Cake Estimates By Phone Or Email

Business By vickster Updated 23 Feb 2008 , 11:04pm by FromScratch

vickster Posted 23 Feb 2008 , 12:50am
post #1 of 11

Well, my situation is I am in a college town and I get calls or emails from parents who want to order a birthday cake or something for their kid who is in school. So that is the only option. I have a pretty detailed price list for extra stuff on my website, so if they start adding stuff, they know up front that it is going to cost more. Since they will likely only see a camera phone picture of the cake, it's not a deal.
As for wedding cakes, I do charge more. I know what Indy Deb is saying. But. The reason I raise the price is the wedding cake has to be just about perfect. When people pick up a birthday or party cake, they always look at it and say "That looks great!" They don't nitpic over every detail. I do a good job on all my cakes. But I put the extra over the top care into wedding cakes. That level of exactness just takes more time, and I pretty much base my prices on time. Most other cakes are for fun. Wedding cakes are serious business. They really want it to be perfect because they're also spending a lot of money on photographs of them and their perfect cake. It just takes more time to get that extra special look.

10 replies
TheButterWench Posted 23 Feb 2008 , 3:44pm
post #2 of 11

When I opened I got a lot of phone calls where people were asking very detailed questions on cakes, like how much for such and such and if you do such and such to it and if it's this flavor with this type of icing and ,

well you get the picture, I started thinking it was people booking jobs and calling me to price their cakes

FromScratch Posted 23 Feb 2008 , 5:37pm
post #3 of 11

I don't care what the cake is for.. I put the same amount of blood, sweat, and tears into them be it a simple Happy Birthday Gramma cake or a 5 tiered replica of someone's dress. The only thing I am not charging exactly the same for is a completely undecorated kitchen cake which I will knock $0.50 off per serving since they are just frosted and nothing more. That being said I don't get a ton of orders for the simple cakes. The main focus of my business is wedding cakes and big spender birthday cakes. I don't want to make cakes for the nickle and dimers so I don't offer sheet cakes. I don't even own a sheet cake pan. Well I take that back.. I have an 11x15 that I use when making some 3-D cakes.. but never to make a sheet cake. If you are coming to me it's because you want that something special.. I want to make cakes for the parents who are going to sink $300 plus into their kid's birthday cake.. I'd rather make 1 $300 cake than 10 $30 cakes. No skin off my back.

I do quote over e-mail.. I break it down for them and let them know that any changes they make to the design will result in a price change. It is stated in my contract that changes made to the design will result in a change in price. You shouldn't be afraid to tell them that if they want that cake with the flying monkeys.. it's going to cost them more than the "simple" cake they requested the first time. Tell them to e-mail you a picture of the cake or direct you to where you can find it.. then you'll get back to them. I never quote on the spot. I will give them a basic range.. but they want a specific quote that will require me to sit down with my pencil and paper and my calculator. I will tell them thank you for inquiring about a cake from The Well Dressed Cake.. prices start at $4.00/serving and go up from there and I will get them a more exact quote in a couple hours. Then I will e-mail them a quote detailing how many servings their cake is and every extra charge involved and it states clearly that any design changes will result in a charge. They can say yes or no and that's pretty much it.

mezzaluna Posted 23 Feb 2008 , 5:39pm
post #4 of 11

I have a sheet cake pan.

I use it for brownies.

FromScratch Posted 23 Feb 2008 , 6:28pm
post #5 of 11

Oooooh.. I could use a 1/2 sheet of brownies right about now.. I am holed up in my house all sick.. chocolate could be great therapy. icon_wink.gif

vickster Posted 23 Feb 2008 , 7:58pm
post #6 of 11

JK. The average household income in my state is $35,000 a year. I live in a rural city of about 20K. If I waited for $300 birthday cakes, I'd be out of business in two months. I have to offer a whole array of cakes because there is simply not enough high end business to support me in my community. At least not until I've had a year or two to build my reputation.
I'm not disagreeing with you or anybody, I just wanted to post this because I'm sure there are a wide array of situations out there and we have to all adjust to those situations. We have different markets and we have to deal with those markets.
I knew that getting into this business and I do not expect to make killer wages, at least not in the forseeable future. I would be thrilled if I could average $15/hr my first year. But I won't be terribly surprised if it comes out more like $10/hr. So for now I do just about any cakes someone asks me to do.
And actually, I kind of like sheet cakes or shape cakes. I just relax and take my time. For me, it's kind of a zen thing. Especially right after you've done some huge job that really taxed your brain power. It's kind of nice to do something simple and quick.

rozdei Posted 23 Feb 2008 , 8:02pm
post #7 of 11


I don't own sheet cake pans either but then again, I just started out. Thinking about making a sheet cake actually overwhelms me. That's a lot of icing and to smooth it. I like the idea of not making sheet cakes. icon_smile.gif

Hope you feel better soon!


vickster Posted 23 Feb 2008 , 8:14pm
post #8 of 11

That's kind of funny. My biggest order this month was a sheet cake. The town down the road was celebrating the 125th birthday of it's courthouse. I made them a birthday cake that was about 3 feet by 8 feet. 16 sheet cakes. It was an $640 cake. I negotiated with them and did it for about 2/3 that price because they put me in the program and ensured me I would have a photo and blurb in the paper. Which I did. Actually two photos. I have four pans so it took me about 5 hours to mix and bake. Probably another 4 or 5 to decorate.

FromScratch Posted 23 Feb 2008 , 9:50pm
post #9 of 11

I posted a big message but the site went down and it didn't post.

The jist was this.. the median income in my area is about 55K. But when you factor in that the median home price is in the 250 - 300K range (factoring out the mobile homes) it makes us about even keel. The cost of living is a lot higher out here than it is where you are. Between homes and the cost of gas and all of that jazz we really do even out.

I hate to see people selling themselves short just because they don't think their maket could handle it. People in my town don't make a ton, but the surrounding towns are a bit richer. But even towns that aren't rolling in the dough are calling me and not fainting when they hear a quote. I don't have to make cakes to pay the bills and I know that I could never pay the bills making $10/hour anyway.

That cake you said you just made.. you would have made $6.40 and hour less actually since you discounted.. no way in heck could I justify the time away from my family for that.

I don't want to sound confontational because that just isn't who I am.. but to stop and think about the bigger picture. There is a market for both schools of thought I suppose more volume equals more money and less volume at a higher price equals about the same money so we both even out.

I looked at your website and you are charging about $1.50 per serving (just by calculating a few of your cakes). You could definitely charge more though.. your cakes are cute!! Espcially some of the carved type cakes (the guy in the hospital bed and the picnic table.. too cute). You put a lot of thought and work into your cakes.. you deserve to be compensated better for it if you ask me. icon_smile.gif

vickster Posted 23 Feb 2008 , 10:42pm
post #10 of 11

MK, your math is off. A $640 cake that takes 10 hours is $64 an hour, not $6.40. It cost me about $150 in ingredients, so I would have made about $35 to $40 had I not discounted. Since I just opened my shop the first of the year, I felt the exposure was well worth the discount.
Yes, I charge about $1.50 a serve for the quickie stuff, but a good bit more for the custom stuff. But, as I've said before, I do not base my charges on servings. I've set my price scale up according to what the ingredients cost and the time it takes me to make the cake. For simple cakes, I personally can't justify netting more than about $10 an hour. One day I hope to do well enough that I can hire a college kid to help with those, or I'll just drop doing them.
I also don't go bananas with my prices for fondant. Personally I find fondant cakes as easy if not at times easier than BC cakes. To me it is much easier to crumb coat and throw on a fondant drape than to get a nice, smooth BC finish coat. For me, what pushes the cost of a fondant cake up is the cost of the fondant itself. I also can whip out nice little fondant decorations fairly quickly (probably that last 15 years as a ceramics teacher!) relative to BC decorations. I do charge more for fondant though as it IS something that I do unique from the grocery stores and what people want is usually a custom design. I try to set my prices on those so I make more like $20 an hour. Hopefully a bit more as my reputation builds.
I understand what you're saying about cost of living, but disregarding the mobile homes, a new house here starts at $150K, not that different from where you are (though you probably get a much nicer lot here for that). And gas, groceries, heat, everything else costs just as much as it does anywhere. We're over $3/gal for gas just like everyone else.
The reality is, for example, my sheet cake prices are over double what they are at the local grocery stores. If I priced them at $2 or more a serve I just flat out wouldn't sell any. And right now I need a steady flow of work. As I said earlier, $10 an hour is better than $0 an hour. I've got to pay my electricity, liability insurance, and a small loan note.
I also own up to being a beginner with a lot to learn. Down the road, I surely anticipate raising my prices, but for now I feel my prices reflect my skill level and my market.

FromScratch Posted 23 Feb 2008 , 11:04pm
post #11 of 11

Oooooh.. must remember to not do math while sick.. icon_redface.gif

But even so.. I think it's not enough. I know this isn't about semantics.. but I still wouldn't be doing cakes for $1.50 per serving.. and the only reason I up charge for fondant is because they are getting 2 icings.. the fondant and the full layer of BC under it. I agree that it's easier to smooth a fondant cake than a BC cake.

I understand the whole being a beginner thing, but you should have that somewhere in bold letters that these are your portfolio building prices and that they will go up when you feel comfortable with that. icon_smile.gif

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