Interview #5: Jenniffer White from Cup a Dee Cakes
In every job in her career Jenniffer gravitated to the “decorating” side of the business. From merchandising in clothing stores to being a makeup artist instead of just selling cosmetics she was never happier than when her hands were busy doing something artistic. After eight years of being in visual merchandising at a department store chain, she felt a real lack of job satisfaction because it was all supervising and no “doing” anymore.
She worked as an assistant pastry chef to make sure that baking was the right direction for her. She discovered very quickly that making croissants and tempering chocolate wasn’t fun after the 20th time and 4am was way too early for work.
With her supportive husband Chad by her side, they started Cup a Dee Cakes LLC in 2006 by taking out a home equity loan and building a licensed kitchen on to their home. Since then they have changed what they sell, how they sell it and who they sell to about 6 times. They have catered, made pastry gift baskets, made dog treats… anything someone would pay them to do. But, as the cake business side grew, they dropped the less profitable businesses off. Now they only make large event cakes because “Wedding cakes suit our lifestyle and our personalities very well. You get to see the happiness you bring into someone’s lives immediately when you give them a special cake. How great is that?!” Interview
1. How did you first get started with cake decorating?
I have always enjoyed cooking and baking; my favorite toy as a child was my Holly Hobby oven. I was making cheesecakes in the “big girl” oven at age twelve. About 10 years ago my husband and I took some Wilton classes as “something to do” and the cake bug bit me hard.
2. Why did you decide to decorate cakes?
A few months after those Wilton classes I was on a business trip in NYC and visited Magnolia bakery. They were selling cupcakes for $3 and limited them to 12 per customer. If they could do it, why couldn’t I? That’s what gave me the spark to want to open my own business and make a living decorating cakes. I then read “The Practical Dreamer’s Handbook” by Sarah and Paul Edwards and that helped me develop a plan to turn that spark into reality.
3. What are some things you do differently now than when you first started decorating?
Well, experience has certainly lead to increased confidence, so I don’t sweat the small stuff like I did when I first started. I used to concentrate on getting the basics right – level tiers, smooth buttercream, wrinkle-free fondant. Now that I have those down, I concentrate on fine-tuning the details. For example, I must have made a half-dozen XBOX cakes, but I was never happy with the air vents. Each time I tried another method of doing them. FYI – I finally settled on using a hole punch to punch them out of an edible image sheet and I place them on the cake one by one.
4. What has been your greatest challenge?
I think the greatest challenge for any decorator is properly valuing your time. Flour, eggs, and butter are relatively cheap, but time is very valuable. I started paying closer attention to the time I spent on my cakes and realized that I wasn’t even getting paid minimum wage. I made sure to change that on the next cake I quoted! My second greatest challenge was saying “No”. As a decorator I wanted to please people, but I found myself taking jobs that were too small or giving away product to every worthwhile organization in town.
5. What is the most rewarding part of cake decorating?
I am really artistic by nature, so cake decorating gives me an outlet to create, which is extremely rewarding. But I think the greatest reward is knowing that I’m always a part of someone’s celebration – whether that’s a wedding or a birthday party! Everyone loves the person that’s bringing in the cake!
6. What are your favorite cake decorating tools?
My bench scraper is by far my favorite tool. I use it for everything, and it’s the best tool I have found for getting my buttercream ice rink smooth! I love my little white kitchen knife and my ribbon cutter, but I also seek out a lot of tools from the home improvement store. PVC pipe makes an inexpensive, but awesome extra-wide fondant roller!
7. Which one of your cakes is your favorite?
Oh, wow… that’s like asking which child is your favorite! After a long time pondering, I would have to say it was my Chattanooga Cake Ace Contest Entry. It was a cake that I made for me about things that I like. No one was paying, so I could put as much time and effort as I wanted into it. I only wished I could have used Styrofoam instead of cake so that I could have kept it and displayed it in my bakery.
8. Could you give some tips to people who have just started decorating cakes or would love to start?
As a decorator? Keep baking and keep decorating! The more you do it, the better you’ll get! Use the web (sites like CakesDecor!) to talk to others and to get ideas, but also work on developing your own style. See if you can find a local decorating club to join. As a business? Wear a stopwatch and have it running every second you work on a cake. See my comments above about valuing your time!
9. How did you find CakesDecor.com and what is it that keeps you coming back?
I’m always surfing the web looking for new sites and ideas, but my husband actually told me about the CakesDecor site. I enjoy sharing ideas and helping others and I love that your site is engaging and everyone has such a positive attitude here.
*10. What’s been the biggest surprise in all of this for you? *
I’m certainly no cake celebrity, but I’m always shocked and surprised when I’m noticed out in public. Whether it’s people I have made cakes for, or people that have visited my blog or watched my YouTube videos, I feel like such a rock star when people approach me as a decorator. The fact that people even visit my blog or watch my video truly amazes me!
Find out more about Jenniffer White
CakesDecor page: http://cakesdecor.com/cupadeecakes
Youtube Videos: http://www.youtube.com/user/cupadeecakes/videos
- Part 4: Ron Ben-Israel
- Part 5: Jenniffer White from Cup a Dee Cakes
- Part 6: Tracey Louise Harvey from Little Cherry Cake Company