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?

rook cake for a chess playing groom

iphone birthday cake for a tweeting mom!

Leave a comment

Filed under inspiration musings

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?


Leave a comment

Filed under tips for brides

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?

image
image
image
image
image

Leave a comment

Filed under miscellaneous musings

design, design, design!

if you watch any of the reality cake shows ( i watch all of them – even the ones i can’t stand… more about that in another post), you’ll see the bride & groom sitting with the esteemed cake decorator, and then they say something like…”i’m having a luau, spa, winter, outdoor, polka dot wedding, and i want you to make a fantastic cake! oh and we really love our dog, roscoe!”. and then buddy, or duff, or someone on cake challenge makes a 4ft tall dog wearing a lei and a parka, skiing down a mountain with polka dot boots, and the bride & groom fall in love the minute they see it (it’s perfect! it’s better than we could have imagined! it looks just like roscoe if he were skiing in hawaii!) at their wedding reception with cameras rolling, and then said cake decorator gets showered with gratitude.

yeah…that’s not how it works. brides and grooms come in with a general idea of what they want – something round, or square, traditional or whimsical, (well the grooms come in to taste cake – they’re not that interested in the pretty cakes). then i show them enough pictures to confuse them and make them change their mind. this is key to the process, because what i really want to know is how you decorate your house, and what colors you love. whether you’d wear stripes or polka dots or plaid. what country you’d love to travel to. this is where the design comes from, and it can’t be accomplished in a 30 second segment. it takes a little time; we have to date a bit so that i can get to know you, and you can get to trust me!

i had a wedding cake this weekend that i absolutely love. i think it is my favorite (for now). it’s because it was very different than what i normally do in terms of wedding cake. it was fun because the bride and groom let me do what i wanted! which was what they wanted even though they didn’t know it initially. they came in wanting a simple, elegant 3 tier white cake. boring… they however, were not boring people, so why get a boring cake? they were interesting, and quirky, and from the middle east. the reception was at a lebanese restaurant.  plain, white cake? yeah right.

so we looked through some books, and they fell in love with an offset cake (inside i did a little jig, and then a booty shake), but not the design on that cake.

bride: “could you do something that has a byzantine feel/pattern?”

me: “sure!” (running to computer to google “byzantine design”)

this is what i found (found some other stuff too, but this was the most exciting, and secretly i was hoping they’d love this too…)

this is the byzantine door interpreted in cake, and their black, white and ivory color scheme.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

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:

the beginnings of not a crumb!

this is what we look like now!

front and back of the business card

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!

2 Comments

Filed under inspiration musings

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!

1 Comment

Filed under adventures, inspiration musings

unmasking unveiled!

now that the last box of cake display stuff has been put away (sort of) and i am emerging from my thanksgiving turkey-induced tryptophan haze, i can tell you all about my experience at the unveiled wedding event in atlanta on november 14, 2010 (www.unveiledweddingevent.com)!

first of all, i must say that i had a great time! the wedding guys put on a FABULOUS event. they take their time to create a vision for the whole event – this year? zen! i suppose i shouldn’t put an exclamation point behind zen… let me try again.

zen…ohm (picture me sitting in lotus position. on second thought don’t picture that. i’m not as flexible as i used to be)

matthew & bruce, the wedding guys (www.theweddingguys.com) provided not a crumb! with a tremendous opportunity, by inviting me to provide the display cake for their reception rotunda. i got a look book with all of the textures, trends, and inspiration that had spurred them forward. i took from that book two main ideas – bamboo and water. my cake concept = zen garden fountain. i’ll share the cake process in another post. i want to share the behind the scenes of getting ready for a bridal show.

there’s a few things you must understand:

  1. there’s always more than you think. no matter how many lists you make, you will forget something. hopefully not the cake (i didn’t, but anything is possible ;)). no matter how far in advance you prepare, you will always be dashing and ripping and running at the last minute. no matter how much you do, there will be more to get done, and don’t forget murphy’s law – whatever can go wrong will! case in point, me breaking my cell phone the friday before the show. grrrrrr.
  2. there is always chaos before the calm. sometimes there’s chaos before the chaos, but one should be optimistic that the chaos is somewhat organized.
  3. you never get the opportunity to record the before, during, and after. hence, my personal paparazzi, jeremiah wallace of j Wallace Photography. thanks jerry for being a photojournalistic phenom!

how things went down

in the weeks leading up to the show, i started making lists (what to bring), drawing diagrams (which cake/table goes where), and stressing out my plastic at home goods, tj maxx, and amazon.com. in the end, i had a living room full of stuff. it took 2 vehicles and 3 helpers to get all of the stuff to the ga world congress center. lucky for us, the wedding guys are really smart; so smart that load in and set up are the day before the show! yay!

unpacking the stuff

it took us about 2 hours to get to a point where we could stop for the night ( i still needed to finish the display cake!). that included chatting with some of the other vendors, and enthusiastically debating the precise placement of the tables.

that’s me, my mom, and heidi murphy (nat’l sales director, unveiled) talking about my shopping prowess. that bird figurine was $6 at kohl’s!

that would be one of the wedding guys, matthew trettel, and i discussing the laundry list of things left to be done. see me ticking things off on my fingers?  i ran out of fingers and had to use them each several times!

the end result of all of all of the plotting, planning, prepping, and positioning? a great display and wonderful fun, lots of new friends, fantastic opportunities, and lots of scheduled tastings with brides! special thanks to the wedding guys and the unveiled atlanta team! see you next year!

Leave a comment

Filed under adventures, how does she do it? musings