By this time, I wanted to launch The Cake Bar here in Columbus. I had a plan and in the plan, business meetings would start Jan. 15 with my advisory council. I was going to have a cupcake tasting event and a full-on launch into Super Bowl madness and Valentine’s Day treats.
But life has a way of changing things. Personal events forced me to look at my timeline and adjust accordingly. If I were the losing hair type, I’d probably be bald due to the undo stress I put on myself to make sure that everything went off without a hitch on Jan. 1. After discussing things over with my coach – and respected aunt – I had some choices to make. I needed to re-evaluate The Cake Bar plan.
1. Committing to orders in Cleveland is a bad idea. There are weekends when I don’t want to make the two-plus hour drive up north to deliver or bake one cake. The costs make absolutely no financial sense at all. If I happen to be there and someone would like to have a cake, I’m committed. Committing beforehand, however, doesn’t justify the expense.
2. Mailing orders is still on the fence. I played with the idea of shipping and took an order to ship cupcakes to Houston to see how it would go. What I hadn’t considered was packaging. I remembered the popcorn, but finding an appropriate container to ship the cupcakes so they wouldn’t end up a cake mess, was the challenge. I found some information online regarding some of the shipping trials other bakers experienced and proceeded. I will probably not EVER ship online again because I don’t trust my weight. When I got to the post office, I was $7 short of my pre-paid label and ended up shelling out $60 total for that mistake. Although it was a slightly tedious experience, I would give it another go having learned from my experience.
3. Orders from friends and family are the hardest. I’m grateful for taste testers. Without them, how do I know if a cake needs tweaking? What burns me up are the requests for free cakes or talking me down from my quoted price. I often wonder if the person asking for free cake thinks about the time involved. I’m not using cake mix or prepared frostings.
4. Organization is a must. I created several spreadsheets and lists to help streamline the buying and baking processes by reducing time spent running to and from stores, measuring ingredients and such. A calendar of orders, daily task list, shopping list, restocking list, store lists… lists. I’ve established a system.
5. Converting all the recipes to volume is invaluable. I don’t know what the general consensus is among bakers, but I LOVE my kitchen scale. Knowing that one cup of flour is five ounces considerably reduces the margin of error versus using measuring cups. I can dump and keep it moving. The problem of course is that most recipes are written using cups, not ounces. So in my downtime, what I’ve done is convert as many recipes to volume as possible and when faced with troublesome measurements (like 2/3 cup), I measure and record the weight. Saves time the next go round.
6. Writing in books is mandatory. I am SO against writing in books, but cookbooks are the exception. I try not to use any recipe verbatim, so when I make something that works, I want to record my changes. Chocolate cake is so much better using chocolate milk and chocolate chips. Or coffee and chocolate milk. Or part chocolate milk, part sour cream. Or chocolate-flavored sour cream. At first, I didn’t write anything down and when it came out fantastically, I’d kick myself for not remembering what I did to make it a success. I still am trying to remember how I made that first fantastic bourbon chocolate frosting and can’t recreate it to this day. Writing, in pencil on sticky notes, then transferring to my cookbooks is the way to go.
7. Appreciate taste testers. I don’t know where I’d be without The Hero and my trusted tasting friends. Seriously. I appreciate them all. The Hero has eaten more cupcakes in the last year than I’m sure he ever would have eaten in his lifetime. Ham cupcakes. Honey cake. I don’t know how many chocolate and yellow cake recipes. Lemon mint. French toast cake. Pineapple-upside down cake. And I won’t even comment on the icings. He sticks through it all, even the ones he turns his nose up to and tries anyway.
8. Celebrate. It took a while to actually decide to pursue this dream and realize that my satisfaction wasn’t based purely on the financial return. Sure I want to make a profit, but I thoroughly enjoy baking. I like knowing that someone loved eating one of my creations. I don’t remember too many things I’ve done in my life that brought me real satisfaction. Baking falls under that umbrella. Whether The Cake Bar becomes nationally known or has a small, local following, I’ll still love baking. I’ll still trove sites looking for new cake ideas and I’ll still compile a massive recipe index of cakes.