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Please No… Anything But That!

Please No… Anything But That!

No matter our profession or calling, there is always that one thing your job requires that you would give anything to avoid. Bakers are no different. You need me to do what? …or I can ice 500 sugar cookies, but please, anything but that…

As a most definitely not professional cake designer and baker, I know my limits. 3D sculpture cakes – nope. Carved cakes – basic shapes only. Fondant- sure. Buttercream – of course. Modeled figures – not my favorite, but okay. Then there is the one thing that I can’t turn down, yet I dread the entire ordeal.

I get a call or text from a potential client and my half of the conversation goes something like this:

“Sure, I am available to make a cake that weekend. How many people would you like to serve?”

“Great! Were you thinking buttercream or fondant?”

“Buttercream, no problem. Are you imagining a round or square cake?”

“Oh, a sheet cake…” Please no…

“Yes, we can do that as an edible image.” Fingers crossed…

“It should say (insert words here). Can you spell that for me?” And there it is.

“Great, I will touch base with you soon.”

Crap.

I have been making cakes for over 10 years now, and still the thought of having to write words on a cake in buttercream makes me want to cry. Trying to get all the letters to line up straight, centered on the field, or correctly curved on a round cake…nightmare.

If you have ever made a cake, you find out right away whether you have the natural gift for writing on cakes, or you have every chance of your cake photo ending up on a “what not to do” blog. This one (www.cakewrecks.com) is my favorite. There does not seem to be much in between. After 10+ years, I am finally in the in between area, and it has been a lot of practice to get to this point.

A few weeks ago, I had a cake for an Eagle Scout ceremony. Awesome! It is such an accomplishment to get to Eagle Scout, so I am happy to be able to help celebrate. And then I get a photo of the cake idea… We were not just talking about “Congratulations, John!” We were talking about the Boy Scout Law. SO. MANY. WORDS.

Needless to say, after 2 hours of painstaking work, the cake contained the required words, in the correct order, which I felt was an accomplishment indeed.

Eagle Scout Cake with Eagle Scout Law and Badge

Since I am sure that other cake makers out there must suffer from the same paralyzing fear of word writing, I wanted to share a little about my process.

Before I go on, since you might not know me too well yet, there is no halfway for me when it comes to projects of this nature. So, I did not just sit down and plan how the words would go on the cake, I got the food-use only ruler out and actually measured the exact area on the cake the words would go.

If you are not as thorough as I am, you can skip this step, but it will take a little more trial and error for the next part.

Since I knew exactly how much room I had to fill with the words I needed to write, I was able to set up a document on the computer in a way that I knew exactly how large the letters could be. I knew I was working with a 1” space, so my letters had to be shorter than 1” tall in order to work. By playing around with different fonts and font sizes, I was able to get words printed exactly the way I wanted. I then cut them out and placed them on my cold, iced cake. Working from my templates, I was able to copy the words and have them turn out much better than they would have had I tried to freehand them.

Blank iced cake with word templates
Placing the words on a cold, iced cake

I used my handwritten version for the name, and of course, the end result sloped upwards a little. Lesson reiterated. Don’t use my own handwriting!

This week, I had another Eagle Scout cake to do. Thankfully, they did not want ALL the words on the cake, but they still wanted “EAGLE SCOUT” and a name. Okay, not so bad. This time, having learned from my last handwritten mistake, I printed out the words I needed and used them for my guide. The trick is using the paper printout as your baseline for where your letters end.

You start with your word placement.

Blank iced cake with word placement

Then you shift the paper down to the regular letter baseline. In this case the capitals fall below the initial baseline, so I did not start with the first letter. Using the paper as your stop, carefully copy the letters above their positions onto the cake.

Starting to copy letters onto cake

Then shift your template down slightly, and add your capital letters.

Adding the uppercase letters to the words

Finally, shift the template down once more so you can add any letters that fall below the baseline, like “g”, “j”, or “y”.

Finished word on cake

With any luck, one day you’ll be able to stop being so scared of writing on your cakes, and you’ll be excited when a customer asks for writing.

Finished cake detail

If that ever happens to me, I’ll be sure to let you know.

— Angie


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