Why you NEED a Plan B
Things go wrong. It's an inescapable truth.
As I write this, I'm caring for my eldest Son, who is home from school, sick. We're watching Frozen. As you do.
I know how much work I normally get done on a Monday. Admin, emails, post, housework, groceries. Shelved. What can you do.
But what if you have a Wedding Cake, and something goes wrong? What's your Plan B?
Believe it or not, A LOT went wrong with this cake. It was 36 degrees (around 97F), and 85% humidity when I made this cake. That's not ideal. When room temperature and body temperature are almost the same, Buttercream doesn't play nice.
That meant the key had to be made from modelling chocolate, so no "100% Buttercream" tag. Bummer.
Also, impressing Buttercream that won't stay chilled is not awesome. Lot's of Disney swearing.
It also meant I needed to store a 4 tier cake, in my fridge, while I worked on it. Ever tried to fit a 4 tier cake in your fridge? Clown car. That's all I'm sayin'.
So what did I do? And what do YOU need to do RIGHT NOW? Read on..
Yeah, it's the Boy Scout motto, and for good reason. Things go wrong. Sometimes a little sometimes a lot.
This week just gone, was one of the most stressful in recent memory. LOTS went wrong. My computer deleted photos I needed for a project for someone else, other things got cancelled, other things got added, I had a week long migraine, and there just wasn't enough Nutella to be had.
So how could I have prepared for that? Well hindsight is 20/20 for good reason, it's always easy to say what you should have done after it all goes to hell in a hand basket, but how do you prepare for anarchy?
My husband is an awesome preparer. FOR REALS. He has an emergency bag under our bed, filled with goodies like flint for lighting a fire, emergency medical supplies, a compass, water purifying tablets, the whole shebang. He is awesome. He is hands down my Zombie Apocalypse buddy. No question.
So what's in your Cake Emergency bag? What do you do if something goes wrong? Do you have a plan past panic?
Get a Cake Buddy
This might sound obvious, and maybe even a little scary for those of you that find meeting new people a real challenge, but you know what's a bigger challenge? Telling a Bride she has no Wedding Cake. NOT a situation you ever want to find yourself in.
Fellow Cakers are, 99% of the time, pure Angels. I have seen so many Facebook group posts where someone has had an injury, illness or misadventure, and the first thing out of everyone's mouth is "You poor thing! Where are you??" Offers from Cakers local to, and even miles from, all put their hand up to help.
Cakers get it. Cakers are good people (for the most part). They get that we can't just phone in sick. In many cases, we are the WHOLE business, from the director to the janitor, and if we go down, so does the ship.
A Cake Buddy is more than someone to call when you have a problem. They are a trusted person to refer people to if you are booked out. They in turn, can recommend you if they are booked out. Balance. Never underestimate the value of a flour coated shoulder to cry on too.
So how do you find a Cake Buddy? The easiest way by far is on Facebook. There are almost as many Facebook Cake Groups, as there are Cake Decorators. Join in, make connections, find people local to you, and probably learn things along the way. The internet can be a school yard though, as we all sadly know, so try to avoid wadding into drama, and stick to caking. As a general rule, avoid groups that don't put a quick stop to bullying. Ain't nobody got time for that.
So you always bake fresh. Me too. Love me some fresh cake. So you just dropped a 10" cake that's supposed to be picked up in 2 hours. Um...
While baking fresh saves on wastage, and it's a great selling point, even KFC has spare stuff frozen. Because things go wrong. And not just for you. That frozen stock, may just save another Caker whose oven has just died. Or a husband that needs an ultra last minute anniversary cake, or he's bunking with the dog.
Make non perishable items as soon as you can. Sure, people might cancel orders last minute, but I can assure you, you'll use that Pink Elephant topper at some point, it's just already made for the next order.
Same goes for frequent items. Sugar, chocolate, flour, and a host of other ingredients, have really long shelf lives, so buy a few when they are on special, and only buy the perishable stuff as you need it.
If you make and use Sugar Roses, use a slow day to make a a whole lot of generic Roses in white. They can be dusted into any colour in a moments notice. Time saved for you, and possibly an escape hatch if something goes wrong.
If you break all of the Peonies the night before a Wedding, the Bride will be happy with Roses instead of nothing, without question. PLAN B kids.
I had planned to hand paint between those stripes of beads, but the Buttercream wouldn't crust enough due to humidity. Plan B!
Things go wrong. Sometimes things happen (like stupid humidity!!), that get in the way of a design element. Adapt.
This doesn't mean change the customers design without consulting with them. Talk to them, and let them know there's a problem, and here's your solution. Maybe it's 5 hours of hand piping that has melted off your cake, so you have to stencil it instead.
Whatever it is, have a plan to fix it, BEFORE you contact the customer. YOU are the professional, its not a customer's responsibility to brainstorm solutions, its yours. Customers will come back to someone that has made a mistake, based solely on HOW they handled a problem, even if the problem could have, or should have, been avoided.
On a slow day, have a think about Plan B repairs. What will you do if you slam on the brakes and crush all your Buttercream Flowers while delivering the cake? Will you make a point of delivering your cakes at least a few hours before an event, so you have emergency time? Sounds like a good idea.
How about taking left over Buttercream, piping bags and tips with you, so you can repair any damage that might occur in transit? Better safe than sorry!
Remember Why We Love It
When disaster strikes, it's easy (any reeeeaaallyy common) to swear that you've had enough, no more!
But remember why you love it. Remember the 99.99% of times that everything went well. Remember, no one quits when it's easy.
Things go wrong. Some you can plan for, some you can avoid. Some will hit you like a freight train in the dark. It's how you handle it, that will dictate how you go on. Reach out, make Cake friends. Prepare for what you can. Think up ways to deal with what you can't, and for goodness sake don't panic.
Also maybe keep a big jar of Nutella in the cupboard, just in case ;)
Viva La Buttercream xx