Self Love Photo Shoot | Richmond, Virginia

I always get excited when Carley, owner of CYork Photography has a project.  Her work is so creative and fun.  I jumped at the opportunity to work with her (and a kick-ass team of female vendors) for a special photo shoot for a friend of hers.  I even tried my hand at those mysteriously sexy french macarons.  I might be slightly obsessed with them now.  For this cake I went with a funky buttercream inlay and gold splatter.  Nothing screams fun like throwing edible paint at something!

Carley had an idea to do positive, uplifting shoot for her friend that had just gone through a divorce.  Don't get it twisted...this shoot wasn't about bashing marriage.  It was all about empowerment and self love.  It's a reminder that many of us could use from time to time.  This project was nothing short of AMAZING!!!  See more of this shoot over at Off Beat Home.

self-love-commonwealth-cake-company-charlottesville-quirk-hotel-richmond-
self-love-commonwealth-cake-company-charlottesville-quirk-hotel-richmond

 

Vendor Dream Team:

Photography & Coordination: CYork Photography                                                                                              Make-up Artist: Nicole Laughlin Make Up Artist                                                                                                Hair: Cecily Morgan                                                                                                                                                Venue: Quick Hotel & VMFA

Valentine's Day Styled Photo Shoot | Fredericksburg, Virginia

Last year I was itching to get my feet wet with styled shoots.  This fun Valentine's Day themed shoot was my first, and literally fueled my obsession.  I love the opportunity to be creative and have fun with cake designs.  Sometimes clients want safe designs or have their hearts set on a design that they fell in love with.  There's absolutely nothing wrong with that.  But, sometimes as an artist I'm longing to do the unexpected and push the edge when it comes to design.  For this photo shoot I combined two popular trends: naked cakes and watercolor.  The end result was a beautiful mixed textured stunner.

Creative Team:

Photography: @lauraquinterophotography + @kristinamariephotography
Styling: @designingwithmisssouthernbelle
Model: @erynmariesuttle
Clothing: My Sweet Boutique Styling
Jewelry: @everisttabridalgal
Custom Escort Chart: @bybrittanybranson  
Custom Gifts: @velvetgrown

Valentines-Day-Photo-Shoot-Commonwealth-Cake-Company
Valentines-Day-Photo-Shoot-Commonwealth-Cake-Company
Valentines-Day-Photo-Shoot-Commonwealth-Cake-Company

Happy Anniversary, Commonwealth Cake Company!

Wow!  We can't believe it's already been one year since we announced our rebrand.  It's been an exciting year full of the most amazing projects.  We've met the best friends and clients along the way.  Thank you from the bottom of our sugar filled hearts for the support and love you've all shown us.  We can't wait to unleash more sugar awesomeness for 2017.  But first, we're going to sit back and enjoy a slice of our yummy Triple Berry Almond cake...YUM!!!

Triple Berry Almond Cake

Client Swag

Who doesn't love swag?!?!  I love finding fun gifts for my clients.  It's a bonus when it's a fun tasty treat.  How cute are these champagne gummy bears that I purchased from Sugarfina?  Not only are these made with Dom Perignon Vintage Champagne, but my personal sugar concierge helped me design the perfect label.  A sophisticated treat for my amazing clients!

Commonwealth-Cake-Company

Copper and Black Geode

2016 has proven to be the year of metallics.  I happily embraced that trend.  I'm slightly obsessed with shiny sparkly things.  This is a fun cake that combined copper, geodes, and geometric shapes.  I used a masking technique to create the straight defined lines on the tiers.  I also added some disco dust to my copper paint to give it a little extra sparkle dah-ling.  This quickly became one of my favorite cakes!

Copper-Black-Geode-Commonwealth-Cake-Company
Copper-Black-Geode-Commonwealth-Cake-Company

Woodland Fairies Collaboration

Earlier this year I decided to try my hand at a collaboration.  The theme was Woodland Fairies and I was immediately excited.  I knew my design had to involve bark and moss.  I mean, isn't that a must for a woodlands themed cake?  I devised a plan and got to work.  I pulled some non-cake inspiration from Pinterest and decided on a soft, pale color scheme.  I really challenged myself by attempting to make sugar flowers.  I learned a few important lessons.  One...creating flowers can be very therapeutic.  Second...always make more than you think you'll need.  It can take a bunch to fill up an area.

The moss was made using desiccated coconut and gel food coloring.  The fairy lights were done using LED lights and gelatin.  The final product was a stunning romantic, mossy, woodland fairies creation.

Check out the work of the rest of the amazing artists involved in the Woodland Fairies Collaboration.  

You can also see our feature on the American Cake Decorating blog.

 

Woodland-Fairies-Commonwealth-Cake-Company-Charlottesville-Virginia
Woodland-Fairies-Commonwealth-Cake-Company-Charlottesville-Virginia
Woodland-Fairies-Commonwealth-Cake-Company-Charlottesville-Virginia

For the Love of Cake: My Opinion on Cake Pricing

Cake pricing can be a real biotch!  Seriously.  There’s a billion articles and posts about the “correct” way to price a cake.  It can become easy for you to sink into a sea of formulas and equations only to realize you still underpriced that cake that took you 40 hours to complete.  For real???  How is that even possible?

When I started my business a few years ago I knew it would be a challenge.  I was coming into the game when there were already several well established cake bakers in my area.  Honestly, I had no desire to make cakes at all.  I only wanted to make cupcakes.  But I took my first cake order and the rest was history.  The one thing that I continue to struggle with is pricing.

Should a birthday cake be priced differently than a wedding cake?  Should a fondant cake be priced differently than a buttercream cake?  Should a “cutting cake” be cheaper than an actual wedding cake?  The list of questions swirling around my head went on and on.  I had mastered slaying cake layers and creating the perfect ratio of cake to filling.  I had mastered creating perfectly leveled cakes with razor sharp edges.  But I was a chump at confidently pricing my own works of art.

Here’s what I learned.

1.  There is no “correct” way to price a cake.  I know that sounds impossible, but there is some truth here.  What I mean here is that there is no single set factor that results in the correct pricing structure or formula.  You have to take into consideration several factors.  Cost of ingredients and materials, number of servings, hours of labor, delivery, cake stand rentals, etc.  All of these should play a part.  Do your homework and find a method that works for you.

Photo Credit: Emily Marie Photography

Photo Credit: Emily Marie Photography

 

2.  Cake is cake.  It really is, no lie.  Cake batter for a birthday cake is mixed up and baked the same way it is for a wedding cake.  A “cutting cake” is torted and filled the same exact way a wedding cake is.  The time it takes to decorate a two tier birthday cake could be just as much, or even more, than the time it takes to decorate a simple 4 tier buttercream beauty.  So, why should cakes be priced differently based on the occasion or their intended use?

3.  Your time is worth money.  This is probably the most important lightbulb moment that I’ve had in my career.  If I’m churning out cake after cake and my bank account is growing something is wrong.  If I take a payment for a cake and I can’t pay myself an hourly wage and still have a decent profit something is wrong.  This is not about price gouging.  This is about being sustainable business owners.  A business cannot grow and thrive if it’s not making a profit and paying the employees (even if you’re the only employee).

Let's think about this for a moment...

Scenario 1: Client wants a two tier cutting cake for a wedding.  There will be other desserts, so this is just for the bride and groom to cut and maybe some additional slices for a few guests.

Q: Should you low ball the price because it’s just a cutting cake?

A: NO, absolutely not.  You price that cake just like you would any other cake.  But, why, you ask?  Because that cake still offers the same number of servings no matter what it’s intended purpose is.  You really have no way of knowing if that cake will be sliced up and served to all of the guests or not.  Put on your business hat and don’t take it off.  You’ll be left with a hole in your pocket because you are still out the materials and time that it took to bake and decorate that cake.  

Scenario 2:  Client wants a birthday cake for 80-100 guests.  

Q: Should that cake be priced less per serving because it’s for a birthday?

A:  Did you use different “birthday” ingredients for that cake?  Ugh…I know you’re not supposed to answer a question with a question, but trust me on this.  Did you use a “birthday cake” oven that uses less energy and time to bake that cake?  Did you remove your “wedding cake” decorator hands and replace them with your “birthday cake” decorating hands that don’t have to work as hard or as long?  You see where I’m going with this?  The answer is still NO.  It’s all cake created and crafted the same exact way, regardless of the type of event.

I think you all get the point here.  Again, I’m no expert at the cake pricing game.  I’m just a cake designer that struggles like so many of you do.  I’ll end this with a few of the resources that I found helpful when I decided to get a grip on pricing my cakes for sustainability.  I’m not a spokesperson for these businesses, nor do I get paid to endorse them.  They are just a few of the options in a sea of options that helped me out.

  • Michelle Green has an amazing blog.  AMAZING.  It’s called The Business of Baking and it’s full of great content.  She also has an international business tour.  Did I mention she’s just an all around awesome person?  I reached out to her via email a year ago with a problem I was having.  She was so kind and walked me through it step by step.  She even followed up to see how I worked it out.  The best person EVER!
  • Craftsy is full of lots of resources, including this blog about pricing cakes.

Bourbon Chocolate Butterscotch Toffee Crunch Cookies

I love a good cookie and a good drink.  It’s even better when you combine the two.  One day I opened the "grown up" fridge to see what was in our stash.  My eye immediately went to a half empty bottle of bourbon.  Bourbon goes with chocolate, right?  Why the hell not.  Then I glanced in the pantry and found some chocolate chips, butterscotch chips, and toffee crunch bits.  Score.  Before I could stop the madness I had baked up the bomb twist on the chocolate chip cookie.  I’m so not responsible for the extra calories you’ll gain after eating these.  

Enjoy!

chocolatechipcookiecommonwealthcakecompanycharlottesvillevirginia

 

 

Bourbon Chocolate Butterscotch Toffee Crunch Cookies

Makes about 2-3 dozen cookies (depending on the size)

Ingredients:

  • 2 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste (or vanilla extract)
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, room temp (see notes below)
  • 1 1/4 cup light brown sugar, tightly packed
  • 1 cup + 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 2 tablespoons bourbon
  • 1 cup chocolate chips
  • 1/2 cup toffee bits
  • 1/2 cup butterscotch chips

 

Directions:

  1. Heat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Sift dry ingredients into a bowl and set aside.
  3. Combine butter and sugars together in the bowl of a stand mixer, fitted with the paddle attachment.  Cream together on medium-high until light, about 5 minutes.
  4. Scrape down sides of the bowl, add eggs one at a time, mix well after each addition.
  5. Stir in vanilla and bourbon.
  6. Reduce the mixer to low speed and add dry ingredients.  Mix until combined.
  7. Remove bowl from mixer and stir in chips by hand.
  8. Drop the cookie dough about 3” apart on a baking sheet lined with parchment.  Once they’re all on the sheet I flatten the domes by pressing them flat with the bottom of a glass.
  9. Wrap the sheet pan tightly in plastic wrap.  Chill the cookies in the fridge for about 1 hour.  This is an important step that I caution you not to skip.  It will greatly improve your cookie game.
  10. Remove from fridge and bake until golden brown, about 16-18 minutes.  Leave them in the oven for an additional minute or two if they aren't browned on the edges and still look doughy on the surface.

 

Some notes:

  • You can substitute 2 sticks unsalted butter, room temp + 1/4 cup chilled bacon grease for the butter.  It adds amazing flavor! 
  • If you bake as much as I do, I suggest you get a good set of baking sheets.  I used my half sheet commercial pans
  • I always line my baking sheets with parchment paper.  It makes my world easier when it comes to cleaning up. 
  • I like to use a melon baller or small cookie scoop for portioning my cookie dough evenly.  

Pretty In Purple Styled Shoot | The Mill at Fine Creek | Richmond, Virginia

Last year I told myself I was ready to step outside of my comfort zone.  I’m an extreme introvert and take comfort in staying behind the scenes.  I prefer to let my cakes be the face and voice of my business.  I decided it was time to get uncomfortable and explore a different realm of this industry.  I set a goal to participate in at least one styled wedding shoot.  By March I had participated in five!

I was surprised and humbled when Jontell, owner of Jontell Vanessa Photography, contacted me to be a part of her Pretty & Purple shoot.  Her creative vision and inspiration was right up my alley.  Light purples, airy, and spring.  The venue, The Mill at Fine Creek, is a rustic gem located just outside of Richmond, Virginia.  The team of creatives that Jontell enlisted to bring her vision to life captured every detail perfectly.

For this cake I was inspired by the organic nature of the venue and other design elements.  I love the delicate gumpaste ruffles made famous by artists like Maggie Austin, but I wanted to try something different.  I decided to play around with texture, watercolor, and wafer paper.  The end result was a gorgeous two-tiered purple beauty.

The icing on the cake was finding out that the shoot was featured in Chic Brown Bride.  I was truly honored to be a part of this rockstar team.  Go check out the feature here: http://chicbrownbride.com/a-rustic-spring-styled-shoot-by-jontell-vanessa-photography/

Creative Team:

Photographer: Jontell Vanessa Photography

Cake Designer: Commonwealth Cake Company

Floral Designer: Designs By Janice

Event Planner: Elegant Ambiance Wedding & Events

Equipment Rentals: Nathaniel’s Unique Events LLC

Makeup Artist: Nicole Laughlin Makeup Artist

Calligrapher: Simply Handwritten by Anna

Venue: The Mill at Fine Creek

Dress: Tiffany’s Bridal

purplewaferpaperruffleweddingcakecharlottesvillevirginia.jpg
purplewaferpaperruffleweddingcakecharlottesvillevirginia.jpg
purplewaferpaperruffleweddingcakecharlottesvillevirginiacommonwealthcakecompany.jpg

Advice from a Cake Artist

Starting my own cake business has been quite an experience.  I recently had a few moments to sit and think.  That rarely happens.  I started thinking about all of the learning curves I faced along the way.  I love lists, so here are a few things that I wish I had known before starting.  Don't worry...they aren't scary or life altering.  Just some advice that I've stored in my mental rolodex to help a fellow newbie.

1.  Owning a cake business is like having a newborn.  You will lose sleep.  You’ll spend many late nights nurturing your precious cakes.  You many even get attached to a few. You’ll have dreams (or nightmares) about cakes and ideas.  You will be an emotional wreck.  Be prepared for that rollercoaster ride.  Tears will be shed and curse words may fly.  Your daily attire will be comfy clothes stained with food coloring, powdered sugar, and buttercream.  Create a routine and do your best to stick to it.  It will keep you from going insane.

2.  You don’t have to invest tons of money in magic tools.  There of lots of cool gizmos and gadgets on the market.  Don’t feel like you have to buy them all to be an amazing cake artist.  Get creative and use your imagination.  A bolt (sterilized, of course) can make an amazing honeycomb pattern.  I spent a few hundred bucks on a kickass cake cutting machine.  Sadly, I never use it.  NEVER use it. 

3.  Your husband, or spouse, will become your official/unofficial delivery person.  Umm hmm.  Trust me.  You’ll tell yourself it won’t happen, but it will.  They’ll probably get used to making the emergency run to the grocery store.  They will eventually ask you how they started working for you.  Just smile and feed them cake scraps!

4.  Dare to be different.  Don’t be afraid to go in the opposite direction of your competition.  Just because they’re creating a certain style or charging a certain price doesn’t mean you have to follow suit.  This does NOT mean to undercut the market.  That’s just bad business.  What I mean is don’t feel like you have to create similar cakes and only charge $3 per serving because everyone else is.  Create your own style.  Figure out your cost.  Determine how much you want to pay yourself.  Set your prices accordingly.  Be a leader, not a follower.

5.  Have fun.  You started this business because there is something about it that you enjoy.  Don’t ever lose that passion.  Create cakes that you love and are true to your brand.  It’s ok to say "NO" if you want to.  Fill your portfolio with the style that you enjoy.  Remove photos of those cakes that you created but just aren't interested in making.  Your portfolio should be a reflection of you and your brand.  You will get orders for the cakes you love to create!

5 Tips for Buying a Wedding Cake

commonwealth-cake-company-early-mountain-vineyard

Planning a wedding can be exciting yet stressful. Here are 5 tips to ensure that booking your wedding cake is a breeze.

1. Book Early. Popular cake designers typically fill their calendars quickly. Waiting until 3 weeks before your wedding to start inquiring about your cake could create major headaches. It’s a good idea to contact them as soon as you’ve booked your venue and determined your guest count. 6 months to a year before your wedding date is not too early to start planning your cake.

2. Inspiration. Find inspiration for your cake. It doesn’t have to be another wedding cake. You can find inspiration in your invitations, bouquet, dress, or other design elements planned for your big day. Gather as much as you can to help guide your cake designer in the right direction. Your vision may be different from theirs, so it’s important to have some idea of what you’d like to see. Have this information with you for your consultation.

3.  Tasting. Schedule a tasting with at least two cake makers. Different bakers have different baking styles. It’s ok to taste around to make sure you find what you want. We suggest at least two bakers because too many options can be overwhelming. Keep in mind that some bakers may charge a fee for tastings. This is a normal practice and that fee might be credited toward the balance of your cake. It’s simply their way to ensure they’re making samples for clients that are truly interested in using their services.

4. Portfolio. Be sure to ask to see a portfolio of their work. Most cake designers now have their portfolio on their websites and social media accounts. This is the perfect way to see what they can do before you schedule a tasting. If you want that huge grande cake but they only have cupcakes in their portfolio you may want to ask lots of questions. If their portfolio is full of images from other cake designers you should be alarmed. A professional cake designer won’t use someone else’s images to show you what they might be able to do. They will take the time to create the cake for their own portfolio.

5. Price. Be prepared for the final price tag. Cake prices typically range from $6-$10+ per serving. This depends on many factors like buttercream vs. fondant, number of servings, and the design. Sculpted cakes are going to cost you more than a single tiered cake. Cakes adorned with handmade sugar flowers will be more expensive than a simple buttercream cake with no embellishments. This is because the extras take so much more time to create. You may find someone offering sculpted cakes or elaborate cakes for $3 per serving. It can be tempting to save money and go with a cheaper baker or a friend that bakes for fun. But be forewarned…the quality may not be the same as your skilled cake professionals. Avoid disappointment and a potential cake disaster.

New Year, New Beginning

Logo designed by Writefully Simple, LLC

Logo designed by Writefully Simple, LLC

I started my business a few years ago as a way to continue staying home with my family.  I enjoyed the freedom of being my own boss, balancing work and family life, and baking.  I initially only wanted to make cupcakes.  Honestly, the thought of making cakes literally made me sick to my stomach.  After agonizing over abusiness name I picked Taylor’s Sweets, named after my middle child.  It was cute and playful, just like cupcakes, but left the door open for me to add additional products to my repertoire.

Fast forward a few years…I reluctantly took my first cake order and fell in love.  I knew in my heart that was what I was meant to do.  The blank canvas of a cake offered me a world of endless opportunities much larger than that of any cupcake.

Clearly over the years I’ve been working on growing my skills and finding my true sense of style.  It’s so easy to get caught up and want to emulate other creatives that you admire.  But I wanted to provide my clientele with a more personal experience.  I wanted them to experience being part of the design process, not simply hand over a picture and trust that I could execute it to perfection.

At the end of 2015 I started thinking more carefully about my brand.  I went back and forth over what I really wanted to be as business long-term.  More than just an opportunity to stay home, but as a thriving business owner.  Did I want to stay cute little Taylor’s Sweets or morph into something larger?  A social media search quickly helped me make up my mind.  I wasn’t the only Taylor’s Sweets.  I was clearly the first, and most established, but a few others popped up after I started.  I worked way too hard to have my reputation and work confused with others.  My business was maturing and so was I.  I was scared at the thought of change.  But the reality is that it was time for the business to grow up.  It was clearly time to rebrand.

As 2016 kicks off I’d like to re-introduce myself.  Taylor’s Sweets will now be Commonwealth Cake Company.  I’m still the same dedicated baker whipping up beautifully delicious cakes.  My focus will now be on creating elegant, sophisticated wedding cakes.  I’ll occasionally be convinced to do a birthday cake, but my focus will be wedding cakes because that’s where my passion lies.  I’m in love with love.  Meeting new brides, hearing their love stories, and creating the cake of their dreams is my happy place.  I’m ready to embrace change and take my business to the next level.  I hope you all enjoy watching this new chapter unfold.