Cake designers are creative bakers, designing and executing works of art out of cake and frosting for a variety of special occasions. Cake design involves accurate measuring, mixing, and baking, as well as embellishing cakes with frosting and decorations. Many hours may be spent standing, and stress might occur when faced with challenging cake designs and hovering deadlines.
This job requires training and experience as a baker and pastry chef. Aspiring cake designers can learn through an apprenticeship or by earning a degree in baking or the culinary arts.
While the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics does not provide employment and pay information specific to cake designers, it has predicted a 7%, or average, growth in jobs for bakers between 2014 and 2024.
|Degree Level||Associate's or bachelor's degree (preferred but not required)|
|Degree Field||Pastry and baking|
|Certification||Optional certification through Retail Bakers of America; food handler's card sometimes required|
|Experience||On-the-job training available|
|Key Skills||Culinary mathematics, skilled with commercial kitchen equipment, knowledge of ingredients, physical strength (lift up to 50 lbs and stand up to 8 hours daily)|
|Salary*||$24,170 (2015 median annual salary for bakers)|
Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Cake decorator job postings (October 2012), Retail Bakers of America, O*Net Online.
Step 1: Pastry Education
For aspiring cake designers who choose a formal education, both associate's and bachelor's degree programs in baking or the culinary arts are available. Programs teach the essentials of baking and the pastry arts, including preparation and presentation, 2-D and 3-D design, baking ingredients, culinary math, and equipment technology. They also include introductory coursework in the basics of cake making, such as creaming and blending for filled and unfilled cakes, tortes, and bombes.
In a baking and pastry arts program, students also explore the techniques and equipment used for specialty and assembled cakes, like wedding cakes, and decorative processes involving the use of chocolate, gumpaste, and pastillage. Some programs include the opportunity for a supervised internship at a local bakery, hotel, or restaurant.
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Step 2: Food Handler's Card
Although regulations vary by state and county, training in the safe handling of food may be required to work in establishments that prepare and/or serve food. Training usually covers basic food safety rules, temperatures and times for storing and cooking food, sanitation and cleaning in food areas, avoiding cross contamination, and personal hygiene. Upon completion of training and an exam, applicants are awarded a food handler's card. Courses may be available online.
Step 3: Experience
Employers prefer to hire experienced cake designers; however, even without pursuing a college degree, aspiring cake designers can learn the craft. Many bakeries and grocery stores have their own internal apprenticeship programs through which students can receive on-the-job training in cake design and advance to more skilled activities and/or positions as they learn. Those who have earned a degree also benefit from the practical experience gained working in a bakery setting.
- Build a portfolio. Prospective employers may ask to see a portfolio of cake design photos. Sometimes students start portfolios while in school, but any aspiring cake baker can build a portfolio of personal or work projects.
Although optional, a professional certification provides proof of competence in retail baking. The Retail Bakers of America (RBA) offers the Certified Journey Baker (CJB) designation, which requires 2,000 hours experience or 1 year of combined education and 1,000 hours of professional experience. Candidates must also pass RBA's written exam. The Certified Decorator (CD) requires 4 years of commercial decorating experience, completion of a food sanitation course, and a passing score on the practical test.
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An apprenticeship or formal degree program in baking and pastry arts can help you prepare for a career as a cake designer. As of May 2015, bakers in general earned a median annual salary of $24,170.