Accommodating Customers! And An "assistant" Quest

Business By SugaredUp Updated 9 Apr 2009 , 10:45pm by snarkybaker

SugaredUp Posted 7 Apr 2009 , 2:41pm
post #1 of 30

Hello CC'ers!

I am so excited! I have FINALLY decided to offer gluten/wheat, sugar and egg free cakes after a lot of thought and resistance on my part. I really didn't feel like bothering with this market, honestly. It's a pain and it requires change, which I guess I felt I had enough to do without changing things! BUT now that I've gone and decided to do this, I really feel great about it.

Here is how I am going to do it (after some research):

1 - These types of cakes will be made with mixes only (everything else I make is made from scratch). This allows me the convenience of not having to deal with finding special flours, etc. Plus, it's less storage and it's less worry for cross contamination.

2 - Most of these cakes, aside from the sugar free cake, will be frosted with Rich Whip, which is nut/gluten/dairy free. Then they'll be topped with fresh fruit, decorated EXTREMELY simply, no frills.

3 - They are ONLY available as an add on to your regular cake order. For example, my customer yesterday called and ordered two cakes. Her total for the two cakes (two separate dates) was $170. THEN, she called again a few hours later and said, "I forgot. My daughter's friend is allergic to wheat. Can we include her, do you offer wheat free?" My normal, usual answer was NO, sorry. Well, I happily was able to accommodate her. She was thrilled. She wants cards to pass out to her friends who have similar situations.

4 - There is a minimum order of a 6" cake. No choice of flavors. One flavor only. This cake is going to be priced very cheaply - it's basically an accommodation, not me trying to make a lot of profit off these cakes, since it's only available with your regular order. I have no interest in being an allergen free or vegan baker.

At the bridal show I did last weekend, I mentioned this on my FAQ list, and the brides were VERY receptive to the idea. Some had diabetic dads or moms, or sisters with wheat allergies. They really liked the idea that they can have a piece of cake, too!

Now, I plan on sanitizing everything, the mixer, the table, myself (LOL) and being extremely careful. But, as an article in ACD said, it's best to say that it's "no gluten added" instead of "gluten free" since it's prepared in a kitchen that handles other wheat ingredients.....

I really think this is going to lure new customers to me. This is a great selling point! For anyone who already does this, and has any advice/tips, I welcome the info!

Regarding the assistant - have any of you ever hired an intern from a school? I'm getting busier (still not making any real $$ though) and could use someone to make frosting, roll fondant, etc. Considering calling schools and doing some sort of internship thing. If you've done this, has it worked well?



29 replies
cfao Posted 7 Apr 2009 , 3:36pm
post #2 of 30

I actually was contacted by a girl last week who needs to put in 210 hours as an intern to finish her degree. She said she didn't expect to get paid, just needed the hours. I'm not sure what I'm going to do yet, but I have built up a successful 1 person business, it just seems like I'd be training her and showing her everything I do so she could go out after she gets her degree and start her own cake shop.

crazykid28 Posted 7 Apr 2009 , 3:46pm
post #3 of 30

Regarding calling the schools:

I'm a Hotel and Restaurant Management (aka Hospitality) major and our school has a listing geared toward HRM jobs for college students. When you call the university, ask if they have anything set up like this. I know that not all schools have an HRM program, but they may have a job posting site that you can list on for a small fee.

Where do you live? I want to work for a bakery again! I'm planning on eventually owning my own after school and some work in the business.

playingwithsugar Posted 7 Apr 2009 , 3:58pm
post #4 of 30

I would be interested in hearing more about how this idea fares for you. And allow me to suggest that if it turns into a regular item, that you purchase a separate mixer for these cakes. I have a separate KA for products which contain nuts, and I do not regret the expense.

Theresa icon_smile.gif

pattycakesnj Posted 7 Apr 2009 , 4:00pm
post #5 of 30

Also try your local high school that offers culinary arts for an assistant. I did and got a great assistant that I have used a few times for minor things

SugaredUp Posted 7 Apr 2009 , 5:13pm
post #6 of 30

Cfao, I want to grow my business. I don't want to stay a 1 person cake shop. So, for me, it would be silly not to hire someone for fear they may open their own place. It takes a lot to start your own business. There are people out there who just want a job! I guess I just don't really understand that way of thinking.

playingwithsugar Posted 7 Apr 2009 , 5:41pm
post #7 of 30

I guess it comes down to where you live. If you are in a low-density population area, you might be a bit paranoid about training someone who, eventually, could open their own shop.

Now, if you live in North Jersey, the population density is high enough that another baker/decorator won't put a dent in your business, so it makes sense to hire an assistant or take on an intern, and teach them a few things.

Theresa icon_smile.gif

cfao Posted 7 Apr 2009 , 5:54pm
post #8 of 30

Hi SugaredUp,

I am in central Mass, so if you take a Wilton course, the mentality around here is you're now ready to start doing cakes. Most of the halls run on "preferred vendor" lists, no license really neccessary, just $ to be on the list. The BOH's in this area don't seem to think providing cakes/ desserts, etc. to halls is really that big of a deal. If you are licensed, you do have to have your servsafe cert., but they all seem to look the other way if you don't go to them to get a license.


SugaredUp Posted 7 Apr 2009 , 7:09pm
post #9 of 30

I see, cfao. Well, then that's different. But for me, I'm not worried about that. Even if my assistant opens her own place - I can't let that worry prevent me from moving forward. I do wish my sister still lived here, but she bailed on me and moved to California! icon_sad.gif

snarkybaker Posted 7 Apr 2009 , 9:24pm
post #10 of 30

We almost always have an intern working for us, both from Johnson and Wales and from the local community college. I have had both paid and unpaid interns and I prefer to pay my interns because then I get to choose the interns with the best skills. At Johnson and Wales, the stidents have to pay tuition for their internship, so they are anxious to help offset that cost. An itern may work for free, but you spend A LOT of time working with them, and they will make mistakes, and it WILL cost you money, so having good help is better than having cheap help, in my experience.

SugaredUp Posted 7 Apr 2009 , 9:28pm
post #11 of 30

Good advice, Snarkybaker

auntmamie Posted 8 Apr 2009 , 12:21am
post #12 of 30

Regarding the allergies - I am a 100% nut free kitchen - not even PB is on my shelves. I have an EpiPen for tree nut allergies. So, I absolutely love your idea of gluten free cakes. Good job icon_biggrin.gif

Jayde Posted 8 Apr 2009 , 12:36am
post #13 of 30

You sounds pretty set. I do also reccommend a separate mixer. You dont have to get a separate pan set, just wash your pans normally with hot soapy water. Then soak in a mixture of bleach and boiling water for 20 minutes agitating every few minutes. Rinse with more boiling water, and make sure that your towel is clean. icon_rolleyes.gif

You have no idea how many times I have wiped my counter with a dish towel and my hubs 'helping' has dried the dishes with the same towel. It drives me crazy!

Good Luck!

Cupcakeluv24 Posted 8 Apr 2009 , 12:41am
post #14 of 30

Snarkybaker, which Johnson and Wales do you get your interns from. and where are you located?

dl5crew Posted 8 Apr 2009 , 1:02am
post #15 of 30

I agree with the suggestion of getting a separate mixture. Even if you get he cheap $7.00 hand mixer @ Wal-mart. That one will be just fine for cake mixes.

Tee-Y Posted 8 Apr 2009 , 1:35am
post #16 of 30

I do prefer paid help to free labour cos then I can easily call the shots cause free labourers think they are doing you a favour after a while.

jonahsmom Posted 8 Apr 2009 , 1:55am
post #17 of 30

It's awesome that you're going to offer those specialized products! I definitely agree with the others about getting a separate mixer. I wouldn't even store regular items and gf items together, appliances included. I have a GFCF child and we keep all of his food and appliances in a separate room. The "flour dust" and things can easily find their way onto one of his items so we'd rather be safe than sorry! It's a pain, but the improvement we've seen in his personality, school work, eye contact, etc. is soooo worth it!

Good luck with your new venture!!!!

SugaredUp Posted 8 Apr 2009 , 12:01pm
post #18 of 30

Thank you so much for all the advice! You guys are so great! I was working yesterday, and I was checking out my mixer, and I realized a lot of "stuff" can really go up inside those nooks and crannies. SO - I agree that a hand held mixer for the cake mixes will be the best idea. I will buy a new one and keep it covered.

As far as washing the dishes - do you still have to use the bleach method even if you use a dishwasher? My kitchen has ready to use sanitizer. I plan on spraying with that and/or bleach on the counter tops.

Also, what is an EpiPen?

Do you think if I do all of these things, it will be relatively safe? I am going to print out labels and place a label on each allergen free item stating something along the lines that while it was processed without added _____ (whatever the allergen is), that it could still contain trace amounts of ______. Anyone know if this is a good idea? And how should I word it?

Thanks again!


luvsfreebies72 Posted 8 Apr 2009 , 12:12pm
post #19 of 30

I have gluten and casein intolerances (among other food allergies)

it really is best to have seperate pans for the GF cakes. Washing doesn't remove all the gluten proteins. so investing in 1 set of 6" pans would just be small cost and all you would really need, for the service you are providing. Which is awesome btw!

an epipen is what highly allergic people carry around with them to use in case of an allergy emergency. It contains epinephrine (synthetic adrenaline) you don't need one

as far as labeling on the gf cakes, I would just put something that states that the cake has been made with no gluten, and on gf equipment, but not in a gf kitchen. some GF people are highly sensitive and cannot even touch or breathe it, while others are ok as long as the food they ingest doesn't contain gluten. make sense?

SugaredUp Posted 8 Apr 2009 , 12:20pm
post #20 of 30

Luvsfreebies72 - yes, I think you worded it great. That way, those people who are extremely allergic even to trace amounts can go to a completely gluten free kitchen.

You know what I will do - I will get disposable 6 & 8" pans. Don't you think? Or, I don't know, maybe get the real pans. I don't have a lot of storage space at my kitchen since I'm renting someone else's. Maybe I'll get some disposable ones for now, and if it really seems to be selling, invest in a few new real pans and keep them covered and separated.

luvsfreebies72 Posted 8 Apr 2009 , 12:25pm
post #21 of 30

if the disposables work for you - great!

If I didn't make my own cakes I would totally buy one from ya. It's sooooooooooo hard going to to an event and not being able to have what everyone else is having. So it's fantastic you are offering this service to regular orders.

I don't even do GF cakes lol

SugaredUp Posted 8 Apr 2009 , 12:31pm
post #22 of 30

Luvsfreebies -why don't you? Don't tell me it's too risky - I don't want to regret my decision. Do you think it's safe the way I'm doing it - with the disclaimer and all? Or do you think it's just asking for trouble?

luvsfreebies72 Posted 8 Apr 2009 , 12:38pm
post #23 of 30

oh no, no, nothing about the risk. I think as long as you put that little label on there, you are covered.

it's cause I'm a food snob and don't like GF cakes. icon_lol.gif I've never been able to get one that tastes like the "real thing" and if I can't have the "real thing" I don't want it! icon_biggrin.gif Plus, no one has asked me for one. Cool by me!

SugaredUp Posted 8 Apr 2009 , 12:42pm
post #24 of 30

Well, I really appreciate all the advice, you've been so helpful!

luvsfreebies72 Posted 8 Apr 2009 , 12:44pm
post #25 of 30

no problem!

FYI - I don't have a shop. But I do know about the food allergy & intolerance crap, so if you have other questions along those lines, you can just PM me if you want

SugaredUp Posted 8 Apr 2009 , 12:47pm
post #26 of 30


cakesondemand Posted 9 Apr 2009 , 2:19am
post #27 of 30

I just finished 3mo with a culinary student the school covers everything for her to do her internship no wages to pay. We also take high work experience students but just for a few weeks at a time. Actually the culinary student will work with us for 1 day per week to do our baking through the summer.

SugaredUp Posted 9 Apr 2009 , 3:24am
post #28 of 30

And I take it that it's been a good experience for you?

cakesondemand Posted 9 Apr 2009 , 3:49am
post #29 of 30

She learned more from us then she did at culinary school they only had 2 days doing cakes. She taught us some things too.

snarkybaker Posted 9 Apr 2009 , 10:45pm
post #30 of 30
Originally Posted by Cupcakeluv24

Snarkybaker, which Johnson and Wales do you get your interns from. and where are you located?

I have had three from Charlotte and two from Rhode Island. We are in Chapel Hill, NC.

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