Sunday, 22 June 2014

Luck of the Irish

This was my first and, to date, probably my only real profit making commission. 

Although I would love to have a business making cakes in reality you need to be living in the right location, have plenty of time to devote to it and enough space for all the paraphernalia that goes along with the craft. Demanding full-time jobs, having children, limited space and stretched finances have always taken priority over the years and, for me, cake decorating has remained a hobby not a money earner.

I wasn't advertising for work when I did this cake - I was approached by a close friend who worked for an event company. Sarah called me at quite short notice asking if I could help out as their usual cake maker was unexpectedly unavailable. The pressure was on, family and friends are understanding and forgiving and just happy to have a quirky personalised cake for their special occasion. Event companies and paying customers have higher expectations, reputations are at stake.

Friends often comment that professionally made cakes are expensive and I understand their thinking when you can walk into Asda and pick up a pretty 'hand decorated' Disney Princess Cake  for £20. The big supermarkets and companies work on economies of scale but the cakes themselves can taste very 'average' - dare I say 'synthetic' and the decorations rarely survive the rigours of life on a supermarket shelf completely intact! 

For a self-employed professional cake maker though there are many overheads and indirect costs to factor in - including energy bills, petrol, public liability insurance, food hygiene courses, carrying boxes, boards, ribbons, cases and parchment paper to name a few. Good quality cakes need good quality ingredients and these don't come cheap either - dried fruit, butter, marzipan, fondant icing all add to the price. On top of that there is the investment in equipment - tins, cutters, modelling tools, mats, the list is endless and needs a post of its own really! Finally and most importantly, especially if this is your sole source of income, you need to make a profit - of which the taxman will take his cut. Even if you factor in paying yourself minimum wage (currently £6.31 per hour!) the final cost of the cake really adds up. This is all quite boring but perhaps explains why that specially commissioned cake is quite pricey - the old adage 'you get what you pay for' comes to mind!

FOR SALE - tin I purchased specifically for this commission (only used once!)

Back to the cake - my brief was to produce a cake in keeping with the birthday 'boys' nationality and the theme of the huge party that was being organised. In folklore the leprechaun is a mischievous character often depicted as a cobbler who stored his wealth in a pot of gold at the end of a rainbow. He was relatively easy to model. Quite a tricky job was to get a smooth, crease free, finish to the green fondant of the intricate shamrock leaf shaped cake base. Rolling out and manhandling a sheet of fondant about 40 cm in diameter was no mean feat.

As well as the main cake I made 100 cupcakes with little shamrocks on them - they took forever. I can't remember what I charged or what my net profit was - probably nowhere near enough!!



  1. This is amazing! Love it xx

    1. Thanks Lottie - I'm hoping to post one a week until I have exhausted my back catalogue - then I'll have to start making new ones!

  2. When our local cake maker was unable to fulfil the cake remit for the large event we were staging, I knew immediately that my good friend Kath was the answer - she had previously made our wedding cake and christening cakes for both our children so it was a no brainer. Kath took many details for Sean's party and worked so hard in the time given but completely surpassed everyone's expectations! Sarah

    1. We'll know we're getting old when I make the wedding cake for your lovely daughter!!