Caking – inspiration vs. originality

Little did I realise when I started making my very first celebration cake, that in a matter of a few years I would be in the position I am now. I often wonder have I made the right decision. I am trusting this is what I am meant to be doing at this point in time. I love making plans, Mr Candytuft and I have lots of things we would like to do, including combining his photography and my cakes but our priority is our 3 children so only time will tell whether these plans will come to fruition but it’s nice to dream.

When the business really started to kick off, naturally things cropped up that weren’t immediately apparent, a few years down the line, there are many other issues to consider. One of these issues may seem trivial to non-cakers but definitely worth consideration for those already in business or thinking of doing so, and perhaps interesting to those of you reading this who may order celebration cakes for special occasions or those thinking about it in the future.

So what is this issue? It’s the issue of inspiration versus originality. You may ask what that means, well, of course I shall tell you as best I can. I like to think of myself as a cake designer, that’s not me being pretentious, that’s the view I have of my work. Yes, I bake my own cakes from scratch. Yes, I ice and decorate my own cakes. Yes, I handcraft all my sugar models and flowers but ultimately the bit I pride myself on most is my cake design, this goes especially for my wedding designs which is where my passion lies! Can you imagine then my feelings when I see my designs copied almost to the tiniest detail? I am not a multi million pound company, I do not teach others to replicate my designs, I do not have a book of my designs available with full instructions for others to purchase and copy, I do not post my designs on my website, Facebook page and blog for others to copy. I do it to promote my business, by giving potential customers the opportunity to see what I can do and I certainly don’t expect other cake decorators to copy my designs pretty much to the letter!

Now don’t get me wrong, there are so many fabulous cake designs out there that I fully agree there are few truly original designs but anyone with a little vision should be able to put their own spin on a design or have the confidence to design their own cakes based on a theme etc. I too am inspired by many, many unbelievable cake designers,  who create stunning cakes but I always endeavour to make each cake design I do unique and personal and that is what I want to be known for.

Why then am I writing this? I’m sure you have guessed by now that I have come up against this myself. I have no doubt it happens to many cake designers the world over and by and large this doesn’t affect those designers directly but when it happens on your doorstep it is a different matter entirely. I charge for my cakes and included in my price is the design process which can be quite labour intensive, it’s not just a case of copying a cake, it’s the thought, the research, the sketches, the continual evolvement of a design that make it unique and hopefully make it that bit more appealing than a replicated design and make me stand out from my competitors. However when someone profits from a design that I have produced it cuts me to the core! Part of my soul goes into every design,  they are like little extensions of me and I am very protectice of them!

I have experienced this first hand over the past few weeks. At first I was gobsmacked, I always presumed it was an unwritten rule in the cake world. I wasn’t naive enough to believe it didn’t happen but I at least thought that a local competitior would have the decency to come up with her own designs. After a few blatant copies it almost became comical, waiting to see what they would do next! I got over it though, until last night, when purely by chance I saw one of my cake designs copied by another, relatively local cake maker. There are some cake designs which, no matter what you do to try to change them simply look like many others, in essence they have a simple style. This design however was a labour of love on my part. A design which took weeks of planning, research and tweaking to get just how I wanted it and one which I showcased at a wedding fair last Autumn. I received two enquiries about this particular cake and genuinely quoted a price, only to not hear back from either party. Then last night I find a replica of my cake made by another NI cake decorater for one of the brides who had initially enquired. Suffice to say I was gutted! I can only assume my price wasn’t right and the bride asked other decorators to quote for MY cake design, this decorater obviously felt no remorse in blatantly copying my design, detail by detail as far as she could see in my photos and of course profitting from it!

It boils down to cake makers etiquette, perhaps there should be a rule book. Many things in the cake decorating world go without saying, but I admit it may be difficult to know what these rules are. I assumed that copying a competitors cake for a lesser price would be a huge ‘NO!’ and when I am presented with pictures of cakes from other designers I explain that I will not copy the designs. There are occasions when a design may be perfect for an occasion, in these cases it is a given that permission is sought from the original designer where possible, or at least credit is given for the design. I completely understand that these things may not be immediately apparent to any newbie cake decorators but who are any of us without a little education and experience?

Perhaps those of you who are reading this who are not cake makers may be mindful of this too. Part of what I do at Candytuft Cakes includes a unique design service and my designs are precious to me. The particular cake in question was inspired by the 2012 adaptation of Anna Karenina, I first exhibited it at the Crawfordsburn Inn Wedding Fair last Autumn, it made it into the top 15 on the Cakes Decor website, I chose it to display in my photos of my newly designed cake room and it now takes pride of place in one of my display cabinets and I still love it, maybe that is why it hurt to see it copied by someone else. Please don’t think me silly for feeling like this but when you dream of a cake design over several weeks and finally take the time to bring it to life only to have it copied by another, making profit from your hard work and vision, it hurts. My cakes are never just cakes, so if you see one of my designs and like it, so much so you enquire as to the price, please accept that every bit of love and attention I have, has gone into my design and it is priced accordingly, because of this please don’t ask someone to replicate it. Talk to me about it, I will work with you and see if we can come up with a similar design to suit your budget. Similarly, if I do not have availability please don’t ask someone else to replicate it, they are like little babies to me and a little piece of my heart is in every single one.

Kathryn xxx

Have my cake and eat it!

Now that work is well underway on the garage conversion it’s time I had a serious think about it’s many functions and, most importantly, how I want it to look! (as if I haven’t already narrowed down the stye and colours in my daydreams, the only thing that has kept me going at times!) The room will be a blank canvas, I am, however, limited by the size of the room, the placement of the doors and windows, and the number of functions it needs to meet, which is unfortunate but I am thrilled to be finally getting a dedicated work space nonetheless!

When it comes to interior design I tend to pick one element that I have fallen in love with and run with it but in this case my two cake display cabinets have been the focus. They were bargains bought in Ikea and I was very fortunate to get two of them as they are now discontinued. They are actually Edlund linen cabinets and are grey in colour with glass door fronts and a drawer at the bottom with little white ceramic pull handles and a lovely simple print on the interior, complete with adjustable shelves. With grey as my starting point, my mind turned to what type of flooring I could choose, I love white washed wood so searched for laminate with a similar effect and hey presto, Homebase came up trumps! I think my biggest hurdle will be the kitchen units. Whilst they will only occupy the back wall I have decided to go with a grey tone, shaker style door front, to co-ordinate with my cake display cabinets, but until the walls are finished the space between is not definite so the cabinet size and configuration will be decided then. I will also be having an island with more storage and a large work surface; the stuff of my dreams!

The other half of the space will be my consultation area (get me!!!). It will of course feature my display cabinets, seating, coffee table, a co-ordinating floor rug, cakey literature and lots of pretty things! Up until now, when clients came to discuss their cake, they had to sit surrounded by kids toys! I will of course bring in a little accent colour too; I have always had a thing for jewel colours and with the grey and white combination I have decided on plum tones and then perhaps a little touch of pink.

There is one thing however, that I would like to do; I would like to display my wedding dress. As my focus is wedding cakes I thought it would add to the ambiance! Now, whilst my dress was not a meringue, it still has quite a full skirt, but I have seen dresses displayed in ‘shadow boxes’ and fell in love. My dress currently hangs on the back of my son’s wardrobe, what is the point in it just sitting there? Call me sentimental but I just can’t get rid of it! All I need to do now is find someone willing and able to make me a shadow box large enough to fit my dress,  like this one!

Since drafting up this post we have progress, below is a photo of the conversion so far, as if we hadn’t had enough excitement in January, February is set to be a rollercoaster too!

Kathryn xxx