What would you fine people consider a "last minute" cake to be? Where do you usually draw the line? Because sure, it may take me 2-3 hours to bake and nicely decorate a 10" round (this would include mixing and coloring frosting since I don't make it ahead of time) but I don't want people to be thinking "oh I'll just call her up a couple hours before I need the cake because that's how long it takes her." Obviously you gotta give yourself a little padding. So what are your usual guidelines? How much notice do you require and are you willing to bend that? If so, how late is too late? I'm just curious as to what the cake vets on here do.
A last minute cake to me is a days notice. I only do cakes for fun right now but any cake with detail gets a lot of prep from me. I may start fondant pieces a few days in advance, bake a day ahead and frost and decorate the day of. I guess it all depends on what you're doing for them.
Of course, I also work at a grocery store bakery where most cakes are only supposed to take about 5 minutes to decorate and so I'm not allowed to refuse any cake order, big or small.
Three days is late notice to me. I need time to make the gumpaste decorations, etc. I aso have to plan ahead time wise so I hate last minute requests.. 'specially from close friends/family because I feel obligated to do them, lol.
Anything ordered without a week's notice is a last minute cake for me and I limit the detail allowed. I can (and do) accomodate people who call later than that... but they are not getting a knoack out cake unless they pay a rush fee. I won't take an order less than 3 days before the cake is due though... too much stress.
Anything with less than 3 days prior to the event is last minute to me. I do always bake extra cakes 2 certain times a year to have on hand - first communion & high school graduation weekends. For those I do 11 x 15 sheets in 1/2 vanilla & 1/2 chocolate, frosted & bordered in white. I can quickly add decoration for a boy or girl for either event. People know these events are taking place, but every year I get calls the day prior or that day for what do you have on hand - we forgot - please help. I have never been stuck with any extra cakes, they always sell out.
I need at least 3 days, if not 7. Luckily, I have yet to encounter a last minute request.
But I have a full time job other than this, so there's only so much I can do. If less than 3 days, I'd have to decline the job for sure.
What about a last minute wedding cake? I just got a call today for one for Sat. I already have a cake for Sat and I kind of don't want to stress my self out taking this one. I always seem to regret it after I take it......
My minimum is 3 weeks... in the 2-3 week frame if I'm available and only if you beg... in the 1-2 week window it has to practically be an order for the Queen or the Pope for me to say yes. One week or less and you're going to Costco for your cake.
It's not only about whether I have time for the cake. I have a life and make my personal plans around whether or not I have work to do. I'm not going to rearrange that or give that up for any job... I need to have a life outside of the kitchen. Also, once you start giving in to last minute orders that aren't TRUE emergencies (and this is cake, so let's face it, how often is it a bona fide emergency?) they'll think nothing about waiting until the last minute the next time too.
PinkZiab, I like how you think!
Yes, it IS important to plan some personal time.
Example: Last weekend I had 2 weddings (caterings); a Sweet 16 cake to drop off; and a dessert catering to drop off at a department store. This weekend I have 2 wedding caterings and a prom. One of the weddings is the biggest dollar-value wedding I've ever done.
Next weekend, I have one lousy drop off wedding cake. One. And it gets dropped off at 5. And I am NOT booking anything else for that weekend. It is MY time to just crash and re-aquaint myself with what my family looks like.
I've invested too much money into this business to get burn out this early.
Heck yeah... I schedule 2 weeks in the summer to go away to the beach with my family... in the beginning of August... I don't care if I miss out on some prime wedding season because I *need* that time with them to not think about cakes.
Like PinkZiab I prefer 2-4 weeks minimum, but I can do a week if I want to... but only if I want to.
Also, once you start giving in to last minute orders that aren't TRUE emergencies (and this is cake, so let's face it, how often is it a bona fide emergency?) they'll think nothing about waiting until the last minute the next time too.
Just wanted to agree with this statement. I have 16 nieces and nephews, and I make cakes for any that ask. Usually the parents are good about asking a week ahead, when they plan the family party. I have one BIL, however, who asked once the day before the party. Thinking of my little niece, I dropped everything and made a Spongebob cake. Only problem was, my BIL did the same thing the next year. And the next. Now he thinks asking the day before is sufficient, despite my hints that it takes a long time!
4 weeks for weddings, 2 weeks for parties. Anything after that and it's a no. Even If I'm not booked. Personal time is a must or you will drive yourself crazy.
For last minute wedding cakes, if I can do an extra late minute wedding cake without stressing, I always take them. They are either because 1: they, their friend or relative thought they could do it and guess what, there's just a little more to a wedding cake than making that 1 box 2 layer 8" they usually do or 2: poor planning on their part. Either way, it is now their emergency, not mine. If I agree, which I have many times, you will be paying at least double for a wedding cake. Customers talk and when word gets back to me about what they are saying about their wedding, it's never about how much they were charged, it's about how I got them out of a tight spot and they had a great wedding cake. Think the same as a plumber would, a "I need it done now" emergency job does not cost the same as a pre planned routine job.
Thanks for all the responses guys! I'm just getting started and having a tough time deciding what is good business practice. I'm coming from a grocery store bakery with a manager that likes to think "who are we to deny anyone a cake, no matter how late they placed the order?" I'm thinking "who are we to be teaching the public that it's okay to not plan ahead?"
Before I read these responses I was thinking I was being out of line by asking for a couple weeks notice. It's not just the work involved, it's the fact that I have a full time job elsewhere and I need to plan according to that schedule.