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Creating Custom Cake Art Vs Just Making Pretty Food

It's a fine line between a great custom cake creation and a cake flop. Many people love to bake and have a knack for making great tasting cakes that look like the cakes at your family pitch-in. Others have the skill set to make a beautiful cake design but lack the taste that we all desire. Something special happens when you combine great taste and pure art. Living with a custom cake designer has allowed me to view first hand the creative process of the perfect cake creation. Let me tell you what I've noticed as "official cake taster".

Great Taste

Great taste is really a matter of finding that perfect recipe and tweaking it. It takes a lot of trial and error to perfect the many flavors of cake. It's better to master a few than try to cover them all. I am going to focus this article on the creative process and leave the recipe discussion for another time.


The client brings you an idea, something they have in mind or something they have seen. It could be a theme, a color scheme or just telling you a little about the person the cake is for. It's up to you to grow that initial idea into the Inspiration you will need to start the project. Inspiration is one of the most important keys to a great custom cake. Do not start a project until you have found it, it is the source from which you draw the energy and creativity. Without it you are just "making a cake" and your client may as well go to a grocery store and pay half the price. Many professional cake artists will turn down a cake order if the necessary inspiration is lacking. Turning down an order may seem harsh but no one deserves an uninspired, half-hearted effort for their wedding, birthday or other special occasion. Once you find the inspiration the creative juices will start to flow and the initial idea will start to blossom into a true work of art.


As with many things in life you must see it to achieve it. Visualization is vital for a professional cake design to turn out as intended. It is very important to put your thoughts and ideas to pencil and paper. My wife keeps a note pad or iPad with her at all times. Often times you will have a great idea in the middle of the night and if you don't write it down by morning it's gone. Once you have put your thoughts to paper you can start to see the bigger picture of your idea. The time you spend on the initial sketches will pay off later in the design. Remember this is your roadmap and without it your cake design could take a turn for the worst! How many times have you looked at cake and asked yourself "did they really mean to do that?" Check out www.CakeWrecks.com and you'll see what I'm talking about. A well thought out plan will keep you on track and help you deliver the cake you had envisioned.


Now it's time to turn your vision into reality. This is what separates the good from the great. Like most artists, each cake designer develops their own style and many are known for a certain signature to their pieces. Remember to keep your road map in sight but don't be afraid to take the scenic route now and then. When you take your cake from a 2D sketch to and actual 3D creation with color, shape and size you might be inspired to tweak the design properties. You may add additional features, change colors or modify shapes. Use caution to avoid the temptation to add too much. You don't want your cake to look like a bad episode of "Pimp My Ride." The best cake designers know when the cake is right. Just the other day my wife called the bride-to- be to get permission to leave off part of the original design. As she was completing the cake she realized she had reached perfection and adding more may detract from the design. The bride granted her the artistic freedom and it turned out to be one of her best wedding cakes ever. Remember sometimes less is more.

The final component to a custom cake that will exceed the expectations of even the toughest critic, is time. Even Peyton Manning and Tom Brady make rookie mistakes when not given enough time. This is easily observed on reality baking shows like Cupcake Wars. The show requires the designers to create a seemingly impossible display within a very limited time. Even the most talented bakers can crack under the time constraints placed on them. If you fail to allow enough time to complete your work, your attention to detail will vanish as you rush to just "git-r-done". The finest details are what separate your best work from the cakes that haunt you forever. All cake designers remember the cake that had such promise but quickly became average due to running out of that precious commodity called time. My wife would tell you there is nothing worse than getting complements on a rushed cake that fell short of best effort; conversely, hearing the admiration of guest as they consume your inspired, well planned and executed work fuels the passion needed for your next big project.

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