?'s From Customer Perspective

Decorating By beachbrat Updated 16 Dec 2009 , 10:58pm by khoudek

beachbrat Posted 10 Dec 2009 , 3:28pm
post #1 of 43

Hi

I stumbled on this site thru google...wow its pretty amazing.

Next year is my parents 25th anniversary (oct) and all of us kids (there are 6) are going to throw them a big shindig. They are big fans of the cake shows and so we would really like to get them an awesome custom cake. I have been put in charge of the budget which is pretty big and so have been doing research. I know now approximately how much to set aside for the kind of cake we want. I have $1500.00 budget for just the cake.

So I have been doing a little research on here, reading posts and such. But now I feel really skeptical. I would never have known that I shouldn't ask someone to take pics of the process (my mother is an ardent scrapbooker) and I kind of get the general feeling (after reading through the business section) that alot decorator/designers really just want my money and not alot of my input? Please say it aint so. Or that I might be tricked with three pieces of cake made all exactly the same but told they were actually made with different ingredients. Is it ok to ask to see a license/health inspection or would I just be considered a PIA customer?

SOOOOOOOOOOOO, my question really is what kinds of questions do you WANT the customer to ask/or don't ask. How much input can I really have? I don't want to look like a dumba$$ but don't want to be a PIA either.

My mom and dad have been such awesome parents and we want them to have an amazing cake!!!

Any tips or suggestions would be greatly appreciated

TIA
Morning icon_biggrin.gif

42 replies
indydebi Posted 10 Dec 2009 , 3:41pm
post #2 of 43

YOu've stumbled onto the best resource for all things cake! icon_lol.gif

It is not unreasonable to ask if a baker is licensed, if that is something that is important to you. And depending on where you have the party, it could make a big difference. More and more venues are refusing entry to unlicensed bakers/caterers because of the liability issues. It's a very good question.

Quote:
Quote:

and I kind of get the general feeling (after reading through the business section) that alot decorator/designers really just want my money and not alot of my input?


I think most decorators LUV getting input from the customer! While on the one hand, we enjoy having carte blanche to be able to experiement with something new (when they say "Oh do whatever you want!"), on the other hand, some guidance and preferences on the part of the client at least give us a jumping off point. Some of my favorite cakes were designed by my brides!

If you came to see me, I'd love for you to have a general idea of what you'd like, perhaps a photo of their first wedding cake? Some pics from the internet or magazines with cakes or parts of cakes thatyou like? Have an idea of how many people you expect to show up .... with that number the decorator can help you come up with the number of tiers that can be made to accommodate that number.

Ask if there is a delivery fee, a set up fee, and what does the BASE cost cover? One bride told me that a local bakery charged extra to put swiss dots on a cake ".....because they all had to be put on one at a time." I laughed and told her to ask for the design that they put on"all at once" then! icon_lol.gif Is there any extra charge for different or multiple cake flavors/fillings?

Ask if there is any special equipment being used that would require a deposit and needs returned ... when do they need returned and are there any penalites for late returning?

cupcakemkr Posted 10 Dec 2009 , 3:44pm
post #3 of 43

Hi and welcome to Cake Central!

I think it's great that you are doing your research and have a realistic budget.

You will most likely get many different answers here some you may like some you may not...

I am a baker with a residential kitchen license. I would have no problem whatsoever with you asking about my licensing.

I think that the customer needs to be really comfortable with their cake designer of choice, if you don't already have one in mind it is important to know the quality of their work.

Ask for photos of cakes the have done in the past that may have some of the same design elements that you are looking for in your cake. That way you'll be comfortable in knowing they can handle the design.

You should be able to give your cake designer your ideas of how you see the final product. Let the designer sketch you some plans and you should be able to ask for changes, additions or deletions of certain design elements.

If I have not had a cake from a certain bakery or know someone that has then I would sample the flavors that I think I would want to purchase. For a cake over $1,000 I would think that you could get a free tasting or a tasting for $25-30 that cost goes toward the cost of the cake if you book with them.

Once you have made a decision on who should bake your cake based on taste and design you should back off and let the cake artist do what they do best.

This is just my opinion.

Loucinda Posted 10 Dec 2009 , 3:49pm
post #4 of 43

Hmmm......guess I will bite! icon_wink.gif

Nice budget for the cake - and if you have been reading, you know what goes into doing a cake of the calibur you are looking for.

If you explained the situation, I am sure a baker would help you out with some progession photos. I would, but only if there is a great reason for it! I think yours qualifies.

Here in Ohio, you do not have to be "licensed" to be legal. The only thing a license does here is guarantee that there are no pets or carpeting in the kitchen. Period. If you are considering a "home based" business - you can usually SEE where your cake is going to be made (whereas in a bakery you are not usually permitted access to that part of the business)

I personally will schedule tastings for any cake (regardless of the occasion) if it is to serve over 100 people. Make sure you see the quality of work the person you are looking at does. (if the pics are all consistent, great! - or if there are a couple of nice ones, and the others aren't so nice, I would be hesitant).

I would also make sure that your personalities match - you have valid points and want to be taken seriously.

diane706 Posted 10 Dec 2009 , 3:53pm
post #5 of 43
Quote:
Originally Posted by beachbrat

.. and I kind of get the general feeling (after reading through the business section) that alot decorator/designers really just want my money and not alot of my input?

Is it ok to ask to see a license/health inspection




I only skimmed through the thread that you're referring to but these questions just make me say "HUH???" icon_confused.gif I really don't know what makes you feel this way and maybe I need to go back and read that thread but when I am in a consultation with a customer you better believe that I "pick their brains" so that I can give them EXACTLY what they want. I want my customers to be overjoyed when they see and taste their cake AND I want them to return for years to come!!! As far as asking to see the license and inspection... I would EXPECT a customer to want to see my license and, in fact, the license is required to be displayed so customers can KNOW that they are dealing with a licensed bakery.

bbmom Posted 10 Dec 2009 , 3:54pm
post #6 of 43

Just my opinion because I read the thread about the in process photos as well, but if your mom is an avid scrapbooker and you let the decorator know in advance they may be ok with it. I think the thread was a PITA bride and a decorator who'd been burnt before... anyway I think if you were to take photos of the decorator with a few tools and possibly the bakery/kitchen it would be ok...he/she would prob not have time to do in process photos because thats going to interrupt the flow of decorating. Just a few thoughts on the scrapbooking aspect.

sadsmile Posted 10 Dec 2009 , 3:56pm
post #7 of 43

Look through the galleries of several cake designers in your area and pick one that has a style you like.

Come prepared with:

How many servings are needed.

What flavors you are interested in.

What designs you like.

What colors you want incorporated.

And understand that unless you have made fancy cakes you may not understand all the time and work and talent that really does go into it.
A lot of business owners in this forum come in to share stories as well as ideas and also to vent a little frustration to another person who understands. This allows them to blow off a little steam and clear their heads so they can solve problems, issues and focus of getting the job done and customer satisfaction. Every one needs a place to blow off a little steam now and then.

I think if you have not had cake from the place you are interested in then purchasing a small cake in a flavor you are interested in and taking it back to your family for a cake tasting party might help you either in choosing another baker or having confidence that the anniversary cake is going to be just what you are looking for.

Take some time to read through the forums here about the different elements of cake like the many types of butter cream, fondant, ganache, modeling chocolate and gum past decorations.

Find out what the baker you choose offers and make selections you would like.

As far as the pictures during construction go... not every one will mind and not every one will do it either. It depends on the person. It also depends on their style and how busy they are with orders. Taking extra time may impede their decorating process. Many cake decorators look at it as an art form and don't want their client to see a half finished cake.

Bottom line you guys sound organised and ready to go with plenty of time to plan. That right there is great! thumbs_up.gif Sound's like it is going to be a great party. Have fun with everything!

tootie0809 Posted 10 Dec 2009 , 3:57pm
post #8 of 43

Well, asking for pics of the process is, IMO, a PITA thing to ask, and I would never give someone pictures of me making the cake. Not that I have anyting to hide, but I just see it as completely ridiculous to ask that. It's just weird and I've never asked nor ever thought of asking of pics of the chef making my dinner at the restaruant or the hair salon mixing up my hair color or calling up Starbucks and asking them to send me pics of them roasting the coffee I bought.

Putting that aside, I think you as the customer should have as much design and flavor input as you want. If you have an exact design in mind, you should absolultely expect to have your baker follow that design. If you ask for help with the design, the the baker will help design a cake based on the input you give her. It's really just the need-to-know-more-information-than-necessary that is the thing that gets most bakers panties in a bunch. If I have a customer who calls and says they have a particular color scheme and design they want and they ask for specific flavors and even supply me a picture of what they are looking for and then let me do my job, that is my favorite type of customer. If I have a customer who calls up and has no idea what they want, wants my design opinions, but then is indecisive and can't make up their mind or doesn't know what it is that they really are looking for and then asks me for ridiculous bits of information like where I buy my eggs, what type of vanilla I use, where I buy my supplies, etc., or asks if they can come watch me make the cake, that is where I would start finding ways to be suddenly booked up. Of course you should ask for licensing and inspection information if you want to see that documentation. Any baker who is upset that you would ask for that is most likely not legal. I went through all the licensing, inspection, and insurance processes, so if anyone asks me for this, I have it handy and would have no problem providing it.

Baking and decorating cakes is a lot of work and is not as easy as most people think it is. If you've gotten the impression that bakers don't want customer's input and would rather have free reign of all cakes they do, you've read these forums wrong. I always want to make my customers as happy as I possibly can, but sometimes there are poeple out there who are unreasonable or just are unable to be happy with anything. Those are probably the types of customers you've read some complaints about. I'd say for every 1 PITA customer, there are 10 very pleasant, lovely customers that are equally happy with the product they've received.

Mike1394 Posted 10 Dec 2009 , 4:35pm
post #9 of 43

If your spending 1500.00 on cake. You can be all the PITA you want to be.

Mike

cakesdivine Posted 10 Dec 2009 , 4:50pm
post #10 of 43

Welcome to CC!

I am a cake designer and I WANT as much input from the customer as possible. I actually dislike it when a customer says to me "oh just make it pretty"...well my definition of pretty and their definition of pretty might be 2 different things. The more specific a customer is the easier my job is, AND it leaves much less room for disappointment on the customer's end.

Find a designer that is going to meet your needs. If you don't want a decorator/designer who vetos most of your ideas and/or wants, don't use them. There are just as many, if not more, that want a customer who will give them as much information as possible to work with.

I do agree with the process photos issue unless you specifically pay extra for the trouble AND you explain why you want it (because the recipients of the cake are big cake show enthusiasts). Most clients who request this are just being anal, and are looking for a way to get out of paying for a cake by picking apart the process even if they know absolutely nothing about the process, that is why it is a red flag raiser for a decorator. I am sure if you explain your reasons why, and you pay extra for the unconventional service then a decorator shouldn't have any qualms at that point about it.

Back when I had my storefront I had a viewing window for the decorating area and stools for people to sit and watch the process. I had several brides that wanted to see me in action and came to watch some parts of their creation being made. Kids use to come in and sit and watch while they were waiting for their meals to be prepared (it was also a restaurant). It really was a good marketing tool and generated lots of orders. So there are decorators out there that don't mind sharing the process icon_smile.gif

Texas_Rose Posted 10 Dec 2009 , 4:51pm
post #11 of 43

I think you're worrying too much icon_biggrin.gif

Of course people want to make money...when you go to work, it's probably with the intention of making money. A cake is a lot of work, so it's not surprising that people are concerned with making money for it. The cake shows on TV make it look like it's all about the cake, without ever mentioning the money, but if you look on those bakeries websites, you'll see that they do care about making money...Ace of Cakes has a $1000 minimum, for example.

About taking pictures of the entire process, I might take a few pictures for someone, of stages where I didn't have to stop in the middle of something...for example, all the ingredients stacked up on the kitchen counter when I bring them home from the store, photos of the finished flowers and/or topper, photos of the frosted cakes before the fondant goes on...but I'm not a business and I have time for things like that. If I had a bakery and I needed to make a certain number of cakes per month to cover my expenses, then I would probably place a higher value on my time. I wouldn't do step-by-step photos in the middle of things, where I'd have to stop, scrub my hands, take the photo, wash my hands, put another smear of frosting on, stop, scrub my hands, take the photo...and so on...because I would never finish that way.

Anyhow, I bet you and your coworkers grumble about things sometimes. Most cake decorators work alone, so the forums here provide a way to talk to other people who will understand, since there aren't coworkers to sympathize with. It doesn't mean that the baker who makes your cake will be talking about you or thinking you're a PITA.

indydebi Posted 10 Dec 2009 , 5:24pm
post #12 of 43
Quote:
Originally Posted by Mike1394

If your spending 1500.00 on cake. You can be all the PITA you want to be.

Mike




icon_lol.gificon_lol.gif Sometimes the simplest statement says it all! thumbs_up.gificon_lol.gif

Kay_NL Posted 10 Dec 2009 , 5:49pm
post #13 of 43

I don't think I would taking a few pictures (like of the cakes cooling on the rack with the pans next to it, or the gum paste flowers drying on parchment paper, or the mixer before I wash it with cake batter dripping, or as I'm waiting for the butter cream to crust. Times when I am taking a break because I need to wait for a part of the cake to be ready, I would happily take pictures for a scrap book!

As for the other things, well, you already got great advise! Of course cake bakers/decorators would want to make money, doesn't every business??

Every customer is different, some don't care about design, others are very specific, it's all about what you want, and how specific you want to be! A good decorator will make a gorgeous cake with just a few ideas from you regarding colors, theme, flowers, or whatever!

I hope you find an amazing decorator!

indydebi Posted 10 Dec 2009 , 5:52pm
post #14 of 43

Hey, folks, I think we should give great kudos to the OP who is coming straight to the sources for info! thumbs_up.gif She's doing great research, being realistic about price, and wants to be a good customer while still being well informed and getting a great cake for what sounds like some awesome parents!

Thanks, beachbrat, for being the kind of customer we'd all like to have! thumbs_up.gif

TexasSugar Posted 10 Dec 2009 , 5:57pm
post #15 of 43

Is it only me that is seeing little flags? I try not to jump to negative conclusions, but I just find it a little strange that someone would read through alot of posts on here that were just looking to shop for a cake?

I could be way off base, hope I am.

costumeczar Posted 10 Dec 2009 , 6:02pm
post #16 of 43
Quote:
Originally Posted by TexasSugar

Is it only me that is seeing little flags? I try not to jump to negative conclusions, but I just find it a little strange that someone would read through alot of posts on here that were just looking to shop for a cake?

I could be way off base, hope I am.




I don't think thre's anything fishy about it...She didn't mention "scratch vs. mix" once. icon_rolleyes.gif

diane706 Posted 10 Dec 2009 , 6:07pm
post #17 of 43
Quote:
Originally Posted by indydebi

Quote:
Originally Posted by Mike1394

If your spending 1500.00 on cake. You can be all the PITA you want to be.

Mike



icon_lol.gificon_lol.gif Sometimes the simplest statement says it all! thumbs_up.gificon_lol.gif




HeeHee! I know, right?! Heck, with that budget, I might throw in my first born!! (just kidding, Josh!) Actually, it really does give us credit when a customer sees progression photos!! I take them throughout the process of almost all of my cakes and they really show just how much work goes into each step!

Kitagrl Posted 10 Dec 2009 , 6:15pm
post #18 of 43

I think she probably just found the site while researching and found some interesting posts and started reading them.

You are definitely free to ask how the baker makes their cake...licensing....anything else you want! I have customers who do everything from "Do the cake how you want" to wanting to design it themselves beginning to end while I sketch what they ask for. Any of the above is fine! I think its great when a customer wants to design their own cake. Just be open to the opinion of the decorator...sometimes a good decorator will have suggestions about what will work better than other things and may want to add some input to your ideas.

The only thing that may be up in the air is the "progression photos".... I've done a few for my own benefit or to show others but I've never done them for a customer.... Nothing wrong about asking but don't be upset if they say no, or if they say yes but charge extra, stuff like that....some decorators would be fine with it and others would not, but I don't think it would make them a bad decorator either way.

Good luck in your search! I think decorators love customers who are willing to pay for the cake they are asking for, so I don't think you will have a problem.... its the customers who have grand ideas for a huge party, and a $250 cake budget that give the problems.

beachbrat Posted 10 Dec 2009 , 7:06pm
post #19 of 43

Thank you all for your great advice!! I am sorry if I gave the impression that ALL decorators/designers are out to take "my money". I just read a few posts where they were seemed to be complaining about the customer and I don't know...as one poster put it, I was probably reading it wrong, so I apologize if I offended anyone. I do understand about the business forum being a place to vent...and yes I have vented about a job/customer on more than one occasion, so I apologize if I jumped to the wrong conclusion by reading some posts. icon_biggrin.gif

I think TexasRose said I was probably worrying too much, I think she's right. I am being TOTALLY OCD about this (well not literally but I am sure you have met the kind) my brothers and sisters have trusted me with the budget and since most of it is their money (I am a starving student icon_biggrin.gif ) it is a very big deal to me since I am the baby of the family and I am totally being anal about this.

I looked at tons of galleries before finding cake central so I could get an actual estimate of what I would need to budget for this, I am hoping not to spend ALL of the money but I will!! (remember its not my money!!!)

I am not really shopping for a cake, I plan to have a decorator booked by New Years. (keeping fingers crossed) my brother is sketching out the design.

Anywhooooooooooooo....thank you all so much for your replies and advice, I really feel alot better....and I guess its better to be a PITA here than with the decorator...she will probably never know how much trouble all of you saved her thumbs_up.gif

cylstrial Posted 10 Dec 2009 , 7:11pm
post #20 of 43
Quote:
Originally Posted by diane706

Quote:
Originally Posted by indydebi

Quote:
Originally Posted by Mike1394

If your spending 1500.00 on cake. You can be all the PITA you want to be.

Mike



icon_lol.gificon_lol.gif Sometimes the simplest statement says it all! thumbs_up.gificon_lol.gif



HeeHee! I know, right?! Heck, with that budget, I might throw in my first born!! (just kidding, Josh!) Actually, it really does give us credit when a customer sees progression photos!! I take them throughout the process of almost all of my cakes and they really show just how much work goes into each step!




LOL! I'm with Mike too!

indydebi Posted 10 Dec 2009 , 7:11pm
post #21 of 43
Quote:
Originally Posted by beachbrat

....and I guess its better to be a PITA here than with the decorator...she will probably never know how much trouble all of you saved her thumbs_up.gif




icon_lol.gificon_lol.gif Tell her I'm happy for her to express her thanks in chocolate. Lots and lots of chocolate! icon_lol.gificon_lol.gificon_lol.gif

three_sets_of_twins Posted 10 Dec 2009 , 7:12pm
post #22 of 43

[email protected]!

TexasSugar Posted 10 Dec 2009 , 7:30pm
post #23 of 43

I apologize.

diane706 Posted 10 Dec 2009 , 7:37pm
post #24 of 43

No worries beachbrat thumbs_up.gif Good luck! Happy Anniversary to your mom and dad!

__Jamie__ Posted 10 Dec 2009 , 7:56pm
post #25 of 43

Beachbrat, yes we complain sometimes. Like any industry involved with customer service, there are jerks. Some of the cake decorators themselves are jerks. Many people (in here) think I'm a jerk. It's ok. My customers-love me. Not bragging, but I take very good care of them.

We're just venting, and this should be a nice safe place to do so. I might come in here and say "I can't believe what this stupid moron bride is asking me to do....", but when I'm face to face with her, it's smiles and politeness....unless she is really asking for it, and then I gracefully bow out and suggest she take her business elsewhere.

But to let off steam, with people who have been there and done that, this is a nice safe haven.

Edited to clarify a little something. icon_wink.gif

rosiecast Posted 10 Dec 2009 , 7:58pm
post #26 of 43

You came to the right place. These ladies have all the answers.

BTW: Where are you located- maybe you can find a decoartor right here. LOL

Stefy Posted 11 Dec 2009 , 5:30pm
post #27 of 43
Quote:
Originally Posted by Mike1394

If your spending 1500.00 on cake. You can be all the PITA you want to be.

Mike





Agree 100% - it's your money and you are in charge of the situation. If the decorator doesn't want to comply, find someone else. I think that this is a problem with a lot of decorators (in my experience) - they think they are "god-like" and the customer should bow to them. No, no - it's your money and you can ask for whatever you want. It's your parents special day!!!

__Jamie__ Posted 11 Dec 2009 , 5:33pm
post #28 of 43
Quote:
Originally Posted by Stefy

Quote:
Originally Posted by Mike1394

If your spending 1500.00 on cake. You can be all the PITA you want to be.

Mike




Agree 100% - it's your money and you are in charge of the situation. If the decorator doesn't want to comply, find someone else. I think that this is a problem with a lot of decorators (in my experience) - they think they are "god-like" and the customer should bow to them. No, no - it's your money and you can ask for whatever you want. It's your parents special day!!!




True, to an extent. I'll turn away $1500 if it's going to be a headache. I'd rather not be walked all over. But a person paying $200 can be a PITA too. It's certainly not set in stone "thou shalt suffer anything for payment". Yeah, I don't think so.

TexasSugar Posted 11 Dec 2009 , 6:02pm
post #29 of 43
Quote:
Originally Posted by Stefy

Quote:
Originally Posted by Mike1394

If your spending 1500.00 on cake. You can be all the PITA you want to be.

Mike




Agree 100% - it's your money and you are in charge of the situation. If the decorator doesn't want to comply, find someone else. I think that this is a problem with a lot of decorators (in my experience) - they think they are "god-like" and the customer should bow to them. No, no - it's your money and you can ask for whatever you want. It's your parents special day!!!




Of course someone can ask for what ever they want, BUT the cake decorator should be able to have input as well.

If someone wants something that isn't going to work structurely, then the cake decorator needs to be able to say that. Or if the cake decorator doesn't feel comfortable doing something they need to be able to say that with out it making them look like they don't want to do what the customer wants.

Mike1394 Posted 11 Dec 2009 , 6:08pm
post #30 of 43
Quote:
Originally Posted by TexasSugar

Quote:
Originally Posted by Stefy

Quote:
Originally Posted by Mike1394

If your spending 1500.00 on cake. You can be all the PITA you want to be.

Mike




Agree 100% - it's your money and you are in charge of the situation. If the decorator doesn't want to comply, find someone else. I think that this is a problem with a lot of decorators (in my experience) - they think they are "god-like" and the customer should bow to them. No, no - it's your money and you can ask for whatever you want. It's your parents special day!!!



Of course someone can ask for what ever they want, BUT the cake decorator should be able to have input as well.

If someone wants something that isn't going to work structurely, then the cake decorator needs to be able to say that. Or if the cake decorator doesn't feel comfortable doing something they need to be able to say that with out it making them look like they don't want to do what the customer wants.




Yeah that's just doing thier job. If the job is over someone's head they need to say oops not my area of expertise.

Mike

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