Image by Beurre
I’ve been in the midst of relaunching my business, Beurre, as I was living and working in Paris last year. Given that I first started Beurre in 2013, it is time for me to have a hard look at my business and see what direction I want it to go in.
One stumbling block that I keep coming across is pricing, and specifically, what people are willing to pay for their wedding cakes and desserts. I’ve noticed that prospective clients often ask for a quote for whatever type of cake or dessert buffet they are interested in, but upon discussing their budget, it becomes clear that there is a discrepancy between said budget and what the client is envisaging for their wedding cake.
Image by Beurre
Then, I remembered that I’d seen a similar situation play out before. At the patisserie where I used to work, we would sometimes- not often, but sometimes- have customers come in and say ‘why are your croissants so expensive?’ (They were priced either equal to or less than any croissant going around Melbourne, just to be clear). After quelling the initial desired response of piling 25kg of croissant dough on them, you would take a moment to remember that people don’t automatically know the buckets of work and love that go into a croissant (or a cake, for argument’s sake). So we would explain, “we make the croissant dough the day before. We come into work before 4am the following morning to individually roll these croissants by hand. We then proof them and bake them, and have to juggle all the pastries, to make sure that we are ready for trading by 7.30am”. We would then all silently will them to go to Woolworths and eat a pale, margarine-filled excuse for a croissant.
Another push I had to write on this topic came from a friend who sent me a link to this article. I read it and reread it several times, whooping with joy and throwing doughnuts gleefully into the air. It perfectly explains what I’m getting at here (I mean, read that article but also keep reading this one too please and thanks). What we do as bakers and chefs requires expertise and skill. Given this, we respect our own work, and we want to show that respect to you, given that this product is lucky enough to feature on your special day.
Image by Beurre
So, I thought I’d put together a list of what goes into making your wedding desserts. I’m sure you’re getting the feel for this notion, but there is a great deal of care, thought and preparation that goes into the conception, development and execution of something that is delicious and memorable. I have my own set of values and processes that I stick to with Beurre, in the same way that I’m sure other pastry chefs and bakers will have developed for themselves.
Before I go on, I want to be clear that I’m not sitting here telling you to throw away your budget, because I don’t agree with that. Budgets are transparent, and I’m all about transparency. In my book, the budget is an integral part of the planning process for a wedding (or just adulting in general I guess?). This is more about having a fair idea of the value of what you are requesting for your cake.
Image by Selena McLaren Photography
Here we go.
When you contact me for a quote, I will ask you for your favourite flavours, and colours or themes that you would like me to incorporate into the desserts. I do this because I strongly believe in customisation. So yes, that will mean you and I will spend time to work closely together to create your perfect cake and or dessert table. It’s important to me that I create something specifically for you and your partner that is memorable. So, it will take me around 1 hour to put together some options for you based on the preferences you provided me.
Once the flavours and style are settled upon, I will then spend time sourcing the highest quality ingredients. Sometimes, there are also requests that are tricky, but an equally wonderful challenge for a pastry chef who celebrates all the flavours. Recently, a bride asked if it was possible to make a purple yam chiffon cake as one of her tiers, as she is half- Filipino. So off I went to Boxhill with my husband to look through about 4 different stores before I found what I needed (please be aware that I did scream ‘I’M THE YAM QUEEN’ when we eventually discovered it, much to the confusion of the market-goers around me).
Also, if you know me, you know that the only dirty word for me is the P word. Say it quietly so no one hears you…pre-mix. Everything in my kitchen, and dare I say plenty of other small-businesses, is handmade, from scratch, using the highest quality of ingredients. My batters, macarons, tarts, mixes, fillings; each of them is made by my hands.
I know that I’m a visual person, and my general experience with couples is that they also love and appreciate seeing what their cake will look like. So, I take around 30-40 minutes to do a hand-drawn, coloured sketch of your cake/dessert-to-be for the couple. I can hear some of you saying “she’s creating work for herself”, but this is my take on it: if a customer is visualising something different to what’s happening in my head (and often, Lord knows what’s happening in my head), then we have a problem. The sketch brings everyone to the same, cake-encrusted page. And I do it by hand for a couple of reasons; 1) I don’t do Adobe Illustrator well, but I can sketch, and 2) it’s a lovely memento for you to keep.
Image by Shevan J Photography
Prepping and baking time
Think anywhere between 5-10 hours to prepare and bake all the layers, fillings and toppings for a wedding cake, depending on its size.
Assembling and decorating
It usually takes somewhere between 1-3 hours to get the cakes and dessert looking beautiful. I’ll be the first to proclaim my love of flavour over anything else, but I also know that something needs to look as beautiful as it tastes because as everyone knows, we absolutely eat with our eyes.
Larger cakes can also require reinforcement through the cake, so that takes time too (those cake time-lapse videos you see on your feed all day aren’t a reliable indicator of how long it takes to build a cake, incase you had any doubts).
Image by Beurre
Packing, delivering & set up
Once the cute beasts are done, they are packed and set up for delivery. During deliveries, I have been known to look like a madwoman muttering to herself for the entire duration of the drive and set up. What’s really happening is that I am reciting every prayer I know, and making any bargain I can with God, to get me through this set up. Every precautionary step is taken to keep that cake stable and cool during transit. And then there’s the whole thing of getting to the venue, only to find there is no available fridge space for a cake or a bunch of desserts for a dessert table, regardless of them knowing that you’re arriving with said cake for um, just the casual wedding being held that day. All you can think is, “good job, event space, good job”.
Image by Beurre
I’m a pastry chef
I guess that heading kind of reads like Brick from Anchorman proclaiming, “I like to eat ice cream”. But my point is that a qualified pastry chef is making your desserts and cakes. Desserts and everything about them, understanding them, creating them; that’s what I do for a living. I moved to Paris to work in one of the most celebrated patisserie houses in the world to learn new skills and hone in on something that I care about. I am not going to ever hand over something that I am not proud of, because patisserie, whether I like it or not on some days, is intrinsically linked to who I am.
While this one is pretty self-explanatory, I can’t stop myself from saying this: just consider for a moment how you would feel if someone walked into your office, stood over your desk, and asked you to continue the hard work that you’re doing, but for less financial compensation. We can both make a fairly educated guess on how you would react to that. This is definitely one of the more difficult parts of owning your business. I love what I do, but at the end of the day, it is a business that is deserving of the respect and time that goes into growing it.
One final thing that I’d like to gently remind people of: keep in mind that the above points aren’t necessarily for an elaborate cake. A semi-naked cake, for example, is definitely a more affordable option that absolutely looks gorgeous and effective. However, while something like the semi-naked cake may look effortless, there is still so much effort and preparation that goes into making it. What I’m trying to get at here is that whether you want understated with florals or a glorious, one-of-a-kind masterpiece that Kimmy K would lust over, it all takes time. I completely understand that it’s not immediately clear what goes into a product like your dessert or cake, and in that way, it’s not always easy to discern an appropriate and fair financial expectation. Hopefully, however, this highlights the inner workings of what a high quality dessert business would provide on your wedding day, what we would do for you, and what we appreciate in return.
Ms Zigzag says: This is really important advice to share with engaged couples who are on the hunt for their perfect cake. A huge amount of care, expertise, love and time goes into creating your delicious masterpiece and you’ll need to factor that into your budget. Zahara, you are welcome to write for us anytime. We are loving your thoughtful blogs!
About the author Zahara Valibhoy of Beurre: We are constantly seeking to provide you with delicious, beautiful and creative desserts, be it a celebration cake or a range of decadent pâtisseries, to mark all the special events in your life. At the end of the day, we don’t just encourage gluttonous behaviour; we demand it.
More about Beurre and Zahara’s impressive experience here.