One of the most fantastic and fascinating things about cake design is seeing where a designer started. For us, it starts with a sketch (or a few sketches!) long before it becomes a real life cake. For a little peek into the way we gather design elements, sketch ideas and put everything together, read on.
From sketch to slice: discover the evolution of a cake design
We always recommend starting with a consultation with the client. Talking to your client in person allows you to really dig into what they're looking for in a cake and discuss different possibilities.
For the purpose of demonstration, we're going to walk you through a cake that we designed for one couple's wedding recently. When they came in for their consultation, they brought these two pictures of cakes that we'd designed in the past:
The couple also brought this color palette:
During their consultation, this couple told us that they wanted their cake to include hints of gold, olive, fern leaves and a definite focus on nature. We also discussed themes, flavors and color.
This is the kind of information that you want to gather from your client during the consultation. While the client is hiring you to design the cake, they likely have an idea of what elements they're interested in. Use the consultation as an opportunity to tease out those details.
After the consultation, it was time to sketch. Since we consider sketching a crucial part of our design process, we scheduled time for the sketch work into our work day. We can't recommend this enough: If you don't plan time specifically for sketching, chances are you'll never find time to work around your existing orders.
When it comes to the design work, we usually begin with three initial sketches. Some clients have trouble visualizing their cake, so drawing many options can help the cake feel more real for them.
Sometimes we throw in a slight wildcard if more than one idea emerges at the consultation. Generally, we never really need to go above three drawings per order.
After a few preliminary sketches, we ended up with one definite design that the client liked. Sometimes, though, the client will want some changes on one of the sketches. Yes, that means you need to do another sketch — but it's much better to agree on a design now than to worry about it when it's time to make the cake!
The great thing about sketches is that they give you an opportunity to experiment with all of the requested elements. Once you and your client settle on one sketch, you can move on to cake construction.
Depending on the design you agreed on, you might be able to complete some of the elements ahead of the event. While of course you can't bake the cakes or make the filling weeks in advance, you can make some decorations like sugar flowers ahead of time.
In fact, if your cake design includes sugar flowers, it's imperative that you make them a couple of weeks in advance. We typically begin with the larger blooms and then move onto filler flowers, leaves, berries and any extra flowers.
Once finished, we stand our sugar flowers in cake dummies and large cake boxes until we're ready for them. We never store our sugar flowers in plastic boxes, as the air circulation in paper boxes helps stop any condensation.
Tip: Always make extra flowers, berries and leaves. You never know what mishap you may have and it helps to have a handy few available if needed.
Making the cake
Once the cake is covered, work around the cake with a large, high-quality fluffy paintbrush to clear it of any powdered sugar, cornstarch or stray buttercream.
Finally, it's time to add edible paint, luster dust and other accents! Our cake called for copper foliage, so we grabbed our food-safe brush and painted our fern onto the cake.
Reference your sketch as you work. The client is expecting a specific design, and you never know — even a misplaced sugar flower could upset a sensitive client. Plus, if your final design closely matches the sketch, you're better protected from any legal worries (ugh!).
Next, it's time to add other additions like sugar flowers or cake toppers. In most places, it's illegal to insert any metal or floral tape directly into cakes, so we always recommend using Ingenious Edibles Safety Seal , which coats the decoration in a food-safe wax.
Finally, our cake is finished and it's a close match to the original drawing! Phew. We hope that this peek into our process will help you with your own cake designs.
What's your cake design process?