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Earning Money for Adding Vampire Fangs and Blood-shot Eyes onto Cupcakes

bloodshot eyeball cupcakes decorated by TaraFly

Now that is a loaded title, ripe with keywords bound to attract SEO spammers and Twilight fangs fans!

I say, bring it on!

My poor spam folder has been neglected these past few days…
…nothing, nada, zilch…
A few weeks ago, I was complaining on Twitter about the boring French spam ads for Abercrombie and Fitch, and now my blog is apparently on some kind of spam black-list. Nobody will send me any spam. :P

However this title serves another, more appropriate, purpose. It answers that ubiquitous question:
“What have you been up to?”

Well, gee, funny you should ask…
“I’m earning money for adding vampire fangs and blood-shot eyes onto cupcakes!”

I decorated every single one of these 12-count cupcake packs (and many, many more) for a Halloween store display.
Halloween cupcake display

Here are some green-faced mummies, big black spiders, and orange Jack O’Lanterns.

Halloween mummy cupcakes decorated by Tara Fly

Spider bug cupcakes decorated by Tara Fly

jack o lantern Halloween cupcakes decorated by TaraFly

And while I realize how messy that black butter-cream icing is… I have toddlers after all! …Halloween wouldn’t have been official without BLACK CAT cupcakes!!

black cat cupcakes decorated by TaraFly for Halloween

With Joe’s boss sucking the blood from his dying career, and the prospect of taking on additional hours at my workplace, I needed to make a change.

Scraping spaghetti sauce off grocery shelves, and assisting elderly ladies in locating their instant barley and bran flakes, may have provided me with a paycheck but certainly wasn’t a job that I could sink my teeth into.

I need challenges.
I need to exercise my talents.
I need to stop making poor vampire puns.
And I need to feel needed.
Anyone can put boxes on a shelf. No experience necessary.

So when my store manager approached me about a opening for a cake decorator in our bakery, knowing that I had years’ worth of experience on my resume… the offer was quickly accepted!

It has taken me a few days to get acclimated to the routine again, but cake decorating really is akin to riding a bicycle. You’ll never really forget how to do it.

On my first day, I began with simple designs and decorated this “Tangled” kit cake from DecoPac. It’s a very basic concept, just lots of twisted hair using a #233 grass tip, and some small flowers made with a writing tip.

Tangled Repunzel sheet cake with DecoPak kit

But the icing bags felt natural in my hands – unlike cases of Cheesy Ragu – and the shell borders and roses all came back to me.

In fact, my brain is now preoccupied with all-things-cake. I find myself looking at artwork, and wondering how to replicate the design and style with icing. I half-jokingly told Joe that I’d re-create Mr. Darcy Cat onto a cake someday, and sneak it into our showcase.

But with Mia turning 4-years-old this December, and the popularity of Tangled cakes, I’m in birthday-cake planning mode…. and leaning toward the incredibly cute cupcake/muffin tower featured in this Super-Mom blog post!

I believe I’m somewhat of a traditionalist when it comes to cake decorating. I love the classic touches – swirly shell borders, piped roses and leaves, basket-weaves, vines, and swags. I might also incorporate gumpaste flowers, edible glitter, and airbrushed color.

Today’s trends, though, are wild, colorful, and sometimes just a bit strange.

Like this Rat Halloween cake by Karen Portaleo from Highland Bakery. Let’s see, we have: rats, a cockroach, and even rat droppings…. how nice!
And check out her 200 lb. Octopus Cake! Seriously?! Wow!

More cakes by Karen Portaleo:

I don’t have much experience working with sculpted cakes like these, or with fondant for that matter. I’ve always preferred the sweet taste of butter-cream (or even better, whipped chocolate! Mmmmm…) over that edible Play-Dough stuff.

And I secretly loathe rolling out dough. Whenever I’m baking cookies or biscuits, I’ll take a section of floured dough, flatten it with my palm, and cut the circle with an upside-down drinking glass. Blend the leftovers into another piece of dough, rinse, and repeat. Who needs a rolling pin?!

Cakes like those take a loooong time to create… Barbara Jo took over a week to create her TARDIS cake honoring Dr. Who, complete with LED lights and mirrors inside! O_o
At our house, if the cake takes longer than 2 hours to decorate, it will undoubtedly be eaten (by somebody) before it gets finished. *whistles innocently*

Leaning tower cakes, and cakes shaped like steaks, and….

Don Buchiak's Wall-E decorated cake sculpture

My son would go crazy over Don Buciak's Wall-E cake sculpture!

The retailers for whom I’ve worked are catering to the average customer who wants a $20-40 birthday cake, or an occasional $200-400 wedding cake…. since I get paid an hourly wage, that means quantity is almost as important as quality.

Of course, I’m assuming these professional decorators are commanding higher salaries as well. ;)

I’ll never forget the customer who tried to slip me a twenty-dollar bill, saying “I know your boss isn’t compensating you for all that hard work.”

I didn’t take the money. To do so would have violated our company’s policies regarding tips. But considering his $20 contribution was almost double what I earned in my paycheck for that gentleman’s cake… it brought to the surface some uncomfortable realizations about my self-worth.

Anyhow….. :/

I was discussing fads. And the most influential design of all? The blasted polka-dot. Personally, I cannot stand dots.

“But they’re modern!” squeals my shift manager excitedly. “We need more modern cupcakes!”

Like Dots Cupcakes. Which are $3.00 per cupcake and come in a smorgasbord of fun flavors. Even honey goat cheese?!
They deliver straight to your door ~ just like pizza! Except in smaller boxes.

So in the coming weeks, you’ll find me buried up my ears in polka dots and pin stripes… trying to relearn old arts and new at the same time.
Squeezing in some studio time, blogging a bit behind schedule, and dreaming about cake steaks.

Or more likely having nightmares about vampire cakes made from Play-Dough trying to suck my blood, and leaving me covered in polka dots!


In case you’re wondering how AfriCat did in the Art for the Animals charity auction? She sold for $40.00!

Although I didn’t win any awards, AfriCat was announced as 1st runner-up for People’s Choice in my category. I was the only runner-up publicly acknowledged, due to the near-tie between my work and the winner’s! Yay! :)

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