About Me

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Durham, NC, United States
My name is Veronica and I own Southern Gold Leaf Cakes. I opened my home-based business in 2008. I am a licensed and inspected home bakery specializing in custom cakes. Since all cakes are made to order there are no frozen cakes here, only fresh and only home made. I am a self-taught baker but I have a strong art background with years of baking experience. It is the most rewarding feeling in the world when you can apply your skills to do something you love. To see my cake creations and view our yummy menu visit us at www.southerngoldleafcakes.com!

Friday, April 19, 2013

Cupcakes or not to cupcake

When I first started out I said I didn't want to do cupcakes. Why? Simply because there is a preconceived notion about cupcakes and their place and cost in the cake world. These are the things of birthday parties and children's celebrations.
A few years back a trend started in weddings with cupcake towers. A lofty tower construction filled with cupcakes and topped with a top tier for cutting. My first thought is, "How do they get it down to cut it without knocking over the stand?" Suddenly these became very popular because they were deemed "more affordable" and were told that it was a "less expensive way to feed" guests.
Why pay for a big fancy cake that most people won't eat when you can save some money and get cupcakes? Well, in defense of the traditional wedding cake, this is just not necessarily true. And the art of creating beautiful little cupcakes has come a long way from the first few images we saw of traditionally swirled cupcakes in plain old liners stacked on a stand.
How is it not cheaper? Well, let's start with the fact that you are still paying for the baker to bake the same amount of cake but now they also have to supply the paper wrappers, and in some cases, order special decorative wrappers. That is an extra expense that does not come with cake.  Yes, but you get more cake with a cupcake instead of that little sliver of cake at a wedding. Actually, you don't. There is a "standard" guide to cutting cake but not every baker uses that when averaging out how many people your cake will feed. A good sized piece of cake should measure (approx) 2" W x 1" D X 4" T. It is easily a big enough piece to fill a dessert sized cake plate. You can do it as a 1x2x4 but it depends on the diameter between tiers. Either way you are given a healthy single serving.

Now, when is the last time you went to a party where cupcakes were served and saw anyone eat just ONE cupcake? Chances are slim. On average most people will generally consume at least two cupcakes because they're cupcakes. Their perspective on serving size is shifted from a plated piece of cake to a hand held, bite sized cupcake. And no one thinks twice about seeing someone eat two cupcakes but if you go back for a second slice of wedding cake you look piggish.  So in the grand scheme you have to actually figure two cupcakes for every guest you intend to serve cake too. If they are mini cupcakes, I recommend counting three per person. I attended a wedding this summer that used the mini cupcakes and I had four of them on my plate because they were all different flavors. So your 100 servings guest count just turned into 200 or more cupcakes.
Pretty little cupcakes!
You are now paying pretty close to the same price for your cupcakes that you would have paid per slice for cake. The real trick is getting someone who can pull it together and not make it look like a sweet sixteen. Hence the more ornate confections that have started gracing the reception scene. The trouble has now become the fact that the more decorative and beautiful a cupcake is the more it costs. Say, for example, a standard cupcake is $2; plain paper, no fancy decorations. If you wish to add a filling it may cost $.50 more. If you want special designer tops and decorations is may be an additional $2 and if special papers (for color or foil or dyecuts) are used you can add another $2. So your less expensive cupcake route just increased to $6.50 per cupcake and you might need two per person. So theorecticaly $13 per person in cake. You per serving cake probably wasn't this expensive.

This isn't a ploy to deter people who want a cupcake wedding. I am not pushing that all weddings must have eight tiers of cake to be considered a proper wedding cake. I am simply making an effort to contradict some of the opinions out there stating that you can save money when buying cupcakes. As with any purchase you should talk with your baker and explore all the options. Believe it or not most of us are pretty honest will not charge you more just because it's your wedding cake.  

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Unhappy Workers

I don't have employees but I have been one. I am still a consumer and I have certain preferences about the places I shop. One of my regular stops is a local business where I would say 50% of my supplies come from.

Recently I ran into a regular employee whom I have gotten to know and she is always happy, always smiling and always ready to help. This day she was not. Our conversation is short and is summed up with, "I'm not happy here anymore and not too many are but we keep coming back because it's a job."

This is so sad to me. I'm not saying she has the right of it as there are always two sides and this is hers but it conveys to me, as a customer, that she is unhappy with the management. It has affected her outlook on her job and, if you think about it, her outlook on each day. She doesn't want to come to work. At work she wishes she were elsewhere. It comes across in her demeanor and body language and ultimately her speech.

I will still come to this store because no place is perfect. But it reminded me of one or two very fundamental things.

1. Always smile when you answer the phone because people will hear it. Your opening attitude will determine the entire conversation. If you sound less than thrilled to answer your work phone then they may be less than thrilled about hiring you.

2. Your words and attitude have a strong impact on how others view you and your business. You may say all the right things but if the wrong attitude is behind it your clients will be able to tell and it could directly impact your business.

I have the most difficult boss in the world; myself. So if I have an unhappy worker I have only myself to blame.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Last Minute Panic

Normally I would say that panic mode sets in for a bride when they have waited until the absolute last minute to book a vendor or a venue or something of similar nature.  This was the first time I'd heard of a bride panicking because her vendor bailed on her a mere 24 hours prior to the wedding.  The following story was relayed to me recently and I felt compelled to share.  I am sure as I retell this it will not be verbatim but the point will be made.

Twenty four hours before her daughter's wedding, the mother of the bride receives a phone call from the baker who is creating her daughter’s wedding cake.  This baker is well known in her area and has been baking and decorating cakes for over 30 years.  However, on this particular occasion, she was calling the mother of the bride to tell her that the cake had fallen - it was completely decorated and finished - and she didn't have time to redo it.  She was very sorry.  She didn't know what went wrong but it had and she just didn't have time to make another wedding cake and she wished her luck.
What?  You've been doing this for 30 years!  How can it just go wrong?  What are we supposed to do?  This is my daughter's wedding.  Still, the answer was the same.  I don't know why it fell but it collapsed and there is not enough time to make another cake.
To this poor mother's despair and panic of a last minute solution, this bride was treated to a retailed wedding cake (store starts with W and ends with mart).  While not entirely happy, the mother felt it was the best she could do with so few hours left.  She arrived at the bakery counter when they opened, showed them pictures of what she needed and within a few hours her cake was ready.  (I do not know if it was picked up or if they arranged delivery but I'm thinking the first and not the second.)  It was not the cake they had envisioned but there was cake on her wedding day.

I personally was appalled when I heard this story.  I can think of dozens of things that could have gone wrong with the cake.  I can also think of dozens of compromises and adjustments that could have been made by this baker to accommodate the bride because, as I see it, that was her responsibility as the hired professional.  
I have been very fortunate that I have never been in this situation.  I try to plan and organize my time so that I have enough flexibility should anything unplanned occur because it usually does and you need to be able to roll with it and not lose focus.  I would be personally and professionally mortified if this had happened to me.  To my knowledge this baker has yet to offer any compensation to the family as a replacement for the cake she couldn't deliver.  

I think this just goes back to prove that just because you've done something for a very long time doesn't mean things can't go wrong and we should all have a Plan B for when they do.  If my bride is panicked it should be because she's waited too long to book her wedding and not because of something I did or didn't do.