As a custom cake decorator, I see a lot of cakes. Images of cakes are often sent to me as inspiration for a request and I love it. As my business grows I've actually been sent images of cakes I've done as inspiration for future orders and that, my friends, is my favorite. I also spend a fair amount of free time browsing cakes on the internet. If you don't, I recommend it. Checking out other cakes that you love for one reason or another is always a good place to start when creating one just for you. On that note, inspiration can come from anything. I also love seeing invitations, napkins, or other decorations that go with your theme of choice to help get the ideas flowing. Pretty much anything can be adapted into a cake design so send it all over if it speaks to you. I promise you - I want to see it.
When it comes to quoting out how much it will cost to decorate a cake there are some general guidelines that I keep in mind. I try to make these as transparent as possible to my clients. I've referenced them in previous blogs and they are listed on my website as well. Things like level of detail and number of colors incorporated are all key points to consider. In general I try to think about how long it will take me to complete your decoration and give a quote based off the estimated time. This usually works out in my customers' favor as I like to think I'm much faster than I actually am. Admittedly so, I learn something every time I decorate a cake and I honestly hope that never changes. It's also important to remember that you're not paying me for the hour of my time it takes to craft something. You're paying me for the decades of experience I have to be able to craft it as a professional. That concept is often lost in careers that have an artistic base.
Pinterest is, I feel obviously, the natural starting point when it comes to looking for ideas online. I get a lot of images sent to me that are directly from Pinterest and more often than not they end up being a bit more than what my clients want to pay. I'm speaking very generally, of course. The point is that there is always a way to make a cake less expensive or more extravagant. I've stressed that in previous blog posts and I may never stop saying it. It's a point of conversation for literally every order I take. There is always a way to make a custom cake specific to fit your needs. That includes serving size, color combinations, and special touches. However, if you want a replica of any given cake, that is also possible. The thing to remember is (like in any creative medium) every artist will inevitably have their own touch.
To the left is a screenshot (one of three) that was sent to me with the request to simply price out. I sent back my best guesses on sizes and corresponding prices along with decoration charges that were based on the images. I presume that the cake pictured is at least a triple layer based on how tall the unicorn face is. For this particular client, the serving size was met using a double layer and the request was to duplicate the design as best as possible at a reasonable price point. I happily went over the details and explained in an itemized format what all went into this cake as well as possible alterations that would take the decorating cost down. When giving any custom quote, I do try to make it a habit to offer a few variations at different price points to help my clients get a feel for the possibilities that best fit their budgets. I'm more than happy to go through as many options as needed for my clients to find the perfect set up for a cake that meets both their needs and their wants. It is for this reason that I suggest reaching out at least 2 weeks prior to your event. Adjustments can be a simple tweak; as pictured here on the right - the background of this cake is buttercream instead of covered in fondant as seen in the original image that was the base for this design. Another small adjustment was the horn being molded out of fondant instead of being the only paper found on the cake. Any adjustment is possible but the thing to remember is that every individual artist has their own individual style. From handwriting to icing roses to the shape of cartoon eyes that they draw - there is a unique touch for each decorator.
This became clear to me during my days working at a bakery back in college. It was the first cake related job I had and there was a whole crew of decorators that I was excited to be a part of. As a team, we quickly took note of each other's strengths and developed a system to equally distribute a day's work while taking advantage of the talents of each person. It's funny to think back and remember the different qualities that shown though on everyone's cakes - but that could be a whole different blog haha! The easiest example I can think to give is handwriting. If someone wrote on a cake it was always such a nightmare if someone else had to alter that writing later. The crew I worked with was brilliant and I'm still friends with a lot of those people today. They are still just as unique as their decorating styles and their cakes are recognizable to me even now. A personal style will show on cake without even trying but that's part of the appeal of something that's custom and hand crafted.