Last Updated on January 15, 2023
How much does a cake decorator make in the United States? The answer may surprise you, but that doesn't mean you should jump right in!
Today, we will get real about money. Our guide will give you accurate amounts of what American cake decorators make annually, and what it takes to get to their level.
What Does A Cake Decorator Do?
This is another one of those new-aged jobs that many people don't even realize exists. It's like food stylists - these are people who specialize in making food look good for commercials, movies, and magazines. That's their entire job!
Cake decorators are almost the same. But naturally, their focus is on cakes specifically. To understand the answer to "how much does a cake decorator make?" you need to understand what they do.
Cake decorators actually are one-man shows. Their job entails designing the cakes, baking them, and decorating them accordingly. They differ from the general term "baker" because they often only do cakes. if they did other baked goods, they may label themselves differently.
These decorators don't often specialize in one category of cake and usually cover any special event like a wedding, birthday party, anniversary, or baby shower. That being said, they still have their own style of decorating cakes, which usually sets them apart from their competitors.
How does the process work?
First, a cake decorator gets a specification from a client. This is often very broad, but most of the time very specific. With the internet at people's fingertips, their requests can be quite elaborate.
Then, the cake decorator will usually design the cake and provide the client with a price. If the client has given a budget, this is something that has to be taken into consideration.
The price given should always cover all of the ingredient costs, overheads (electricity, rent, etc), and then also obviously the labor. The labor is often calculated per hour, but some cakes that take exceptionally long are quoted per day.
The next step is to start the baking process. This can be relatively quick if you have the correct equipment (and enough of it).
And finally, the decorating process starts. What exactly the steps depend entirely on what the cake is, so it is impossible to specify it here.
Are there different types of cake decorators?
There are also different types of cake decorators. Well, more in the sense that they specialize in different styles of making cakes. For example, some might only focus on chocolate work while others only work with fondant. Then, there are also some decorators that only work with buttercream, while others do sculpt cakes.
If you are personally looking for a cake decorator, always make sure that you know what they can offer you. And, if you are looking to brand yourself, look at the style of cakes you are most comfortable with making - and what you are good at of course!
What Affects The Salary Of A Decorator?
Before we start discussing "How much does a cake decorator make?", we thought that it would be best to first discuss the many factors that influence the price.
We aren't going to include the cost of ingredients or overheads at all, because these vary far too much. Instead, we will be looking at the take-home salary of a cake decorator.
What mostly affects how much a cake decorator makes is their experience. If for example they have a shop or have been in the business for decades, they will naturally charge a bigger labor fee (ultimately what makes up their salary) than a newbie.
Another big influence is the type of cakes they are making. Someone who professionally makes and decorates fruit cakes won't change as much as a person who sculpts cakes.
Their salary will also vary depending on the level of skill they have. Two decorators with the same amount of experience, but who specialize in different types of fondant cakes will charge different prices. So, someone who makes unnaturally realistic cake items will charge more than someone who makes kids' birthday fondant cakes.
And finally, the location where the cake decorator is situated will largely affect their salary. No matter how good and experienced you are, if you are in a town or suburb where there isn't a need for the cakes you make, you will likely not make a ton of money as compared to being situated in Times Square!
- Experience or years in business
- Type of cakes they are making
- Genre of cakes they specialize in
How much do cake decorators make?
So, what's the bottom line? Ultimately, the top earners in the industry will make roughly $18 per hour, which means about $37 500 per year. These are the people who are situated in prime locations, have a lot of talent and experience, and who usually specialize in very niche genres.
On average though, after you have been established for a while and have built up a good client base, you can earn roughly $15 per hour, averaging around $30 280 per year. Per month that works out to $2523 or $582 per week.
Now, these numbers may seem shockingly high, but unfortunately, it also takes an exceptional amount of work to get to that point. The lower 25th percentile only makes $11 per hour and $23000 per year. Keep in mind that this is an average which only consists of cake decorators who does this full-time for a living.
A lot of this money made needs to go directly back into paying off business loans.
Is it financially worth becoming a full-time cake decorator?
In our opinion, it can be. Unfortunately, too many people give it a go without knowing what is required and even the true financial implications of the industry.
We would recommend doing some type of business course, especially one that is focused on the food industry (even better if it is baking focussed) and even maybe doing a culinary course if you think you might need to up your skills.
We hope that this informative article on "how much does a cake decorator make?" gave you a more realistic view of what the industry entails. At the end of the day, you have to charge what you're worth, put all of your efforts into it, and make sure you are the best in your area.
If you have any other questions for us, don't hesitate to ask us in the comments below!
Is being a cake decorator a good job?
This industry can be very fulfilling, but it is not meant for everyone. It takes a lot of hard work and consistency. You also have to have a certain amount of talent or at the very least, be business savvy. And, it takes a lot of your time. After all, you do end up working for yourself. So, if you don't put in the hours, you won't be able to make it long-term.
Is being a cake decorator hard?
This is a brutal industry. Not only is it extremely competitive, but it physically and mentally takes a toll, especially if you have your own business. Unfortunately, talent doesn't cut it alone and you have to have a certain degree of business and marketing knowledge.
Do cake decorators need a degree?
You definitely don't need a degree to be a cake decorator. But, it doesn't hurt. At the end of the day, you will likely be able to charge a lot more for your cakes as compared to someone without one. And, you likely learn professional skills that take a while to figure out on your own. But again, some of the best decorators are self-taught. It all comes down to how committed you are.
What skills do cake decorators need?
Obviously, you need to be able to bake and decorate cakes. However, you need a lot more skills. You will need to know how to run a business, have social media and marketing knowledge, be organized, have communication skills, be good at time management, and have great customer service skills. Yes, there is a lot to it, which is exactly why so many people fail.
Lindy Van Schalkwyk is a culinary specialist with a background in Advanced Cooking, Advanced Pâtisserie, Media Communications and Nutrition. She has gained invaluable experience in the culinary industry having worked in some of the top restaurants in Africa in 2016 and 2017. Her expertise in nutrition has enabled her to develop recipes for special dietary needs. In 2018, Lindy began working in the Food Media industry, focusing on recipe development, recipe writing, food writing and food styling.