One hour before Little Stapler’s third birthday party, I was a mess of buttercream, sweat, and tears. I was in the middle of an ugly cry because I couldn’t decorate the cake the way I had imagined. My mother, husband, and son witnessed the breakdown. It was my mom who snapped me out of it. She said: Your son is turning three. He’s just happy to have cake! Sure enough, there was Little Stapler, completely confused by my crying but enchanted by the birthday cake that was in his honor. Realty check accomplished.
By Christmastime, Little Stapler didn’t remember my breakdown, but apparently my mother did. She bought me a Wilton cake decorating class at the local Michael’s craft store. Trust me when I say that never, in a million years, did I think that I would enjoy a cake decorating class. I thought that they were for DIY-raving maniacs who tried Pinterest projects all the time. But after my birthday breakdown, I realized that I needed to learn a thing or two about decorating cakes if I wanted to save money and sanity on cakes in the future.
The course taught me a lot of new skills that I have used over and over again this past year. Now, I’m a cake-decorating fiend! I love a new challenge and giving the special gift of a home-made cake.
How much is a cake decorating class?
Michael’s publishes weekly coupons for 40%-60% off one regularly priced item or 25% off your entire purchase. They limit coupons to one per customer, so if you want to get items for 50% off, you have to keep coming back. You can also use competitors’ coupons, and JoAnn and Hobby Lobby regularly publish the same types of coupons. So, if Michael’s doesn’t have a great coupon that week, check out JoAnn and they probably will.
With that coupon policy in mind, most of these fees and supplies can be discounted by 50%. You just need to stop by the store a few times.
- $25 — sale price for course
- $35 — course materials (use a 50% off coupon to get it for $17.50)
- $4.99 — course book (use a 50% off coupon to get it for $2.48)
- $10 — cake mixes (you will have to make two cakes and a dozen cupcakes)
- $16 — tub of Wilton frosting (use a 50% off coupon to get it for $8)
TOTAL: $90.99. Or, if you buy the materials and supplies with coupons, $62.98.
How much for Additional Supplies?
Aside from the fees and materials, I did purchase a few more tools. During the course of the class, Wilton tries to sell you some of their other tools — that’s to be expected — but some of them are actually useful. There are some tools I would have bought if I wasn’t already re-purposing something I already had in my kitchen.
These are the supplies I decided I “needed” in my cake-decorating arsenal. The prices listed are after a 50% off coupon at Michael’s:
- $3.98 — Cake Leveler
- $4.98 — Cake Bases
- $7.98 — Cake carrier
- $2.98 — Large angled spatula (I repurposed my dough knife instead)
- $7.98 — Cake decorating turntable (I use a lazy susan from our cabinet).
Was the cake decorating class worth it?
Since taking the class, I have made 4 cakes — 3 of them were for birthdays and 1 was for Mothers’ Day. I loved creating these cakes and sharing them. They are ways that I can give a thoughtful gift that people can see the time and effort made for them.
Did the course save me any money? No. I would have made a cake for Little Stapler’s birthday anyway (I prefer to make the cake instead of paying $45 for a cake from a nut-free bakery). Admittedly, any cake I made before taking the course would not have been decorated very well. Now, I have some useful skills. Not just in the actual decorations that we practiced, like roses, leaves, writing, etc., but now I can speak the cake decorator’s language and figure out new techniques from online examples.
If having a well-decorated cake is the difference between buying one and baking one yourself, then this course will absolutely save you money — year after year. I estimate the cost of butter, sugar, and cake mixes to be about $7, although there are always opportunities to get them for less expense. Compared that to what you paid for your last store-bought cake ($25 at the grocery store? $45 or more at a bakery?). Depending on how many cakes per year you’ll replace with homemade cakes, it might save you some money just in that first year.
Was it worth it? Absolutely. I love to create thoughtful gifts for people I love, and I hate to contribute to clutter. A thoughtful, edible gift can be the perfect gift for someone who has it all. It’s also a gift for me, because I have a few hours to myself where I can create something beautiful. It’s a creative outlet that I don’t get to have every week.
Here are the four other cakes I made, using Pinterest (gasp!) for inspiration:
They’re not perfect, and one got a little smashed before I could snap a picture, but everyone who received a cake loved it, and that — to me — is what matters most. Granted, one recipient was my mom, who ooohed and aaaahed my preschool drawings, so she’s hardly an unbiased source. At one party, a guest asked where I got the cake, to make sure it was nut-free, and when I told him that I made it he was surprised. What an awesome feeling! I definitely didn’t get that question before taking the class.
My favorite resource for inspiration is Pinterest. If you’d like to follow along, I have a Preschooler Cake board and a Cake Decorating board — for non-kid cakes. Follow along, and send me pins of cakes you’ve created.
For other DIY things you can do to save you time or money check out these great articles.
Have you ever taken a cake decorating class? Was it worth it to you? Are you considering taking one, or giving one as a gift?