What do you mean you may ask, well I think we all look at many pieces posted here on Cakesdecor and many other sites and are just in awe of the masterpieces that we see. But how many of those are actually real cake, that is the question?
There is a new kind of caker amongst us. They create beautiful work, teach fantastic classes, have huge online followings and stunning websites, but guess what, you cannot order a cake from them, how is that so? Is it truly fair to call yourself a cake decorator if you are not really making cakes and just covering Styrofaom?
Now I have really struggled with this question , they use polystyrene dummies and many of them never having a client to please, ever! Their websites are full of one gorgeous cake (polystyrene cake) after another… that for me would be so easy if I did not have clients. But let’s be real, most of us do have clients each week and most are not ordering these magazine style cakes, most of us are doing birthday, graduation, baby shower cakes with wedding cakes here and there. Our designs are often depicted by our clients with very little space for our own personal artistic creativity. Most of these type of cakes are not the ones that get magazine covers or bring us big followings to our pages. What they do however is pay our bills.
As someone who has real clients and uses real cake there are many times I wish I only used styrofoam. You know those times when everything with your clients order is going wrong, lol. For me it is much easier to cover a cake dummy than it is real cake. You don’t have to worry about how it tastes, how it stacks, how it holds it’s shape. You don’t have to worry about if it will carve, if it will go off, if it will bulge or go wonky. Polystyrene plays nice, cakes do not. You don’t have temperatures and humidity to deal with, deliveries on roads and conditions that are just truly horrible. At the end of the day cake is cake and it doesn’t always like what us cake artists try and make it do so hell, just about anything and everything can and does go wrong for no darn reason.
If you work with Styrofoam you pretty much have none of these issues, no real time restraints and very few variables to deal with and none of the structural issues real cake does. I feel if you don’t make actual cakes you can very quickly lose touch on the issues that face cakers on a daily basis.
I can tell you honestly I am a bit of both…. all of the cakes I do for magazines, competitions and collaborations are all fake for me. These are the pieces that I spend weeks on and most doing competition cakes are spending months on their pieces which means they cannot use cake. In some categories in the competition world you still have to show you can and sometimes have done it in real cake, which I think is fantastic, and shows an extra level of skill. In fact I think it would be great if all shows had one specific category that required it to be real cake, I think it would really change everything up and definitely make people know more about what they are doing with cake.
Customer cakes are something else though. They are much harder, for all of the reasons detailed above. I get why some just want to just use styrofoam, heck even I am thinking about it myself as I have a very large family that needs my time and now with teaching and hosting it is becoming almost impossible to fit customer cakes even into the picture. I also want to focus more on the designs I want to create and not those for customers.
I do it though, I keep the customer orders going. Why? Because I love doing cakes and I think it’s important for tutors to stay in touch with the industry, with the community, with their students by doing the baking, working with cake day in, day out, pulling the late nights, satisfying cake customers and making sure the designs I create for classes are achievable in cake, are marketable for the client base and are at the end of the day, relevant.
For me, and I know many others, it is the artistic part of the process that excites us the most. If I had someone to bake, stack, ice and cover the cake for me then I just come in behind them and do the decorating part I would be as happy as a pig in mud! Dummy cakes are pretty much just that scenario though although a whole lot less tasty, so I see why many just do it this way, but it isn’t caking.
As a host I want to make sure my instructors that I am bringing into my studio are using real cake especially on those 3D and gravity defying cakes, I want students to see it can be done in cake because those instructors know their stuff and students walk out with a real piece of CAKE ART, that they know they can re-create again with no doubt in real cake. I understand that most shows will not allow real cake to be used, and the fact that many want to keep their gorgeous creations, but when possible for those sculpted type cakes I think real cake gives a better learning experience for the student. Turning up to class with an already carved piece of styro for me does not give me the same experience, I have taken both types of classes and for me I would rather donate my real cake from class to my hotel staff or fire dept knowing that I truly learned how to carve it and re-create it rather than take home my styro piece to sit on my shelf and collect dust and not know how I actually got the shape cause I did not carve it.
I think we are one of the only industries around where you can actually come in and label yourself with a title like cake artist and yet have absolutely no relevant working knowledge with real cake. How seriously crazy is that? You could not be a sand sculptor if you went to the beach with a styrofoam dummy then covered it in sand, you would be laughed at ... yet in the cake industry it is just fine, Heck you are even raved about, again crazy!
So I guess this editorial this month could be a little controversial but hey we can't always just talk about the good stuff, sometimes we have to cover those topics that no one else is game enough to say out loud but nearly all are thinking. Why, because that is what will make our industry better I feel. I am not putting anyone down, like I said even I am thinking about doing more styrofoam cakes than real ones in the future as let’s face it, it’s easier, quicker, less messy and you can achieve all sorts of fantastical designs but at the end of the day I will always stay true to my art, still make real cake for real customers and try to be the best cake artist I can be! .
Sweet Wishes, Shags xoxoxo
* We are sorry If this article offended someone, it was not our intention. Because of many negative reactions, we decided to edit the post to make it less controversial. We believe that you will appreciate our effort to satisfy all our readers.
Obviously writing a more thought provoking article is something I need more practice at, as this past editorial was never meant to cause such commotion just a conversation which I was more than willing to have. I am sorry to those who took offense to the term that I also call myself on many occasions when not using real cake. I use Styrofoam on many occasions I am not putting down the use of Styrofoam as it has a purpose at certain times.
On my way home from Austin cake show I shared a car with another caker, during this car ride I found out a few things that I thought needed to be addressed in our industry. This person had no idea that most of the cakes that are in cake magazines, collaborations or in competitions were not real. She was saddened a little as she had always compared herself and her work to these cakes thinking she could never be as good. But once she was told most were styro it was like taking blinders off of her. She said she will now look at every cake and wonder which are real and which are fake, but better than that she would no longer compare herself to them either.
It was for this reason only I wrote the article, I just think maybe we all need to state a little more often what our pieces are truly made of. In many comments people said why should it matter and I agree, what should it matter, what would be so wrong if you stated your piece was styro if you know you can replicate in cake?