Who Designs Your Cakes -- You Or Your Customer?

Business By bakerfairy Updated 3 Jul 2008 , 8:46pm by Chef_Stef

bakerfairy Posted 30 Jun 2008 , 8:46pm
post #1 of 14

I'm still pretty new to cake decorating and I am trying to figure out how to best come up with cake design ideas with customers. My question is, do most of you decorators give substantial guidance to your customers on design ideas or options?

I'm finding that I would like the customer to be happy, so I want them to tell me exactly what they want, but in reality, they don't know the techniques available for their cakes, the amount of time something will take to complete, or the cost of certain designs. How do you complete a detailed cake for them, without telling them your secrets, but still giving them a clear picture of what they're cake will look like... or do you let them tell you exactly what they want it to look like?
Thanks in advance for your advice!

13 replies
peg818 Posted 30 Jun 2008 , 9:10pm
post #2 of 14

I pretty much let the customer tell me what they want, if they are unsure of what they like, they look at pictures and pick out what they like about the cakes, what they don't like (sometimes this can tell you more then what they like) Then there is the making suggestions, usually what the customer wants is so vague that you just work from there make a couple of sketches and see what they take to.

Jenn123 Posted 30 Jun 2008 , 9:59pm
post #3 of 14

Every bride is going to be different. If you don't have a lot of your own photos, ask them to find pictures they like from magazines and internet. Then you can work together to create something they will like. Making a sketch is very important. If you are fairly new, find photos or make small dummies of simple designs that you can handle well. In my experience, many brides have no idea what they want and too many choices just confuses them. Keep it simple and at a level you feel comfortable with.

Tona Posted 30 Jun 2008 , 10:16pm
post #4 of 14

It is always best to lisen to your customer then add help where help is needed. I always let them tell me what they like and help where needed.

indydebi Posted 30 Jun 2008 , 10:24pm
post #5 of 14

They don't have to know the techniques to know what they want. I explain almost everything I do and how I do it ... it's not giving away secrets, it's educating them on what they are buying. ("A cake with no border is not easier .... it's actually more work. The border covers the seam where the two sides meet. When there's no border, I have to actually work harder to make it perfect for you!" .... they are always amazed to learn this! I always tell them "Oh it's no big deal .... I just want you to understand that what you think is "simple" may or may not be "simple" to execute! It's part of your wedding education!")

I tell brides, "Choosing your wedding cake is a cut-n-paste process." I then explain that as they look at pics, they should think out loud ... let me know if they like this set up, those flowers, that side decor, this type of border.

Who designs it? It's a joint venture.

I help them thru the process with questions that narrow it down.
Do you like round or square?
Do you like cakes stacked on top of each other or with pillars/space between them?
etc.

nicksmom Posted 30 Jun 2008 , 10:29pm
post #6 of 14

I would say both the customer and myelf,I listen to them, but advise them on things as needed, and some customers just say to do what I think is best because they can't figure the details and angles etcc....

KoryAK Posted 30 Jun 2008 , 11:16pm
post #7 of 14

I have about 175 cakes in my book and thats where we start. I have the brides pick thru that (or check out my site beforehand) while I'm getting them their coffee and all that, and even mark it with sticky notes. Then I go thru the q&a portion (date, location, etc...) and then ASK if they have any idea what they'd like. I do like Indydebi and ask easy, 2 choice questions where I can. If they don't start running with an idea by the end of that, I go thru the cakes they noted and try to identify running themes or their favorite parts and start making design suggestions.

bakerfairy Posted 30 Jun 2008 , 11:25pm
post #8 of 14

Thanks for all of this great advice! Do most of you share photos of your own work, or do you have a book with photos of cakes that others have done? The reason I ask is that since I'm still a beginner, I don't have a lot of photos to go by. Is it OK, to have customers look at other's cakes for examples of what they would like? Also, what about non-wedding cakes? Do you still set up meetings with your customers and go through all of the questions for birthday cakes etc?

indydebi Posted 30 Jun 2008 , 11:28pm
post #9 of 14
Quote:
Originally Posted by KoryAK

....and even mark it with sticky notes. .



I do this too ... it's very helpful!

Quote:
Originally Posted by KoryAK

If they don't start running with an idea by the end of that, I go thru the cakes they noted and try to identify running themes or their favorite parts and start making design suggestions.




Had one bride a few months ago who seemed stumped when picking out her cakes. She'd stop at a pic but "....I like that cake, but it's not the cake I want." So I started asking her, "What is it about that cake that caught your eye?" With the tagged pages (post-it's), I'm able to point out the commonalities of the cakes ... "Well all of these are stacked, so I'm assuming you don't want pillars. And all of them have a border .... is that what you like? 3 of the 4 have dots on the side ... is that the kind of decor you like?"

indydebi Posted 30 Jun 2008 , 11:31pm
post #10 of 14
Quote:
Originally Posted by sugarfairytales

Thanks for all of this great advice! Do most of you share photos of your own work, or do you have a book with photos of cakes that others have done?



I have two books ... both plainly and clearly marked on which is which ... one book is pics of cakes I have done and the second book "..... these are pictures of cakes I collected when I had a full time job and didn't feel like working, so I cruised the internet looking for cake pictures and printing them off to give you ideas!" icon_biggrin.gif

Jovy Posted 1 Jul 2008 , 2:48pm
post #11 of 14

Im new in this biz too and I have not started wedding cakes yet. when the time comes I am little concern of showing magazines or even books from well know cake designers. So I have to really work on sketching and asking the bride a lot of questions to at least get what she wants.

poshcakedesigns Posted 1 Jul 2008 , 6:34pm
post #12 of 14

It just depends on ther person.

Some people know exactly what they want. Then I just LOVE icon_biggrin.gif those that say 'I trust your judgement'. Then you have those that kinda sorta know and you lead them.

missmeg Posted 2 Jul 2008 , 7:47pm
post #13 of 14
Quote:
Originally Posted by indydebi

I have two books ... both plainly and clearly marked on which is which ... one book is pics of cakes I have done and the second book "..... these are pictures of cakes I collected when I had a full time job and didn't feel like working, so I cruised the internet looking for cake pictures and printing them off to give you ideas!" icon_biggrin.gif



I love this idea debi! I've been trying to figure out how to create a portfolio when I don't have many stacked cakes yet...and what I do have aren't wedding!

Chef_Stef Posted 3 Jul 2008 , 8:46pm
post #14 of 14

I always do a color sketch once I feel like I know what they are looking for, after they show me any pictures they bring with them, and after they look through books I have and my portfolio. We basically either pick something pretty much to replicate, or we design something new that incorporates details from all the cakes they like.

So the answer is "Both".

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