Do you find all your evenings and weekends disappear in your cake business? Are you struggling, stressed and generally ready to give up because you can't cope with working late on Thursday and Friday evenings when you should be chilling, ready for the weekend? These 8 Ways to Save Time in your cake business will help smooth the workload over the week, and not let you get so stressed with the jobs in hand.
1. Over Communicate
One of the hardest things in any creative job is when you're second guessing what a client wants, or you suddenly find you are missing one vital piece of information. Over communicating is key.
Do you have a booking form with every question you could possible need answered on it? No? well now is the time to get one done. Now I'm not suggesting you ask your clients to fill in a 100 question form. But having all the crucial information from them will help. You can either email a form to them, or email them over a couple of days with the questions. You don't want to scare them off with bombarding them with lots of questions in one go. Or if you have them on the phone have a form in front of you and ask the questions yourself.
Then on a Friday evening, if you're not sure know whether it was vanilla or chocolate buttercream, you have the information right there in front of you!
2. Write lists
I am a huge advocate of writing lists. Make a Bake List, Make List, Board and Box List. Get it all down in front of you so you can make a plan for your week. Look 2 to 3 weeks ahead so you can make sure you're prepared. Then any sneaky Monday or Tuesday cakes are noticed well in advance and can be built into your planning.
Planning and preparation is key to save time in your cake business. It'll help it run smoothly and not take up all your spare time. List writing is just the start of this process. It should take no more than half an hour, but it will save you anguish and stress later in the week.
3. Preparation with Components and Ingredients
As part of your list writing, you can make sure any unusual ingredients, board sizes, specific sprinkles etc are listed and flagged up so you can go ahead and get them in stock.
We've all done it, you're ready to make a cake and then realise the vital 11" hexagonal board you'd promised the customer remains un ordered. Panic sets in and panic buying happens, causing you both stress and extra costs.
Look at least 2 weeks ahead when you're writing your lists, to make sure any sneaky specialist items are or the cake supplies order in time.
4. Preparation in Making Things
Now this is where a lot of cake makers go wrong. The think they can't do anything until the last minute, so sit twiddling their thumbs until Thursday and then are frantically baking, making fillings, frostings and ganache, making fondant models and covering and decorating boards for all the cakes to be delivered on Friday.
So many of these things can be done ahead of time. These will all save time in your cake business! So many things can be prepared and put to one side while you're waiting for the cake to be baked.
When you're writing your lists, get wise as to what you can put on your 'Make List' and get done ahead of time. If you cover and decorate boards, do them as soon as you can. Not only will it help you with time, it means they will set hard and make transferring cakes easier. I have written the post Why Cover Your Cake Board which will help.
There are other things you can also prep - buttercreams, fillings, fondant models, toppers, sugar flowers, plaques with writing on, ingredient/allergen lists and stickers. Anything that isn't time dependant on the cake being fresh can be done and put to one side.
If there is anything you can do early, do it!
5. Freeze Cakes
This is a little controversial, but I have, in the last year, started baking and freezing cakes when I have a busy week.
For example, before I started freezing them, if I have a 4 or 5 tier wedding cake, this would take me a day of continual baking from 9am to 9pm to get all the layers baked and ready for stacking. That would be a whole Wednesday or Thursday, on my feet. And it wouldn't allow for any baking disasters (because we all have them).
Last year I bought myself a small chest freezer. And on busy weeks I now bake a couple of hours a day, spread over the week and freeze the cakes for when they're needed.
No cake is ever frozen for more than a week, so there is no chance for any degradation. However, many people actually believe that cake benefits from being frozen as the ice crystals bring moisture to the crumb.
I did an Instagram Live on this subject which you can watch at the end of this post. I no longer have any long days of baking in my schedule.
6. Set a Timer
I have found over my cake career that if I have a whole day to make a cake, it'll take a whole day. If I have 2 hours to make a cake it'll take 2 hours.
The whole day cake won't be any better than the 2 hour cake. It'll just mean I have faffed around more, overthought it and taken up more valuable time. I often see cake makers say things like 'I need to get quicker' as they see their Friday evening disappear whilst they're making little models or smoothing down the buttercream on a cake for the 1000th time.
I realised that I wouldn't get quicker until I made myself get quicker. So I learnt to set timers. I anticipated how long it should take me to do something and then I made myself do it in that timescale.
As they same 'Time is Money' and if you're serious about doing this as a business and not a hobby, you need to not only save time in your cake business but maximise your time as best you can.
Setting timers will do 2 things. Firstly it means you can fit more cakes into your working week. And secondly it'll mean you can plan your week properly and make sure you have spare time to enjoy.
7. Set Boundaries
This is crucial in running your own business, but rarely done by cake makers because we like to please people and make them lovely cakes.
When someone asks, 'can you just fit a little cake in for me', we usually say yes, even if it means another 4 hours work, away from our family, and stopping us going to bed.
Setting Boundaries can take different forms. There are several different ways you can set boundaries in your cake business. For example you could set a limit in money - once I've taken £x revenue this week I won't take anymore orders.
Or set a cake amount limit - 1 wedding cake and 2 small celebrations cakes and then the books are closed.
Or you need a time limit - no orders less than 5 days in advance.
Perhaps set a minimum order spend for your customers, that way you're never working extra for a low paying cake. Maybe it's a combination of all of them and more?
However you set your boundaries, do it for both you and your business. Learn to say no and protect yourself from the stress.
This has been ground breaking in my business.
There is not much automation you can bring into a cake business. However, one of the things you can do is put some autoresponders on your email and messenger apps for when you are busy and can't be dealing with any interuptions.
Let your email bounce back to clients with a happy, cheery message saying something like 'sorry I'm in the kitchen right now but will be back with you as soon as possible'. That way the client knows the message has landed and they are not being ignored.
I even have a message on mine that says at weekends I will take longer to reply as that's when my busiest time of the week is.
It sets the scene your clients need. You are telling them they are important to you, but right now you can't deal with them. It manages their expectations. It takes the pressure off of you to be constantly buzzing between admin and cake making.
I have a couple of other posts that you may find useful, Essential Guide to Starting a Cake Business and 5 Ways to work ON your Cake Business and not IN it. Or why not listen to our fortnightly Podcast, The Business of Cake Making.