Do you love decorating cakes, but find yourself stressing because so much must be done at the last minute? Do you wish you had a better system to create a stress-free cake decorating experience?
I get you! Keep reading and you’ll find 5 time-management steps and tools to achieve a stress-free cake decorating experience. And don’t forget to download the printable Cake Decorating Planner that I’ve created to ensure you’re never again running around trying to finish your cake at the last minute.
I came up with these steps and tools because I love cake decorating so much. But initially, my experience was hindered by the stress of meeting deadlines in the short number of hours I had to bake.
Seriously, cake decorating is so mesmerizing to me that sometimes I don’t even remember how I arrived at the finalized cake.
I can be so addicting!
This feeling is what led me to start a cake business years ago. I was so obsessed, that I would lose sleep sometimes, thinking of an idea for a cake design. Yep, some of you probably know what I’m talking about.
But at the time, I had a fulltime job. Although it was very flexible, there were times of the year where I had to work extra or late hours.
Either way, working during the day on weekdays was not an option unless I took vacation time. But the truth is that working late at night was and still is my thing.
I find that there are too many distractions during the day. At night, I have total concentration, even if it means pulling an all-nighter. That’s when I decorated my cakes most of the time, but certain challenges come along with it.
THE STRESS OF LATE NIGHT BAKING
The thing that can lead to stress with cake decorating is that there’s a lot to do at the last minute. This is food, and you want it to be fresh. You can bake a cake ahead of time and freeze it. Some people do, but that doesn’t work for me.
I always made it a point to provide customers with the freshest possible cakes when I had my business. This meant that I was always baking and decorating my cakes the day or night before they were due. Here are some complicated situations I found myself in:
- I realized I didn’t have the correct size cake board in the middle of the night. (Of course, I had about 15 other wrong sizes available!)
- Ran out of an ingredient (like butter or sugar) or a material (let’s see, fondant maybe?) in the middle of the night and the cake was due in the morning.
- I forgot to add a piece of the design to the cake that required drying time and had to make it at the last minute.
- After decorating 99 cupcakes, I ran out icing for the 100th.
Impossible to have a stress-free cake decorating experience when this happens! And clearly, it all had to do with lack of organization.
Ugh! All these situations were so frustrating. And you might think I was a mess when it came to my cake business. But the truth is that I was just starting out and learning. Every situation that came up was a lesson for the next time.
Some people may get all those things right from the beginning because they’re very organized to start with. I tend to figure out what my pain points are and then organize myself to avoid them in the future. So, I figured out my organization and time management pain points the hard way.
Either way, I always delivered. I always figured out a way to work it out before the cake was due. But I no longer wanted the stress that came along with lack of preparation.
These systems and tools I’m going to share with you were put in place to avoid that stress. Once you implement them, you won’t have to go through the time management challenges I did. You’ll experience stress-free cake decorating.
1. USE A CAKE ORDER FORM EVEN IF THE CAKE IS FOR YOU
One of the very first things I implemented was a cake order form to make sure I had all the details the customer requested in writing. Even when the cake was for free, for a family member or friend, I used the form.
Think about it, if I lost sleep with the excitement of a cake design I had in mind, imagine how I felt when I forgot a detail in the final product. It didn’t matter to me if it was a free cake.
So, I created a Cake Order Form that provided me with all the necessary details to remember every aspect of the cake design and customer requests. The client had to sign the agreement at the end. I would even specify if they gave me “creative license” with some of the design details.
This Cake Order Form was the first step in achieving a stress-free cake decorating experience because it included everything I needed:
- Name, Phone Number (cell and/or home + back up person cell), Email
- Delivery or Pick Up?
- Delivery Address
- Date and Location of Event
- 2-hour Delivery Window of Time
- Cake Flavors, Icing Flavors, Filling Flavors
- # of Cake Tiers
- Cake Description
Download a printable Cake Order Form, it’s included in the FREE Cake Decorating Planner. You’ll also receive email updates and freebies exclusive to The Fit and Healthy Baker community!
2. WRITE DOWN A LIST OF ALL THE MATERIALS YOU NEED TO BAKE AND DECORATE YOUR CAKE
A list of ingredients and materials you’ll need is crucial to start as soon as you have the cake order or idea. If you’re absent-minded, like I can be 😉, you’ll keep adding to the list as you go.
To complete it, grab your recipes and write down all the ingredients. Make an inventory of the materials you already have. Make sure you have enough for the amount you will need for the cake. Add a little extra as back up. (If you want a great list of cake decorating materials, check out 14 Cake Decorating Tools to Design the Cakes You Dream Of.)
The same goes for cake materials, build the cake from start to finish in your mind so that you can visualize all the materials you need and inventory what you already have available.
If you need a handy tool for icing and fondant amounts, download the Fit and Healthy Conversions Cheat Sheet here.
Next, write down the stores you need to go to for all your ingredients and materials. See if you can find coupons for each store. Save money whenever you can on cake materials because it can get very expensive over time.
In a nutshell, make lists of the following items:
- Baking ingredients
- Cake decorating ingredients/materials
- Available Store Coupon?
- Stores Must Go To
Download a printable Shopping List of Cake Materials, it’s included in the FREE Cake Decorating Planner. You’ll also receive email updates and freebies exclusive to The Fit and Healthy Baker community!
3. DON’T WING IT, CALCULATE THE TIME YOU’LL NEED AND ADD 4 MORE HOURS AT LEAST
Calculate the time you’ll need to bake and decorate the cake and add 4 more hours AT LEAST. This has been absolutely the most valuable step I’ve taken when baking a cake. You know how I said earlier that I would get lost in the process of decorating a cake?
Well, a side effect of being so mesmerized by the process is that I had no concept of the real time it took to make my cake from start to finish. As a result, I always miscalculated how much time I needed and found myself rushing at the end.
Don’t stress yourself out like that. Have a realistic idea of how much time it takes you to bake and decorate cakes. Add some wiggle room in there. Then add some more time. Don’t worry if you’re starting out and it takes longer. Your time will improve as you decorate more cakes.
ANYTHING CAN HAPPEN TO DELAY THE PROCESS
You never know if this is the cake that you drop when you pull it out of the oven. Or maybe it’s not something so drastic. Maybe there’s a flower or a figurine that you’re having a hard time making correctly, even though you’ve made it ten times before.
The fondant for the very first wedding cake I made would crack, no matter how I handled it or what I did. Little did I know at the time that all I needed to do was add some vegetable shortening to smooth it out. I lost hours trying to figure out how to fix it.
In the end, as usual, the customer had no idea and loved their cake. But, boy it was a painful process to get there!
Effectively calculating the time and allowing yourself some wiggle room leads to clearer heads and more effective problem-solving. Always have a good balance between making a fresh cake and allowing yourself the right amount of time to bake and decorate your cake. Overcalculating the number of hours you need to decorate your cake will always lead to a stress-free cake decorating experience.
4. MAKE WHAT YOU CAN AHEAD OF TIME AND CREATE A TIMELINE
Having a fresh cake is wonderful, but always keep in mind that there are certain decorations on the cake that can and should be done ahead of time. By doing so, you create a stress-free cake decorating process at the front end and the back end.
If you’re making a fondant or gumpaste cake topper, for example, it should be done ahead of time. Number one, it saves you time on the latter end of the process. Number two, some cake decorations need hours or days to become fully firm to hold their shape or structure.
Speaking of structure… If your cake design requires structural support, build it as many days in advance as possible. Make sure you test it out too. You don’t want to find out that the structure won’t hold the cake you designed the day before your cake is due.
I created a timeline or calendar where you can plan out your process from start to finish and give yourself deadlines to complete your cake order. The following is included in the timeline, which you can also find as part of the Cake decorating Planner:
- Shopping Date(s)
- Structure Building, if applicable
- Advance figurines and decorations
- Cake, icing, and filling prep
- Cake decorating prep
- Delivery or pick-up prep
5. ALWAYS HAVE PLAN B AVAILABLE
I was lucky to live in an area where I had a 24-hour Walmart available with a full Wilton section. So, things always worked out for me by the time the cake was due.
But having extra materials and ingredients available, or Plan B solutions to your most common issues can come in very handy on the one day you’re in a tough spot.
Most importantly, if you know you’re using a technique you’ve never tried before, think of alternatives to accomplish your design. Trial and error is a huge part of cake decorating. So, you don’t want to give up if your new technique didn’t work.
Either give yourself enough time and materials for trial and error or have Plans B and C. If something doesn’t work out as planned, you can continue your stress-free cake decorating because you’ve already planned for it.
HAPPY AND STRESS-FREE CAKE DECORATING!
Did you get into cake decorating because you’re passionate about the art? That passion can lead to unique and beautiful cake designs. However, as fascinating as the process is, it can also be a stressful experience.
But it doesn’t have to be that way if you plan ahead of time and follow the simple steps outlined in this post and the Cake Decorating Planner. Effective time management is achievable.
Download the FREE Cake Decorating Planner Printables today! When you do, you’ll have the best time management tools to make your next cake decorating experience a stress-free success!
Comment below to let me know what you do to have a stress-free cake decorating experience.