Evolving Designer Cakes

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In my last post, I listed our 2018-19 changes and promised some detail to come.

Here we are at the first one: the revamp of our Designer Cake menu.

When we opened in 2011, we only sold cupcakes and I was – in retrospect – annoying on the  topic. People constantly asked for cakes and my answer as the then-catering and customer service manager was that we focused on cupcakes so as to make them extremely well.

Please.

By 2013 or 2014 I saw the light and we started making our Homestyle cakes with the  same batters and icings as our cupcakes. Homestyle cakes sold well from the beginning leading us to launch wedding-type cakes through Cakes by Prairie Girl. We set up an entirely different website offering fondant covered cakes: cakes carefully draped in rolled fondant and decorated with a combination of fondant and royal icing decorations depending on the  cake’s theme. We recruited a wonderful cake designer, Julie Montgomery, to establish this new department and invested in equipment, website programming and marketing, We had a booth in one of Toronto’s glamorous wedding shows with some of our gorgeous custom wedding cakes on display.

We closed CPG within two years. I think it was a break-even venture, maybe veering a little to a “loss” . 🙂

One of the big differences between PGB catering orders and CPG orders was that the customers looking for fondant-covered cakes (basically works of art) required a lot more back-and-forth in emails and phone calls, and once we had provided a quote – a time-consuming process for the  cake designer – it was more than what the customer expected.

It takes a lot of work to make a cake look like a gorgeous Chanel purse. All of us at Prairie Girl gained a newfound appreciation for artists and other creative types who need to charge for their artistic talent and painstaking work.Working in that kind of market niche was very different from our mainstream Prairie Girl offering with its one price for each item.

But – silver lining – Cakes by Prairie Girl led us to a different idea:  “Designer Cakes”. These cakes are decorated with a buttercream icing that is more complicated to make than our butter-based cupcake icing but has a texture that allows our talented bakers to create rosettes, swirls, petals, and so on using piping bags and other tools. The creation of Designer Cakes is midway between our Homestyle Cakes and the fondant cakes we did at  Cakes by Prairie Girl.

Fast forward to last summer, we’d had good success for a couple of years offering Homestyle Cakes and Designer Cakes and decided to refresh the Designer Cake menu. We subbed out less popular designs such as “High Gloss” with a  shiny smooth finish in bright colours, and “Chocolate  Mirror”, for designs we thought would be popular such as CandyLand and I Dream of Chocolate.

Like any change to our menu, these changes required the new cake designs to be nailed, the website photos to be taken and edited, and the website ordering page to be redesigned and reprogrammed. The old cakes have not been missed, the new ones are all selling well and overall our cakes have been our highest growth area for a couple of years.

Looking at all of our 2018-19 changes and “how they went”, I’d give this one 10/10: although we could have stayed with the  same Designer Cakes for another few years, I think customers like to see new designs and it’s true that if you are not moving forward as a business, you will sooner or later slip behind.

 

About the author

Jean Blacklock

Jean is the president of Toronto's best cupcake and cake bakery - Prairie Girl Bakery. Read more about her background in commerce, law, and entrepreneurship here.

By Jean Blacklock

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