Gaining Efficiency with Cakes

Take it from Lynn Schurman, owner at Cold Spring Bakery in the central Minnesota town of Cold Spring, population 4,025. When it comes to maintain profitability in the cake business, efficiency is your best friend.

“We make all our cakes on Monday and then they go into the freezer,” says Schurman of the family-owned bakery founded in 1946. “On Tuesday, we are mixing icing. We start pulling out cakes on Thursday for decorating. We deliver 95 percent of our cakes.”

It all comes down to making production schedules align with your bakery’s needs to operate more efficiently. “You’ve got to spread out your workload,” Schurman says. “You can’t do everything in one day.”

Beth Fahey, co-owner of Creative Cakes in Tinley Park, Illinois, recommends that any bakery that is striving to get ahead needs to learn how to manage your production process to maximize efficiency.

“One area to go big in is refrigeration,” Fahey says. “That means a walk-in cooler and a walk-in freezer. If you go to a certain volume, you must freeze cakes; and when you flash-freeze you are locking moisture inside. Think: What’s the biggest batch I can do to be more efficient?”

When Fahey and her sister, Becky Palermo, bought Creative Cakes in 2002, they doubled annual revenue at the Chicago area bakery in the first year “because we did things differently,” Fahey recalls. Now they’re a $2 million retail bakery.

“My recommendation is always buy twice as much as you’re going to need. A KitchenAid 5-quart mixer isn’t going to make it in the real world of baking,” Fahey says. “I wish we had a 140-quart mixer.”

It’s equally important toward achieving your goal of maintaining profitability to recognize that a huge skills gap exists in today’s baking industry. Schurman says Cold Spring has been short one baker for almost two years.

Fahey says you have “to have patience to train people,” and Schurman suggests that when hiring, “attitude is way more important a lot of time.”