eep seeing these sad posts on social media where trust was placed into a baker for a special occasion cake and what was delivered is far from expectation. Hell, there is even an entire website dedicated to them at Cake Wrecks!
I see blame and accusing fingers pointed and I can't help but think blame is on both sides - you usually get what you pay for in life....
Because on the flip side I have seen oodles of posts of people asking for bakers to make a certain cake design "cheap" or for a reasonable cost. (My questions is often define "reasonable!". It might be just flour, eggs, sugar etc but the work involved is often not understood).
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Occasionally, you strike a jack pot with a baker who can actually make similar to your dream cake but it's so rare and far between I don't understand why people would risk it. Especially your little angel's 1st birthday etc!
Custom cakes are expensive! Why? Because anything custom made is made to measure - to your specific taste, requirements, colour etc. It was individually crafted for you - no one else. And just like purchasing a custom lounge, cabinet, car etc - it will cost more.
A custom cake cake can take anything from 8 to 30+ hours to create (I once made a cake that had over 60 hours poured into it and I work fast!) - as a client, ask yourself this - what is your hourly rate? Now times it by 20 hours and now add on anything from $100 to $500 in materials (excluding running costs, insurances, etc) and what figure do you come up with? Suddenly that $350 for your dream cake seems cheap right? I see nightmare posts and blogs of bakers who start to do the math on what they charged and discovered they were either loosing money or working for $5 an hour!!
Now I get the appeal and the trend at the moment with these amazing cakes on social media and sometimes even that need to " Keep up with the Jones`" but at some point we need to be realistic......
I often encourage my clients to save their pennies for the big birthdays/milestones, and for the in between birthday purchase a more budget conscious cake from a regular retailer where cakes are mass produced. The store purchased cakes are great too and can be themed if a person likes them to be. There is nothing wrong with a regular store bought cake! I buy them too for occasions that don't warrant a show stopper. There is a market and a requirement for everything out there.
And when a milestone birthday comes around, throw everything at a fabulous custom made show stopper!
As a client, be savvy and look at the person's previous work - but understand that as a custom make maker, they may not have made the exact designs you are looking for, so ask "Can you do it?". The other concern I have of late for the researching client, is that I have been seeing "Bakers" posting photos of "their" cakes when I clearly know that cake is not theirs and was made by someone else and they have pinched the image for their marketing.
Can I recommend word of mouth is SOOOOOO important for clients. Have you had a great cake at a friend's party? Or seen them post something awesome? Ask them who did it! Is the baker a name brand or has a reputation- in which case you can feel confident the images are their own.
And as a baker, man up or woman up, if you think it's outside your capabilities, don't take the order!!!! Or be honest and say you haven't done it before but you are willing to give it a shot if they are happy to take that risk. It's not fair on your client, nor on your sanity. If you have to post on social media for help on how to do a certain technique, then perhaps consider, NOT taking the order and practice it for future reference - your paying clients are NOT your test bunnies!! Yes it's great to get an order, and yes everyone has to start somewhere, but be honest with yourself and more importantly with your client.
I dread those messages from client's I've quoted, who went with someone else to save $50 or $100 and then send me a picture of what happened (oh the horror of some of them...), saying I should have gone with you, can you help, I will pay anything.... And me, like a sucker, ends up staying up until 4am to rescue them (I used to do them at no charge as I felt so sorry for them!! I still do them but now it's last minute fee added to the original quote as I need to save up to pay for my face lift I now need due to lack of sleep.....).
On the point above, in the past 12 month alone, I've "rescued" at least 9 cakes that I can remember.
So in conclusion.... clients, be realistic, shop, research and pay correctly for what you are asking for. Cakers/Bakers, be honest with your clients, your abilities and yourself......
(Please note - the images above where borrowed from google as cake fails - these are not client cakes, nor ones I have repaired)