This is how I improved my new cake decorating skill without losing money, and then turned it into a profitable little side hustle. … Personally, I think this is one of the best side hustles for moms!
How my Cake Hobby (& side hustle) Started
About 6 months after my first baby was born, I started to truly feel like myself again.
Our little girl was sleeping through the night, had a regular nap routine, was getting more mobile and curious about play, and didn’t need to be fed every two hours. Hallelujah!
I love the newborn stage, but there’s something so magical about the stages that come after. When I not only have a cute little human to care for, but I’m getting the rest I need and feel alive and energized again! Seriously. It’s amazing.
So, it was right around this time, when I felt like “me” again, that I started to look at life and wonder what more I could do. … Now that I wasn’t just in survival mode.
I love being a mom, and seeing the accomplishments of my kids is more rewarding than anything. But… it’s also super healthy for me to have my own personal goals and hobbies to strive towards.
I brainstormed a couple of different ideas, and eventually decided I wanted to try cake decorating.
The Early Stages of Cake Decorating
I had seen some of the most beautiful cakes on Instagram (during those many late nights caring for my baby), and it was always fun to see the process start to finish.
After months of watching these cake videos, I thought, that doesn’t look too hard.
So, I gathered together a couple of kitchen tools and necessary ingredients, and I got to work, baking and creating.
Well… the first cake was a disaster. I took exactly zero pictures because I was not proud of how it looked. (In retrospect, I kind of wish I did, just so I could’ve documented the progress. Oh well.)
It was terrible.
The frosting was this runny white mess, with no structure or design because the buttercream was too thin. And at the time, I didn’t know how to fix that.
The actual cake tasted fine, but I cringed at how bad it looked. Especially because decorating was the part I was so excited for.
After that failure, I went back to square one.
Meaning, I went to my favorite Instagram accounts and looked at the recipes they used and the tutorials they had posted on Youtube. Instead of just following whatever random recipe I found online.
I should’ve done that from the start. But you live and learn, I guess.
The next time I made a cake, it was a night and day difference.
I mean, it wasn’t professional quality or anything, but it looked like a masterpiece compared to my first attempt. (Have I mentioned yet how bad that first one was? ;))
It gave me the boost of confidence to try again.
Until eventually, I was starting to feel like I could actually share this new hobby with others.
(Here are a few pictures of my early cakes)
Funding the Hobby
Unfortunately… It was getting a little pricey to make cake after cake just for fun.
I wanted to keep growing my skills, but I had a hard time justifying the cost of new tools and ingredients. Because, you know, money doesn’t grow on trees. My husband and I were just a couple of poor college kids.
So, I decided to brainstorm how I might fund my hobby. And that very easily transitioned into a profitable little side hustle.
Here are some of the strategies I used to continue improving my cake decorating skills, without any extra cost to myself:
- I posted about it on Facebook! I was a member of several yard sale group pages for my community, and I gave a little description of what I was doing, listed as a product/service. I also posted on Facebook Marketplace. (Make sure you follow the rules for your FB groups/Marketplace before posting. Some groups don’t allow selling food or promoting services.) I was very upfront about my newbie status as a cake decorator and offered my service at a very reasonable price. In fact, initially, I only asked people to cover the cost of ingredients and materials because I wasn’t looking for a side hustle; I just wanted a way to fund the hobby. (I’ve attached a copy of one of my original listings in the photo below)
- I also would practice designs that I knew were popular, such as rosettes or drip cakes. And even though nobody had specifically ordered that cake, I would list it on Facebook for whatever price seemed like a bargain, and I never had any problem finding someone who wanted it.
- I told friends and family about my new hobby. Then, if they mentioned needing a cake, I volunteered! Once again, in the beginning when I just wanted to improve and practice techniques and didn’t want to have to cover all the costs, I simply asked for any friends or family members to pay the cost of ingredients/materials.
- I made cakes for special occasions and group parties, where I would’ve been contributing a dessert anyways. If we had a church party, I’d bring a cake. If we had a holiday dinner, I’d bring a cake. If there was a neighborhood get-together, you guessed it – cake. (Or cupcakes)
- Something I haven’t done yet but plan to do in the future: Buttercream and frozen cakes are a beautiful combination for multiple reasons. But one of those reasons is because if you don’t like how the design turned out, you can scrape off the entire layer of buttercream and try again. Or… if you loved the design but want to keep practicing your cake decorating skills, you can take a picture to add to your portfolio, and then scrape it off and do another design. You can do that as many times as you’d like. Then, when you’ve decided the cake has served its purpose, you can sell it and get at least part of that cost back (as long as you’ve been storing it properly to ensure it’s not going to taste bad).
How the hobby transitioned smoothly into a side hustle
As I gained more experience and confidence in what I could offer, I quickly realized that I could increase my prices, and that’s the simple answer for how it transitioned into a side hustle.
1. I created an Instagram account to serve as a portfolio. I posted all of my cake pictures there, and continually added to it with each new order.
I don’t have a great camera (in fact, my current phone camera is pretty awful), but I work with what I have and set up my cakes in the best lighting and professional setup that I can.
These photos don’t have to be flashy, they just need to show your skills enough that others will get a good idea of what you can do and decide whether they trust you with their own order.
2. I went back to those same Facebook groups and increased my listing prices.
I did this gradually, increasing the price little by little based on what I felt was fair for my experience level. And I provided updated photos in the listing and/or a link to my newly-setup Instagram portfolio.
Also, eventually my listing wasn’t advertised as “Fund My Hobby” anymore. It changed to “Custom Cake Orders” with a relevant listing description.
3. I created a price calculator, once I understood the complete process of making custom cake.
Now that I had some experience, I determined what my time and skill was worth and made sure to include it!
The base price was the original cost of ingredients and materials, but then I would add on certain elements like how long I estimated the process to be and if it would require any tedious processes.
I created a comprehensive spreadsheet of everything I could think of, so when it came time to give customers a price estimate, all I had to do was plug in the details.
Other ideas I haven’t personally tried, but could work well:
1. Reach out to local photographers.
See if they’re willing to save your contact information and pass it on to their clients.
Some photographers do smash cake sessions and may even be responsible for finding the cake, so it would be beneficial to already be on their list.
But even if they don’t do smash cake sessions, photographers are always likely to work with clients who are celebrating special occasions – weddings, anniversaries, graduations, etc. and could potentially pass your information on to those people too.
2. Consider trading services
This isn’t going to give you cash in your pocket, but you could consider trading services. If there’s someone else who has a side hustle or small business, and you like what they offer, you could reach out to them and see if they’re willing to do a trade. Just make sure you’re doing a fair trade here. Don’t offer a $30 cake in exchange for a $250 photoshoot, for example.
3. Sign up to sell with a booth
This idea would probably only work with cupcakes or mini cakes, but you could sign up for a booth to sell your goods at a farmer’s market, boutique sale, or other community event. (Be careful if it’s outdoors though, because buttercream and other frostings melt easily in heat, and then your lovely design will be for nothing.)
4. Be proactive in finding local opportunities
If there’s a business in your area that has an upcoming anniversary, reach out early and offer to make a cake for them (maybe even at a discounted price).
If you’re proactive, it’s possible they wont have that detail of the celebration covered yet, and then that’s one less thing for them to worry about and you have an awesome opportunity.
5. Teach cake decorating classes
Obviously, you need to feel very confident to pursue this idea. But, if you’ve been decorating cakes for a while and feel like you could provide value as a teacher, you may consider hosting cake decorating classes.
You could focus on one specific technique, or walk your class through a complete beginning-to-end cake decorating tutorial.
You could supply everyone with their own cake rounds & frosting and make it a hands-on experience, or simply demonstrate with one cake while they watch, learn, and ask questions.
You could also set up an online live class, or provide a link to a class recording.
There are so many opportunities to customize a cake class, exactly how you like it.
But, of course, make sure you’re providing quality, and not just doing it to make a quick buck.
Because people can quickly spot the difference, and you won’t have anyone return or recommend you if they feel conned.
A couple of things to consider:
1. Gain experience to offer quality work
Maybe this sounds like the perfect side hustle for you, but… you don’t actually have any experience in cake decorating yet.
Don’t get too excited and start asking people to fund your hobby before you’ve even tried it out.
Make sure it’s something you…
- actually enjoy
- can see improvements in
- have experienced enough to know what you’re committing to
For one thing, cakes are not a quick little afternoon endeavor. It takes time – baking, freezing the cake layers, making the buttercream, crafting any little decorative details out of fondant or candy melts or other ingredients, stacking the cake and setting a crumb coat, wrapping the cake for proper storage between every step, doing all of the decorating, and finally boxing it up for pickup or delivery.
How long it takes to accomplish all of that is something you’ll only know after having done it multiple times. And it varies with each new technique you learn.
Also, nobody is going to want to fund your hobby and then receive a poorly executed product. People like deals, so get good enough first that you can give them a deal they’ll actually be excited about.
2. Don’t overbook yourself
When you’re just getting started with actual cake orders, it can be tempting to take on every single request! After all, you may be excited and want to gain experience as quickly as possible. But be careful! Especially if you’re offering cakes at a super amazing deal for the customer, your calendar may fill up fast. And you can become overbooked.
When I had just started taking orders, there was one week that I accidentally overbooked. If you remember, I was doing this alongside being a stay-at-home mom, so my number one priority was my little girl. And that week, I hadn’t checked my calendar closely enough. So, I ended up with so many cake orders that I struggled to complete them while also taking care of a baby. Luckily, my husband stepped in to help more with baby so I wouldn’t have to cancel orders, but it meant that he fell behind in homework. And even then, I ended up absolutely exhausted from staying up late nights to complete the orders.
Because of my inexperience, I learned the hard way how much was too much.
Until you have a very good idea about how long it takes to complete certain techniques and you feel confident that you can create the cake alongside everything else in your schedule, it’s better to go at a slow and steady reliable pace.
Better to under schedule and have time left over, than to face the panic and overexert yourself in a mad dash to finish on time. Or have to cancel orders at the last minute because it was just way too much to handle.
3. Be smart about money exchanges
This one isn’t necessary, but if you’re going to spend a considerable amount of time or money on a cake, consider asking for a deposit (anywhere from 10-50% of the total cost, or something like that) before locking it into your calendar.
Reach an agreement about cancellations and refunds of the deposit. (And don’t delete any of the messages related to the order, in case someone complains later on. Make sure you have the agreement clearly spelled out.)
Especially if this is just a side hustle and not an official business, some people may take you less seriously and bail at the last minute. Then you’re left with a very specific custom cake that isn’t funded and is difficult to sell to anyone else. (Like if it’s Paw Patrol themed, or has a “Happy 11th Birthday” written on it. You might find a taker, but the chances are slim.)
Putting down a deposit helps both you and the customer stay committed to the order.
4. Be careful about your safety
If you’re not at a business location, it can be tempting to invite the customer to come by your house for their order pickup. So easy and convenient for you, right?
Yeah, but… you never know who these people are, and giving out your address might not be the wisest decision. So, be smart about it.
Consider some alternatives… Plan to meet at a safe public location for the exchange. Bring your husband or a friend along for a delivery. Do whatever you need to, to make sure your wellbeing isn’t compromised in pursuit of an exciting new hobby.
5. Be aware of your city’s laws and any regulations for small businesses
Some cities won’t allow you to sell food products, unless they’re made in a commercial kitchen that has passed food safety inspections and/or you have a food handlers permit.
Also, if you start to make a considerable amount of money from your sales, you’ll need to set aside a portion of your earnings for taxes.
6. Be super honest about your level of experience
Before you book an order with anyone, make sure you clearly convey what you have or haven’t done before- in regards to certain decorating techniques, size of cake (such as multiple tiers), etc.
It’s okay to say that you’re inexperienced in a certain technique but willing to try it out, if they’ll trust you with it. But definitely don’t give them false reassurances. Be honest and humble throughout the entire process.
7. Make sure you choose (or create) quality recipes
Even if your cakes are beautiful, no one is going to recommend your services if the cake tastes terrible. Personally, I love cake recipes from Neurotic Mom (linked here) if you want a from-scratch recipe, and Baking with Blondie (linked here) if you want a doctored cake mix. I’ve used both, and I’ve always had good feedback from customers. Plus, I’ve tasted them myself and can testify that they’re delicious!
There you go! That’s how I funded my cake decorating hobby and turned it into a little side hustle!
I have loved having something fun and challenging to look forward to in my “me time” as a mom. And it’s an exciting bonus to be able to share my skills with others and earn a little bit of money too.
Are you interested in a cake side hustle? Or maybe these principles would work for another hobby of yours?
Let me know in the comments! I’d love to hear about it and offer support.
Are you new to the blog? Check out these posts on some other side projects I’ve tried: Starting a mom blog- What I wish I’d known and DIY guide to create your own advent calendar cards using Canva.