Posts by shakarbakery

Traveling Cuba- Everything You Need To Know

Posted by on Jun 28, 2017 in A Piece of Cake- Blog | 3 comments

  Cuba had long been on my travel bucket-list for a-typical reasons. I was 17 when I first studied Cuba in my Advanced Placement U.S history class. I consider Cuba the United State’s biggest mistake and the biggest blow to the country’s ego. From botching the Bay of Pigs attack to forcing the country to turn to Russia for help (thus strengthening Castro’s resolve to become Communist) to being unable to take down Castro (though I have some theories as to why this didn’t work out), it was mistake after mistake for the US. Click here to read a brief history of US-Cuban relations. So I’ve been wanting to visit Cuba to see with my own eyes and hear with my own ears what really goes on behind this invisible iron curtain. I say invisible because a typical tourist (especially those who don’t speak Spanish) gets absorbed into what I call the facade. The real Cuba lies just behind that facade and that’s exactly where I wanted to go. It’s impossible to write this blog without delving into politics, but I will try my best to split the blog so that those interested in just travel tips can read that section, and those interested in everything can read it all. I will start with the travel. Traveling Cuba: If you aren’t American, a lot of my suggestions won’t apply to you. I flew direct from Los Angeles using my US Passport and had zero problems in either direction. I purchased my visa beforehand and filled it out with the proper purpose of my trip and off I went!  I won’t lie, watching Europeans use their credit cards made me envious! Which leads me to the “what you should pack” list: 1. Cash, and lots of it. Cuba is NOT as cheap as I expected, mainly because Cubans raised their prices about 100% in anticipation of American tourists. Thanks to Trump’s recent announcement, I expect prices to fall again. If you compare the prices to our American ones, you will still think everything is reasonable. Our first night we got fooled into eating at a tourist famous place called “La Familia” and between the three meals (we invited our host out) and the drinks my cousin ordered, we ended up paying $100 C.U.Cs (roughly $100 american dollars). Comparable to home, but that one night was as expensive as the rest of my trip. We later found more realistic places- full meals for $3. All you have to do is move one or two streets away from the tourist traps, and the real prices  (and tastier meals) await you. But back to the cash topic- since Americans can NOT use ATM machines or credit cards, take enough cash to cover emergency situations. Plan for $50/day. Currently the exchange rate is $0.90 to $1- for every one US dollar you get 90 Cuban cents. Euros are a stronger choice, so if you have any left over from European trips, take them with you. A very unexpected expense was for bathrooms! Leaving change for bathroom services isn’t a foreign concept for me, but I didn’t expect most bathrooms to be 1 CUC! The Cubans would tell you “leave what you want” but brace yourselves for bullshit. One guy tried leaving 10 cents and the bathroom lady angrily pointed to his 1 CUC and said “that one.” Sometimes they don’t care and will let you through, but other times they’ll be angry and give you very little toilet paper to use. Let’s chat a second about currency. Cuba has two currencies: the convertible peso (CUC) and the moneda nacional (CUP). I’m going to try not to get political here, but the exchange rate between the two pesos is heart-breaking. 1 CUC= 24 pesos. Cuba will be much cheaper for you if you opt to exchange money into moneda nacional. Most of their food is 1 peso nacional…. that’s free in CUC because the conversion doesn’t exist. I didn’t exchange money to the moneda nacional because I didn’t mind paying the locals extra CUCs. However,...

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The Cake Life – Why You Want To Quit and Why You Shouldn’t

Posted by on May 9, 2016 in A Piece of Cake- Blog | 6 comments

Lately my social media feeds have been full of posts like these: ” I’m burned out. I don’t want to make cakes anymore” “I am tired of giving up my weekends” “I am tired of not making a profit” Sound familiar? Is that you? Then let’s talk! The number one reason cake artists feel burned out is because they have TOO MUCH WORK. This isn’t necessarily a great thing. Let me tell you why. Ready? There is a huge difference between making cakes for fun and making cakes for a living. The biggest mistake bakers make is under-pricing their work. They do this for a plethora of reasons: they feel insecure about their work, they say there isn’t a market for higher prices, or they just want to be jerks and steal all the customers for themselves without a care in the world as to how they’re cheapening the value of custom cakes (I know a business like that in Los Angeles 🙂 I won’t be a total ass and name it though haha! ) Ok so back to my original statement of you having too much work. I don’t have a doubt that your work is good enough to sell, but WHY are you swamped? Are you that amazing that everyone wants your cakes, or are you too affordable? Think about that one long and hard. When I started my business I quit a very lucrative career to be poor for X amount of years as my business grew and developed. I too started selling my cakes for nothing (my first 100 person cake sold for $60, I made a total of -$120 on that one after my materials were purchased haha) and I slowly raised my prices from $3 to my current $7. I drafted a rough 5 year plan and told myself that I never wanted a high QUANTITY of cakes, I wanted high QUALITY of orders. What does this mean? It means that I’d rather have one $500 order for the weekend instead of 5 $100 cakes. This is why I set minimums and strictly stick to them. Your TIME is more valuable than anything and you need to learn to set boundaries with your customers and yourself. I see people post 6-8 cake orders per weekend and although that’s awesome, wouldn’t it feel better to make the same amount of money by selling 2 cakes? Maybe 3? Unless you live smack in the middle of nowhere there will always be a market for high quality prices. If it’s true that there is NOT, then either change careers or move or figure out a way to diversify your income. Another reason why you feel burned out is because of scheduling. Without a proper schedule this business will rule your life 24/7. When I started off I took phone calls at any hour because I didn’t want to lose customers. I eventually set a boundary by adhering to my store hours (yes, even home based businesses have store hours. That’s part of setting boundaries). Any phone calls that come once my store is closed go straight to voicemail. Speaking of phone calls, a wise idea is getting a business number.I use Google Voice and can screen all of my calls through my cell phone. BOUNDARIES are VERY important. At the end of the day we are selling cake so any late night phone calls aren’t going to be life and death situations… But back to scheduling- you NEED to have a schedule. It’s a fallacy that entrepreneurs and business owners thrive on lack of structure. ARE YOU KIDDING ME?! It’s all about structure! Once you have a schedule you have the freedom to do what you want with your free time. I know what I am doing Tuesday- Saturday and I am CLOSED Mondays. I don’t answer e-mails or phone calls those days. I bake Wednesdays and Thursdays, work on cakes Thursday and Friday and I am DONE by Friday evening just like the rest of the world. This requires being very organized with your orders and prepping...

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Hawaiian Luau Massive Roasted Pig Cake

Posted by on Mar 30, 2016 in Uncategorized | 0 comments

Glendale Adventist Hospital hired us to make a roasted pig cake for their Luau party. The cake was MASSIVE and sits on a full sheet cake board. I made the body using 3 4-inch tall 10″ round cake tiers, placed vertically. I made the mistake of not ganaching the tiers first and they semi-collapsed on me…so don’t make my mistake and individually ganache the cakes prior to inverting them! You can learn how to make chocolate ganache here and you can learn how to ganache a cake here. I used an 8″ hemisphere cake for the head. The thigs and legs are made using rice krispies and the snout and ears are modeling chocolate. I used Fantasia Fondant for the first time on this project. It was really amazing to work with…the elasticity was great and no matter how hard I tugged on the fondant, it didn’t tear! I think I found my  new fondant for sculpted cakes! I covered the cake with ivory fondant. It was my first time making a roasted pig cake and I know it isn’t perfect.The snout looks like the poor thing has an allergy to death… I made it too fat. Live and learn. I created the roasted look by hand painting with a chocolate brown gel + water wash, adding darker brown for burnt looks. I used 11 pounds fondant, 6 pounds chocolate ganache, and the cake themselves weighed about 5 pounds. Thanks for reading! Shantal Cake Wars Season 2 “Archie Comics” Winner      ...

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