Kara from A Cake To Remember makes cake decorations for DIY wedding cakes, handmade supplies for cake decorators, and cake kits for people who want to dress up a simple cake. She had a custom wedding cake business in Richmond, VA for almost 20 years, and this year she stopped doing that to sell online full-time.

Introduce your shop

My shop is A Cake To Remember, and I sell cake decor, handmade molds, and edible flowers and butterflies for cakes. I’m located in Richmond, VA, and I’ve sold on Etsy since 2011. I used to do custom wedding cakes, but stopped baking last year to sell online full time. I was able to take the sugar flowers and other decorations that I made for the wedding cakes and used those to stock my shop, so I can now reach DIY brides, professional decorators, and hobby decorators all over the world.

How did you come up with a name for your store?

When I started my wedding cake business I wanted a name that would reflect how important the wedding day is. Your wedding cake is the centerpiece of the reception, so it needs to be memorable, and that’s where the name came from. When I started selling online it was an extension of the wedding cake business, so I kept the name and used it for my online shop as well. My business name was pretty well-established at that point so I didn’t want to rebrand and change the name.

How did you start selling on Etsy?

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When the recession hit in 2008 people started scaling down their weddings and spending less on everything, including the cakes. By 2011 there was an active DIY bridal movement going on, and people wanted to do a lot of their own wedding planning and reception while scaling everything down. I decided that if I couldn’t sell the type of cakes that I’d been selling, I could get in on the DIY trend by selling decorations to brides who wanted to bake their own cakes, but who didn’t know how to decorate them. I listed a few gumpaste flowers and other DIY cake decorating items, and they started selling.

I soon realized that it wasn’t just the DIY brides who were buying from me, it was also other decorators and people who just wanted to make a birthday cake for their children. I started expanding to include other items that were more general to cake decorating, and now my shop is a hybrid of supplies and ready-made items. But everything is cake-related in one way or another.

Do you talk to your customers? Do you run your website or blog, social media?

I do talk to my customers…I get a lot of questions and messages and since I did cakes myself I’m able to tell people exactly what they need to buy when they’re not sure. I do my own social media and I’m online a lot. I also have a youtube channel where I post cake decorating tutorials and a blog where I have tutorials, reviews, and cake business tips for other business owners. My customer base is pretty broad because of the range of things that I sell, so I’m able to address a lot of different topics on my blog and youtube channel.

I think that it’s really important to talk to your customers. I had over 40 messages from customers today, and I answer them as quickly as I can. People appreciate that, and it makes them feel like you’re more on the ball than they would if they had to wait a long time for an answer to their questions.

What’s your most favorite product?

That’s difficult to say...I like the little edible succulent cupcake toppers, but I also like to make the edible butterflies because I enjoy the design part of that process. I like designing things in photoshop, so when I get to put together a new design for anything that uses a digital file I enjoy that. Wafer paper is all digital, then is printed out on a special printer that uses food coloring, and I love that. I also like making the edible jewels and geodes for cake toppers because I like doing sugar work. But I’d have to say that my current favorite is the fake cakes that I started selling recently. They’re completely inedible, but they look like real cakes. People use them as display cakes, or as a prop to show the cake toppers that they sell in their own Etsy shops. I really like the process of decorating a cake that’s completely fake because it’s like making a little sculpture.

What are your future goals?

This year I want to expand the number of digital downloads that I offer, since I have some designs that decorators can use to print out their own edible paper for cakes in my shop. I also want to keep increasing the number of listings in my shop overall, and to also work on my standalone website. I’m responding to the recent Etsy attributes changes by revamping some of my listings to take advantage of the attributes feature, so I’d have to just say that’s a goal because that’s going to take a decent amount of time! I might also make more of the larger faux wedding cakes to get some of my decorating ideas out.

What’s your process from an idea to a finished product?

I get a lot of ideas from my customers, or from trends that I see in other markets. I’ll start by researching to see if it’s something that’s already being sold online, and what the average price for the items are. If it looks like I can create something that would fit into the market, and that’s in enough demand to sell, I’ll start designing and try to figure out the best way to make something in order to keep it cost-effective for the customer and profitable for me. I recently made a fairy door cake decorating kit that comes with a door, flowers, mushrooms, and a cobblestone walkway. The fastest way to make multiples of that would be to make a master and a mold, so that’s what I did. The byproduct of that was that I also now have a fairy door mold set listed in my shop, so I got two items out of that one idea!

Where and when do you find yourself most creatively inspired?

I love going to antiques malls and just walking around and looking at all of the weird things that are there. I went to one today and I kept notes with ideas that popped up as I walked around. I ended up with six good ideas that I’ll research and see if I can turn into something that would fit into my shop, and that would be useful for cake decorators. I’m a total packrat, so I think that going to a place where I’m surrounded by random stuff is fun, and it always gives me inspiration for new products. Some people would say that they like the beach, or the woods, but I like the clutter!