A Home-Based Baker's Tips To A Better Routine

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Note: These are based on my personal routine to be exact. I hope this article would be a nice guide for other bakers who encounter these similar scenarios.

"Start early, finish early." Might be the best work motto I've applied into baking. Time literally runs fast when you're in the kitchen. I have learned my lesson through the years that went by. I used to start in the afternoon and end up finishing at two in the morning. Today, we start at 9am and finish at approximately 6pm on a regular basis! Hooray for this improvement!

1. Dealing with Clients
It is a smooth-sailing online transaction if the clients know what they already want. You answer their inquiry, make the options and quotations, talk about logistics, and done! The deciding factor is already on their hands. But what if you are asked the most vague question like this,

Q: "Hm po?" 

Based on my experience, ninety percent of the time, people who inquire this way directly in your inbox has no full intention of ordering from you. They are just simply curious. The remaining ten percent is always a window of opportunity for you to sell your product.

First, ask what they are inquiring about. If they don't reply, don't bother. Once they respond, give them straight to the point answers. Offer them your prices and suggest the best packages while not limiting them to get a better offer. Let's say the client wants a simple round cake, after sending your prices suggest your packages in which they will feel is more like a better deal and mention the bigger sizes that you have.

Working around their budget has it's pros and cons. Make sure you know the type of event they will be celebrating. It's not advisable to suggest something within their budget without them knowing the exact details they are getting for that price. More often than not, they will end up being disappointed. Yes, they spent what's within their capacity but not enough to fulfill what they had in mind. When suggesting to work around a client's budget, it's best to mention the exact size, the flavor and the costs you cut off for you to be able to sell it at that price. This is what we often see on promo ads as the "disclaimer."

2. Clarify The Final Output
Send them an order summary with all the details of their order. As for the design, make sure that the necessary details and changes are mentioned or better yet, make them a rough sketch of the final look of the product.

The summary of their order is the protection you'll have between you and your client. One unforgettable experience of mine was with a debutante cake I made a few years ago. The client showed me her design references and then we had a face-to-face meeting regarding the final design sketch, the exact sizes, the price and the logistics. Upon reaching the venue, I set up the cake, took pictures and endorsed it to the organizer before leaving. After a few hours, I received a text from the client saying that the cake looks too small. The frustration inside me overflowed but I responded to them in the politest way, "Hi Ms. _______, I made the cake exactly to the measurements we agreed upon." From there I received no reply. I did not feel bad because I know for myself that I executed the cake well and based exactly on what they ordered.

3. Ask For A Downpayment 
For my clients, I only ask for a minimum of fifty percent downpayment no matter how small or big the cost of their order is. The fifty percent is good enough to cover the cost of ingredients just incase worse comes to worst, the client does not show up. Yes, it is indeed possible! Imagine all those days you spent preparing for their order and they just ditch you without even a call or text. Yup, it sucks but at least they made that downpayment!

4. Plan Your Strategy At Least A Week Before
For example, a three tier cake is needed to be delivered by Saturday, 7pm.

Here's my ideal schedule:

Friday/Saturday: Check your current supplies and make your ingredient list for the next week
Sunday/Monday: Buy ingredients and materials
Monday/Tuesday to Thursday: Work on your decorations and other necessary preparations
Friday: Bake and finish the cake
Saturday: Deliver

5. Shopping Day 
My shopping list is divided into three-parts to make sure I won't leave anything behind and mix anything up:

a. Baking Store
b. Grocery
c. Bookstore/Office Supply Store

If possible, it's better to order ingredients over the phone and have the baking store prepare them ahead of time. This way, you can save time while they prepare. Use this time to go to the grocery and other stores first where you can't make an advance order.

6. Advance Decorations
It was only a few years ago when I started to appreciate the time-saving benefits of making your decorations in ahead. I usually just squeeze all the work in two days which was not helping my health either because of the late nights I needed to finish working. Knowing that it's "decor day," you'll get to focus more on achieving the details on your toppers and not rush into baking and finishing your cake.

Decorations You Can Make Ahead:
a. Sculpted Toppers
b. Dedication/Name/Age/Nameplates
c. Design Accents such as dots, borders, etc.
d. Dummy Cakes to be covered and decorated

You can store these decorations in a closed but not air tight container with cornstarch at the bottom to prevent the decorations from sticking

Other Preparations:
a. The Packaging (folding the box, the plastic covers, your sticker/brand tag, etc.)
b. The Cake Board (Adding ribbons on thick cake boards and other embellishments)
c. Line your Baking Pans with Parchment Paper
d. Make your Icing (Fondant can be stored in room temp and is best used the day after. Buttercream and ganache can be kept in the fridge for a month.)

7. Baking Day
Things to double check before baking:
a. Flavor
b. Complete Ingredients
c. Recipe Computation

Here is a guide to easily compute for your recipes:

Multiply the conversion factor (CF) to all of the ingredients. I converted all my recipes into grams so that it is faster to measure. I use a digital scale to measure my ingredients.

Ex. You need to bake 10 pieces of cupcakes but your recipe makes 12 pieces

1. Divide 10 (new yield) and 12 (old yield) = 0.83 (conversion factor)
2. Multiply the CF to all of the ingredients. Make sure the ingredients have the same unit of measurement (grams, pounds, etc.)

(Sample recipe is based from http://www.joyofbaking.com)
Use this website to convert your ingredients:

8. Final Decorating and Finishing
Once the cake is covered with your icing, simply stick those decorations in! Brush off any excess cornstarch on the cake.

9. Delivering
Given the delivery time is 7pm. Consider that it is a rush hour. If you familiar with the terrible traffic in your area, adjust your time to make sure you won't be late. As per experience, Waze, has helped us A LOT! We can at least estimate the time of arrival even prior to leaving the house. It also gives the best and fastest routes! Put your trust in Waze and discover new routes for your next delivery. It has only failed us once. Haha!

Happy Baking! :)