cakesoncall Posted 14 Jan 2006 , 9:07pm
post #1 of

I've been thinking about this off and on for a while now, and the other question about cake tastings posted today got me thinking about it again. I've done several tastings and each one has proceeded a little differently. I just can't seem to find a process/pattern/flow/whatever that feels right to me. So, how do you gals and guys conduct your tastings?

I tried having the customer(s) eat first then talk about cake stuff then look at pics, talk first then look at pics then eat, eat and talk at the same time then look at pics, and blah blah blah...you get the idea. icon_rolleyes.gif I feel weird just sitting there with them while they eat, so I end up talking. But, they don't want to be rude, so they stop eatting while I'm talking, which defeats the purpose of my nervous chatter. icon_redface.gificon_rolleyes.gif

I want to figure out a set method that I use each time so that I feel better prepared and more confident, and so my customers feel comfortable and recognize me as a professional at what I do. Any suggestions or experiences you want to share?

Thanks so much! icon_biggrin.gif

87 replies
antonia74 Posted 14 Jan 2006 , 9:58pm
post #2 of

I'll share mine here if you'd like...

-I book off one Sunday (or two if I'm not booked for weddings!) per month to hold the consultations throughout the day

-I make a timetable from 10am to 7pm and fill it in with appointments each hour

-one week before the appointment dates, I email the client to re-confirm their scheduled time/give them driving directions and tell them what to bring to the appointment (i.e. fabric swatches, invites, photos from magazines, photos off my website they liked)

-the night before/morning of the consultations, I bake all my samples fresh and ice them only that day. I want the client to taste exactly how fresh their wedding cake will be, so I NEVER freeze samples!

-I greet each couple personally and sit across from them in my studio

-I introduce myself and tell them a bit about my experience, my style and how long I've been doing this (always a question because I look about 25, but I'm 32!)

-I then ask them to tell me about their wedding/theme/feel of the day/colours/flowers/guest count and I write EVERTHING down

-I ask if they want their cake to feed everyone a main dessert slice, or is it to be on a buffet table later in the evening after the meal? (great for guessing sizes/numbers they'll need)

-they show me the materials they have brought and for each item I ask what it is that they like/dislike about it (this is the BEST question, you learn so much quickly!)

-I then show examples from my portfolio of cakes that seem similar to what they are asking for and see what sketch we can come up with on the spot. I personalize their cake to exactly what colours/design/feel they are going for.

-when that is roughly decided, I bring out the freshly-baked cupcake samples with big swirls of matching buttercream on top (which are the 5 main cake flavours that I offer) though I tell them everything is personalized, so if they can think it up...I can probably make it! I do leave the room at this point so they can honestly and privately say which ones they like/don't like to each other.

(I go to my kitchen where I pack a little box of samples and wait for 5 minutes for them to eat privately.)

-after about 5 minutes, I return and they have usually chosen a flavour or flavours.

-I give them a little box of extra cupcake samples to take home to let other friends/family try it out. THEY OOOOH AND AHHHH at this every time! It costs about $2 to give them 5 extra samples packaged in a gorgeous little box, tied with a ribbon with my business card on top...and it really makes the sale!

-I always walk them to my door and shake their hands again, letting them know it was nice to have finally met them face to face and that I will email them their information package within the next 2 weeks (IF YOU SAY 2 WEEKS...THEN MAKE SURE YOU ONLY TAKE 2 WEEKS!!! THIS IS YOUR FIRST PROMISE AND YOU ARE JUDGED ON WHETHER OR NOT YOU MEET YOUR DEADLINE!!!!)

-within 10 days/2 weeks, I type up their cake quote with a great colour sketch and email it to them. They either send their deposit cheque to confirm their booking, or pass. I'd say my ratio of booking to not booking is about 12:1 and I credit it to the little things like private consultations, fresh big samples, beautiful boxes of yummy cupcakes to take home and a fun sketch of their potential wedding cake.


thumbs_up.gifthumbs_up.gifthumbs_up.gif

cakesoncall Posted 14 Jan 2006 , 11:49pm
post #3 of

Wow! Thank you so much for such a detailed reply!! I could give you a big hug right now icon_biggrin.gif That's exactly the kind of info I was needing. I've never worked in this industry for anyone else (and haven't gotten married yet, myself), so I sometimes feel like I'm stumbling around in the dark trying to figure out how other people do these kinds of things.

Honestly, after reading your reply, it all kind of clicked in my head finally. I had never thought to leave the room to let them eat privately (of course, I'm saying duh to myself now icon_rolleyes.gif ), and I have this horrible habit of spitting a quote out of my mouth just based on the number of servings (without really thinking about any extra work it may take), but I'm getting better about taking my time and calling later that week.

I love the idea of sketching a design right there with them. I'll have to practice that with some friends or family. I draw a lot, but I've never liked having people watch me. icon_rolleyes.gif And the suggestion to pack some extras in a cute box is a great one too. I've sent leftovers home with brides before, but I didn't take the time to make it look nice...what I did was more like sending them home with a doggy bag. icon_redface.gif Live and learn! thumbs_up.gif

Thank you again!!! It is much appreciated! icon_biggrin.gificon_biggrin.gif

antonia74 Posted 15 Jan 2006 , 1:03am
post #4 of

You are very welcome!

I posted my templates here last week, but they are very useful for consultations. You don't want to waste time drawing out a cake shape freehand while all eyes are on you...even MY hand shakes when they watch!! So just draw out a basic 3-tier in round and 3-tier in square and photocopy a bunch to use for sketches.

All you have to do with these is write in the size/flavour of each tier and draw in the details (bows/stripes/dots/swags). I often staple any swatches or ribbons they bring me right ONTO this paper, so they are never lost and I can refer back to them when it comes time to baking & piping.

You can jot down simple notes & colour indications beside your sketch and re-do it in a nice colour format later to scan and email to them....
LL
LL

cakesoncall Posted 15 Jan 2006 , 11:12pm
post #5 of

That's a great idea to have some basic sketches ready ahead of time. Thanks for posting your templates again; I didn't see them earlier. You're so helpful! I can't thank you enough!! icon_biggrin.gif

candyladyhelen Posted 16 Jan 2006 , 12:15am
post #6 of

I basically do the same as Astonia. But I don't leave the room. I like to outline everything b/4 they taste.

bubblezmom Posted 16 Jan 2006 , 1:35pm
post #7 of

Please, leave the room even for just a minute. It is very awkward to discuss a person while they are sitting right in front of you. icon_smile.gif

didi5 Posted 23 Jan 2006 , 3:08am
post #8 of
Quote:
Quote:

-when that is roughly decided, I bring out the freshly-baked cupcake samples with big swirls of matching buttercream on top (which are the 5 main cake flavours that I offer)




I am curious about this topic as well and Antonia you gave us great information. thumbs_up.gif My question is how do you do five different kinds of cake the night before? That's awful lot of baking for me. .. Plus add making the buttercream. Can you share your process for this? Do you make the buttercream ahead of time? Also, can you share the flavours that you make? Are the flavours just a variation of the same batter? ( I don't know if I'm making sense but pls. bear with me!)

Thanks!

surfergina Posted 23 Jan 2006 , 7:12pm
post #9 of

Thanks for the great tips! I learned so much already. I'm curious about baking, too - how do you manage to bake 5 different flavors? What was the most popular flavor?

MelC Posted 23 Jan 2006 , 8:46pm

Antonia74 does this for a living... with a real bakery & everything (lucky woman!)... I'm sure she is much better organized for multiple bakings that those of us who do this from home!

antonia74 Posted 23 Jan 2006 , 9:09pm

Sorry everyone...I had 16 consultations this weekend, so I'm relaxing with my pj's on today! Didn't have a chance to check CC this weekend much.

Anyway, 2 days before the tasting, I measure out all my ingredients for the dry mix ingredients for each of the 5 cake recipes. (All from scratch, no mixes...THAT would be easier! hahaha) I only do a 1/2 recipe (about 24 cupcakes) for each cake flavour. I put sift the dry ingredients into my buckets and seal and label them. Then I put them aside.

I prep the wet ingredients for each recipe and label them in the fridge. (Don't crack the eggs or mix anything together, just measuring.)

The next day, I make all my buttercream and then divide it by 5...flavouring each differently. I keep this out at room temperature for the next day's tastings.

On the day of the tasting, I'm up at 6am and I can quickly bake off all 5 recipes because they are measured out already. By 11am, the first client is arriving and all my samples are freshly iced and ready to taste.

I have 5 main flavours, but they can mix up the cake/buttercream flavours and add what they'd like:

1- Dark Chocolate Cake with Mocha Chocolate buttercream
2- Tahitian Vanilla Cake with Madagascar Vanilla buttercream
3- Sweet Lemon Cake with Fresh Lemon Zest buttercream
4- Spiced Carrot Cake with Orange Sour Cream Cream Cheese Frosting
5- Banana Buttermilk Cake with Toasted Walnut Buttercream

Doug Posted 23 Jan 2006 , 9:16pm
Quote:
Originally Posted by antonia74

1- Dark Chocolate Cake with Mocha Chocolate buttercream
2- Tahitian Vanilla Cake with Madagascar Vanilla buttercream
3- Sweet Lemon Cake with Fresh Lemon Zest buttercream
4- Spiced Carrot Cake with Orange Sour Cream Cream Cheese Frosting
5- Banana Buttermilk Cake with Toasted Walnut Buttercream




You have been so nice to share w/ us your icing recipe and others too...
how about the ones for all these as well?????

they sound so yummy...and intriguing (like just what is the taste difference between Tahitian and Madagascar vanilla? -- and that toasted walnut???)

thanks!

antonia74 Posted 23 Jan 2006 , 9:34pm

I can't share my actual cake recipes I'm afraid. I made a deal with my partner that any of her/our cake recipes would not be published if I used this chat group. Sorry...I have to keep that promise. icon_wink.gif

But...my icing is all based with Martha Stewart's Italian Meringue Buttercream, then these are added:

mocha chocolate - add 1/2 cup of very dark Dutch cocoa, 6 oz of unsweetened chocolate + 2 Tablespoons of coffee crystals dissolved in just enough hot water to make a thin paste

madagascar vanilla - different from the flowery Tahitian style vanilla, smoother and deeper scent, I add 1 T per recipe (I use the Nielsen-Massey brand. Truly $$$, but come on...it's only a tablespoon! The wedding cake is hundreds of dollars.)

fresh lemon - simple! get a very fine kitchen rasp and grate 2 washed and dried lemons into the buttercream, I use 3 or 4 drops of the Boyajian brand lemon oil as well

cream cheese frosting - any regular recipe + 1/3 cup of full-fat sour cream and the zest from one orange

walnut - toast about 2/3 cup of walnuts in the oven until you can smell them (about 8 min at 350), cool and chop by hand as small as you can get the pieces (or food processor for about 10 seconds), mix into buttercream

cakesoncall Posted 23 Jan 2006 , 9:36pm

WOW! You've been busy; you deserve a day in your pj's!! thumbs_up.gif Curious...how many of those 16 do you expect will end up ordering?

That's a great idea to premeasure everything; that would definitely speed things up when it came time to make the cakes. (do you think that could be done even a month in advance as long as the ingredients are kept in a very tightly covered container?) I can't do that right now (not enough room, lol), but I'm just a few drafts away from having a final purchase agreement to sign for a building to turn into my very own custom cake shop!! icon_biggrin.gificon_biggrin.gificon_biggrin.gif Woohoo! And believe me, I am soaking up all the great advice you have to offer! thumbs_up.gif

PS, those cake and icing flavors sound deee-lish! Makes my mouth water just thinking of them icon_lol.gif

antonia74 Posted 23 Jan 2006 , 9:41pm

I'd say my rate for first inquiries (email/phone) versus coming in for a tasting consultation is about 75%, sometimes I'm already booked or the price quote is just out of budget I guess.

My rate for consultations vs. actual bookings is about 90-95% It's really rare that they come in, meet, talk, taste samples and then don't book. After meeting with those 16 couples yesterday, there is one couple who I don't believe will book me. You can certainly pick up on that "vibe!" I didn't like their cake photo much, so of course I'm feeling less enthusiastic inside. I try not to let that show of course!!

There are also the very rare occasions when people come in with a photo of a cake that I just can't do, or it's not really my style. I don't use pillars , do ornate sugar flowers, filigree piping, ornate swags or anything like that...so sometimes I have to let clients know that the cake just isn't what I'm used to and I'll suggest a few other bakeries that are more like what they are looking for.

Doug Posted 23 Jan 2006 , 9:43pm
Quote:
Originally Posted by antonia74

I can't share my actual cake recipes I'm afraid. I made a deal with my partner that any of her/our cake recipes would not be published if I used this chat group. Sorry...I have to keep that promise. icon_wink.gif




understand.

so, when's the book coming out?

______________________

and could you use pecans or Black walnuts for the nut frosting? [/quote]

antonia74 Posted 23 Jan 2006 , 9:48pm

next issue of The Enquirer, actually!

"Baker exposes all!!" icon_lol.gif

You can use any nut really. I've done toasted pistachios, almonds, pecans, etc.

Black walnuts would be cool! I've seen them at the store, but I've never actually baked with them. What are they like flavour/texture/colour-wise?

Doug Posted 23 Jan 2006 , 9:53pm

black walnuts....yum!...darker, richer, tasting more of the "woods'...INTENSE in ability to flavor anything. Next time at store, take a whiff through package...you'll be able to smell them and you'll get a hint. -- make reg. walnuts look wimpy.

for longest time as a child thought all walnuts were black..didn't have any other kind in house due to tree in yard we harvested.

texture: about same as reg. walnut to a little softer.
slightly darker in color.

name comes from the black outer pod that encases the shell...ooo, boy does it stink when ripe.

______________________

Quote:
Originally Posted by antonia74

next issue of The Enquirer, actually!

"Baker exposes all!!"




LOL!!!

antonia74 Posted 23 Jan 2006 , 9:56pm

i'll have to go get some...but are they actually black in colour inside the shell icon_confused.gif ??

Doug Posted 23 Jan 2006 , 9:59pm

see above edited post. (you posted while I was fixing my answer to include the left out info)

cande Posted 24 Jan 2006 , 12:32am

Mmmm, black walnuts! We, too had a black walnut tree in our yard when I was growing up. They are so much better than regular walnuts! Once you taste them you'll never go back icon_lol.gif

didi5 Posted 24 Jan 2006 , 2:52am

Thanks antonia for sharing! thumbs_up.gif

surfergina Posted 24 Jan 2006 , 4:45am

Thanks, Antonia! You are so kind! You must've been a very busy baker!

sweetbaker Posted 25 Jan 2006 , 2:30pm

Antonia,

Do you charge a consultation fee?

Jenn2179 Posted 25 Jan 2006 , 2:56pm

Antonia -> Thanks for ALL your wonderful posts. You are amazingly helpful and I do appreciate the fact that you are so giving and generous with all your information.

antonia74 Posted 25 Jan 2006 , 4:28pm

You are all very welcome...and to answer Sweetbaker's question, I would absolutely NOT charge for tastings.

I would let an interested client know that you hold consultations maybe only one or two days per month because you bake all the samples fresh so that they can taste the TRUE flavour of their potential wedding cakes. Don't run yourself ragged trying to bake for one couple on one day and maybe two couples a week later...let them come when YOU are holding an "open house" and make appointments throughout the day, on the hour or half hour perhaps?

I give each couple 5 flavours of cake/buttercream to taste in the form of my large cupcakes with big swirls of buttercream & topped with a little decoration. They LOVE it! It costs me only about $60 in ingredients to hold about 20 consultations (40+ people, 100 cupcakes + extra take-home samples) over 2 days, so I can certainly make back the $3 cost per couple if they order. It's less than the cost of a single slice of wedding cake! icon_rolleyes.gif

If you can...I wouldn't charge. Unless you really go out of your way and make them miniature cakes to taste, or they are the only couple tasting...so you'd have to make fresh samples. I agree, that could get expensive in time/waste/ingredients.

amandasweetcakes Posted 13 Feb 2006 , 5:47pm

Wow. This post is fantastic. So many great ideas. It was so nice of you to share, Antonia. I, too, am starting my own business and will be advertising very soon. I am expecting to get my first Wedding Cake call and it makes me nervous. But all these great tips will really help. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

By the way I love your website and cakes. Very cool!


Amanda

cakeatty Posted 13 Feb 2006 , 9:16pm

I just opened a home based bakery and I've been really wondering how to effectively do a "tasting" and you answered every single one of my questions. You're such an angel!!

PieceofCakeAZ Posted 20 Feb 2006 , 9:48am

Great info Antonia74! Our Sunday tastings are very similar except I cut pieces off of slabs of cake instead of cupcakes... and my drawings are probably much worse that yours. icon_biggrin.gif

Quote:
Originally Posted by antonia74


the night before/morning of the consultations, I bake all my samples fresh and ice them only that day. I want the client to taste exactly how fresh their wedding cake will be, so I NEVER freeze samples!




Interesting. I do this just the opposite (OK, not totally opposite... I never freeze). Since we usually bake wedding cakes on Wednesday for a Saturday delivery, I bake samples on Thursday (for Sunday tastings). That way the samples are the exact same age when they eat it as their wedding cake will be when they eat that. I even make it a point to mention when the samples were baked and why we bake them when we do. I even serve the samples at room temperature, just like their wedding cake will be after sitting there for 3 hours while they are getting married and dancing the night away. I find it is actually a nice tool to make them feel comfortable with exactly how their cake will taste at the wedding.

Thoughts?

BJsGRL Posted 21 Feb 2006 , 1:34am

While I have only done wedding cakes for friends and family members (not yet licensed!), I do hold "tastings" for them. Since I use doctored cake mixes and buy my fillings from a supply store, tastings are usually pretty easy for me.

I bake mini loaf cakes, and usually split a mix into two or three portions, and flavor each of them differently. My flavors include white cake: vanilla, lemon, orange, and almond flavors; chocolate cake: vanilla, almond, and orange flavors; spice cake with and without nuts; carrot cake with and without raisins and pineapple; and marble cakes in chocolate/vanilla and chocolate/coconut.

I have 8 or 9 flavors of filling that I keep on hand (I really use them often enough to justify having them on hand!).

I slice the mini loaves into 6 or 8 slices and serve the fillings in individual custard cups. Everything is labeled, plates, forks, spoons, and napkins (usually in colors to match their wedding colors) are supplied.

I have everything ready and on the table a few minutes before "my guests" arrive. Before the actual tasting, we sit in the living room and discuss their plans for their cake, go over pictures, colros, sketches, etc. until we all know the "final" plan. Then, it's off to the tasting table! So far, everyone has just loved mixing and matching the different cake flavors, fillings, and icing to find their perfect match. Some couples have very simple tastes, or know exactly what they want. Others think they know what they want until they are given the opportunity to experiment. All have had a wonderful time and are very appreciative of the effort I have made to make this tasting a very fun and memorable part of their wedding planning.

Tina

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