Today I have a special treat for you! Meet Crystal with XO Cakery! I call her a wedding cake designer. She calls herself an artist and indeed she is!
Today Crystal is taking us to her kitchen and we can sneak peek at the process and have and idea of how she works her magic. She also answered some of my questions and shared more about the industry, her craft and her journey! Keep reading to find out how wedding cakes are priced, what you need to know before your start shopping for your wedding cake and much more!
Crystal, please share a little bit about who you are! What you do and how you are different, because you clearly are very different!
I consider myself an artist and cakes are my medium. Although I do bake everything from scratch I would never consider myself to be a baker. There are a lot of different techniques/skills and lots of science behind baking. XO was birthed out of the idea to be different and to do cakes differently.
After 10 years of working for someone else and doing cakes the “Wilton way” I decided to modify, pull from my inspirations (which are heavily influenced by fashion, interior design and graphic design) and learn new modern techniques, which is what I think sets us apart. Just like every other bakery I use fresh ingredients offer cakes that taste as good, if not better than they look. I think XO is setting the standard in the DFW cake world. We look at each cake or party favor as a canvas, a means to express! The materials we are using, techniques and my eye for design (over 15 years in cakes + graphic design) are how we achieve innovative pieces.
What’s your story? How did it all start?
My journey in cakes and decorating is a humble one that for the longest time I was ashamed of and felt very discouraged by. I laugh now because I see God’s hand in the journey with each person I worked for, with the NOs that led me down this path and how I found my own voice (style) in the industry. I was a graphic design/advertising major at Michigan State University and I had a job at a bakery all four years starting from a little worker bee and rising to the challenge of student manager and cake artist. Now most of the work I did was juvenile (parents would call in and place decorated cookie orders for their kids that they missed while away from home)
After college I interviewed for jobs in advertising in Detroit, where my husband and I lived for seven years. When the market crashed in 2008 no one was hiring I was left with no experience and no job. I humbly found the best bakery in the area and applied for an entry level position and landed it. In the six years of working for Holiday Market I gained almost all my experience, climbed to the top as a wedding cake decorator (we did about 5-10 weddings a weekend) I learned a lot working there, from the good and the bad I have tailored my systems, pricing and recipes from this experience, taking the good and tweaking the things that didn’t work so great. During this time I worked on the side to help a friend with her small retail bakery. What I found to be her hangups and downfalls are the things to this day I believe have shaped how I look at my time and what I am willing to take on. This experience also made me realize that retail space is something I want nothing to do with for XOs future.
In 2014 we moved to California where I worked in the wedding industry designing invitations and using that costly degree. I worked for a small family owned company called Envelopments and wore many hats, learned a ton about stationary, social media, photography, web development and most importantly, MYSELF. This was where I found who I was as a designer and held true to it. After living and working in the sunshine state for 3 years we moved again, for my husband’s job and landed in Texas.
I was inspired by the young entrepreneurs and the risks that so many people were taking here. As a family we decided I wouldn’t work for someone else, but that I would start my own business and do things my way, the XO cakery way! So in April of 2017 XO was birthed (official with the state as an LLC) out of a passion for creating artistic beauty that is edible and pushing the boundaries in what’s being done in the industry today.
Can you please explain how wedding cakes are priced?
Wedding Cake is always priced per serving. We are very competitively priced for the DFW bakeries that are producing the quality that we expect and our clientele expects too. The number of servings each cake layer has is dependent on how large the rectangular cut is. Wedding serving sizes are usually a 1”x2” piece compared to Birthday cake servings (which are way larger) typically served in triangle cut (like tick marks on a clock) Our cake starts at $6 per serving and goes up from there based on a factor of flavor/fondant or buttercream covered.
Think of a cake like a wedding dress the more details, higher quality product and time to create the more the dress costs. Cake is no different! The more costly the products to create the cake and more complex the design the more time it will take meaning the overall cost of the cake will be higher per serving.
What does a bride need to know before she starts looking for her wedding cake baker?
I suggest a bride should know a rough guest count and definitely the budget. I feel as though it does a disservice to the baker if the bride’s expectations are set high yet the budget is very low. Any bride should do their research! Looking over bakery websites, almost all bakers provide some type of frequently asked questions and explain their pricing for wedding cakes. When a bride goes into a Consultation appointment she shouldn’t be surprised at the cost per serving, design and or delivery fees. These are all questions that she should have general knowledge of before booking with any bakery. If not you are wasting your own time and the time of the consultant(probably walking away with frustration and a quote that exceeds your budget.)
How long does it take to make a cake?
Baking and decorating one cake never has a timeline. I can obviously budget for the amount of time I think it will take, but there is always something that comes up. Honestly I work better under pressure so I really find my best work happens in the midnight hour. There are SO many factors that go into the time it takes to bake a cake or decorate a cake.
I can honestly say the most time consuming cake is the cake that has a full spray of wafer flowers! On average one flower takes 30 min-90 min to create.
What is a difference between a home baker and commercial baker?
Home bakers are not allowed to create certain products that require Refrigeration such as cream cheese frosting different mosse fillings and fresh fruit that are not stable at room temperature. The reason is because home bakers are not regulated and or inspected by a food safety inspection. We are under the cottage law act. You are limited on what you can do because of being one person versus having a staff of people. I absolutely love working out of my home! The only downside is having to clean the space thoroughly every time I am done with even the smallest of projects. I do love that I have minimal overhead and that I do not have to hold any type of retail/business hours.
It all starts with a sheet of wafer paper like that and then turns into beautiful flowers or anything else the artist comes up with!
What ingredients do you use? Are they any different from what is generally used?
Two words: Wafer Paper. We use gumpaste and fondant, buttercream and all the other trending products (stencils, geo, metallic paint, gold leaf and silicone molds) that everyone else is into, but wafer paper is a newer material in the cake world and it’s all we make our signature edible flowers out of. We never buy pre-made sugar flowers which are what most bakeries are using because they are quick (very beautiful) but require no skill or creativity. I’d say XO buttercream is another important part to our cakes. It is a traditional American Buttercream with LOTS of butter, but every person that tries it RAVES at how light, smooth and surprisingly mild(not too sweet) it is to the taste! Can’t tell you our secret, sorry.
What flavors do you offer? And what is most popular?
XO offers a range of flavors for the chocolate lover to the not so sweet, but tart lemon-raspberry fan. We have seasonal flavors and good ‘ol traditional (red velvet + cream cheese) Our top two selling flavors are ‘Wedding White’ and ‘ Salted Chocolate Caramel’
One is light and fluffy while the other is dense + buttery.
And last, but not the least. Crystal, would you please share about work process with your brides from start to finish.
My process is probably very similar to other companies in the fact that it all begins with an email/inquiry whether it’s through our website, social media or business card referral. We always reply within 48 hours. Because we are a small operation we don’t have the luxury of taking on more than 3 cakes a weekend. I do all the baking/decorating and delivery set-up to ensure everything is done to my standard (a quality control thing).
XO follows up as long as the date for the event isn’t booked we will move forward with a scheduled tasting appointment, which is an hour and costs $35. This payment is made through our website under the tasting tab and secures the agreed upon date and time. Currently our location for meeting is at George’s Coffee in Coppell.
After the tasting the client is emailed the contract and other paperwork along with a quote (good for 90 days) and the next move is up to them. I let them know in the consultation that their date is not secure unless we process the deposit for their order, which is 50% down, NON refundable and holds the calendar for event. Remaining balance and changes to order are due three weeks from the contracted date.
What is difference in my operation verse others that are larger than XO 1. I am Very hands on and know what is going on at all times 2. I don’t do mass tastings, I like to be more personal and get to know my potential clients and I don’t offer tastings to-go.
Can you guys imagine that it takes 30-90 minutes to make each of these flowers?!
Many thanks to Crystal. I think it was very informative and interesting to learn somethin so new! And it was fun to watch her working, right?! Crystal promised that next time I can come and watch her baking! 😉
If you liked this article, make sure to read our interview with behind the scenes with Dallas Wedding Florist – Billie Ball & Co.