Expanding My Skills by Learning to Bake at Disney World

February 16, 2018

I know what you’re thinking.  You’re wondering what learning to bake at Disney World has to do with building happy teams and effective leaders.

Well, as you might have heard, our theme for the year at TH!NK is: Expand.

This year we are trying to expand ourselves and our business in a variety of ways: expand our network, expand our knowledge, expand our offerings … just to name a few.

Our goal is to expand ourselves in at least 12 different ways over the next year.  And you’re going to be able to take this journey with one each month through our blog.

February is my month to share how I focused on expanding my knowledge.  But first, let me share a few things about me that you might not know:

1. I love Disney World

My parents took me to Disney World the first year it opened, and I’ve been back many times since then.  That’s where my love for everything Disney began.  In fact, I even worked at Walt Disney World in their Disney College Program many years ago.

2. I am a terrible baker

Which isn’t necessarily unique to me since a lot of people can’t bake.  But it is strange when you consider #3 …

3. I can’t stop watching cake decorating shows

I love them all!  Kids Baking Championship, Cup Cake Wars, Holiday Baking Championship. I could go on and on.  And my love for these shows has instilled in me a deep desire to decorate a beautiful cake one day, under the guidance of a baking expert.

Earlier I created a dream list of things I wanted to do this year, and close to the top of the list was to decorate a cake with an actual cake decorating expert.  And after a bit of Googling, this is what popped up:

Create an Edible Work of Art - TH!NK Training - Screen Capture
Be still my beating heart!

I couldn’t believe it!  Disney World was providing cake decorating lessons?  Someone out there read my mind!  This was the perfect way for me to learn how to decorate a cake, especially considering how much I love Disney World!

Faster than you can cover a rolling pin with flour, I was on a plane, ready to expand my knowledge of cake decorating, and to fulfill one of my biggest dreams.

Did I do it?  Did I decorate a cake?

Well, before I get into the details, let me share you a few lessons I learned from this experience expanding my skills:

Lesson 1: Attitude is everything and passion trumps talent

As I shared with you, I am a terrible cook and baker. I have no talent or training in this arena.

However, I had a passion to make a cake.

And with right mentor by my side, I was able to create the most beautiful Minnie Mouse cake that you have ever seen.

Learning to Expand My Baking Skills at Disney World - TH!NK Training - Baking instructor
Our mentors sharing the steps to bake our Disney character cakes!

Lesson 2: Patience is a virtue

Here is something else you might not know about me: I am a rusher.

I rush by nature. I walk fast, talk fast, and like to take action fast.

Cake decorating is not a fast process.

In fact, my mentors shared that making these cakes is a three-day process.

You need to bake the cake, cool the cake, fill the cake, ice the cake, change your gloves, cool the cake, do the first layer of decorations, cool the cake, change your gloves, do the next layer of decorations, cool the cake, change your gloves.

Do you see the pattern?

A beautiful cake takes time and it pays to be calm, steady and patient if you want to create a beautiful cake.

The mentors kept saying you need to change your gloves so you don’t get the black from her ears on the white polka dots.  After all, Minnie never has black smudges on her dogs.

Well, one time, I was a bit tired of changing gloves and decided to just keep going.

Out of nowhere, “poof” a smudge appeared right on one of my crisp white dots!

Learning to Expand My Baking Skills at Disney World - TH!NK Training - 02 My baking gloves
The gloves were made for baking … and developing patience

My caring mentor simply walked over and said, “Just change your gloves and make a new dot”.

I am sure she wanted to say, “I told you to change your gloves!” But, of course, she did not.

Losing her cool would not have helped, nor would it have been very Disney-like. I would have just gotten more nervous and down on myself.

Learning to Expand My Baking Skills at Disney World - TH!NK Training - 03 Baking teacher with the final product
My smiling mentor showing my finished cake

Lesson 3: Anyone can do anything as long as they have a vivid picture of the future and clear instructions

These baking mentors were able to guide each one of my classmates to make a beautiful cake just like the one on display. How did they guide inexperienced cake decorators into making an impressive cake?

First, they showed us a picture of what we were going to make that day. When I saw it, I was thinking that this would be another one of my art projects: it starts with good intentions, but just ends up all wrong.  I had little hope that my end product would be high quality, but I was okay with that since I was really just there to expand myself with a new experience.

Second, they already baked and filled the cake for us. This saved us two days of effort and was required since it was only a 90-minute class. This was important because a leader needs to assess their employees and make decisions about where they can start training.  It gives the person a sense of success and progress.

Learning to Expand My Baking Skills at Disney World - TH!NK Training - 03 Sarah with the finished cake
Hard at work with my cake decorating skill development

Third, the mentors guided us through the process in a step-by-step format. They would demonstrate each step and then provide us the supplies to do the same step on our cake. Before I knew it, my cake went from a bald white dome to a vivid Minnie Mouse cake that brought a smile to my face and joy to my heart.

And to top it off, it was delicious!

Learning to Expand My Baking Skills at Disney World - TH!NK Training - 04 Sarah and the baking instructors
With my cake decorating mentors at Disney World

Lesson 4: Make things special

It would have been perfectly satisfying to decorate my cake, stick it in a box and head on out the door.  But, in typical Disney fashion, my Amorette mentors took the experience one step further.

After we finished they placed all our cakes underneath a display glass with beautiful lights to showcase our creations in a special way.

I was cracking up at the scene.

All of us decorators were peering into the glass case, like it was our new born baby on the other side.  And, of course, I was thinking to myself: “That one is mine, and isn’t she the most beautiful cake in the case“?

Learning to Expand My Baking Skills at Disney World - TH!NK Training - 05 The cake in the display case
My cake on full display in the beautiful case

What’s Next?

So, am I inspired to bake at home?

Yes!  This experience has given me the confidence to try baking at home and see what I can accomplish without my mentors.

But, I’m pretty sure I’ll be starting with a small cup cake.  But who knows?  You may just see some amazing creations from Sarah’s Bakeshop!

Learning to Expand My Baking Skills at Disney World - TH!NK Training - 06 Sarah and the cake
I’m all smiles as I show off my successfully decorated cake!

Want to expand your skills?

You might not want to expand your skills in the kitchen, but if you have a desire to help your team get to the next level, then we’d love to see how we might be able to help you.  We have all sorts of tools in our toolkit to help  you get the most of your team, and build an organization that will help your business expand.

Give us a call, or contact us today!

Learning to Expand My Baking Skills at Disney World - TH!NK Training - 07 Eating the cake
Like I said … it was delicious! 🙂

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