Can/should I Charge For Ingredients For Hobby Cakes?

Business By margaretb Updated 21 Jul 2008 , 4:06pm by dandelion56602

margaretb Posted 12 Jul 2008 , 5:43pm
post #1 of 31

I just do cakes as a hobby. I've been getting requests from family members to do cakes for them. Often I am happy to do the cake, but if I keep getting requests, it is going to get too expensive. Everyone oohs and ahs, but I don't think very many people realize how expensive it is to make a cake. I've had a few people comment about how I should charge for cakes (can't - not licensed), and I just say back "you couldn't afford to pay me to make this cake". Now, one thing I am going to do is that from now on, if I provide a cake, I am not also providing a gift (I've done quite a few baby shower and birthday cakes). I sense that a few people view bringing the 13 by 18 decorated scratch sheet cake as equivalent to bringing a tray of veggies and dip or a case of pop. No more of that! But as the requests start coming from the not so close family members and/or non-relatives, should I be asking for the cost of ingredients? Is that even allowed if you are not licensed to sell cakes? And the big question -- if the cost of ingredients for the cake is, say $30, do I devalue my work by actually asking for the $30 where if I were doing it commercially I would probably charge at least $100 for the cake (actually, that would pay for the ingredients and my time -- maybe -- but not for the cost of renting a kitchen or remodeling my house to have a seperate kitchen area)? I don't want to get people thinking that that kind of cake is only worth $30. If I do charge, what is a tactful way of requesting the cost of ingredients? Or maybe if it is the kind of situation where I would want to be paid for my ingredients, then maybe I should just decline to make the cake.

I'd appreciate any thoughts or comments on how to handle this.

Margaret

30 replies
MichelleM77 Posted 12 Jul 2008 , 6:21pm
post #2 of 31

I believe that any change of hands like that constitutes a business transaction, so you would be doing it at your own risk

LetThereBeCake07 Posted 12 Jul 2008 , 6:32pm
post #3 of 31

you could give the person a grocery list and have them but the stuff...of you buy it and they "reimburse you"

TexasSugar Posted 12 Jul 2008 , 6:36pm
post #4 of 31

I don't do this as a business. When asked I say I do cakes for family and friends. And I do have a rule with my family and friends. If you ask me to do a cake, you are paying for it. If I offer then it is free. Yes I am taking money for exchange of a cake, but it is only between my family and friends and I don't generally do cakes for anyone else.

Why? Because they make more money than I do and I can't afford to make all the cakes they want me to make. That is taking food out of my fridge and with the prices of things now a days I need all my money to pay for food and gas.

My family are not going to go turn me into the health department for doing cakes 'illegally' and I don't really have a big enough desire at this point to do cakes for people I don't know or do this for more than a hobby.

Tootall Posted 12 Jul 2008 , 6:39pm
post #5 of 31

See, I just don't get how you could get in trouble for someone buying you the ingredients. It just doesn't make sense to me. If I buy my grandmom the stuff for her to make me a cake, does that mean she can be fined? icon_confused.gif I'm not replying to anyone in particular, I've just heard this before and think it's pretty darn silly. I understand not CHARGING for a cake when you're not licensed, but not even letting them buy the ingredients? That's just nuts thumbsdown.gif

kelleym Posted 12 Jul 2008 , 8:08pm
post #6 of 31
Quote:
Quote:

See, I just don't get how you could get in trouble for someone buying you the ingredients. It just doesn't make sense to me. If I buy my grandmom the stuff for her to make me a cake, does that mean she can be fined? I'm not replying to anyone in particular, I've just heard this before and think it's pretty darn silly. I understand not CHARGING for a cake when you're not licensed, but not even letting them buy the ingredients? That's just nuts




It's not about getting "in trouble" for them buying the ingredients, it's about the appearance of selling food from an unsafe/unlicensed kitchen. In general it's safer not to exchange goods/money for services.

That being said - I am in Texas, one of the strictest states as far as food licensing, and even here my county's Health Department rep told me I could sell cakes to friends and family. So if you are getting requests from people you know to make them a cake, I don't see anything wrong with charging for at least the ingredients. It's only when you start getting inquiries from strangers or "friends of friends" that it starts to look more like a business and less like a hobby, and you are opened up to a whole different level of liability.

lilmiz Posted 12 Jul 2008 , 9:38pm
post #7 of 31

Looks like we are kind of in the same boat Margaret.

I agree with Kelleym Baking for friends/ family is cool and I do do it in place of a gift.

My worry with people I don't know is, if there is a problem ever I don't have a legal leg to stand on.

margaretb Posted 12 Jul 2008 , 11:16pm
post #8 of 31

I think I will decline to bake cakes for those who are not particularly close to me. I made two 13 by 18 double layer chocolate sheet cakes with buttercream icing decorations for a cousin at my aunt's request. There was a lot of cake left over (they would have had left overs with just one of the cakes), so they froze it up on my cake boards and I had to pester them for two months to get my cake boards back!

Of course, even those close to me can be insensitive -- my grandma turned 95, so my aunt and my mom planned a birthday party for her. My mom called me up and asked if I would make the cake and the veggie dip (why the dip too??). She said they were having burgers, so I offered a case and a half of burgers we had left from the last beef we had butchered -- probably about 100 quarter pound burgers. The cake I made was a two tiered stacked cherry almond pound cake with a layer of marzipan/almond paste (I made it myself and ended up combining two recipes) covered in fondant and with gumpaste roses for decorations. I also made a 9 inch two layer chocolate cake with buttercream icing in case there were people who didn't care for the pound cake (thinking mainly of the great grandchildren). The rest of the meal was -- some smokies, buns, juice/pop/beer, cut up veggies, a salad and some trays of squares. Between 30 and 40 people attended. They only used the half case of burgers, but the other full case has disappeared, even though I had asked to have any leftovers returned for use at my son's birthday party two weeks later. On top of that, I also contributed $40 to a $300 family gift (there are 3 children and 6 grandchildren). Bless my grandma, she deserves it all and I'm glad to do it for her. However, I was a little choked when a week later my mom called to collect for the gift and she said, well, I guess we won't ask you to contribute to the meal, since you brought the cake. Good grief, thanks for letting me not contribute anything important. I choked again later when I asked my SIL how much they had to contribute to the party and was told they were not asked to contribute anything.

margaretb Posted 13 Jul 2008 , 12:40am
post #9 of 31

Here are the cakes that I made for my grandma's birthday. That's the second fondant cake I ever made, the first being an experimental version of this cake to test out my cake and fondant recipes.

The reason I didn't have to contribute anything else towards the party is that my mom figured I spent "around $50" on the cake.

Oh well, I suppose my mom would understand if I said it is like when she is asked to make a wedding dress and it is valued only at the cost of the material.
LL
LL

lilmiz Posted 13 Jul 2008 , 12:44am
post #10 of 31

Oh my gosh my DHs family can be the same.

I broke my ass on a cake for my FIL Birthday ( its the poker machine in my pics,).

So last minute no kids allowed (no time for sitter) so I stayed home with the boys. DH took the cake. never even got a thank you nothing it has never been spoken of again. icon_rolleyes.gif

I had to beg to get the board back. Finally just went over and got it when no one was home (I have a key) icon_evil.gif .

I guess I am sensitive and need some kind of feed back "I love it why don't you!!!"

lilmiz Posted 13 Jul 2008 , 12:50am
post #11 of 31

That is wonderful especially, for your second fondant cake!!!

My first fondants looked like a piece of modern art (but not in a good way)...

melodyscakes Posted 13 Jul 2008 , 3:46am
post #12 of 31

Margerett,
NO MORE cakes for your family!
or do them, and send an invoice of what it would cost.


family...gotta love them.

melody

margaretb Posted 13 Jul 2008 , 4:25am
post #13 of 31

I have to be clear -- my baba was thrilled with her cake. She practically had tears in her eyes and said, "who would have thought I would ever have a cake like this". I was excited to do it for her and I do not know a single person who deserves it more, and I only wish it could have been even better.

What irked me was the way my mom made it sound as if my cake was BARELY worth the contribution other people made to the party. That kind of idea that, well, all you brought was a cake. I did a bug cake for my aunt's 60th birthday -- again, happy to do it, and in fact had been planning to do a cake like it for two years and it just happened to work out that it got done on her 60th birthday. Brought the cake in, set it down, and got asked to kick in my $20 for the group gift. Ummm... really? There's 40 people here who brought nothing, and you don't think my cake is enough of a gift? Again, not the aunt for whom I was happy to make the cake, but the others.

Oh well, I guess I should have gotten good at homemade pickles or gelatin salad for my signature contribution instead.

margaretb Posted 13 Jul 2008 , 6:37am
post #14 of 31

lilmiz -- I just had a look at your photos, and your cakes ROCK! It is nice to be appreciated, but I suppose like all things, no one is going to really appreciate the time and effort that goes into creating cakes unless they have done it themselves. Heck, I don't even appreciate the time it takes, hence you'll see me up all night finishing whatever cake because I underestimated how long it will take to decorate.

OCakes Posted 13 Jul 2008 , 7:24am
post #15 of 31

This is actually how I got into business - everyone asking me to do the cake; then telling me to go into business. My first order was placed before I did anything. I charged her for my ingredients (she WAS a friend), and went to get my business going the next week. I haven't been able to upgrade my home, but I found a commercial kitchen I can rent part-time. I was told it IS okay to sell to family & friends... and about the cake as the gift - it is NOT the equivalent of a veggie platter they just nabbed at the store on the way over! You put so much more time & $$ into it! I make the cakes for all my nephews' & neice's birthday's, and most family events. I also give cake as my gift to all the baby showers at my church. I don't bring business cards, but people tend to talk =) Good luck!

mama5kiddos Posted 13 Jul 2008 , 2:20pm
post #16 of 31

I completely understand you...I am in the same situation! After last year, I got hooked on CC and have learned so much since. I then made a bratz birthday cake for my neice as a gift. I realized it cost so much to make each cake (especially for our family, LOTS of people) it came out to be $50. Then I was asked to make another cake for my father in law. After that one too cost $60 or so, plus all the TIME it takes to create each cake, I soon realized that it is not worth it just to make em for free. The family doesnt realize how much it costs to make them in the first place (they are thinking box cake and tub of frosting cost) so when I told them each one takes about $50+ they are shocked. (I like to usually use a mousse filling and doctor all the cakes). They dont realize the TIME it takes for these cakes either. Again, these are not just a simple 9x13 cake that they are used to.

After I started getting more requests for cakes for family, I began asking for cost of ingredients atleast. (donation would have been nice for my time and effort!) Another family member wanted me to make a wedding type cake for her daughter, I agreed to do it a few months beforehand. I told her I either need the $ for the ingredients, or I would make a list and she buy the stuff. She bought the stuff, but then I regretted it because she didnt get the trans fat shortening (as I had asked for) I later found out she bought her stuff at the grocery outlet, and still spent $45+ on everything. Well, the powdered sugar had ROCK HARD pieces in it, and I only found that out AFTER I had poured it in the MMF. So that went in the trash. Next time I will ask for the cost of the ingredients so I can go buy the stuff! I learned my lesson!

The next cake I was asked to do was for my sis in law's baby shower. I felt that was my "gift" to her, and I made a 12" cake, with a 9" round on top for her to take home. I again, spent approx $65+ on this cake. Spent all day baking/decorating/etc, only for other family members to look down upon me for not bringing enough gifts for her (I did buy her an outfit too). I was upset, and figured I should have just spent the $ on gifts instead, since they dont ever realize the cost of the cake.

If i ever get a request for a family member again, I am going to charge them cost of ingredients plus add an extra $20 or so for my time and effort. Unless they decorate cakes themselves, they never appreciate all that goes into making them.

NikkiDoc Posted 13 Jul 2008 , 3:26pm
post #17 of 31

Another case of how people who don't do cakes think that all you do is throw it together. No...it requires planning, money, shopping, mixing, baking, time, making the icing, coloring and thinning the icing. All this before you even spend the time to decorate it. It is not like a bakery where they have ready-made cakes and icing or someone else to make it before the decorating.

It's all up to you. I think if I were in your situation I would charge for ingredients at least, unless I brought the cake as a gift. I would make sure that it was understood that the cake was a gift beforehand and if there are still issues you would simply just have to look over it, or gently inform them of the paragraph above.

I just made my dd's birthday cake (a 3 layer 9" round castle with turrets). My sister commented that I should start making these for extra income (I'm a SAHM) that I could make at least $60 for a cake like that. (WTF?!) This cake would cost more than that if I were selling it, and I'm not even as experienced at piping as I want to be!

Most people in my area are used to paying Wal-Mart prices for cakes. And most wouldn't pay what I would have to charge for my ingredients, my time and attention to detail. You get what you pay for, though. People who don't make cakes don't get it.

I only do cakes for family as well. If I want to make a cake I offer to, or make it as a gift, or part of their gift. I don't expect people who don't make cakes to understand. Still it doesn't make it any easier to be insulted. icon_evil.gif And if I can't look over it, I will explain that I am a one person bakery: that I make my cakes and icing myself, no one does it for me, I don't buy it premade, I don't have any help, that I am doing it in my own time and that it takes alot of time and money. I also will include that I love doing it and that's the only reason that I do it. If they don't want to hear my side of the story, they will keep their mouth shut next time! icon_redface.gif I had to explain all of this to my sister, she was so convinced that I could earn some kind of living doing this.

Tootall Posted 14 Jul 2008 , 1:38am
post #18 of 31

Haha, being a relatively small town, people around here have never really seen fondant work on cakes. I don't think we have a bakery that does them. So they're all like "You should sell these things!" I always respond with "People wouldn't want to pay me what I'd have to charge" (to which I get confused looks) or "Mine are nothing! You should see the cakes on Cake Central!" (which also gets confused looks icon_lol.gif) I think of a special cake I make as a gift. If they don't like it, then they'll stop asking me to bring the cake, now, won't they? icon_biggrin.gif

margaretb Posted 15 Jul 2008 , 5:47am
post #19 of 31

I HATE mixing the icing. Well, maybe not hate, but I bet I spend at least an hour on the icing making all the different colours that I will need, and it just drives me crazy (probably because by the time I am starting that I had thought I would already be done the cake -- ah, the secret stresses of a procrastinator).

I also come from a small town, so I can well imagine the shock of charging anything over $50 for a cake. Actually, I'm not even from the town -- I live 24 km/15 miles out of town, so imagine what the cost would be factoring in two trips to town and renting a commercial kitchen (which I assume would mean the kitchen of the Elks Hall, and since I know they rent a small room for $100 a night, I'd hate to think of the kitchen rental). But you know, I think I will look into what the actual rental cost would be, figure out ingredients cost etc etc, and then, what the heck, if someone ever did ask me to make a cake, I could quote my outrageous figure, and if they were actually willing to pay -- why not? The other thing is out here we are in oil country, so I could walk into any fast food joint or convenience store and get a job on the spot starting at $11 an hour. Don't see why my time should be worth anything less. I don't expect to start charging my family for cakes, but next time someone says, gee, you should sell cakes, I will be able to say "The ingredients alone cost $X, and I wouldn't even be making minimum wage if I sold this cake for less than $X". Sort of that thing where you have to educate your "customers" about what they are (not) paying for.

Another thing I have noticed is that on the posts where someone asks if they charged enough, the responses are on the lines of that cake would serve so and so many and I charge so and so much a slice. I guess we are just cake gluttons, but my family cuts huge slices of cake. So if I said $2 a slice for a 12 by 18 sheet cake, they would still think that was under $50!

I've enjoyed reading the responses here. Thanks everybody!

gateauxdamour Posted 16 Jul 2008 , 3:43pm
post #20 of 31

Cakes are my hobby. I only make them for my family and my friends at church. Now there are a lot of cakes that I take to things like church bridal showers where the cake is just my contribution to the party. DH budgets for that and we're fine.

When family and friends ask for a cake, I've never had a problem about money. I just tell them I'm happy to do the work if they pay for the ingredients. When the cake is ready to be picked up or set up, I have a sheet which contains a description of the cake design/flavor, the actual cost(including tax) of the ingredients (dry, wet, decorative items, structural consumables & misc. consumables), NUMBER of Hours worked and total cost of supplies they need to give me.

I don't want or expect to make anything from these cakes. My payoff is the excited looks and compliments. I'm vain like that icon_wink.gif At the same time, I can't take money out of my family's grocery budget to pay for $75 of cake ingredients!

I've never had a problem of being reimbursed but at the same time I emphasize the number of hours spent creating so that maybe, just maybe, cake muggles can be educated to the art form that is cake decorating! I don't spend 17 hours on a cake for no profit if it isn't a love of the art and the person receiving the cake!

NavyMom2007 Posted 16 Jul 2008 , 5:16pm
post #21 of 31

Wow! Your fondant cake was amazing! I also have a family that is sure I would just love to do a cake for whatever event they have on their horizon, at no cost of course. icon_rolleyes.gif I do love my family, and love to create something really special for them, but when it comes to showers, anniversary parties etc. I let people know when I am asked to do the cake that it is my gift and my contribution to the celebration. Otherwise, I charge for the supplies (cash in advance only), and add something for the little things: electricity, water, cake box/board, TIME. You have an amazing talent and do not hesitate to stand up for it. The first few times it is hard, but people will get used to it.

mama5kiddos Posted 16 Jul 2008 , 7:56pm
post #22 of 31

I was also going to mention, with my case...there is alot of family members. So whenever I was making a cake as my "gift" to them or whenever they requested me to make one (but didnt even offer to help pay for ingredients) I soon came to realize it was getting expensive. Plus is it supposed to be up to ME to make "enough" cake for everyone that they might also invite (say 20 friends, etc)? This is when I started realizing if I didnt charge for ingredients, then soon they will request me make one for every party, and my one sister in law invites her WHOLE family. I would of course not want to make a small cake, so I would have to make sure it feeds everyone...a bigger cake costs me extra $. Should this be MY problem? NO.

But I will make a small one for the kids' birthday (just their immediate family) at no charge. The invoice is a good idea, that way they will realize how much it DOES cost to make one down to the details, plus they see how many hours it takes to make.

margaretb Posted 16 Jul 2008 , 9:36pm
post #23 of 31

I like the idea of the invoice. I've also been tempted to say, sure, I'll come and do the cake at your place and you can watch my kids while I work -- here's what you need to have ready for me.

The other thing I have to admit is that occasionally someone will offer to pay for the cake, and I decline because I feel awkward. I am going to have to practice saying -- "Oh, just pay for the ingredients. $30 ought to do it". I am sure at least one person will decide that my delicious beauitiful cake isn't that great if it isn't free or costs the same as the grocery store cake.

__Martha__ Posted 17 Jul 2008 , 10:33am
post #24 of 31

I can totally relate to all of this. I only make cakes for family and friends if requested, but few of them have an appreciation of the time or cost involved.

I took a cake to a baby shower for a friend's daughter a few months ago. It was 11 x 15 sheet cake covered in fondant with little gumpaste bees and flowers. I had one lady come up to me urging me to go into business. I told her I couldn't charge enough to make it worth my while. She said, "Oh, I'd pay at least $50 for that cake!!!". icon_rolleyes.gif I told her, "Thanks, but the ingredients, board, etc cost me $45, not to mention my time."

That's the other problem here - Canadian prices for supplies like fondant, gumpaste etc, even pans, is about double what it is in the States.

NikkiDoc Posted 17 Jul 2008 , 2:33pm
post #25 of 31

I agree Martha. Groceries are going up so much. I can't really take from my family's food budget to buy cake supplies. When the cake is coming up, I buy a mix here, an extra bag of sugar there. And when the cake baking time has come, I haven't spent alot all at once. I find it much more manageable when I plan early and buy things a little at a time.

Still, there are times when I have to go with a simpler design because I just don't have the funds for something very extravagent. I am an improviser. I try to make do with what I have. I don't get to buy alot of new pans, etc. So far I haven't asked for the cost of ingredients, that's because my family doesn't want to come out and ask me for the cake, they let me offer. (They know I will. icon_razz.gif because they know I love doing it and want the practice.) For adults, it is the gift and for children I usually get the kids something small to open with their other gifts to go along with the cake.

When and if it comes to asking for help on ingredients, I will. But so far I am glad it hasn't been necessary. I like giving the cake as a gift with no strings attatched. My family loves the cakes and they are all very appreciative and complimentary. I'm lucky to have a good family like that. I hear so many horror stories.

When I was working on dd's birthday cake last week, my grandmother saw how time consuming it was, and jokingly said..."I'd love a castle cake just like this one for my birthday...I'm just kidding, but I'd love a simpler one!" My family doesn't come out and ask me to make their cakes, they make flattering comments and so I give them a cake gift! icon_biggrin.gif

NikkiDoc Posted 17 Jul 2008 , 2:33pm
post #26 of 31

I agree Martha. Groceries are going up so much. I can't really take from my family's food budget to buy cake supplies. When the cake is coming up, I buy a mix here, an extra bag of sugar there. And when the cake baking time has come, I haven't spent alot all at once. I find it much more manageable when I plan early and buy things a little at a time.

Still, there are times when I have to go with a simpler design because I just don't have the funds for something very extravagent. I am an improviser. I try to make do with what I have. I don't get to buy alot of new pans, etc. So far I haven't asked for the cost of ingredients, that's because my family doesn't want to come out and ask me for the cake, they let me offer. (They know I will. icon_razz.gif because they know I love doing it and want the practice.) For adults, it is the gift and for children I usually get the kids something small to open with their other gifts to go along with the cake.

When and if it comes to asking for help on ingredients, I will. But so far I am glad it hasn't been necessary. I like giving the cake as a gift with no strings attatched. My family loves the cakes and they are all very appreciative and complimentary. I'm lucky to have a good family like that. I hear so many horror stories.

When I was working on dd's birthday cake last week, my grandmother saw how time consuming it was, and jokingly said..."I'd love a castle cake just like this one for my birthday...I'm just kidding, but I'd love a simpler one!" My family doesn't come out and ask me to make their cakes, they make flattering comments and so I give them a cake gift! icon_biggrin.gif

NikkiDoc Posted 17 Jul 2008 , 2:33pm
post #27 of 31

I agree Martha. Groceries are going up so much. I can't really take from my family's food budget to buy cake supplies. When the cake is coming up, I buy a mix here, an extra bag of sugar there. And when the cake baking time has come, I haven't spent alot all at once. I find it much more manageable when I plan early and buy things a little at a time.

Still, there are times when I have to go with a simpler design because I just don't have the funds for something very extravagent. I am an improviser. I try to make do with what I have. I don't get to buy alot of new pans, etc. So far I haven't asked for the cost of ingredients, that's because my family doesn't want to come out and ask me for the cake, they let me offer. (They know I will. icon_razz.gif because they know I love doing it and want the practice.) For adults, it is the gift and for children I usually get the kids something small to open with their other gifts to go along with the cake.

When and if it comes to asking for help on ingredients, I will. But so far I am glad it hasn't been necessary. I like giving the cake as a gift with no strings attatched. My family loves the cakes and they are all very appreciative and complimentary. I'm lucky to have a good family like that. I hear so many horror stories.

When I was working on dd's birthday cake last week, my grandmother saw how time consuming it was, and jokingly said..."I'd love a castle cake just like this one for my birthday...I'm just kidding, but I'd love a simpler one!" My family doesn't come out and ask me to make their cakes, they make flattering comments and so I give them a cake gift! icon_biggrin.gif

NikkiDoc Posted 17 Jul 2008 , 2:36pm
post #28 of 31

darn the double posts!

cakelady15 Posted 17 Jul 2008 , 6:49pm
post #29 of 31

I have the opposite problem so I guess I am lucky. My family keeps telling me I should charge for my cakes and I haven't really done that too much yet, but I'm getting more comfortable with it (luckily I live in Ohio so I can sell cakes out of my home under the cottage laws). My sister asked me to do a baby shower cake at the end of the month for her friend and I told her I would. She said I could do anything I wanted so I decided on a stand up bear sitting on top of a sheet cake that looks like a quilt made of fondant. My sister insisted that I charge her like I would a regular customer because I needed to be paid for my time and talent and she was not going to just pay me for the ingredients. I still didn't charge her as much as I would someone else, but she doesn't need to know thaticon_wink.gif

margaretb Posted 18 Jul 2008 , 5:56am
post #30 of 31

Good grief, I was just grocery shopping so I checked out the cake prices. $25 for a 12 by 17 inch half slab cake (I love the word -- slab). Maybe next time someone asks me to make a cake where I don't really feel like it but they are making it hard to say no, I'll bring one of those and tell them it was cheaper than making it from scratch.

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