they had to make in order to finally get it right. So don’t take shortcuts here as the road to greatness always requires energy, practice, education and plain hard work. Check out the vast library of free & premium cake tutorials on Sugar Sugar Cakes’ Online Cake School, which have been specifically created to provide you the best contemporary-style cake Courses, Tutorials & tools to grow and refine your cake techniques.
So there you have it, 6 different signposts to help propel you towards finding your unique cake style. I’ll leave you with one of my all-time favourite quotes by Oscar Wilde, and its…
‘Be yourself, everyone else is already taken”.
I’d love to know, if this article helped you on the subject of finding your unique cake style. If it has, let me know in the comments below!