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We as small businesses and individuals forget our worth and the journey and hard work it takes to make our products happen.  Whether you are baking a cake, coordinating a wedding, providing flowers or other related services, you must charge for your expertise, time and finished product.

I would like to revisit a post I wrote a few years back about a colleague of mine and potential client being “forced” to go with a second rate baker because my colleague would not go below her company’s set minimum to accommodate her budget.  There are enough vendors out there at each price point doing a great job in their field’s, that everyone can find something.  Sure, we have to do some research, but it’s out there.  Please read below….

A colleague of ours posted a frustration on her Facebook page that her bride and groom were trying to talk her down in price for their wedding cake and go below the bakery’s minimum, even though the guest list is small.  They were hoping that they would be able to help out “the little guy”.

Now with our colleague, she received an email explaining that this was a small destination wedding and because she could not fit within the minimum budget of the bakery, she was now “forced” to go to a second-class bakery for her wedding cake.

How does the business owner handle these kinds of situations?  I can only tell you how we handle them here at our own bakery.  Before our clients come in, they are prescreened over the telephone/email when we are booking their appointments.  We ask all sorts of questions regarding location, party planner etc… One of the questions I always ask is, “Are you familiar with our pricing structure?” This is my opportunity to inform the perspective client about how we price our cakes.  I tell them the minimum cost, and explain to them the more you add to your cake, the more the price will increase.  At this point I have done my part in educating the client about our pricing.

So now that same client is sitting at our table and still trying to talk us down in our minimum price.  We now have to explain to them how things are made.  For a quality product you have to pay at least the minimum price the baker is offering.   The kind of work we do is not what you typically find in a grocery store bakery.  We have skilled artisans that manipulate and sculpt things made from sugar.  If you want a handbag made out of cake my head chef carves this out of cake and skillfully covers the “hand bag” in fondant.  And that’s only the first step in the decorating process.  The crew still has to make all of the details that go on the handbag: zippers, handles, logos, hardware, etc.  These details also need to be dusted with edible colors to enhance their features.  This is an overview of only some of the steps in a very complicated process.  After the explanation, we take our clients back into the production room so they can see for them selves why our product is more costly than your average grocery market cake.

As our colleague will tell you, these kinds of encounters are very frustrating, as we are constantly educating our clients and fans of our work about our pricing.  This “couture” cake industry is still relatively new and we all have to do our part to inform the general public out there that there are now two kinds of party cakes: the ones from the grocery store or the one from the “cake shop”.

car-cakes

The cake on the left is something that you can expect from a grocery store bakery. The cake on the right is something that you can expect from a customized bake shop. (This was a cake that we made for my nephew’s birthday from Ron Ben-Israel Cakes.)

 

No one ever wants to offend the other party and everyone is always looking for a good price.  We as bakers do provide a service to the wedding industry and I truly believe that there is a bakery out there for everyone at every price point.

How to store Sugar Flowers…

A question I get over and over again.  I posted this in 2012 when I worked for my dear baker Ron Ben-Israel, and it’s good to post again…

The question from my reader Tori:

How do you keep your gum paste flowers fresh? I recently was cleaning out some flowers I had made last summer and prior to throwing them away, I smelled them, and they smelled like rancid shortening. Do you go through your stock so quickly that they don’t have a chance to get like that? I had used Wilton fondant and gum paste for my flowers. Not sure if that makes a difference. Miss Tori…

Thanks Miss Tori for reading and bringing up an excellent question.  I brought this question to the staff and this is what they had to say:

“All of your sugar flowers should be dried completely before storing them away.  We have never had this kind of a problem before as we always make sure the sugar flowers/objects are dry.”

Keep in mind that we also work in a very dry environment.  If you work in a humid environment this could also have an impact on your sugar flowers.

Here are some of Ron's sugar flowers and buds in various states of drying. They must be completely dry before stored.

Here are some of Ron’s sugar flowers and buds in various states of drying. They must be completely dry before stored.

rbi 2

Once the sugar flowers are completely dry, they are stored in plastic container. Ron tries to keep his kitchen and production room as cool and dry as possible.

 

I had a nice visit today with my favorite baker, Ron Ben-Israel.  He is moving up in the world! (Or at least in midtown Manhattan…) Ron invited me to come check out his new space and gave me a private tour.  It’s a beautiful new space for his bakery.  He’s not ready to show pictures yet, they are still working to finish the rest of the space.  He did assure me that once it was all “pretty”, I could come back with my camera and share with the rest of you.  But in the mean time….

Ron's new space is very large.  His metro racks are all on casters and he can move his sugar flowers into a wall!!!!

Ron’s new space is very large. His metro racks are all on casters and he can move his sugar flowers into a wall!!!!

Of course the staff was working diligently on cakes for the weekend.

Of course the staff was working diligently on cakes for the weekend.

Part of his new space includes a terrace!  Then the selfies ensued....thanks for the tour Ron!!!

Part of his new space includes a terrace! Then the selfies ensued….thanks for the tour Ron!!!

Look who I ran in to???

The lovely Lisa Mansour New York Cake Academy. It’s that time of year to start purchasing my holiday cookie needs and  I ran over to her store for a few cookie baking things.

Of course chatting all things cake, she shared with me that she took home Best in Show for her cake at the annual Societe Culinaire Philanthropique at the Javitz Center in New York City.  Believe me it was well deserved!!!!

The details were well executed and defined. I also loved the soft pinks she used for her roses. (And the tassels moved!)

The details were well executed and defined. I also loved the soft pinks she used for her roses. She’s also a master at gathered pleats.  (And the tassels moved!)

The cake was about as tall as me...

The cake was about as tall as me…

Always fun to see my cake friends.  If your in New York City, Stop by Lisa's store on 22nd & 6th Ave. http://www.nycake.com

Always fun to see my cake friends. If your in New York City, Stop by Lisa’s store on 22nd & 6th Ave. http://www.nycake.com

A few weeks ago I met two ladies at an event I was attending, Randi and Rena, and they were serving the most delicious gluten free treats I have tasted!   The texture was excellent; flavors popped and were not overly sweet. It was a well-balanced nibble.

Now mind you – this bakery, It’s In the Mix, has only been opened for 4 months. I was very surprised by this information because the quality and taste of their desserts are better than some of the best bakeries I have been to in NYC.

What makes this bakery amazing is that it’s fresh baked, uses quality, locally sourced ingredients and there are no preservatives in their desserts.

Seriously, who doesn't love a bite size cupcake.  (My favorite is the carrot cake!!)

Seriously, who doesn’t love a bite size cupcake. (My favorite is the carrot cake!!)

And of course being the bakery geek that I am, I was curious about these two…so  we sat down  had a little chat about baking and small businesses.

Some fun facts about Rena & Randi ….

- Rena’s brother, Bill and daughter Jennifer both have problems with gluten as does Randi’s grandson, Andre.

-Their first professional baking class was taken at Butter Lane Cupcakes here in NYC.  They did a cupcake decorating class and then went back and followed up with their baking class.

- They also went to Institute of Culinary Education here in New York City to further their baking education.

- Rena and Randi are the bakers of their respective families and come by cooking honestly – Rena learned baking from her Mom and Randi learned her way around the kitchen from her Mom learning how to make her fantastic Chicken Parm.

-Rena is in her 28th year as a professor at FIT teaching Textile Design and Fabric Styling.

- Randi is a retired entrepreneur who had her own children’s wear line for 20 years.  She is currently spoiling her grandchildren, helping to take care of her parents and volunteers at the Carter Burden Center for the Aging.

Lemon Squares, these are  my favorite dessert that these ladies make.

Lemon Squares, these are my favorite dessert that these ladies make.

The orange biscotti had a nice texture and bites of dark chocolate and coconut.

The orange biscotti had a nice texture and bites of dark chocolate and coconut.

Some fun facts about their new business…

- It took weeks of researching rental kitchens in New York City to find the right “home”.  Out of the 41 rental kitchens they found online – only 1 of them was a gluten free kitchen and they are currently baking away in Long Island City.

- It took many months of trial and error baking with different kinds of homemade gluten free flours until they were able to develop their own mix.

- Their bakery started with just cupcakes and has since expanded their delicious treat menu to 19 items.

- Their first big break in the gluten free market was creating baked goods for chef Anthony of Bistango on the Upper Eastside. (It’s an all gluten free restaurant!!!!)

Raspberry Square

I had the reap berry square with a cup of tea for breakfast, yep – that was a good idea….

Carrot Cake Cupcake

I am a big fan of carrot cake and these ladies deliver, its not overly sweet an the cupcake is very moist.

These ladies are now in the throws of starting a small business in NYC, not an easy thing to do and does provide it’s challenges.  They are learning about general liability insurance, rental spaces, social media, marketing, packaging and still exploring recipes with the science of gluten free baking.  I want to wish them the best of luck in their new endeavor!

cupcakes

If in New York City, you can purchase some of their fresh baked yummy treats at the following locations:

Agata & Valentina- 64 University Place, NYC

1505 First Avenue, NYC

GiGi Cafe- 307 7th Avenue, NYC

958 Third Avenue, NYC

Todaro Brothers 555 Second Avenue, NYC

 

Visit their Facebook page for delicious updates!

For almost a year, my dear friend Eric has been telling me about these amazing handmade pots he has for his plants. He had read about Guy Wolff’s work in Martha Stewart Living and went up in November last year to check out his studio.

So on Saturday we took our own little field trip up to Woodville, Connecticut located on 202, a beautiful rural, scenic highway. Guy’s studio and shop is in a beautiful red barn and you are greeted with beautiful pots outside. Guy himself greeted us at the door and started chatting with us right away with stories and explains his approach to making his pots.

outside


From early on in life, Guy was surrounded by creativity and art, his own father, Robert Jay Wolff, was an abstract expressionist painter. His uncle was the modernist architect Marcel Bauer.  He began his pottery studies up in a small art school in New Hampshire, a discipline he never thought he would get into.  And now his own work has been featured at the Met Museum, celebrating the anniversary of the Cloisters and the Isabelle Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston.

From early on in life, Guy was surrounded by creativity and art, his own father, Robert Jay Wolff, was an abstract expressionist painter. His uncle was the modernist architect Marcel Bauer. He began his pottery studies up in a small art school in New Hampshire, a discipline he never thought he would get into. Since opening his own pottery shop in 1971,  his own work has been featured at the Met Museum, celebrating the anniversary of the Cloisters in New York City and the Isabelle Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston.

There are many different markings and designs on plates that denote their historical significance.  Guy is influenced a lot by history whether it’s an 18th century English pot or a centuries old Asian vase; he finds his inspiration in their design and function.

There are many different markings and designs on plates that denote their historical significance. Guy is influenced a lot by history, whether it’s an 18th century English pot or a centuries old Asian vase; he finds his inspiration in their design and function.  Here he is showing Eric how some of those markings are made.

He couldn’t really chat with us in his shop, he was actually working that day, so invited us into his studio to chat with him.  He was working on some plates for a customer in town.

He couldn’t really chat with us in his shop, he was actually working that day, so invited us into his studio to watch as he was working on some plates for a customer in town.  Here Guy is adding a darker colored glaze to the plate to complete his design before it gets fired in the kiln.

This is one of 3 kilns that Guy has in his studio to fire his work.

This is one of 3 kilns that Guy has in his studio to fire his work.

Guy has a very distinct way of signing his own work.  The stamp (or coggle) G. Wolff, the year and a number means the pot was made by his own hands on his own wheel.  There is also a signature on the bottom of the pot. The number on the pot is the weight.

Guy has a very distinct way of signing his own work. The stamp (or coggle) G. Wolff, the year and a number means the pot was made by his own hands on his own wheel. There is also a signature on the bottom of the pot. The number on the pot is the weight.

Not only is Guy a Master Potter, but he also loves music.  He is an accomplished banjo player and has a love for traditional Appalachian Music.  You can read more about his love for music here. http://www.guywolff.com/music.html

Not only is Guy a Master Potter, but he also loves music. He is an accomplished banjo player and has a love for traditional Appalachian Music. You can read more about his love for music here.

Each pot has it’s own personality and is handmade individually.  So while they look all the same, when you get close up, you start to see their differences.  This is the pot I chose for my plant at home.  I love the shape and the stamping at the top.

Each pot has it’s own personality and is handmade individually. So while they look all the same, when you get close up, you start to see their differences. This is the pot I chose for my plant at home. I love the shape and the stamping at the top.

It really was a treat to chat with Guy and watch him work.  He is very generous with his time, stories and art.  If you ever find yourself on 202 in Connecticut, it is worth the drive to see this body of work in person.  Guy Wolff is truly a master of his craft and it’s worth the detour experience this bit of Americana.

It really was a treat to chat with Guy and watch him work. He is very generous with his time, stories and art. If you ever find yourself on 202 in Connecticut, take the drive to see this body of work in person. Guy Wolff is truly a master of his craft and it’s worth the detour to experience this bit of Americana.

For more information on Guy Wolff and his work, please visit his website.

RWT:

For all of my baker friends out there, I know you have cake scraps. When I worked for Ron, we found a creative way to make use them….

Originally posted on NYC Cake Girl:

So we have already talked about our scrap bowl (http://nyccakegirl.wordpress.com/2011/05/02/what-is-the-scrap-bowl/). Our staff likes to snack from it, really who wouldn’t.  But there are other uses for cake scraps as well.  Here is my step by step on how to make “cake loaf”.  Sounds kind of gross right?  It’s delicious!  Just not as “pretty” as one of our regular cakes, still tastes the same though. :)

Today’s loaf will be made with red velvet cake (recipe courtesy of our friend Elisa Strauss of Confetti Cakes) and our delicious cream cheese swiss meringue buttercream.

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