Category Archives: Did You Know…?

Why do you need to book your cake order in advance?

For the third installment of the “Did You Know…?” series, I thought I would discuss why it is so important to book your cake order in advance.  As a solopreneur, I typically take only a few cake orders a week  in order to give each and every client & cake ample attention.  Unlike larger traditional bakeries, Sweet Element does not keep any pre-made cakes, fillings, frostings or sugar flowers on hand, but rather bakes and creates all cakes & components from scratch for each order.  Surprisingly for many people, I consider “last minute notice” three weeks or less before an event.

So, why the need for so much lead time?

Design Time: While many of my clients come to me with a basic idea of the cake design they are looking for, many others have either too many ideas that need to get edited or no design concept at all.  In any case, I typically need at least a few days (or weeks in some cases!) to work on cake designs and have a dialogue, usually via email, with clients to perfect the final cake design.

The three sketches below of our Louis Vuitton cake are a good example of the process of whittling down ideas with a client who wanted to include a variety of elements – Louis Vuitton luggage, shoes, a ringbox & makeup all in one cake.

Cake Contract & Payment: Once a design is finalized, the next step in the cake ordering process is reviewing a cake contract and securing your order date with a deposit.  Like many small businesses, Sweet Element is a cash & check only business.  As many of my clients prefer to pay by check, I require a minimum of 4 weeks lead time for a deposit, which allows ample time for the deposit check to clear, or for me to handle any oddities (i.e. check getting lost in the mail, etc.) directly with the client well in advance of their event.  For last minute orders placed within 3 weeks of an event, Sweet Element only accepts cash upon delivery of the cake.

Time to acquire special supplies &/or tools: As I have mentioned in previous posts, there are a number of times when specialty cake orders require the purchase of special supplies (i.e. structural elements for sculpted cakes).  Also, as I am always pushing the envelope as a cake designer and trying out new techniques, many of these require the purchase of specialty decorating tools, or even require me to make my own molds or custom cutters.  All of this requires a fair amount of lead time in order for me to place an order with a third party and obtain these supplies before even starting on cake decorating.  In many instances, there is also a fair amount of trial and error with new techniques prior to using those techniques on a client’s cake … all of which takes time so that the technique can be perfect for the final cake!

Complexity of cake order (i.e. Cake Timeline) – Unlike the magic of “cake TV”, cakes are generally NOT created all in one day.  If you will note – none of those extreme cake makers are actually BAKING those cakes or making the fillings or frostings on those shows.  Here’s my typical time line for creating cakes after all design work has been finalized:

(Up to two weeks prior to the process below for floral wedding cakes: create sugar flowers)
Day 1: Obtain all ingredients needed for cake/filling/frosting/decor
Day 2: Bake cakes
Day 3: Make fillings & frostings & stack cakes
Day 4: Carve sculpted cakes or cover wedding cake tiers in fondant
Day 5 & 6: Decorate cake
Day 6 or 7: Deliver cake

For last minute orders, I usually recommend more traditional style cakes, as the time line above can be pulled in quite a bit (usually to 3 or 4 days) for smaller one tier birthday or other special occasion cakes with minimal decor or decorated with chocolate plates, as in the Mets Birthday cake below.

If you have a specific cake designer in mind, especially if they work in a small shop like mine where everything is made to order, I strongly recommend that you allow at least a few months lead time for specialty cake orders and up to a year for wedding & groom’s cake orders so you will be able to work with the designer of your choice!

Why Are Sculpted Cakes So Expensive?

Like many of my fellow cake designers, I have definitely noticed a large trend in clients requesting elaborate sculpted cakes for birthdays, groom’s cakes & other special occasion cakes.  With the prevalence of these kinds of cakes being featured on numerous television shows, I am not surprised that these requests keep increasing.  What does constantly surprise me however is that many of these clients are floored when they discover how much sculpted cakes cost.

So, I thought I would tackle that very question: “Why are sculpted cakes so expensive?”, in the second installment of the “Did You Know…?” series.

While I can’t speak for all cake designers, I know that I have a policy of pricing sculpted cakes on a by design basis at Sweet Element, meaning that each cake is priced depending on the level of design complexity, and never really by the slice.  While I give a guideline of pricing on my FAQ page, with sculpted cakes starting around $10-$20 per serving, that really is just a ballpark so that potential clients can see that sculpted cakes are indeed some of the most expensive cakes.

And here are the reasons why.  Sculpting cake involves a lot of all of the following things:

  1. Time
  2. Support
  3. Cake

Sculpted cakes typically take a lot more time than traditional tiered cakes to plan out as there is usually a fairly intricate support structure holding up all the funky shaped cake tiers together, that changes for each and every cake.  For instance, in the Gnome Cake above, steel rods, secured into wooden bases were used as support structure in the two legs to support a fairly top-heavy cake, which involved carpentry & a fair amount of construction to get just the inner structure completed before any cake was involved.

In addition to the time spent in figuring out the structural elements, there is also a fair amount of time spent on ensuring that the cake to be sculpted is carved to scale, so that the cake being carved really resembles the object it is being modeled on, which involves a LOT of measuring and an eye for detail that is much different from simply stacking wedding cake tiers so they are level.  Scale also plays a major role in the overall cost of sculpted cakes, since in most cases, the size of cake that a client envisions usually serves far more people than they need to feed, thus making “pricing by the serving” irrelevant.

What also surprises a lot of people is how much cake actually gets thrown away (or is left to make into cake balls) when sculpted cakes get made.  I often use the analogy of cake carving to sculpting marble or wood, which usually makes it easier for people to envision.  In order to get curves and dimension, these sculpted cakes start out a lot like blocks of cake and then slowly turn into objects by having pieces cut away.

So, with all that being said, if you have your heart set on a sculpted cake, but your wallet just isn’t cooperating, there *are* a few ways to cut down costs …

  1. Talk to your cake designer (that would be me!) & see if there is a less complicated way to create the 3D sculpted cake of your dreams.  Simplifying design = cost savings!
  2. Contemplate the idea of a more traditional sheet or tiered cake with 3D sculpted gumpaste or fondant decor instead of a full blown sculpted cake

Oh, and I probably should end this post by recommending that if you do order a sculpted cake – definitely pay the delivery charge & let your cake designer deliver it!  These are usually some of the most fragile cakes, especially as most of them need to be mostly assembled prior to delivery (unlike stacked wedding cakes which are usually stacked on-site), and require VERY careful driving to get them safely to their final destination!

Cake Consultations

Whenever people find out that I’m a cake designer, the conversation usually turns towards the “business” of cake, so I thought I would start a “Did You Know…?” section of my blog outlining various parts of the business that often surprise people that aren’t immersed in cake 24-7.

And what better place to start the “Did You Know…?” series than with the very beginning of the cake process – the cake consultation!

Here are the most common questions I am asked about the cake consultation process:

Are Cake Consultations Free?

Yes!  I offer *free* tasting & design consultations for all cake orders of $200 or more at the Sweet Element studio. Alternatively, if my clients are short on time or find the studio location a little bit out of the way, I am also more than happy to do in-home tasting & design consultations within the NYC metro area!  I’ve found that many of my NYC & Hoboken clients find in-home tastings or tastings in the cafe closest to their office a true time saver.  If you can’t come to the cake – the cake will come to you!

What happens at a consultation & how does the design process work?

As you might imagine, each and every consultation is slightly unique, with some taking longer than others, but I usually set aside an hour for every client.

I typically prepare three cake flavor/filling/frosting combinations in cupcake form & welcome tasting parties of up to 3 people. If clients are coming alone & would like to take a tasting box of cupcakes home, I just ask that they let me know in advance so I can put together a small box for them to take home.

As you can see in the photo above, I also offer coffee & tea (& also bottled water not shown), to clients that come for consultations at the studio.

While I always have my own portfolio for clients to draw inspiration from, I usually request that clients bring their own inspiration packet with them to their consultation. These inspiration packets can contain anything from event invitations, photos or actual items desired to be turned into cake or sugar pieces, fabric swatches, photos of other cakes & more. These inspiration packets are helpful as jumping off points during the design portion of the consultation so I can help turn their inspirations into cake art!

Depending on the complexity of the cake design, a few cake sketches may be drawn on the spot during the consultation or, as in the case of most Sweet Element cakes, I’ll take all the ideas from the consultation & will sketch up a few cake designs & will email them to my clients along with a cake contract that outlines all event & cake details.

Here’s an example of a sketch & the final cake.  As you can see, the sketch shows the initial request for a topsy turvy design, but in the end, the client opted for a more traditional tiered cake, but kept all the other elements the same.  Also, you can see an example of a design question that I might write directly on the cake sketch (in this case, confirming if an inscription was necessary).

For those of you who are really interested in what inspires me personally as a cake designer – I have a series of posts coming up on just that in the very near future.

There will be a lot more inspiration photo→misc. sketch→cake sketch→final cake posts soon!

How are consultations set up?

Call me at 201.315.4940 or email me at

What if clients are not available for a consultation or are placing a last minute order?

For out of state clients or clients placing last minute orders, I am always more than happy to work through the design process over the phone or online.