What’s it all about then?
As a cake decorator you’ll spend your time creating great designs on cakes, normally for birthdays and weddings, or other special events.
You could be responsible for the whole process of baking the cake from scratch and decorating it; or you might simply be employed to decorate someone else’s product.
You could work for yourself, or be employed by either a large or small bakery
It’s your job to make cakes that are not only delicious but also look great!
What might I be doing?
The work can vary depending on where you work, as you could be employed by a large business, small independent bakery, or even self-employed.
However, you’ll likely be doing most of the following:
- Discussing design ideas with customers
- Creating designs and modifying in line with customer requirements
- Setting up equipment and working independently
- Baking cakes to order and assembling these if necessary
- Adding decorations, chocolate and icing to cakes
- Writing messages on cakes using icing
- Making up icing, fondant, chocolate etc.
- Using a variety of different tools to create your designs
- Cleaning and storing equipment when you’ve finished the job
- Checking stock levels and buying ingredients
- Providing an excellent customer experience every time
- Promoting the business and selling finished product
- Using time management skills to meet deadlines
What will be expected of me?
If you want to become a cake decorator, you’ll need an artistic eye and creative flair, so you can create unique designs for each customer, then follow through on these with a fantastic product.
You’ll have to have a steady hand, a keen eye, and attention to detail as your work will have to be uniform in shape, colour etc.
Because you’ll be using a variety of tools including airbrushes, some mechanical ability is expected as well, so that you can set up and then strip down equipment after use.
Stamina is important because could be on your feet for much of the time, possibly working in a cool room, to keep the icing from melting.
And don’t forget that numeracy is vital for the cake decorator, so you can measure out ingredients accurately, or work out designs using mathematical techniques.
Finally, good colour vision is critical!
What can I expect?
You can expect to work to deadlines at times, such as when an urgent order is taken; this could mean long hours at short notice. This is particularly the case if you’re working for yourself.
You can expect to be working independently for periods of time, but time will fly when you’re busy creating your intricate designs!
You can expect to receive all sorts of feedback from your colleagues and customers so don’t be downhearted if the design which you’ve sweated over isn’t to everyone’s taste – be prepared to change if necessary!
Finally, you can expect to be given loads of leeway to bring your creativity and flair to the job of cake decorator.
What about the pay?
This will vary with experience and employers, but you could expect the following:
A trainee cake decorator could earn £12,000 per year, which could rise to £20,000 with experience.
Highly experienced cake decorators could earn up to £25,000 per year
If you’re self-employed, then you could charge anywhere from £8 to £14 per hour; your earnings will vary with the amount of work you do.
Remember that these salary figures are for your guidance only.
What qualifications do I need to get in?
There are no set requirements, but you’ll usually need experience in baking, pastry or cake decorating. Also, employers may ask for evidence of your ability in various cake decorating techniques so make sure you take photos of all your best work – these can then be added to a portfolio that you can use to sell your expertise.
You could also consider taking further education courses in patisserie or confectionery, for instance:
City and Guilds Level 2/3 Certificate in General Patisserie and Confectionery
You might also consider going straight into work with a bakery apprenticeship.
Remember that your GCSEs are important, particularly Maths and English at A* to C
Where would I get these qualifications?
Many of these qualifications are available in local Further Education colleges and you should check out the one nearest you and see if they have something that suits.
You could also check the website of the National Skills Academy for Food & Drink for information on bakery qualifications.
What about further training?
There are loads of qualifications you could consider, all of which are aimed at making you an expert at your craft.
You might also consider membership of the British Sugarcraft Guild, a non-profit organisation which promotes all things cake decorating and sugarcraft; their aims include the sharing of knowledge, developing talent and improving standards, all of which should interest a cake decorator.
Anything else I might need to know?
Yes, many cake decorators start out by making and decorating cakes for their friends and family as a hobby, so you could gain some experience and feedback before committing to a career.
With experience and talent, you could open your own business or even teach cake design and decoration.