not a crumb

Intro to Icing

Intro to Icing

Intro to Icing - not a crumb’s first cake decorating class!

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fifty shades of flavor

fifty shades of flavor

move beyond vanilla...

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duplicate, create... innovate

So much has happened since my last (published) post (let's not talk about the drafts waiting in the cue), I can’t possibly fit it all in here – I suppose that’s the problem with life; it moves at a frenetic pace. By the time you’re ready to talk about something, something else has transpired. I had all sorts of posts planned in my mind, and then Steve Jobs passed away. That’s when I decided I wanted to talk about him and the impact he’s had on my life. What do Steve Jobs and cake have to do with each other? On the surface, not a whole lot. What does Jobs have to do with me? The first computer I ever touched was an Apple IIe. The first one I owned – a Performa. Three imacs, an ibook, macbook, shuffle, nano, and an ipod touch later, there is not a day that I don’t interact with something that Jobs influenced or made. His inventions help me be more efficient (on the days I’m not procrastinating). They enable me to make my own website and marketing materials; to blog and facebook and twitter my days away. They keep me sane on airplanes when my seat mate wants to talk me to death, and on the rare occasion I get on a treadmill, my ipod keeps me walking towards nowhere. I am a mac (among other things)!

This is important because Job’s legacy is thinking outside of the box; creating something not only new, but intuitive. Sophisticated but basic. Modern but simple. Complex but easy to use, and at the end of the day, standing alone, all those beautiful pieces of technology are art.

Here’s the cake connection. I get asked often, “what’s the hardest cake you’ve ever had to do?” Truthfully, every one is  a challenge because every cake is new, something I haven’t done before. But after really thinking about it, the most difficult cakes are the ones where I’m asked to duplicate something that’s already been done. Think about all of the remakes of popular songs. No one wants to hear someone sing a classic song and butcher it, or not bring something new to the table. You want it to be better than the original – even awesome – er! Think about how many bad renditions of favorites we’ve heard on American Idol (shudder)!

Don’t get it twisted… I LOVE to make cake. Pretty much any kind of cake, except cupcakes (that’s for another post). But I really don’t want to copy someone else’s cake. I don’t even want to copy my own cakes! I want to take cake, and transform it… create a new cake experience that will truly reflect the occasion and the people being celebrated. Forget Mike; I want to be like Jobs. Truly, with every cake, I want to go further, push the envelope, and innovate. I want for people to want to duplicate me. Isn’t that what Jobs did? How many other mp3 players are out there, that we can name? I think there’s that Zune thing (not sure if it’s still around). Ipod has become synonymous with mp3 players. Yup. When people think cake, I want them to think not a crumb!.

So what do youwant to do with your life, career, passion? Duplicate, create or innovate?

what's the big faking deal?

every year event and wedding design reveals new trends. most of those have to do with color, shape, texture, or graphic images. one trend that's been around for the past few seasons is frugality. now being a girl who has champagne taste and a coca-cola pocketbook, i understand that not everyone has oodles of disposable income to throw at their wedding or celebration. it's important in these difficult financial times that we make every cent count twice. so i applaud thrifty-ness and bargain-hunting. brides are all about diy, from their invitations to their bouquets, to favors, forget fake it till you make it, just make it! all of those handmade items bring a certain whimsy and personality to a wedding, and i'm all for it! since brides are being discriminating with their  dollars, event planners are being creative with cost-cutting, thus, the fake cake.

most cake designers have created fake cakes before; tiers of styrofoam covered in fondant or plaster and decorated to look like a fab wedding confection. they've been made for bridal shows and exhibits, or for displays in their shops or studios. i've made quite a few myself. some of the work pictured on my website consists of display cakes that i've decorated for various occasions. up until recently most of us have never been commissioned to make one for a real live event. brides and planners are soliciting display cakes for show & pics, and then sheet cake for the kitchen with the hopes of saving some scratch. here's the thing... that actually won't save you money. in some cases it may actually cost you more! allow me to debunk a couple of myths for you.

  • wedding cake costs more than other cake; bakers automatically charge more when they hear the word wedding. - not true, unless you are comparing the cost of a wedding cake to your local bakery or grocery's grab & go birthday cake. personally, i charge the same for any special event cake - birthday, wedding, anniversary, baby shower, etc.. the price is determined by the level of detail and the amount of work that will go into a specialty design.
  • a fake cake plus sheet cake will cost less. - bakers determine the price based on ingredients, how long it will take to decorate plus the amount of time it will take to bake the cake(s). when making fake cake plus sheet cake, the cake still needs to be baked, plus the cake designer has to decorate twice - first the sheet cake (which needs to look like it came from the pretty display cake), then the display cake. there are also additional materials for the display cake. that styrofoam can get pretty expensive! for a three tier cake, it can cost anywhere from $15-40 just for the dummies (not insulting them, that's just what they're called)
  • no one will know the difference, i can just get cake from costco (nothing against costco, i LOVE costco - where do you think i get all that butter from?!) to keep the  number of servings down. - ummm... nope. most cake decorators have an all-or-nothing clause in their contracts. you must get all cake from them. this is designed to protect them and their reputation. guests don't know that the groom's cake came from one place and the wedding cake came from another. they just know they had cake. and if one is really awful...only one gets all the credit/blame. they won't differentiate. also, sheet cake looks different. it's usually two layers of cake and one of icing/filling, whereas wedding cake is usually three layers of cake and two of filling or icing. you wouldn't want your guests to think there's been a bait and switch!

so how can you save on your wedding cake? when is fake cake appropriate?

  1. be realistic about your budget and share that information with your cake designer. s/he will present you with ideas that are within your price range if you are up front about it.
  2. simpler is usually less expensive. choose a design that will not require hours of detail work. nix the sugar flowers and go with silk or fresh, non-toxic blooms.
  3. choose a smaller cake for display (big surface+fancy details=more details & more time. little surface+fancy details= less details & less time) and other types of desserts like pie or cookies will reduce the amount of servings you'll need.
  4. choose a smaller display cake and kitchen cake provided by the same baker.
  5. supplement the size of your cake by the addition of one or two fake tiers. this may not save you on decorating, but it will save you on the number of serving.

i hope this helps you navigate the world of cake!

which one is real?

Cake vs. Cake

I've gotten a lot of requests lately for really fantastic cakes _ wedding cakes and groom's cakes and it got me thinking about old movies, but one in particular. Kramer vs. Kramer, where a husband and wife face off in court as opposing sides on the same case. It made me think about competition because in weddings where I've done both, the groom's cake has been more intricate than the wedding cake. To me it takes away from the wedding cake being a centerpiece. What do you think? Should the wedding cake take the spotlight, or should it share prominence with the groom's cake?

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progression....evolution

last week i attended entrepreneur magazine's growth conference in atlanta ( #growthconference ) and one word kept popping up in my head, no matter the session i was in - CHANGE. all of the presenters talked about how change is inevitable and necessary for growth. although i am a change-o-phobe (i think change is all good when it happens to other people), i could hear the wisdom in what they were saying. the end of the year always brings about a certain amount of reflection - what have i accomplished? why didn't i get more done? why is there so much left to do?!!!! it's difficult to see how much has changed and how much progress you have made; the forest for the trees if you will, or the trees for the forest (to-may-toe, to-mah-toe). as i sat in the build your brand session, i thought about how much not a crumb! has grown. to me progress is about evolution, adapting and growing stronger, smarter, better, more FABULOUS! when i graduated from college, a girlfriend gave each of us in our circle, a crystal paperweight. in bold type it said "the evolution of man". pictured below, there were sets of footprints, leading from primate, to barefoot, to a print of a pair of man's shoes, to a woman's stiletto. i thought it was hilarious - that the most evolved version of man is a woman. i don't believe that to be true (that's for all the men reading this)! the image always stuck with me; this idea of moving forward.

i want to share a little of not a crumb!'s evolution. i started baking as a kid because my mom baked and i was an only child, so i didn't really have any where to be but in the kitchen up under her arm... my mom and my godmother had a little business making wedding cakes and special occasion cakes. they had a whole system, my mom would do the baking during the day after work, and my godmother would decorate in the evening when she got off of work. they did that for most of my school years until my godmother moved to the land of the retired, at which point my mom continued on by herself, with me very occasionally assisting. i went onto college never thinking that baking as a career was in my future, returned home and baked strictly for fun, until people started asking if they could pay me to make cakes. i then convinced my  mom to come out of semi- cake retirement. that's when not a crumb! was born. so for the next 5 years we baked together (not always peacefully - hey we are mother and daughter!), and then i moved to atlanta from ny, and we became a two state operation. it took two years of lobbying, but i convinced my parents to move down to the a this past july, and once again, i've got my mom working with, and supporting me!

fast forward 7 years from my move to the peach state, and not a crumb! has surpassed my initial dreams. we've moved from a hobby to a business! one of my cakes was spotlighted in a national magazine (get married!), and my cake was featured at the unveiled wedding show in november, and i've been making cakes far beyond what i ever thought i could make!

i was cleaning out and going through papers with my mom in preparation for their move and we came across some of our old business cards. check out how we began to build our brand:

this is what we look like now!

change is a good great thing when we allow it to propel us forward, progress and evolve! the end of the year pensiveness was much needed for me. it reminded me that although i didn't meet all my goals for 2010, i've done a whole lot, and didn't allow negative changes to steamroll me. change is always an opportunity for growth. not a crumb! has even more changes coming, and i can't wait to tell you about them (actually i can wait, but it's really, really hard, because it's such exciting news!).

check back to see what's up!

leap and the net shall appear

ahem...can i have your attention please? i just quit my job. handed in emailed my resignation and hit send. there is no turning back, no saying, "my bad. i didn't really mean to quit." so i've taken the BIG leap of faith, and officially have begun to panic. currently in freaking out mode. (breathing into brown paper bag right now. in... out...in...out) whew. breathing better now. so what led to this decision? over the past few months ok, year, i haven't done the greatest job for my cake compadres, or for my boss out there in corporate america. my focus was so divided, and i felt like i was being pulled in several different directions. truthfully, i felt a lot like the dog that lost its head (see the post "the massive fail"). it made me realize that i can't serve two masters, and since i am the master of my fate and the captain of my ship, i'd rather kick the corporate master to the curb!

the end of one year and the beginning of another, tend to make us reflective and contemplative. it felt like now was the time to take that immense leap of faith. of course that felt a lot better before i hit the send button! as i looked for a piece of clip art to illustrate the jump into the unknown, i came across this quote:

"leap and the net shall appear"

and just like that the pressure in my chest eased enough for breath enough to sustain me. this will be very difficult, and i'm sure that the panic and worry will come and go, but right now, at this specific moment in time, i am excited about what comes next. i've opened my hands to receive whatever the new year brings. i'm incredibly energized about having  the space and time to be creative, to get better at my craft.

to my fellow entrepreneurs, my holiday wishes for you, are much success, enthusiasm, prosperity, and perserverance for 2011. leap on!

the successful fail

much has been said about failure. we've got lots of cliches designed to make us feel better when we screw up royally. you know - "if at first you don't succeed...", "nothing beats a failure but a try!", "let's learn from our mistakes...". yeah, yeah, yeah. what those cliches don't say is how much it really sucks when things don't work out the way you envisioned them. this past weekend karin, from this wife bakes, and i collaborated on the mother of all groom's cakes. it was, in a word, stupendous, marvelous, fantastic. ok that was three words, but it was definitely all of those things. a 2 ft tall 3-d sculpted bulldog for an omega psi phi, complete with gold construction  boots, spiked collar and chain leash. see!

the before

and this was before all of the little details had been added, like his back two feet, laces for the boots. he was a gorgeous 70+ lbs of of yummy chocolate and vanilla cake, strawberry cheesecake buttercream and rice krispie treats. he also lost his head.

we traveled to the lovely ventana's for the setup and on the way his head started to sag. no worries. we'll just make a couple of adjustments and we'll be good to go! the first fix still looked fab due to our quick thinking. however, we soon realized that the cake was going to be a massive fail. first clue? when his head continued its downward descent. second clue? when his chest exploded all over the table. that is no exaggeration... the only thing keeping that cake upright was my hand on his head and my stomach against the edge of the table. at that point all i could think was that i had managed to ruin a very important part of someone's very important day. i did not cry...yet. we managed to salvage the head, chain, dog bone, and two of the boots, clear off the table and display what was left. the remaining cake was carted off to the kitchen to be served later with dessert. you saw the before. here's the after.

the after

all i wanted to do was curl up into the fetal position and die of embarrassment. then to add insult to injury, i cried all over the groom when he and his lovely bride told us how beautiful the body-less dog was. not my best moment, as i stood blubbering all over him and his fancy tuxedo. how much worse can it get!

god has a way of teaching you and showing you things in what you perceive to be your darkest, saddest, worst, most horribly humiliating moments. a couple of funny things that happened that night, aside from the dessert debacle:

  1. prior to the dog dying, i almost knocked him off the table, which although it would have been a more spectacular ending, would probably have had me searching for the nearest sharp implement to use to take my life.
  2. me blubbering all over the bride and groom. hey, at least i wasn't hysterical.
  3. me and karin standing in the middle of the reception hall with  huge chunks of cake innards in our hands waiting for rescue and divine intervention.
  4. me proclaiming that the dog's ass (pardon my french) was still in perfect condition, and we should just turn it around! not my best idea... it's not like no one would notice the gaping hole in his midsection.
  5. going to retrieve the box of cake remnants karin had hidden in the stairwell so the bride and groom wouldn't see it, and finding a wedding guest eating the cake out of the box on the floor and proclaiming,  and i quote, "this is some damn good cake". who does that! apparently he did, and it was yummy!

i learned a couple of lessons on saturday night. the first is that whenever things are going too smoothly, disaster is lurking around the corner. the second, we all need to have a humbling experience, or two, or three to keep us, well, humble. the third, nothing and no one/dog,  is exempt from the laws of nature, in this case, gravity. third, people are good. period. the bride and groom were so gracious, and kind, and understanding! i mean, i cried all over the groom who comforted me!

you may not know that i run this business in addition to a full-time job. it's been difficult, trying to achieve balance, keeping myself and my relationships healthy, all the while  reaching for my goal of world cake domination. the biggest lesson i learned from this experience is that i cannot continue to burn the candle at both ends and in the middle, and not expect for things to fall apart and catch fire. in failing, i've gained so much - new perspective, renewed energy and determination. so i'm coining a new phrase - "the successful fail". while i don't wish misfortune on anyone, i hope that your failures will be as succesful as mine!

can you stand the rain?

for those of you who don't know, it's been raining in georgia for forever! fine. it hasn't been raining forever, it's been raining for two weeks. so let me first say, i am thankful that my friends and family are safe and dry, and also that i'm praying for those who have lost their homes due to the horrible flooding. for those of you who've been following us on facebook, we were to have a booth last saturday at the caribbean cook-off, selling jamaican desserts and other cakes and sweets.  let's see how that went shall we?

sad soggy crumbs

as you can see, it was wet. everything was wet - me, my husband, and boxes and boxes of cake (not the cake, just the boxes).

we tried to "keep hope alive" that it would stop, and for the most part, we were quite cheerful. see! 

happy hubby thumbs up the cuz and the hus

(that's the hubby, me and the hubby and the cousin)

eventually the organizers had to call the event due to the weather, so it was back home with all.that.cake. sigh. we managed to sell some 1/2 price, and give away a lot to very grateful friends and neighbors. my mom is such a saint that she's been eating all the rest for breakfast, lunch and dinner so that it doesn't go to waste. let's just say that it was quite an adventure.