Guys! I have news.
I’m not going to make wedding cakes anymore.*
Took a while for me to come to that conclusion, and even longer to be able to put it into such a clear, declarative sentence. To give you a better idea of where I’m going, maybe I should start with where I’ve been…
13 years ago (lucky #13), I left my business degree and advertising job behind to become the PM dessert plater at the fanciest restaurant in Hartford, CT. I had absolutely no idea what I was doing. I just felt like if I didn’t give this a shot, I’d regret it the rest of my life. You only get to be young once, so why not throw my degree out the window (wish the loan bills could have gone with it), piss my parents off, and head into the kitchen. It ended up being a good call. A challenging, difficult, life-changing call, but a good one nonetheless.
I bounced around some even fancier kitchens in Boston before landing the pastry chef position at legendary Locke Ober. Learning experience of my life. If I didn’t know what I was doing plating desserts in Hartford, I had NO CLUE what I was doing as the pastry chef in a place like this. I walked in for my interview and saw the chef’s James Beard award hanging on the wall. I knew that was something good, but wasn’t quite sure exactly what it was or why. That’s exactly how clueless I was. Go ahead, you can be embarrassed for me.
After getting my ass soundly kicked for a few years, I headed to NH to head up a fancy-ish pastry kitchen. A real one with a team of platers, pastry cooks, and the best bread baker I’ve ever met. (I knew enough to just get out of her way and let her do her magic.) Restaurant life was beginning to take it’s toll at that point. I was engaged to marry the man of my dreams and I almost didn’t make it to our engagement party. One of my employees had a little problem showing up to work on time, or at all, or with all her brain cells intact.
My focus had shifted and I decided to leave the kitchen. I put that business degree to work and got what I thought was a big-girl-grown-up-job with benefits and set hours and no open flames or sharp objects. I made it to my wedding on time and with no burns on my arms, which was wonderful. But beyond that, I was miserable. I needed a way back. That’s when an email popped into my inbox promoting a sugar flower class in NYC with a cake making legend. I drove down and back to NYC every Saturday for a few weeks and soaked up every little bit of information possible. I had found my way back. Wild Orchid Baking Co. was born.
The shop took a few different forms over the years. Starting as a retail bakery, then refocusing to only do custom cakes, and then refocusing again to solely do wedding cakes. The business allowed me to do what I love and have a somewhat more normal schedule than working in a restaurant. Every day presented a new set of challenges and obstacles. Small business ownership is a fast way to learn what you’re made of. I can’t tell you how many of the early days ended with me in tears at my desk, wondering how I was going to pull this off and whether or not anyone but me cared. Slogging it out made absolutely no sense most of the time, but eventually the cards began to fall. I landed a mega-fancy wedding cake and caught the eye of a few well-known blogs and magazines. Things slowly got easier and survival turned to checking what I thought were impossible dream goals off of my list. Six years later the goal list had been cleared and I was doing exactly what I had set out to do.
While my business was growing, my family was growing too. My son arrived in a big freaking hurry in 2011 (prompting the end of retail) and now #2 is due to make her appearance early in May, 2015 (yay 🙂 ). Bakery life is a cake-walk compared to the fast paced restaurant world, but it’s still no picnic. Late nights, early mornings, Saturdays, and absolutely no flexibility on wedding days. I had grown accustomed to missing my own life events, but my kids’? Sorry, but no. Time for another change.
I’m out of the daily grind of the cake business, but I’m not out entirely. Not by a long shot. I’ve had the good fortune to write about and teach (and teach and teach) what I’ve learned along the way. My future in the kitchen will involve a lot more of that. It will also involve more than just cake. I specialized in order to adjust my working life to my personal life, but I never lost my love or passion for the rest of the baking world. Cookies, tarts, bars, custards, and more – momma’s coming back for ya!
I’m excited. I’m REALLY excited. I’ve got that nervous, pit-in-my-stomach fear thing going on, which most likely means this is the right thing to do. Part of this transition means more than just changing my daily routine, it means changing my business name as well. Wild Orchid Baking Co. = beautiful and delicious wedding cakes. I always want it to mean that. I worked too hard to mess with that now and want to leave that part of my history completely intact. I feel like it’s a luxury to be saying good bye with my head held high and my eyes turned forward, knowing full well that the majority of food business don’t end with the same warm and fuzzy feeling. This new frontier is more personal. More about bringing my kitchen and yours together. At the very core, what is it that I love to do? What is it that wakes me up in the middle of the night reeling with new ideas? I love to bake.
My website and social media pages will reveal more about this change in weeks and months to come. This new way of working will give me the opportunity to design without reservation, bake without constraint, and share with you what happens along the way. I could have kept this post short and sweet, “Hey guys! Not making cakes anymore. Follow my blog! Laters! xoxo”, but if you and I are going to really get to know each other, the explanation needed to be a little better than that.
Thank you to all of my customers over the years, to those who gave me a chance when I was completely unknown, and to everyone who has supported me and believed in me along the way.
The best is yet to come!
*I should specify – I’m not going to be in the wedding cake business anymore. I will still continue to design cakes, post cakes, and create tutorials, classes, and more, about cake and other baked goodies. You can’t get rid of me that easily. 😉