I'm sorry for the long post. I did a wedding cake Friday night. I was not 100% happy with it, but it was ok considering I haven't done many. The tiers were 6", 8", 10" and 12" plus a 2-layer 11X15 cake. The 8" was a dummy, the first I've done. Each tier was 3 2-inch layers. I received this email from the mother this morning. I am about in tears because all I want is for people to be happy and I never thought the cake would crack. Do you think my response is sufficient? What do I do now?
I need to arrange to get your cake board and supports back to you.
I have to share that we were very dissappointed with the cake appearance. It was delicious, moist and tasty though. It was not done on time, was crooked, and it cracked before the bride and groom got to cut it. Why was it being frosted and decorated on site? I'm not sure what all happened; I heard something about an accident from Laura's wedding day organizer.
I am sorry I did not take the time to talk with you; I was busy, and upset that the cake was not finished, but should have offered for you and the children to go inside . They could have watched TV while you worked.
Overall, the wedding went fine and in the big scheme of things, the cake is minor. However, you want everything to go as planned and be perfect on your wedding day.
Dear Mrs. T,
I'm so sorry that you were not happy with the cake. It really upsets me because all I want is for people to be happy. It was not finished before guests arrived as I had hoped because there had been an accident near the Dover bridge on the Preston side. I was stuck in traffic for 25 minutes. By the time I got by the accident site, all I saw was a pole on the ground, 1 Choptank Electric truck, and a state policeman's car.
As for the cake cracking, I am not sure why that happened. Could you tell me where the crack was?
I decorate all of my wedding cakes on site. Had I not been late because of the accident, this wouldn't have been an issue. The last thing I wanted is for people to show up while I was still decorating the cake because I know that it takes away from the mood of the day. I know that everyone watches the cake decorating shows on TV and sees them deliver the cakes fully assembled. I am in awe of them, also and wish I could do the same. It is safer for me to deliver, assemble and decorate at the site.
Once again I am so sorry that you were unhappy with the cake.
I'm sorry I couldn't attach a photo of the cake with the post. It is under my pics titled "scrollwork wedding cake". It was 165 servings and I only charged her $250.
(I hope this works.)
How much decorating did you do on site?
Do you have a picture of the cake so we can see what exactly "crooked" means?
How did you dowel the cake? When you did dowel it (on site, at home)?
I'm so sorry this happened.
Live and learn! Things did not go as planned this time, but next time they will! Leave way earlier next time so you will have more than enough time to finish your cake. Was this a bc or fondant covered cake?
The sheet cake was completed. I assembled, did the scrollwork and the "ribbon" on site. I was afraid when assembling I would mess it up and knew it wouldn't take a long time. I doweled the cake at home with the plastic adjustable dowels. the top tier was slightly crooked, and the ceremony was about to start, so I didn't have time to adjust it.
Not sure about the crack...maybe the outdoors had something to do with it?
IMO the scroll work should have been completed before you left to deliver. There's no reason that part of the decorating could not have been done and then all you would have had to do is stack and add ribbon.
Look into SPS for the future!!
I think your response was fine. You apologized, explained the situation.
I'm a little confused about the kids watching TV part though. Did you bring your kids with you to the delivery? Maybe MOB thought you were distracted by that and couldn't give your full attention to the cake. If you are doing this professionally (and if you are selling cakes then you are a professional) then you really should arrange for a babysitter. I don't feel it's appropriate to bring kids along to deliver a wedding cake.
I am sorry to hear that they weren't happy. However I can too see that the cake is crooked. Also it looked like the middle two tiers were almost the same size which makes the proportions look odd to me. I almost never assemble on site and never decorate on site.
I don't think there is any reason why you would not decorate the cakes at home. I can understand why they are upset and I would be also. Just to have someone there decorating a cake while the wedding is ready to get started and being late on top of it. I know it is not your fault due to the accident, however, if you had decorated and stacked 2 tiers together and then stacking the other 2 tiers together you would have only had to assemble at the site. You can transport each set of tiers in a box and put them on the shelf liner in your vehicle and this prevents them from sliding. Of course you should take a few tools and icing for any repairs and covering of where the tiers go together. Sorry this happened to you but, I think it could have been prevented, at least the majority of the complaint could have been.
Okay now that I have read some more posts and looked at the picture more closely, I think you owe them a refund of some kind. The cakes were crooked and that's really not an "acceptable" flaw, especially for a wedding cake.
Learn from your mistakes and move on to the next cake.
What is SPS? I did a search on here and nothing came up.
How much would be an acceptable refund? I am in tears over this.
First of all I'm not understanding why you "decorate on site" This isn't very professional in my opinion. I've actually never heard of anyone doing that. Something as important as a wedding cake should be decorated several hours BEFORE it's due so that if any problems arise there is time to make necessary adjustments. It is also very unprofessional to bring children along for cake deliveries. Never heard of that either.
You may want to make some changes in the way you're conducting business so that you don't have things like this to happen and believe me they will happen. I am curious as to why you decorate "on site"? This would not be acceptable for most of the venues that we cater to. Has this not been an issue for you any other time?
Your scroll work is really good BTW.
I think I would offer a 10% refund or $25.00. Before I offered the money back though I would see if they would like the $25.00 off on the next cake they want to purchase. That would be better than actually giving money back and either way they know you are willing to work with them to remedy the situation. I also would not offer any excuses as to why you were late or about the accident, they just don't care. Tell them you are sorry they had problems with the cake and let it go at that. At least by offering the money off for a future cake it will get them to return to you and then you can show them what your cakes really do look like. Good luck!!!
I haven't done very many wedding cakes. I didn't charge her alot because of that. I am not a big city decorator. The cakes I have done have been for back yard weddings and receptions at fire halls. As for my children, they were in the car with the A/C on watching a movie. They were never out of the car and I was able to see them from where I was working. Ok, I should have maybe done the scrollwork before leaving, but I am always so worried of something happening to the cake on my way there. (I don't do fondant, just BC.)
I'm sorry that this happened to you, I know how hard it is when you are first getting started, so let me offer some advice if I may. Find a couple of good, reliable babysitters. It's not okay to bring your kids on a delivery with you, it's unprofessional and it distracts you from what you really need to be focusing on, which is the cake. Also, unless you are adding fresh flowers at a venue from the the florist, your cake should be done before you arrive. If your cake is stacked soundly, delivery really shouldn't be a problem. Nobody wants to see their cake being decorated, it ruins the illusion and it makes you look bad. I use wood dowels in my cakes, and have even driven a cake as far as Tuscon (8 hours) stacked. So I know it can be done. Finally...give yourself a break and give your customer a refund. You're just getting started and these things happen. We've all been there...and that's what makes this site so invaluable...the wealth of knowledge here is incredible.If it were me, I would refund your customer the cost of the labor. They enjoyed the taste of the cake and should have to compensate you for the ingredients. I've found that a refund accompanied by a sincere apology is the best way to salvage a bad situation, and it may just make a return client for you. Good luck!
Buttercream cakes can certainly decorated before delivery. I'm not sure why you thought otherwise
And it doesn't matter what you charged her. The bottom line is you sold her a wedding cake that had noticable flaws (being crooked in one of those) and that wasn't stable enough to withstand display. And money off a future order is not good enough, IMO. Let's face it, would you order a cake from someone again if you weren't happy the first time?
Again, even if they were in the car with AC and movie, the kids should not have been with you. Regardless of whether they were safe and preoccupied, the perception may be different to other people.
Keep in mind that no one is trying to be mean to you or throw you under the bus. We are just trying to help you for next time.
While I can appreciate that you choose to complete your cakes on site, (if that's what works for you) that should be clearly communicated at the time of the order and any issues can be addressed at that time if they are opposed. In the end, you want a happy and satisfied customer that will brag about you and your cakes in the most positive light
Unfortunately I agree that having the kids in the car was not a good appearance....people are really sensitive about the "leaving kids in the car" thing. (A friend and I had to pull that one time delivering cookies to a craft show, and after the dirty looks we got, we realized it wasn't a good thing.) I understand its hard though...if all you would have had to do was drop the cake off, it would not have been so bad to bring the kids...but with extensive assembly.....that's not the best.
I always assemble my cakes, supporting and doweling as necessary. Always the day/night before. Then I refrigerate overnight. Then its nice and firm and ready to go in a cool A/C car to the venue. The only thing someone should really have to set up on site is any "stuff" you have to add to the tiers that might fall off during transport.
People understand stacking tiers on site but they aren't going to understand last minute scrollwork and monogramming and stuff. I think your cake is nice but I think it would have been done more neatly if you could have taken your time with it the night before, and gotten everything centered and smooth and nice.
I'm really sorry this had to happen...the MOB sounds reasonable and polite...I'd probably offer at least a 50% refund, really. Everyone has to learn...it will go better next time!!!!!
I think 50% refund too!!
We learn from our mistakes, you know what you can do different next time so you will be happier with you cake and therefore have a happier client. For $250 the cake is not a total disaster. I am also in a small town and just do cakes as a hobby for now. I find it fun and best of all it allows me to be with my children. I'm the mom who gets to do the cookies and cupcakes for school parties.
So sorry this happened to you. But, life happens and we all learn things as we go. I agree offer her some kind of discount and put it behind you.
I just did my first wedding cake yesterday. It was 5 tiers and I was totally freaked out over it. The reception was outside in low 90 degree heat.
Here is what I did and for the most part it all went well.
The day before even stacked 14" and 12" tiers and stored in fridge. Stacked 10" and 8" and stored in fridge. The top was 6".
I frosted everthing and put my border and ribbon on the bottom of everything I could with the exception of where I would complete stacking on site.
When I arrived I knew I would have to work very quickly since the heat would destroy my buttercream smoothing abilities.
I stacked all tiers and ran the border around the last two layers. That took about 20 minutes and by then the butter cream was very soft so putting the last two tiers of ribbon on was tough and it wasn't completely straight.
The last touch were the flowers and I was so thankful for them to hide my buttercream dents..lol
The cake did slant just a tad but I am pretty sure it was user error (me) and not the SPS system.
I did not like doing anything onsite because people were watching me closely and some asking questions which broke my concentration.
So, what I am saying is learn from it and go on. You can only get better from experiences right?
Well, this is a painful learning experience, but she does deserve some kind of refund. If the cake cracked and you weren't able to fix the top tier lean because you had to get out of there, you're basically saying that it wasn't up to your usual standards, and you know that. Since she said that the cake did taste good, I'd refund at least 50% of the cost (which was too low to begin with, but that's another lesson learned.)
I'm going to be straight up and tell you what you need to take away from this experience:
1. Don't take kids to deliveries with you.
2. Decorate at home, not on site. Assembling cakes that are transported in sections is one thing, but getting out bags to do the actual decorations is something completely different.
3. Charge more, but deliver what they paid for.
4. If you know that your work isn't up to your standards, be prepared for the customer to notice too. Sometimes they won't, because we're our own worst critics, but sometimes they will. If they do, refund their money.
5. Outdoor wedding in the summer? Fondant, not buttercream. No matter what they say, the icing will melt and make things more difficult for you, either as you're setting it up, or when the cake melts during the reception. Even Crisco-creme starts to look transparent and icky when it sits out in the heat for too long. I just posted this link on another thread, but it seems to be the topic of the day
I am sorry this happened, but stuff happens. You can't always control everything, but you can be better prepared next time. I hate those "school of hard knocks" lessons.
Here are some things I have learned: Do your decorating in the shop. I do stack big or tall and narrow cakes on site, but the only things that need finishing are borders. Refrigerate your cakes before delivery. Don't use wooden dowels unless you have a 2 tier cake. The SPS works wonders for your piece of mind!
Call the MOB. Don't just e-mail her. It is more personal. When people complain, whether they act like they want something free or not, they all want something. Most people are looking for a validation of their feelings and a vent for their frustrations. I think a heartfelt apology and a free cake next time would go a long way. You are working on building long term relationships, not just a one time order.
I have been decorating for a long time at our family owned bakery. We have been in business 22 years. I worked at our bakery from the time my parents bought it (I was almost 14) and so did my 3 sisters. My youngest sister was almost 6 when my parents bought the bakery. Sometimes, I bring my kids with me when I deliver cakes. My husband comes with me. They usually stay in the car briefly with me while my husband carries the cake, but sometimes my husband brings them in to see the final product. They carry boxes, open doors, etc. I look at it as a learning opportunity for them. I know I was in the minority in this position, but really I don't see anything wrong with it and I am a professional.
Best Wishes and better experiences ahead!
I would just like to add that your tiers would look better if there was more difference in size between each tier. I always have a 3-4" difference. i.e. 16" , 12", 9", 6". It is more pleasing to the eye and it gives more surface area for support. Better luck next time - don't give up!
I can understand both sides to a point. I know how upsetting it is when you cant get the cake done just right. I can also see it from the brides POV, and, even though my mother decorated my wedding cake, I didnt want to see it in progress, I just wanted the perfect finished product. If I was the client, I would be upset about the decorating on site, and the children coming, even though they were in the car, they were obviously in sight. And if it was a child free wedding, other guests could have been upset by the fact that there was children there if they couldnt bring there own. And just a tad unprofessional. As for the crooked cake, I can see it too, and I dont think its just the top tier..
Like everything else though, it is a personal prefrence, its sad and annoying that you didnt get it just right this time, but keep trying!! And why did you do a dummy and then a sheet? Is that what the bride requested?
This must be a very stressful experience for you - sorry. The advice you've been given here is wonderful and you will really grow from listening to these wise voices. One other thing - that MOB is unusually gracious! Reading any other threads on CC about complaining MOBs will open your eyes about how nice she is being. BTW your cakes must be delicious from her description and that should make you feel good. I agree with the 50% refund.
I also agree with a 50% refund - wanted to point out something that would have upset me if I was the MOB - in your email to her you state you were stuck in traffic for 25 minutes - I'm not in a position to judge you on the part of decorating here, there, home, etc..I'm new to this, but what I do know is if I was putting together a cake for someone on site, like you chose to do, I would give myself a minimum of two hours in case something went wrong. Please don't take it the wrong way, but if I was the MOB I would think between you having the kids in the car and the last minute decorating, that you were not professional. Honestly, I would learn from the mistake and refund her the money - either 50% or whatever your profit was. Good luck.
I'd give more than a 50% discount. If the you and the cake had all the issues stated above I would give pretty much the full amount back.
Due to circumstances out of my control I had a delivery that was late this very week. I was horrified. It wasn't for a cake but for a breakfast catering. I was late. End of story. Everything was done. I wasn't making anything on site, but I was late getting there. They were mad and who could blame them. I refunded all the money. This meant I was out $200 on just buying product. I was out a LOT more in time and profit. In the end I'm glad with my decision. Even though it wasn't my fault I was late, I was still late. All the excuses in the world do not matter, the time clock does as well as my reputation.
If I were you I would refund more than 50%, I'd refund all of it to save face.
Also, don't take your kids with you to work. Very unprofessional and everyone notices and will talk about it. Better to pay for a sitter.
Good luck in the future.
Everyone has pretty much covered the advice end of things...
I was just going to tell you, if you only put the dowels in partway and then set the next tier on top, the weight of the tier will slowly push the dowels in, leaving you time to get your fingers out from underneath without messing up the frosting.
Also, when you're transporting tiers to stack on site, non-slip drawer liner is your best friend That way you can set your decorated tiers in boxes and they won't get messed up on the way. Just in case, take an emergency kit with a bag of each color of frosting and a few tips and spatula.
You're braver than me! I would be so intimidated by the idea of decorating the cake at the event, with everyone watching.
What is SPS? I did a search on here and nothing came up.
I read this thread and you have been given lots of good advice, here you go good luck.