The Real Decorator


I have participated in 20 marathons and half marathons since 2005. I am a fast walker and love these events, but always feel like an imposter around “real” runners. Each time I make a comment about not being a true athlete, my Boston Marathon friends are the fastest to correct me and tell me that I am, indeed, an athlete. I came across this quote and it probably says what my friends have been trying to tell me for years. If you run, you are a runner. If you do athletic events, you are an athlete.

I constantly hear decorators say that they are “just a hobby baker”, “just a home baker”, or just “not a real decorator.” In their minds, they consider the real decorators to be those who run storefronts or large, busy operations. They think you have to be famous to be real. They think that they have to have a pastry degree, ICES certification or some other recognition. Nothing could be further from the truth.

My grandmother was a real decorator. She was a nurse by trade, but loved to make all our birthday cakes. The joy we felt receiving them meant that she was absolutely a decorator. Every person who takes the time to bake a cake (scratch OR box), who ices that cake and attempts to embellish it, is a real decorator. Even if you are peeling off Royal icing decorations from a sheet you bought from the grocery store, you’ve still decorated.

Sometimes, I find that some of the established cake artists post about customers making derogatory remarks, e.g., “Her mom “”decorates”” cakes…then why isn’t she doing the cake??!!). What we forget is that these artists have at least acknowledged that the cake they are ordering is beyond their skill level or time availability. They might not tell you that, but most of them know their limitations.

Just as there are a myriad of athletic levels and abilities, the same is true for cake decorators. There was a joke going around law school as I took the bar exam. Do you know what they call the person with the lowest passing score on the bar exam? A lawyer. Words to think about.

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2 thoughts on “The Real Decorator

  1. It’s funny because it took me a LONG time to consider myself a runner. After I ran my first (and so far only) marathon in November did I concede that I was a runner. Not a fast runner, but a runner. That being said, I NEVER realized how much my two passions had in common – Baking and Running. Even though I decorate a lot of cakes, I still often compare myself to “established real decorators” as not in their league. I guess I need to stop doing that now too:) Thanks for helping me make the connection!

  2. Great post, Ruth. I think we tens to equate “real” with “the best.” If I had to have the skills of the top decorators in the world, I would never be real.
    To me, real means working at a craft or activity. It means learning and practicing and wanting to be better.

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