Business and Operations
Wedding Cakes: More than the Icing on Our Industry
November 6, 2007 By Barbara Lauer
According to the most recent data from Statistics Canada, 150,000 wedding ceremonies are conducted each year — and the average cost of these is almost $22,500. The bride is 27, the groom 29, and chances are two out of three the couple will have lived together before they’re wed. Times have changed since I went to my first wedding as a schoolgirl in ankle socks (so embarrassing!), enchanted with the frilly bridesmaid dresses and the high, tiered cake.
Today, attending a wedding, I’d be more interested in examining the cake — wondering if each tier was a different texture and flavour, if the designer had convinced the couple to follow the “bite-sized” trend, and we’d be served petits fours, and of course, mentally calculating hours of labour and costs. Because behind all the beautiful eye candy of any ceremony and glorious wedding cake, there is the usual blood, sweat and tears to achieve a profitable bottom line.
If you have paid a supplier’s bill since last fall, you will have noted the price of wheat is the highest it’s been in a decade; starch has gone up as well. What’s next? With corn being funneled into ethanol production, the impact on corn syrup and all the other derivatives can’t be far behind. The complete significance for our industry — and our consumers — has yet to be seen, but with the number of corn byproducts used by our sector, it’s certainly an issue that will be on our radar screens for the future.
And, in keeping you abreast of your customers’ future needs, we’ve looked into the options of baking without sugar. Research shows that a growing proportion of the population is demonizing sugar, so if you are asked to bake your next wedding cake — or anything else — without refined sugar, you’ll need to understand what happens when you substitute with honey or synthethics.
In talking with the wedding cake designers, their stories brought into juxtaposition another issue we raise this month — training and labour in commercial baking. Each one of these master bakers is passionate about their craft: enjoying meeting their clients, creating a unique design, working in the kitchen and on site to build the vision, and finally, making a wedding cake dream-come-true. None of them could have succeeded without proper training, and even after that, working under another master — almost a paid apprenticeship.
As with any job that is physically demanding, being a baker requires a commitment from Day 1, since like any student, debt is incurred with school, and most jobs available are at minimum wage. It’s a true – and worrisome – conundrum: how do we entice impassioned young people into our industry if we cannot connect them to the right jobs at the right pay? After training several years as a baker/patissier, a graduate will leave the industry, and often be offered $8/hour to keep baskets filled with buns, rather than making them. The federal government has stepped up with new funding for students and industry apprenticeships, so I would encourage you to contact your local trade school. The future of our industry needs everyone’s support.
And when I think of the future, I also think of consumer confidence – and how important food safety is to purchasing commercial baked goods. We’ve watched beef, green onions, bean sprouts and spinach cause serious illnesses and deaths over the past few years. Research tells us that consumers have long memories about food safety risks now – so we can’t afford to be smug or lax about our own safeguards or implementation of quality assurance. Just in case you’re inclined to scoff, check out the web urban myths in this issue, and they may have you running to the back to scrub up and re-examine everything under a microscope.
If you have news or an opinion to share, I’m all eyes and ears: firstname.lastname@example.org. Until next month, when we tackle “Food for Health”!
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