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Give Cake That Wow Factor with Edible Flowers

Budding bakers are using flower power to create cakes that look as good as they taste

Budding bakers are using flower power to create cakes that look as good as they taste.

Spring is in the air and adding a little flower power to cakes and cupcakes is the perfect way to celebrate the season.

Edible flowers are an easy way to add beauty and flair to any dessert. Scroll through any baking board on Pinterest and pictures abound of cakes in bloom with spectacular flower decorations. At We Take The Cake, our pink rose chocolate layer cake is a best-selling way for customers to brighten the day of someone they love.

Our talented cake artists carefully craft each of our intricate designs by hand to ensure that our desserts look as good as they taste. But even budding bakers can create beautiful floral decorations from an array of tasty materials, from chocolate to gumdrops to real flowers from your garden. Read on as we share some simple ways to create a bouquet of edible flowers that are guaranteed to make happiness bloom in the bellies of your guests.

 1.  Everything is better with chocolate. Modeling chocolate is one of the simplest – and tastiest – ways to make flowers for cakes. Unlike fondant, which can be stubbornly chunky, modeling chocolate is easy to make as thin as real flower petals. You don’t really need any special tools or cutters – you can just work it in your hands until it becomes flexible, and then let your imagination take over. If the chocolate gets too warm and melty from your touch, put it in the fridge briefly to firm up. You can also follow these directions for simple flower decorations:

  • Roll the chocolate out. It can tear easily, so it’s wise to dust your hands and work surfaces with cornstarch to stop it from sticking.
  • Use cutters to punch out flower shapes. If the chocolate sticks in the cutter, gently press the center with a round tool, like the back end of a paintbrush.
  • Rub a cake decorator’s double-ended ball tool in a circular motion over the petals to thin them out and make them curl slightly inwards. Finally, press the ball tool into the center of the flower and rub again in a circle, so it assumes a concave shape as if it’s budding.
  • It’s best to store the flowers in something small and curved, like silicone molds, so they dry in the curved shape. They can also dry on parchment paper, but they won’t stay as curled.
  • After the flowers set for an hour, they can be “glued” to your cake with a dot of frosting. Try to work quickly because chocolate flowers will melt if handled too much. Once all the flowers are in place, pipe a small dot of frosting into the center of each one to complete your design. For extra flair, add some sparkle with edible gold dust.

2.  Not just a pipe dream. Piping can be intimidating to beginners – it takes planning, practice, and patience to get it right. Follow these steps to make sure your decorations come up smelling – or in this case looking – like roses:

  • Cut the tip of your piping bag so that only your piping tip can poke through. Different size tips can be used, depending upon the size of the rose you want.
  • Fill the bag with buttercream frosting. Without letting any come out the tip, squeeze the icing down to remove any air bubbles as if you’re trying to get the last bit of toothpaste out of a tube. The consistency of the frosting is key to successful piping!
  • Roll the top of the bag closed. You can also twist it, but we find it’s hard to keep the icing from coming out the top when you seal it that way.
  • Make a little Hershey kiss-like dab in the center of the spot you want your rose to go. Bring the icing up and over the dab, and then swirl it around the dab a few times until your rose is complete. Release pressure on the bag toward the end and use a toothpick to gently attach the last bit to the side of your flower if it sticks out when you pull away.

3.  Do drop in. Shaping edible roses out of gumdrops is an easy yet surprisingly elegant way to decorate a cake. Try this trick from the queen of DIY, Martha Stewart:

  • Lightly dust a work surface with granulated sugar. Take three gumdrops of the same color and flatten them slightly with your thumb. Roll them out until they are about 1/8-inch thick. Sprinkle with more sugar if they stick.
  • Use a paring knife to cut each flattened gumdrop in half so that you wind up with six equal pieces.
  • Using your fingers, take a half and roll it into a cylinder, pinching at one end. This will form the center of the flower.
  • Use your fingers to press the edges of the other pieces so that they become thinner and easier to attach. Then wrap each piece around the centerpiece, overlapping slightly and pinching at the base so they all stick together.
  • Bend some of the petals back to make your creation resemble a rose.
  • Use the paring knife to trim the bottom of your rose, forming a flat base that will allow it to sit up on your cake. Arrange on top of a frosted cake. You can also shape green gumdrops with your paring knife to create leaves for your rose.

4.  Fun with fondant. Fondant flowers are a popular way for amateur bakers to add a creative touch to cakes for any occasion, from birthday bashes to weddings.

  • Dust your work surface and your hands with cornstarch and roll out the fondant. If the fondant is too hard, place it in the microwave for about 10 seconds until it softens. If it’s dry, knead it with your hands. Try to work quickly – fondant dries fast! Cover parts you aren’t using with nylon to keep it from drying out.
  • Use flower-shaped cutters to punch out small and large flower shapes. Then use a skewer – and your imagination – to carve pretty details into the petals of large flowers, or a toothpick to decorate smaller ones.
  • Let your flowers dry in a small curved bowl such as a clean egg container to give them a concave shape.
  • Being careful not to over-moisten, use water to glue each small flower on top of a larger one to create a multi-layer effect. Glue the finished flowers with water onto your cake.

5.  A rose by any other name won’t smell as sweet. Flowers don’t need to be fashioned from sugary materials to decorate a cake. One of the hottest trends in cake decorating is using real fresh flowers that are safe to eat to add a beautiful, vibrant quality to any dessert. Of course, before you start tossing flowers onto your plate, there are a few rules to remember. Not all flowers are edible – in fact, some are poisonous – and many are sprayed with pesticides and fertilizers. Be sure to check where your flowers are sourced and what conditions they were grown in before you eat them. And even when you are sure they are safe, make sure you wash them!

  • Flowers from herbs, violets, nasturtiums, and roses offer the best flavors. You can also create candied flowers by brushing fresh or pressed flowers with egg whites or moistened meringue powder, and then sprinkling with confectioners’ or decorating sugar. It is generally recommended to remove the pistil and stamen before serving since many people are allergic to pollen. You should also wrap the stems in floral tape if you leave them for attachment purposes because the sap inside can be irritating or even poisonous. Make sure your guests know not to eat that part!
  • There are several ways to add fresh flowers to cakes. Edible petals can be put right on the cake, or you can insert the stems into lollipop sticks and poke those into the cake in whatever pattern you choose – this way, the stems don’t come in direct contact with your food. You can also place a sheet of parchment across the top of your cake and load a beautiful pile of flowers on top, so they don’t sink into the frosting. Creative chefs are using fresh flowers to separate cake tiers – artfully hiding dividers and giving your cake a light, gravity-defying look. No matter what method you choose, it’s important to wait to pop your flowers onto the cake just before serving, so they don’t wilt.

Edible flowers are an easy way for budding bakers to create beautiful cakes. At We Take The Cake, we know the presentation of a dessert matter as much as the taste. For over 20 years, our professional decorators have beautifully crafted each of our cakes by hand using only the finest ingredients. We take pride in going the extra mile to deliver that wow factor that makes our customers proud they chose us to create the gift that keeps people talking long after their celebration is over.

At We Take The Cake, we understand the personal touch. When you can’t be there to celebrate in person, we make it easy to delight your family, friends, and colleagues with our made-from-scratch cakes. We are proud to include among our customer’s nationally recognized caterers, party planners, private clubs, world-famous hotels, and exclusive resorts. We also have exclusive cake designs available through Williams Sonoma, Neiman Marcus, and FoodyDirect. If you’d like to know everything we can offer, drop by our contact page and get in touch!

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Business Gifting Unveiled

Gifting in the corporate arena is an art: here’s how to get it right

Gifting in the corporate arena is treacherous: here’s how to get it right.

Have you ever received an unexpected, but perfect gift? It grants a certain intellectual grace and charm to the giver. In contrast, poorly executed gifting can drain even the most generous intentions into the depths of ill-conception and social ineptness. When it comes to business, it’s not the thought that counts, it’s when and what you give.

“Should we send them a gift?”

Let’s start off by addressing the little secret everyone tries to ignore: corporate gifting is a business transaction. Whether the gift is to a client or employee, it’s an attempt to gain favor in hopes of promoting future exchanges. However, an appropriately timed gift can transcend those obvious motives, bringing the gesture into the realm of sincere gratitude for both parties.

Gifting inappropriately can inadvertently blare out hidden intentions or just make you look foolish. Here are 6 common gift-worthy events in business relations:

1. When you’re a benefactor. Whether it is a new sales contract, a business referral, or customer loyalty, gifting can help establish a tone of respect and appreciation.

2. In recognition.Sometimes it’s not about what a client or partnering business has done for you, but how they’ve contributed to the community. For example, if a product manufacturer announced a commitment to zero waste, farming partners might consider sending a gift recognizing those efforts. This gesture expresses respect and lets them know you’re paying attention and keeps your company on their minds

3. When they’ve gone above and beyond. Maybe a company you contracted has put in a month of 70-hour work weeks to meet your deadline. Or, your chef-client took the time to talk to your daughter about what to look for in a culinary school. A “thank you” is nice, but probably too simple to represent the value of their efforts properly.

4. In celebration. The best business relationships are symbiotic, take, for instance, a vendor reaching their sales goals for your product. Why not sweeten your shared-success with a custom, handmade gift? In addition, sending a birthday cake is a warm-fuzzy way of showing your appreciation for their presence in your life.

5. When introducing yourself. A thoughtful gift can take the chill out of cold-calling. Rare is a human heart too hardened to accept your call after sending them a delightful treat!

6. Direct advertising. In this case, the veil is entirely decamped. Let’s say you want to announce a new product or service or bring attention to an event your company is involved in. You could email them or send a card that they may or may not see. A gift, on the other hand, tends to stand out, and linger in the air, as word of the gesture passes from tongue to tongue, prompting questions of “who?” and, most importantly, “why?”

Business gifting ideas

Recognizing the proper moment to give a gift could be considered the “easy part.” Giving the right gift is tricky. Before exploring some suggestions, it’s important to evaluate what type of gift to give.

In some cases, determining what to give is going to be based on your relationship with the recipient. In others, it can be industry based – expensive gifts may be considered unethical and therefore returned. If you’re unclear, whenever possible, inquire with the recipient’s management.

Aside from industry-specific ethics, there are also a few gifting no-nos to steer clear of:

  • Don’t mark your territory. Putting your logo or company name on a gift magically transforms the object into a promotion, rather than a gift.
  • Be mindful of holidays. Christmas is the most obvious example of this. It’s not a matter of being politically correct, or even offending someone – assuming cultural alignments reflects an unflattering lack of mindfulness and knowledge about your client.
  • Giving money is an insulting cop-out. While getting money from your aunt on your birthday is always a loving gesture, it’s nowhere near appropriate in business. For one, you don’t want to suggest they need your money. Secondly, it lacks a personal touch that says you care about the business relationship, and that’s the last impression you want to create with your gift.

Now that we’ve covered some general “no-nos,” here’s a list of “yeah-yeahs!”:

How to make it special

A quality gift makes a personal connection with the recipient – even in business. At We Take the Cake, gifts are our business. From our famous key-lime Bundt cake to our eye-catching cupcakes and layer cakes, a custom cake from our bakery is sure to be well received.

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Stay Connected with Your College Kids

Stay Connected with Your College Kids on wetakethecake.com

Enjoy mothering while avoiding hovering.

They say, “Nature abhors a vacuum,” but that’s nothing compared to being a mom. When your children go off to college, it doesn’t matter how involved you get with preparation, financial and travel arrangements and all the moving parts of getting them safely to campus. Once they’re gone, it can be a tough time for both parties.

The distance is, of course, the problem … or should we say “was”? The modern age has turned distance into an ever-shrinking concept. Technology can provide voices and faces from around the world in moments, and the sheer speed of some modern postal options aren’t far behind.

There’s a wealth of ways to stay connected with a child while they’re out in the world studying. With a little finesse and a whole lot of care, you can be there in every important way. What’s more, you have the chance to exercise your imagination and communicate in ways you may never have tried.

Don’t Panic

There’s some short and sweet advice that will fit well into every area of life, especially when the nest is empty. Your child is off on a journey now, both literally and figuratively, so you have to give them space to travel. Now isn’t the time to over-communicate because they’re going to need all their wits about them. A host of new distractions will be competing for their attention.

Let your child have space to get to college and settle in. There’s no telling how long this will take, but it’s certain they will need all their focus to do it. This means they may not be able to answer calls or may forget to make one to you in the first place.

Don’t panic! This is a natural process, and your child will be thankful they had the space to do what they needed. When they do get in touch, don’t be anxious or annoyed. Your child will equate you feeling bad with them not communicating as you want them to. This will only add pressure when they’re already dealing with a lot.

Let them get in touch when their new schedule allows and make full use of the electronic options at your fingertips.

The Megabyte Mom

Parents are rightly concerned with how much time their kids spend glued to their various digital devices. It’s never out of their hands, away from their ear or not vibrating in their pocket. The good news is that those factors can become a big relief while your child is on campus.

The number of young people aged 18-29 in possession of a cell phone of some kind is 100%, and that little device is always with them. Their cell phone is designed to take in lots of texts, photos, and calls. You won’t be bothering them if you send them a text every day or a photo of anything fun or interesting from back home.

Unlike the past where kids would have to schedule phone time with a parent, you can reach them anywhere, anytime. There’s always the comfort of knowing that even if they don’t answer immediately, you can leave a message.

Video calling is also an excellent way to interact in real-time with your kids. It doesn’t have to last long, and, again, you can see each other anywhere  – as long as it’s not when driving! Don’t forget social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. Social media makes it even easier to make that immediate connection with your children.

The Human Touch

The immediacy of technology is wonderful, but there’s something about a written letter that will always make it superior. What is that “something”? It’s the human touch. Your child will be able to hold something you’ve held, see the uniqueness of your handwriting, and be able to hold the letter to their heart.

A hand-written letter is a part of you and a tangible link to home. It’s a deeper form of communication that frees a parent from the clipped text-speak of a quick email or social media post. Your self-expression will be unabbreviated, and so will the happiness of your child as they read it through.

Hand-writing letters can also improve your health. If being apart is making you and your child sad, picking up that pen can boost your mood back into the positive. Psychological research in human development and family studies has shown the link between the written expression of gratitude and important matters, and the resulting improvement in our emotional state.

Remember, the longer the letter, the better! If you feel there isn’t much to tell this time around, then you could include a photograph, a greeting card or better yet, a present of some kind.

Which leads us to our next suggestion.

The Sweet Truth

Nothing is trivial when you’re a parent. A mother may be concerned that she’s overly fussy with her child who, in turn, may be annoyed by the fussing. She can, however, count on one ever-reliable truth: kids love presents. Everyone does, and something else we all love is something sweet from time to time.

It may be your child’s birthday. Maybe it’s a notable calendar day. Being in college by itself generates plenty of cause for celebration (moving in, good results in class, graduation, and so forth). The best reason, of course, is just because you care.

A handmade cake crafted with attention and love will remind your child you’re thinking of them in the same way. It’s always a joy to receive a surprise package in the mail. It makes us feel special. When the contents are every bit as sweet and unique as the sender, it’s simply something extra-special.

As one of our customers put it, “This was my daughter’s first birthday away from home, I wanted to make is special. Our daughter said the cake was perfect.”

As successful parents, we see the best of us in our children. By association, any gift we give reflects the same. Granting our children the benefit of a college education is a wonderful thing. So is the fine art of attentive and considerate parenting. This involves many gifts. The gift of time, of space, and always keeping our place in their hearts warm.

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. If you’d like to know everything we can offer, drop by and get in touch!

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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.

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Media and Public Relations in the Digital Age

Media and Public Relations in the Digital Age

Why there’s still plenty of room for the personal touch in cyberspace.

If you caught our previous post on the power of communication, you know the importance of media and public relations isn’t lost on us. Making the right impression and building positive relationships are essential in every walk of life, and doubly so for business. In the digital age, the opportunities to excel at both are fantastic.

However, even amid the vast arena of cyberspace, there’s still a place for more traditional ways to connect. Read on for our insight into entering the spotlight, influencing people, and maybe even making some friends along the way.

Public relations and the art of blogging

The humble blog is one of the most powerful tools in the public relations toolbox. They’re an incredibly versatile way to package your thoughts, ideas, and identity in a personalized way. The world is estimated to contain a billion websites, with 350 million of those being blogs on the Tumblr platform alone. A further 12 million people blog in various capacities via other social media platforms like Facebook. For a business looking to promote themselves, the benefits of a blog are huge:

  • The average company with a blog receives 97% more inbound links
  • Websites that contain a blog have 434% more indexed pages
  • Blogs lead to 67% more views and leads
  • Blogs have been rated as the fifth most reliable source of information

That last fact (via blogging.org) is a very important one when it comes to media and public relations. It helps a business create a strong image of not only personality, but of professionalism and knowledge in their field. Blogs are also an ideal way to give to your readers. Whether it’s industry insight, free gifts like white papers, money-off codes, or just good old-fashioned entertainment, your blog can boost your reputation while being something people benefit from.

Don’t worry if you don’t feel you’re much of a writer. Putting a video on your blog not only gives people a face to match the name, you’ll be helping out almost 50% of the public who look for them before visiting a store.

TV is more powerful than ever

Television is everywhere! It’s on your cell phone, it’s on your laptop and tablet and, oh yes, it’s still on the wall. It’s true that traditional TV time among the 18-24 demographic is dropping, but that still adds up to over a hefty 12 hours a week of TV watching. As the age demographic increases, so does the amount of time spent viewing.

It really doesn’t matter which type of screen you’re being viewed on: when you’re a business, it just counts that you’re being seen. Niche/specialty shows are among the most popular on the air. If you’re able to get yourself some airtime on a show that specializes in your desired audience, you’ll be ahead out of the gate. The viewers will already be interested in what you can provide. All you have to do is share the very best of yourself to make a great impression.

We’ve learned this from personal experience: our appearances on Good Morning America, The Food Network, and QVC helped get our cakes and our brand in front of national audiences and continue to spur interest by consumers and companies alike.

Getting in front of influencers

Putting your business directly in the line of sight of the public can be a struggle. Getting attention from journalists, bloggers, and others capable of influencing media perception of you is a big help. You can find them by first studying who is influential in your field. The key to success here is that word again: niche.

Who does your own desired audience follow or trust? If you can manage to get yourself mentioned by these influential parties, your public and media profile will benefit by association. You can search out influencers using their social media profiles.

In our case, we’ve been fortunate enough to not only be featured in national magazines, but through our catering events and features at food festivals, we’ve reached a number of media influencers who’ve helped us continue to grow.

The human touch endures

You can send a text, email or video clip in the blink of an eye…so why would the old-world notion of a handwritten “thank you” note make any impression to a modern customer? The fact is, it makes a positive impact on your business relations that can hardly be overstated.

Consider the company who wrote 13,000 of them to their customers and went on to success as a result. Giants like Hallmark (who should know about handwritten things) rate such notes very highly. Business-savvy media like Entrepreneur praise the handwritten note for demanding focus and reinforcing fond tradition.

To take it one step further, if you have a product you can distribute to the press via media outreach, a tangible sample or gift can make a huge impression in this age of emails and digital press releases. We also encourage our corporate clients to use our cakes to cut through the clutter and reach influencers, media, and loyal customers to help spread the word about their business.

Conclusion

We’re living in the best of both worlds when it comes to cultivating media and public relations. You can be everywhere in cyberspace, at any time, for everyone. Traditional methods of reaching out are far from being redundant; they’ve only increased in value. When these approaches are combined with confidence in who you are and what you can give, your reputation and relationships are set to grow and grow.

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 find out more about how we can help your business make an impact, drop by our contact page and get in touch!

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Building a Company Brand and Culture

Company culture and company brand: what you need to know

Create a culture and build a company brand that work together.

The buzzwords of “culture” and “brand” seem to be everywhere today. And there’s a good reason for that. Successful businesses know that their company brand and culture go hand-in-hand to create the essence of a company that is reflected in everything they do. It’s walking the walk in every aspect of your business, internal and external, and that leads to better relationships with both customers and employees.

The key is consistency

Your business, brand, and culture need to be well-defined, and every piece of your business and your decisions should mesh with and reinforce each other. Your brand and culture, inside and out, should be based on your interests, strengths, and authenticity, as well as what your market wants and needs you to be.

Company culture

Company culture includes your physical work environment, how you live your company values, ethics, mission, your work and management style, and more. Different cultures might be right for different types of businesses, though it all comes back to defining what you want to be to both your staff and your customers. Regardless of what that culture looks like – from a traditional, formal workplace to a progressive, creative, and laid-back environment – when employees fit and embrace the culture, they are likely to be happier, and more productive because they believe in and identify with the company. You are one team working together.

Your company brand

Creating a company brand requires a lot of thought. As you develop your brand, ask yourself these questions.

  1. What are you selling? Have you done your market research? If not, you’ll miss the mark and the market. Consider this quote by Charles Revson, founder of Revlon. “In the factory, we make cosmetics, in the store we sell hope.” To successfully brand your product or service, you need to know what needs or wants your consumer has, and how your product fills them. Strategic company branding can result in the stronger brand value, and that creates a positive emotional or social connection with a consumer. Think about watches: they tell time, but for some people, they’re much more than that. They are crafted timepieces that connote lifestyle, wealth, and personality.
  2. Have you chosen a company name, brand name, and logo that’s distinctive, yet one that won’t become obsolete, confusing, or irrelevant as your business evolves? A recent article in Investor’s Business Daily explores why Burlington Coat Factory recently changed its name to Burlington Stores. “One of Burlington Coat Factory’s biggest obstacles in recent years might have been right there in the retailer’s name: coats. There was a bit too much emphasis on coats, many believed, and not enough on T-shirts, dresses, table linens, fragrances, makeup and other things that exist outside the business of cold winters — in essence, the sales opportunities for retailers in the other three seasons.”
  3. What is your brand story? What is your reason for being? At We Take The Cake, we believe cake isn’t just a dessert. It’s a symbol of celebration, happiness, friends, and family. That’s why we take so much care in creating the most splendid and delectable cakes and cupcakes… because we know what it means to our customers. Despite expanding our offerings and adding new treats over the years, we’ve insisted on sticking with the wholesome, handmade recipes we began with and providing exceptional service so that the experience is always joyous and easy. That’s our reason for being, and we infuse that into everything we do.

Whether you’re just starting a new business or have been around a long time and are looking to reinvent or invigorate your company brand and culture, it’s important to take a hard look at what you want your business to be for both your staff and your customers. Once you identify what that central essence is, it becomes easy to find ways to live it and share it every day and in every aspect of your company.

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Build Your Business by Building and Leveraging Your Network

Build your business by building and leveraging your network

“Networking” doesn’t have to be hard to do; you just have to be yourself.

Your network has great potential as a business-building tool. If your networking is not working as well as you think it could, maybe you’re trying too hard and not being your genuine self. Here are some steps to make your efforts more successful.

First of all, it’s attitude

You want people to want to help you, not because they feel pressured to or obligated to. If you approach networking opportunities with the overriding, continued hard-sell calculation of, “What’s in it for me?” it’s unlikely to be successful. If you come across too aggressively, if your contacts feel like they’re being used, they’re going to want to run away as quickly as possible.

While of course you are seeking to benefit from networking, the better question that will yield more positive results is, “What can I do to help you?” Make a connection that sets the right tone for how you could work together in the future.

Goals, target, and providing value

To make networking most successful, you need to know your goals. Is it to get a personal introduction to a few key people? Add hundreds of names to your mailing list? What’s your plan? Keep in mind, investing in a few meaningful relationships could be much better for business-building than indiscriminately passing out your business card to hundreds of strangers. Your goal is to connect.

As you network, think of how you can create value for others. How can you be a resource for someone, their go-to when they need help in the future? If you do offer to help them in some way and they accept the offer, keep to your commitment. Your reputation is on the line. Nothing could be much more detrimental to your networking efforts than to build up a contact’s hopes, have them thinking this could be the start of a positive relationship, and then for you not to follow through. Odds are they won’t be interested in connecting with you again, and if they express that sentiment to their network, it could hurt your business-building efforts many times over.

What you should do is periodically keep in touch with contacts by showing them you’re thinking about them and their business. Share a relevant news article, provide an introduction to someone with whom they can connect, or send a holiday card (or cake!). Once you’ve shown a sincere interest in them and their business, you’re more likely to get a positive response when you ask them to help you out in some way.

Leveraging your network

Depending on your type of business, you can leverage your network of existing customers by incenting referrals. These customers already know and like your business, and would probably be happy to act as your sales ambassadors knowing there’s something in it for them such as a discount, an upgrade, or a free good or service.

Follow up and thank you

If someone in your network goes out of their way for you, first thank them for their contact and suggestion, and once you have followed up on their recommendation, thank them again, and let them know the outcome. Everyone likes to be acknowledged and thanked. Unfortunately, these seemingly peripheral pleasantries often go by the wayside. An email or text thank you is okay, but a handwritten snail-mail note is even more impactful. Make your thank-you meaningful, and you’ll stand out as someone who’s appreciative, thoughtful, and someone they’d be more likely to help again in the future.

If something more than a thank you note is in order, make your expression of appreciation unique and memorable. We encourage our customers to do this with cake, and not just because we sell cakes! To us, cake isn’t just a dessert. It’s a symbol of celebration, happiness, friends, and family. So when you say ‘thanks’ with a cake, you’re creating a deeper bond with that recipient. And that’s what networking – and genuine relationships – are ultimately about.