Cake Decorator

The Job and What's Involved

Cake decorationCake decorators create celebration cakes for birthdays, weddings and other special events.

They produce designs - either especially to order or for a product range - using some or all of the following techniques:

  • Royal icing, including coating, piping, lettering, lace and frill work.
  • Sugarpaste, including modelling, flower-making, crimping and bas-relief.
  • Marzipan coating and modelling.
  • Chocolate decoration.
  • Floristry.

The actual tasks involved in the job differ depending on whether a decorator works for themselves, for a small craft bakery or for a larger manufacturer.

Cake decorators working for a small bakery might help customers decide on the cake they want, including the type and size, the icing and the design. They then bake the cake themselves or instruct a baker. Once the cake is ready, they decorate it by hand. They may also have other tasks, such as delivering the finished cake and taking the payment.

Cake decorators working for larger manufacturers decorate cakes that can be seen on the shelves of many supermarkets and stores. They may work with a large number of decorators, assembling the cakes and adding decorations, icing and models. Many of the decorations may be made by machine and only need attaching to the cake.

Self-employed cake decorators tend to bake the cakes themselves, but may order cakes from another supplier. They work for private customers and small retailers. As well as producing attractive designs and creating high quality decorations, they have to buy in ingredients, promote their business, sell to customers and keep accounts.

Most cake decorators work 37 hours a week over five or six days. Some companies have a system where decorators work from home. In these cases, and for self-employed decorators, hours can be quite flexible.

The amount of work can change depending on the time of year. Christmas and Easter tend to be busy, and wedding cakes are in higher demand during the summer. Decorators may need to work additional hours at these times.

Bakeries are clean and dust-free, and decorating work is usually carried out in a separate, cool room to stop the icing from melting.

The work can be done either standing or sitting.

Cake decorators usually wear a uniform, cover-all or apron and a hat.

Starting salaries for apprentice cake decorators may be around £10,000 a year.

Getting Started with this Career Choice

There are around 4,000 craft bakeries across the UK, and around 145,000 people working within the baking industry. There are opportunities in most areas, and specialist cake decorators are in high demand.

Cake decorators work for small craft bakeries, larger manufacturers and in their own businesses.

Jobs are advertised in local newspapers, Jobcentre Plus offices and in publications such as British Baker.

Education and Training

It is possible to train as a cake decorator without any formal qualifications, but GCSE's/S grades (A-C/1-3) in English, maths and science or food technology may be useful.

In some bakeries, especially craft bakeries, Apprenticeships may be available.

Apprenticeships and Advanced Apprenticeships provide structured training with an employer. As an apprentice you must be paid at least £95 per week; you may well be paid more. A recent survey found that the average wage for apprentices was £170 a week. Your pay will depend on the sector in which you work, your age, the area where you live and the stage at which you have arrived in the Apprenticeship.

Entry to Employment (e2e) can help to prepare those who are not yet ready for an Apprenticeship. In addition, Young Apprenticeships may be available for 14- to 16-year-olds. More information is available from a Connexions personal adviser or at www.apprenticeships.org.uk.

There are different arrangements for Apprenticeships in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

For further information visit My World of Work www.myworldofwork.co.uk/modernapprenticeships, Careers Wales www.careerswales.com; and for Northern Ireland contact www.careersserviceni.com.

A Few More Exams You Might Need

Full-time courses are available at colleges across the UK in bakery craft management, cake decoration and sugarcraft. NVQ's/SVQ's are available in Bakery at Levels 2 and 3. There are no formal entry requirements for these.

Some bakeries may encourage their employees to take day release or evening courses, and many give their staff the opportunity to work towards NVQ's/SVQ's. Many colleges in England offer part-time City & Guilds courses in sugarcraft, sugar flowers and advanced cake decoration.

Employees train on the job, alongside experienced decorators, learning skills and extending their knowledge and expertise while working.

Self-employed cake decorators may also attend part-time courses to broaden their skills and experience.

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Skills and Personal Qualities Needed

Cake decorators need:

  • Good hand skills.
  • Creativity.
  • To be patient and methodical.
  • To be well organised.
  • To be aware of health and hygiene regulations.
  • Good communication and listening skills, to understand what the customer requires.
  • Good numeracy skills to be able to accurately measure and weigh ingredients.
  • The ability to work to deadlines.

Your Long Term Prospects

Once experienced, it may be possible to progress into a more senior role. In larger companies, it may be possible to become a supervisor or to train new decorators.

Some decorators take a teaching certificate and pass on their skills to others, usually at adult education classes.

Cake decorators can go on to set up their own business.

Get Further Information

Improve Ltd, Ground Floor, Providence House,
2 Innovation Close, Heslington, York YO10 5ZF
Tel: 0845 644 0448
Website: www.improveltd.co.uk

Craft Bakers Association,
21 Baldock Street, Ware, Hertfordshire SG12 9DH
Tel: 01920 468061
Website: www.craftbakersassociation.co.uk

The Worshipful Company of Bakers,
Bakers Hall, Harp Lane, London EC3R 6DP
Tel: 020 7623 2223
Website: www.bakers.co.uk

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