What Are the Pros and Cons of Being a Cake Decorator?
You wouldn't mind spending an afternoon wiring orange blossoms into a bit of pastillage. You'd be happy practicing your edge piping skills. If you're artistic and skilled with your hands, a career as a cake decorator might be for you. Cake decorators can find work in restaurants, bakeries and gourmet markets. Schools offering Baking & Pastry degrees can also be found in these popular choices.
The Job of a Cake Decorator
As a cake decorator, you may create tiered wedding cakes, specialty cupcakes or custom birthday cakes. You may also work with pastries or molded candy. The medium in which you can work is sugar, pulled and piped, whipped up into mounds of soft buttercream frosting and slipped over cake as a firm, fondant glaze, piped from bags in the form of gum paste, tuile paste or marzipan. Your palette is the entire color spectrum and may depend on client requirements. Your tools include piping tips, icing bags, wire cutters, needle-nosed pliers, brushes, spatulas and an occasional piece of tape.
Pros and Cons
If you have an artistic eye and fine coordination, this can be a highly creative, challenging craft. In a gourmet market or specialty bakery, a cake decorator might work directly with clients, drawing sketches to help them visualize a custom cake. On the other hand, bakery work can be routine, applying base icing and a few rosettes to cakes as they leave the oven, while writing personal messages on some, as specified in orders filled out by customers.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) employment of bakers was not expected to grow during the ten-year period ending in 2018, but highly skilled bakers may be in demand (www.bls.gov). Food-service workers in restaurant and bakery kitchens face a variety of occupational hazards, including slips, falls, lacerations and burns. The work environment can be stressful; hours are long and may be longer during holidays.
Training and Certification
It is possible, according to the BLS, to get a job in the food-service industry without postsecondary school, and some of these workers are trained on the job. However, a 2-year associate's degree in pastry arts may prepare you for a job in a top restaurant or specialty bakery. Associate's degree programs include training on modern decorating techniques, presentation options and equipment usage. As you learn your art, the canvas may consist of Styrofoam molds; when you master it, you can put the final touches on cakes that may be almost as good as the frosting.
Certification in pastry is offered by the American Culinary Federation (www.acfchefs.org) and requires work experience or an associate's degree. To earn certification, you are required to complete both a written and practical exam.
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