Who Doesn’t Love Cake?

I have run into a couple of sugar friends lately who tell me that they don’t enjoy doing cakes anymore. They have been considering giving it up. They feel burned out. They talked with me, not looking for answers, but in a private moment of sharing. They just don’t love cake the way they used to!

It reminded me of several times during my bakery career. There were days I thought that I would rather set myself on fire than do another cake. I still would tell people that I was “paid to play”. I still would smile and say that the bakery business was “awesome”. Inside, I knew I was lying.

Each time this happened, I stepped back and took a look at my bakery life. One truth kept surfacing. If I am in control of things, I am happy. Unhappiness occurs when it feels like things are out of control. No one tells you that you will have a serious LACK of control when you start a business. Everyone tells you it will be great to be your own boss. I found that I was often not the boss of my bakery life.

I would get myself into situations where I felt like I had to say yes to customers when my heart and head were screaming no! I would let them push me into taking too many orders. I would let them bully me in to mixing colors for hours trying to match an impossible color swatch. I would let them push me into designs that I did not enjoy.

I know many of you find yourselves in this same situation. You worry about saying no to a customer. You accept abuse from belligerent customers. You take every order that comes in the door, whether you want to do it or not. Today I am going to tell you to take back control. Right now, the customers have trained you to do their bidding. You can, however, train them so that cake can be fun again.

Let’s talk about notice. You need to decide how much advance notice you need to feel RELAXED as you work on that cake. Set that as your minimum notice and hold to it. It isn’t easy to tell someone they called too late this time, but isn’t it easier than going without sleep for two days for someone who called you at the last minute? You might think that they will not call you again if you say no. I beg to differ. The harder it was to get a cake from my bakery, the more the orders came in. People like knowing that your clients mean so much that you will not rush their cakes.

Let’s think about what you liked about decorating in the beginning. Have you moved away from that? I have friends who only do carved cakes. Others only do wedding cakes. Some refuse to do sheet cakes. Set the boundaries for what you enjoy. If you hate drawings or they stress you out, eliminate them. If color matching is your worst nightmare, show them the color guide for your fondant or food coloring and tell them these are their options. Get back to what you love and refer the other customers to someone who enjoys what you do not. When they say “why not? Why won’t you do it?”. Remind them that this is YOUR bakery. My favorite line was “Because it says Ruth’s outside on the sign.”

Let’s talk about the pushy customers…the ones who always demand the most, compliment the least and complain at the slightest opportunity. Fire them. Yes. Fire them. When I had customers that were creating a toxic environment for me or my employees, they would get a note from me telling them that we were sorry we could not make them happy and that we wished them the best at their next bakery. I have to say that firing a customer is one of the most empowering things you can do. If they throw a fit when they come to get a cake, tell them they do not have to take the cake – that you will take it to the children’s hospital. In this reality show environment, many people are just trying to get money off when the cake is perfectly fine. Beat them at their game and keep the cake. You must take back control, even if that means not selling the cake that day.

Last but not least, have some fun each day. Without feeling guilty. Play music that makes you sing or dance. Throw icing. Laugh. Take a day off just for you. Take back control. If you are having fun, magically, making cakes will be fun again. Best wishes in finding your inner joy!


17 thoughts on “Who Doesn’t Love Cake?

  1. Ruth, thank you for covering this topic. Also for very sound advice reminding us not to let others ruin our joys in life. Also to value yourself, and other will see your worth.

  2. Wow. Thank you! I have been feeling so defeated lately…wanting to give up the cake business and move onto a normal 9-5 job like everyone else…you just reminded me why I do what I do, and how I can get that spark back 🙂 thank you! Xo

  3. Great post! I lost my love for doing cakes years ago when I realized it was impossible to please everyone. Now, I only do a selective few cakes… and as I feel I would enjoy it. The average customer has no idea what it takes to make a cake so beautiful!

  4. Thanks Ruth, for letting the community know it is actually better to say “No” in SO many situations. After our dinner last year, I realized, that while 42 years of decorating was a long time..it wasn’t the decorating I was tired of..just the “pressure” situations. So instead of throwing in the pastry bag, I am back teaching, which is what I love best, and renting out the bakery, so I can do only a few select orders each month. Whoo Hoo for freedom…no more cakes for 10 servings, that pay nothing…you are right on.

  5. Thanks Ruth. No,w I know why I am not as busy as other bakers. I have a full time job that keeps me from taking on more cakes, but I do what I can when I can. I have just started teaching class on my cookie sculpting and work that in around my FT job. I’m developing tutorials for a friends website around my real life, and I dont want to do some of those cakes that other people do. I am as busy as I can possibly b e at this time, given the circumstances. Some day, I might be busier, but I’m happy where I am and I do love what I do. Sometimes you have to choose between responsibility and what you love. usually responsibility wins in my case, but it doesn’t mean i cant still do what I love, i just cant do as much of it, so I get to choose which ones I really want to do. Your insight this go around was superduperexcellent. two gold stars and a kitty cat sticker.

  6. I definitely agree! I like being a “small time” baker. It makes me happy. I like tackling my orders on a one by one basis. Sometimes I struggle with myself over whether I should do all these extras and travel outside my comforts. It is tough sometimes to make that call. Some customers do not understand, but those that do are what means the world. I do cakes because they are fun, they are my works of art and the day that they stop becoming fun for me is the day I am doing something wrong. Thank you for writing this because it just helps to remind me that I am not doing anything wrong! I am doing what is right for me =)

  7. Thank you so much for this article!! I am just a few years into the business, and I can start using your advice now to delay the burn-out! Thanks again 🙂

  8. My head was spinning today as I begin to structure my cake decorating business. These words couldn’t have come at a better time!

  9. Ruth, Thank you for reminding me that I took the right attitude when I retired and took on a full time cake business. I had promised myself that I was not going to make this cake business a full time job and get stresssed from customers who complained that my cake prices were too high, that I required to much time for notification and why I didn’t do certain cakes. If I was going to allow this to happen, then there would be no need to retired. Life is to short, not to enjoy every minute. I enjoy making cakes, just as I did when I catered food. Once, it started affecting my health, I had to make the necessary changes to make me happy. Now, I make cakes when I feel the need and the rest of the time, I am enjoying life!

  10. thank you Sooooooo much Ms. Ruth that is just what i needed, wifi this was in a publication instead of on line Sooooooo i can print it and post as a reminder…..

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