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How to Have Your Cake – And Decorate It, Too!

Tips for Adding Edible Artwork on Cakes

Sssshhhh! We Take The Cake reveals some of the secrets for transforming cakes and cupcakes into edible art.

Few things turn heads at a celebration like a show-stopping cake: the kind that looks so delectable that it makes even the most dedicated dieters unable to resist taking a bite.

Gone are the days when sprinkles and a few homemade frosting roses were enough to impress. TV shows like TLC’s “Cupcake Wars” and “Cake Boss” have set expectations high for desserts that are true works of edible art. At We Take The Cake, we carefully craft every sweet treat by hand to guarantee that they will wow your guests from the moment you lift them out of the box, from cakes covered top to bottom with elegant swirls of fluffy pink roses, to customized full-color printing that literally puts the icing on the cake with perfectly replicated illustrations, sayings, or corporate logos.

Customers constantly demand, “How do you do that?,” after feasting their eyes on our intricate creations. While our secret ingredient is the time and practiced care that we pour into every design, we are happy to share tips and tricks for trying your hand at the latest cake decorating trends that will help budding bakers learn to have their cake – and decorate it, too!

• Getting your grooves on. The key to those perfect grooves and ridges you see in frosting is a piping bag. You can choose from various piping tip sizes like regular, large, or jumbo, depending on the style you have in mind. Each tip also creates a different design, from lines to ruffles to flowers to basket weave patterns.

The secret to frosting with piping bags is applying constant pressure and moving in one fluid motion – it takes practice! We recommend practicing on flat boards and vertical surfaces to mimic what it’s like to pipe on cakes. Don’t forget to release pressure on the bag before you lift up.

• Easy stenciling. You don’t have to be a professional baker to decorate your cupcakes like one. Stencils make it almost effortless to produce artistic designs that are guaranteed to impress. Find a stencil that fits your occasion – maybe a flower for Mother’s Day or a baseball for a World Series party. Apply a layer of frosting and hold the stencil so it’s just over the cupcake. Then sprinkle a topping of your choice – colored sugar or cocoa work well – onto the stencil. Remove the stencil and repeat on another cupcake.

You can also use stencils to apply frosting designs. With the stencil directly flattened on the surface of your cake, apply icing over the top and smooth with a spatula. Do not let the stencil move! When the stencil is covered, carefully remove and repeat in other spots until you are happy with your decorated cake.

• Edible pictures. Using edible illustrations or corporate logos to customize your cakes always gets a big reaction. Nowadays even some home printers can print edible photos with the right materials, although bakeries have special printers that are only used for these creations.

If you have a digital photo file and the right printer, all you need is edible paper and edible ink. The earliest edible papers were made from rice, but now a variety of icing papers and frosting sheets are available. Non-toxic, edible inks print the photo onto these sheets with beautiful color – do not under any circumstances use regular ink! The sheets are designed to dissolve when placed on a moist surface – like the top of a frosted cake – making the photo look like it was printed directly onto your treat.

• Rainbows of color. No matter what other decorating methods you choose, color is an easy way to create eye-catching designs on cakes and cupcakes. A word to the wise: soft gel pastes are the best choice for mixing color, as the amount of liquid contained in regular food coloring will affect the consistency of icing or fondant. Powdery shimmer dusts are a fun way to add sparkle, and luster sprays and foils can provide a metallic sheen.

Some bakeries also use airbrushing systems, which allow you to add different layers, accents and dimensions of color to icing or fondant. At home, this might be an easier trick: adding a clear, alcohol-based liquid like vodka to gel paste creates a paint that can be applied by hand to fondant cakes with food-safe brushes. The alcohol evaporates but allows for a smooth mixture that creates beautiful designs.

• Getting in shape. Shaped and sculpted decorations transform sweet treats into edible works of art. Materials such as fondant, modeling chocolate, marzipan, and gum paste can be used to sculpt flowers, animals, people, and an abundance of other shapes.

Although you can create these decorations by hand, one of the simplest ways to make them is with metal or plastic cutters that punch out shapes in the material you choose. Molds made from food-grade silicone are another easy choice. If you are using fondant, for example, simply fill the mold, wipe excess material from the back, and then remove the sculpted shape inversely with your hands and fingers. If it does not come out easily, putting the mold in the freezer for a short time should do the trick. Finally, fondant and gum paste tools can be used to add features, details and dimension to your sculptures.

• The crowning jewel. Although most people outside the baking industry have never heard of it, cake decorators experienced in sugar are creating eye-popping designs out of isomalt, a sugar substitute that can be molded to resemble glass and stones when heated to a high temperature. It is an excellent way to create design elements for cakes that look better with a clear color, such as sparkling gem stones, windows for gingerbread houses and intricate mosaics.

Isomalt can be sculpted or molded into almost any shape, but it is important to use molds that can withstand very high heat, and to avoid plastic molds that are likely to warp or melt. A note of caution: you must take special care to work carefully and safely with this medium so you don’t get burned.

• Another dimension. Although this trick can’t yet be replicated at home, we thought it would be fun to provide a sneak peek of the future of cake decorating: 3D printing. In the fall, CSM Bakery Solutions and 3D Systems Corp. inked a deal to bring the first 3D printers, products, and materials to the bakery and food markets. That means professional cake decorators will soon have the ability to create full-color, bespoke confections with sky’s-the-limit applications, from sculptural, ornate cake and cupcake toppers to delicate latticework to logo sugar cubes. At the National Restaurant Association Show in Chicago, creators of this amazing new technology dazzled attendants with a dessert cake topped with a 3D-printed coconut shell, 3D-printed candy boxes, a 3D-printed skull covered in chocolate and a 3D honeycomb constructed entirely from honey.

Although the technology seems magical, the ingredients used to print 3D food confections are actually quite common: sugar, salt, oil, and water. Flavor can be added with dehydrated fruit, floral or nut essence. At a rate of two vertical inches an hour, these printers will make imagination the only limit to cake decorating.

Cake decorating is a fun way to dazzle your guests and connect with your creative side. By following our tips and tricks, you can learn to transform cakes and cupcakes into edible art that turns every head as you bring it across the room. We Take The Cake’s gorgeous, hand-crafted designs have delighted recipients for more than 15 years – even drawing the attention of Oprah Winfrey, who named our Famous Key Lime Bundt Cake as one of “Oprah’s Favorite Things.” Of course, the best part is that these beautiful creations taste just as good as they look – although make sure you take plenty of pictures before you dig in!

 At We Take The Cake, we understand the personal touch. For over twenty years, we’ve continued to craft each cake by hand using only the finest ingredients. We are proud to include among our customers nationally recognized caterers, party planners, private clubs, world-famous hotels and exclusive resorts. If you’d like to know everything we can offer, drop by our contact page and get in touch!

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Feeling guilty about those long-distance family relationships?

Best gifts for long-distance family and friends

Tips for showing those far-away loved ones they’re always on your mind.

Maintaining relationships is tough, especially when they’re going up against a busy work schedule, maintaining the house, and taking care of children and/or parents. And if your children or parents live far away from you, it requires even more effort and attention. With today’s technology, you would think staying in touch would be a little easier. However, with easy communication comes too much of it! So much in fact, that it starts to feel impersonal.

For friends and family that are long-distance, writing a post on their social media or sending a text doesn’t feel like enough. In these cases, it’s actually more effective to communicate the snail mail way, by sending thoughtful and meaningful gifts that can reignite that connection with a loved one. Here are a few ideas that can help you feel closer to your far away family members.

Rather than sending gifts for the holidays, focus on giving random gifts to far away family

Family and friends have come to expect the routine holiday gift. Even if the gift is thoughtful, the idea of gift giving over the holidays has become almost something you have to do. To show family that you’re thinking of them when you want to, rather than have to, try sending gifts to your far away family “just because.” This way, it comes as a surprise to them and will inspire them to make time for a catch-up call.

We Take The Cake customer LuAnn Lanke decided to send a triple chocolate Bundt cake as a surprise gift to friends who had helped her with a project. “They were delighted! Not only was the cake delicious, the presentation is wonderful and made our friends feel special. It was a perfect surprise.”

Leverage a personal touch for your long-distance family with a customized gift

The Internet has afforded us the opportunity to get almost anything customized these days. If your son is a sports fan in college, for example, you have the ability to order him a jersey from his favorite sports team with his name inserted on the back just like the pros! The personal touch makes the gift something unique, made especially for the person receiving the gift.

The trick to making it thoughtful is to think of a funny memory or a favorite hobby of your far away family member and play off that memory or hobby with something custom. You can add artwork from a certain memory to food, clothing, and even coffee mugs. There are so many ways to get creative and make sure it’s clear that your gift was made especially for them!

If you can’t be there in the present, a tasty treat can still leave family talking

The old adage is true, “they may forget what you said, but they’ll never forget how you made them feel.” And what greater feeling than one that comes after enjoying a mouth-watering, tasty sweet? Cakes, cupcakes, and other scrumptious desserts are the perfect gift for celebrating when you can’t be there.

Just ask Joanne Taylor from Michigan – “I sent a cake to my son in college for his birthday, and not only did he love the surprise but a week later I received a text saying, “I think this is the best cake I have ever eaten…Send me another one soon!”

The best gifts can start new tradition with far away friends and family

Taking the “sending random gifts” idea one step further, a way to develop a closer bond with far away family throughout the year could come from starting a tradition of celebrating one of those crazy national holidays. While they might feel like they only exist for social media, why not bring these wacky holidays into the real world?

National Best Friend Day sounds like the perfect excuse to let a dear friend know you’re thinking about them and put a smile on their face with an unexpected and thoughtful gift. Or perhaps your aunt who you only see once a year loves strawberries. Why not use National Strawberry Day to start a tradition of sending fun and unique strawberry gifts back and forth each year? It’s unique spins on gift giving like these that make your relationships feel closer than distance has us believe.

We Take The Cake takes the stress and prep out of your far away gift giving

At We Take The Cake, cake isn’t just a dessert. It’s a symbol of celebration, happiness, friends, and family. We pride ourselves on perfecting our craft, sure, but it’s the smile we put on your loved one’s faces that make our dreams become a reality.

It’s easy to get busy, overwhelmed, and caught up in your own to-do list that you oftentimes forget what day it is, much less a loved one’s birthday. And even if you don’t want it to be, shopping for the right gift can feel like a daunting and time-consuming task. But that’s where we come in!

We take the headaches and stress out of finding the perfect gift and we put it into a delicious, beautiful cake! Whether it’s for a birthday or just because, all you have to do is choose your sweet of choice, fill out the details, and let us take care of making your loved one smile.

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Clean Label – A Clearer Understanding of What It Is

Clarifying What Clean Label Means for Your Food

The term can get messy when it comes to food transparency.

Our usual worries over fat, salt, and sugar content now have another troublesome additive: confusion. Mystery about the overall contents of our food has us worried as a nation. A recent poll discovered that as little as 13% of respondents actually read food labels, but the majority know we’re not getting the full story. They want clear, honest food labeling.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) made a controversial move in 2017 by giving food manufacturers extended time to meet public demand: from 2018 to 2020. This hampers us being aware of what we’re eating. A very unhealthy delay!

In the meantime, the Clean Label (CL) movement is trying to help consumers understand what they’re consuming. Here’s a closer look at what it is, the obstacles it faces, and the benefits it’s trying to bring to grocery carts.

Clean Label means straight talking

One of the views of clean enthusiasts is this: if an ingredient can’t be pronounced, it shouldn’t be in food. Clean Label wants ingredients to be simple and natural: things the public can recognize and understand. For instance, it’s fine when our bread contains wheat, flour, and yeast. When it also contains azodicarbonamide (found in shoe soles and yoga mats), people get concerned.

From food colorings also used in cosmetics to high fructose corn syrup, so many of our daily foods are under the spotlight. How much butylated hydroxytoluene do you like with your snacks? We’re not sure, either.

Potentially harmful, hard to understand ingredients lurk in every sector of the food industry. Frustratingly, there’s scientific debate that attacks and defends the same ingredient. This leaves the average shopper unsure of what to think.

Go Clean LabelTM offers this by-category list of what’s deemed safe by their food partners…but does that make it the definitive last word?

Is clean labeling itself totally clear?

Here’s an issue with Clean Label: there’s no solid definition on what’s “clean” and what it isn’t. As a resource, the Clean Label movement itself doesn’t claim to be a judge of what’s good or bad; it’s simply a source of current information and attitudes in the food industry.

Companies like Aldi, Whole Foods, Trader Joe’s, and Panera are all involved in the clean movement. When they deem an ingredient undesirable, they publish this on the Go Clean Label website. From there, the public can see what’s accepted by these big companies and what isn’t.

It isn’t just the consumer who’s confused

Generally, there’s a favoring of organic foods, natural ingredients, and items free from artificial additives. Clean Label acknowledges that the word “natural” is a really hard one to pin down. People like it, but there’s no real understanding of what it means. The FDA isn’t too firm on the word either and asked for public input to help them define it.

The same applies to the word “clean.” Some food labeling agencies will mark a product clean as long as there’s no environmental impact from its production. You may be eating all kinds of harmful ingredients, yet your food could still be called clean.

Food considered organic isn’t regulated by the FDA. It’s overseen by the Department of Agriculture via the National Organic Program. They’re the ones who set the national standard.

Does Clean Label mean consumers pay more?

Much like the costlier organic alternative to standard produce, Clean foods are expected to be more expensive. The required increase in labor intensity to produce foods to this higher standard (and not cut corners chemically like their competitors) is one factor expected to drive costs higher.

When the raw materials are more expensive, the manufacturers and bakeries who utilize them will have to foot the bill and, if they want to stay in business, are likely pass that price hike along in some way to the consumer.

As CL gathers steam toward becoming an industry standard, businesses will have to incorporate new visual adherence into their products. This will involve the designing and deployment of new product labels and promotional materials: another company expense that may make Clean Label products cost more.

The use of promotional materials will be of particular importance as consumers become warier of what they eat and drink. The company who spends more to demonstrate their Clean Label credentials will put their customers’ minds at ease. They will also have a bigger bite taken out of their profits to promote it in the first place.

As meat, dairy, and crop farmers are gradually affected by the shift toward Clean Label, they may have to alter their operational procedures to ensure compliance. It’s a cost trade off that carries its own risks. Will these farmers get in line and risk pricing their product too high? Even if their produce still sells, it creates an increased expense chain that reaches from the field to the food aisle.

Ultimately, the question is: will consumers be willing to pay more for peace of mind? You may like to review this resource from the Agricultural Utilization Research Institute that cautions consumers against the likely increase in cost of Clean Label ingredients.

Consumers could shape the future

As a result of all these varying attitudes and regulatory bodies, Clean Label isn’t any kind of industry standard…yet. Consumer concern about ingredients is forcing the food industry to sit up and take notice however, and that’s adding a lot of power to the Clean Label movement’s status and influence.

Since they’re the ones at risk, shouldn’t the public have the last say on what they want to eat? This seems to be the way things are going. Go Clean Label’s founders see the future as a collaboration between themselves, food providers, and the public.

Conscientious Leverage

The journey there means “clean” will become something more than just healthy ingredients. People’s social beliefs are becoming a factor, too. Everyone wants a clean conscience from their food. Was the environment harmed? Were the people or animals involved in production treated humanely?

As a company, We Take The Cake believes in the purest food possible. Even though our cakes aren’t Clean Label, we use only the finest ingredients with the minimum of additives.  It’s important to remember as the clean movement progresses that the lack of Clean Label doesn’t certify that any ingredient has a negative effect.

As our health concerns and our principles start to dictate our choices (and the companies who provide them), we truly are becoming what we eat.

Conclusion

The foggy definition of what’s clean isn’t going to last. When everyone understands the information and has their say, a final Clean Label will very likely be created. As things are, organizations like Go Clean Label are good resources, and the ongoing mixture of industry opinion and consumer concern is a healthy recipe. It will turn tomorrow’s Clean Label into something with a conscience, and our food into something we can trust.

At We Take The Cake, what you eat means the world to us. For over twenty years, we’ve continued to craft each cake by hand using only the finest ingredients. We’re proud to include among our customers nationally recognized caterers, party planners, private clubs, world-famous hotels, and exclusive resorts. Find out more about our delicious cakes for any occasion.

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6 Reasons Why Direct Mail Marketing Is Still Viable in the Digital Age

6 Reasons Why Direct Mail Marketing Is Still Viable in the Digital Age

The death of direct mail may be exaggerated.

Technology continues to make certain things in the business world obsolete. One tool that has been used effectively by marketers for decades is direct mail. Over last few years, there have been repeated rumblings that direct mail has been replaced by digital ads and email. However, this is not the case according to many experts. In fact, direct mail might even yield better results than other marketing channels.

“…In its response rate report, the Direct Marketing Association (DMA)…found that direct mail achieves a 4.4% response rate, compared to 0.12% for email,” according to a Forbes article.

Here is some other data according to the DMA analysis:

  • Direct mail has a response rate of up to 10 to 30 times that of email — and even higher when compared to online display
  • Display ads converted only 6% as a result of the immediate “click”

6 reasons why direct mail provides strong return on investment (ROI) 

 1. Direct mail cuts through the clutter.

Some experts believe that direct mail may actually be a better way to cut through the advertising clutter. “Consumers, overwhelmed by inboxes cluttered with unsolicited marketing emails, are more receptive to direct mail, which arrives on a much less-cluttered channel,” according to Forbes Magazine.

2. Direct mail is tangible and solid.

We live in a world where so much is accomplished via a screen of some kind, from online shopping to texting and a barrage of emails, direct messages, and pinging announcements. It’s easy to get in the habit of ignoring this barrage of cyber messages. Mail and packages are things you can hold; they have weight and substance.

In fact, there is an emotional component attached to an object you can touch and feel. “60% said this effect made a more lasting mental impression on them, making it easier to recall later on. 57% of respondents said that postcard marketing makes them feel more valued and creates a more authentic relationship,” according to Forbes.

3. Direct mail leads to action.

Have you ever read an email on a computer screen and then promptly forgotten the contents a moment later? It’s not just you. A report by the U.S. Post Office tracked eye-movement and biometric measures when subjects read both digital and direct mail advertisements. The results showed that the participants who read physical ads had a more positive response toward the promoted item.

4. People still like to receive mail.

Don’t we all get a little thrill when we go to the mailbox and find it’s full? According to a Gallup Poll, you’re not alone. “In a world of email, texts and social media, 41% of Americans look forward to checking what is in their mailbox each day. Americans 65 and older are more likely than younger adults to enjoy checking the mail, but 36% of Americans under 30 also feel this way.”

The last group includes the all-important Millennials. It’s easy to assume this generation – which was raised in the era of smartphones – would reject something as “traditional” as mail, but that’s not precisely true. “95% of 18-29 year-olds have a positive response to receiving personal cards and letters,” according to Forbes.

5. Direct mail helps build brand awareness.

You shouldn’t ignore social media and digital advertising as a way to build your brand, but neither do you have to abandon traditional marketing methods like direct mail. In fact, direct mail can be a great compliment to a campaign. “There is less direct mail going out than ever before and with nearly 80% of consumers saying they will open all their postal mail (including the so-called ‘junk mail’) you can be almost certain that your message will end up with the right eyes on it and less competition with it,” according to a Huffington Post article.

6. Direct mail will always be “low tech”.

It’s important to remember that not everyone embraces technology. A fairly high percentage of adults over age 65 (around 41%) still do not use the Internet at all. According to Huffington Post, “For marketers, that’s a huge segment that cannot be targeted using PPC, email or social media. Direct mail allows you to keep your offers open to all audiences rather than just the majority who fit your online strategy.”

As the numbers show, direct mail is definitely not dead. In fact, finding unique ways to connect with prospects can lead to better engagement, as you surprise them with something tangible. At We Take The Cake, we encourage our clients to cut through the digital clutter with a gift of delicious, fresh-made cake. We believe that food – and particularly cake – creates a bond between people and a lasting impression. Whether you’re trying to reach new customers, launch a new product, or show appreciation to employees, there’s something special about receiving a one-of-a-kind creation that sparks delight and shows them you care.