Becoming a Cake Artist: Job Description & Salary Information

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Cake artists and head chefs have creative jobs with varied daily tasks, but is it worth the kitchen atmosphere and 12-hour shifts? Read real job descriptions to determine if this is the right career path for you.
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Pros and Cons of a Cake Artist Career

A career as a cake artist can take you around the world, but it can also be a highly competitive field. Reading the pros and cons of being a cake artist may help you decide if this is the right career for you.

Pros of a Cake Artist Career
Little formal training or schooling necessary*
Creative occupation with varied activities*
Location flexibility*
Many options for career path*

Cons of a Cake Artist Career
Slower-than-average expected job growth from 2012-2022*
Long hours starting early in the day*
Fast-paced, high-stress environment*
Physically demanding, several hours standing each day*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Job Description and Salary Info

Cake artists work in the high-energy, fast-paced environment of a kitchen. You may work for a bakery, restaurant, hotel or grocery store; another option is to become a freelance caterer. Your job will involve taking orders, planning food for special events (such as weddings), overseeing the work of others and preparing food. You may need to track supplies and inventory while keeping financial records for your business as well. The median wage for all chefs and head cooks in 2014 was $41,610, according to the BLS.

Necessary Skills

To succeed in this competitive field, you need to be highly organized and good at managing your time. It is also important to be a quick thinker who is good at delegating work. You should also love sweets! Cake artists spend many, many hours working with sugary-smelling confections, so an enduring love for cakes and pastries is an important quality to succeed in this career.

Training Requirements

No formal education is required to decorate cakes; most people gain years of experience in kitchens in various positions before they can oversee a pastry team. At a restaurant or bakery, you may be able work as an apprentice and gain valuable work experience. This is the traditional route for advancing in culinary careers, though many eventual head chefs start out as dishwashers, line cooks or bakery assistants. Even if you eventually plan to open your own cake art or pastry business, it may be useful to rise in the ranks of an established company first and gain professional experience designing desserts and also to learn the business end.

What Employers Are Looking For

While specific job requirements vary, most employers seeking pastry chefs are looking for people with experience who can create a variety of desserts in a fast-paced environment. Below are some descriptions from job listings from May 2012:

  • A country club in Winter Park, Florida, is looking for a pastry chef with 2-5 years' experience and a minimum of an associate's degree. This is a full-time job with management responsibilities.
  • A bakery and café in Potomac, Maryland, is seeking a pastry chef to join a high-energy team. Applicants must be able to make cakes, cupcakes and other desserts and pastries for special occasions.
  • A supermarket in Waymart, Pennsylvania, is looking for a skilled cake decorator to join its bakery team. This job requires dealing frequently with the public, so excellent communication skills are necessary. The job description includes designing desserts, using specialized equipment to create intricate designs on sweets and preparing cakes for display.

Standing Out

While you may be able to land a job without getting certified, additional credentials could help you stand out among your job market competition. The American Culinary Federation offers experience-based certifications for various specialties within the culinary arts, including pastry chef, personal chef and culinary educator. Similarly, because it's not required, pursuing formal education in pastry arts can help you grab potential employers' attention. Community college or technical school culinary and pastry arts programs are often 2-4 years long and involve a combination of traditional class time and practicums. Many culinary school programs require an internship where you earn credit in a professional setting.

Alternative Careers

If you enjoy the business side of a cake artist career, but want to get out of the kitchen, you might want to consider becoming a food service manager. These are the people who run the daily operations of a food service establishment, like a restaurant or hotel kitchen. According to the BLS, food service managers earned an average of $53,000 as of 2011. The job involves hiring and observing kitchen workers, monitoring the day-to-day operations of the business, handling complaints or special requests from customers and keeping the budget under control. This job may be hard to come by, since the BLS expects negative job growth between 2010-2020.

If you want to work with baked goods but are seeking an entry-level role, you may consider becoming a baker. The BLS reported that bakers do not need more than a high school education and made a median income of $25,000 as of 2011. Bakers prepare desserts and breads using recipes. The job requires less creativity and artistry than a career as a cake artist, but it involves working in similar environments and being around sweets. Bakers, like cake artists, often work long hours, early mornings and weekends.

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