When my first daughter turned 2, I decided I was going to make the most amazing 3D whale cake.
It was going to be every bit as beautiful as the one in the parenting magazine.
It never occurred to me that it might not look quite like the photo. I mean, I bought all the right stuff…a shaped pan, all the right candies for the spout, frosting ingredients, cake ingredients…I had planned REALLY well.
I even knew that I would need to fill my cake pan extra full to get the right depth to my cake because the photo definitely didn’t show a skinny whale.
The day of the party rolled around, and I got my cake in the oven with plenty of time to spare before guests arrived. I waited excitedly for it to cook as I made the frosting. I waited a little less excitedly for it to cook as I cleaned the kitchen. By the time I was cleaning the floors, all the excitement had been replaced with stress.
It wasn’t cooking. At all.
In fact, it was exploding over the edges of the pan and dripping down to the bottom of the oven, making a GIANT mess.
The cake batter that dripped down? That was the only part of the cake that cooked…..and burned…..and started smoking. Suffice it to say that my cake was an epic fail.
But I did not throw in the towel.
That magazine spread was still whispering tauntingly to me. The title said simple. This was supposed to be easy.
So I quickly started over, embracing the idea of a skinny whale cake that would actually cook. When it was done and cooled off, I sliced off the top of the cake to make it flat. Because the photo definitely showed a flat whale, not one with a big bulge in the side.
Have you ever tried to frost a cut cake?
The frosting doesn’t stick. At all. It just pulls off crumbs and pieces of the cake. It is one of the most frustrating things you can attempt to do. By this time, I was cursing the magazine and all of its simple ideas. (Think Pinterest, before Pinterest was a thing.)
Somehow I managed to get the stupid frosting on the stupid whale cake that had to be propped against a stupid rectangle cake (that I didn’t dare cut the top off) in order to stand up. And then I had to frost the stupid pan to make it look slightly better.
So, what does this have to do with anything?!
Bake the damn cake before you frost it, before you decorate it, before you invite people to your party.
Which translates for business owners into….create substance before you dive into visual branding. If there’s nothing under all those pretty details, you’re just wasting your time.
It’s ok if you’ve got some DIY branding in place. Most of us start with DIY, some of us stick with DIY all the way through our business journeys. Because we level up our skills as we go. The whale cake was just the beginning of my cake obsession. I was not about to let that first fiasco be the end of my cake story. It actually fueled my determination to learn, to get the right tools, and most importantly, to bake cakes well.
Once I was 100% confident that I could create the substance with cake, I gained full confidence to go off-book. I no longer relied on magazine spreads to determine the cakes I created. It was super convenient that I was learning photography at the same time, lol. Because then I could make my DIY cakes look even better.
But none of them would amount to anything at all if they didn’t have a baked cake inside of them.
That substance is what all the frosting and decorations are anchored to. The same is true of your branding. Your logo has to be anchored in something meaningful. Your brand colors need to be anchored in something meaningful. Your brand design has to be anchored in something meaningful.
Sensing a theme here? Bake the cake first!
If you need help baking your business cake, message me. I promise there will be no smoking ovens, and we’ll find the substance that makes your business ready to host a party.