Should I Give Up Novelty Cakes?

Business By Kitagrl Updated 10 Dec 2010 , 2:37pm by Mama_Mias_Cakes

Kitagrl Posted 3 Dec 2010 , 7:36pm
post #1 of 60

A little discouraged this week I guess....doing a fairly labor-intensive cake for a repeat customer. 20 servings....I charged $300 so do the math per serving and its a good amount.

However....for $300 I could have whipped out a three tiered buttercream wedding cake instead of spending hours and hours on gumpaste figurines and etc.

But I mostly get novelty cake orders....

Would it be more insulting to my customers to stop accepting novelty cake orders, or to double the price? Which, doubling the price would pretty much effectively stop my taking novelty cake orders.

I guess I don't mind the tiered ones so much but like the cake I'm working on now has alot of gumpaste work and etc on it...obviously I don't even know where to begin pricing a cake like the one I'm doing.

I guess I'm tired of being the "novelty cake" lady.

I had a country club call me this week saying that the wedding cake I delivered last month was the best cake they ever tasted and they wanted to put me on their preferred vendors list, so that's super cool.

I guess I'm looking for feedback...what should I do? Charge $500 for a 20 serving novelty cake (full of gumpaste work) or just not accept the order? I feel the drastic price increase will be an insult to past customers.... but I've been working on the pieces for this cake a little each day and I'll have put in quite a few hours yesterday, today, and tomorrow getting it ready for Sunday morning pickup. For $300??? I know that is ALOT of money for this mom to pay for a birthday cake to feed 20...and she's a nice repeat customer...but...

*sigh*

59 replies
playingwithsugar Posted 3 Dec 2010 , 7:43pm
post #2 of 60

My first question is how many actual servings of cake did it take to make said cake? Or are you just charging for the servings requested.

Theresa icon_smile.gif

Iggy Posted 3 Dec 2010 , 7:56pm
post #3 of 60

If you are charging $15/serving and making a good profit and like making all the gumpaste additions, then keep doing it. If you accept the CC's offer of being on their preferred vendors list and you find yourself making more wedding cakes, then you can cut back on your novelty orders as time allows. What's better....$15/serving for 20 people or $300/serving for 100 people? $15 vs $3. If you have customers that are willing to pay that price and you are making a decent profit, then you need to decide if you still enjoy doing novelties or not. I do think your current customer would be terribly disappointed if you stop making them and insulted if you doubled the price. I can't wait to see the one you are working on now. Just my humble opinion. I don't know if this helps or not. Good luck in whatever you decide.

Iggy Posted 3 Dec 2010 , 8:05pm
post #4 of 60

Just looked at your cakes and they are amazing!!! Such detail and near to perfection on all your characters and tiers!! You can't stop doing novelty cakes! They are so awesome!! Sorry, but now I'm biased after seeing your amazing work. Can you do both?? Your wedding cakes are totally beautiful too!

Corrie76 Posted 3 Dec 2010 , 8:09pm
post #5 of 60

I know how you feel. I've eliminated some items, like cake balls/pops that I used to do because I just felt it wasn't worth my time and I couldn't bring myself to charge the amount I wanted for my time. I guess for you, it comes down to if you are willing to lose that income that novelty cakes brings in for you? If you have loyal customers, they will understand to a certain degree that you no longer offer novelty cakes and will be satisfied with a tiered amazing cake for their celebrations. From the work I've seen from your photos, you do an amazing job and I'm sure you would likely make up for that lack of novelty business with other types of cakes.

-K8memphis Posted 3 Dec 2010 , 8:13pm
post #6 of 60

I would work on dumbing down the decorating as much as possible. You've got a good thing going you just need to spend way less time doing it. Raising your prices is a good idea--I'd do two 10% increases-one now then another after in a year--just a gentle steady increase. But taking these big hits of time to do intense artistic work is not making you any money just eating up your time. (like you just said)

Clearly you have genius to create what you create. Now use it to create what you create more efficiently.

Corrie76 Posted 3 Dec 2010 , 8:16pm
post #7 of 60

So your 3-D cakes are completely amazing! I was wondering though, how do the people cut them when it's time to serve? I can't imagine paying such top dollar only to have randomly cut chunks of cake to serve...(but can totally understand why these cakes deserve high price tags as far as the work and detail you put into them!)

jason_kraft Posted 3 Dec 2010 , 8:17pm
post #8 of 60
Quote:
Originally Posted by Iggy

What's better....$15/serving for 20 people or $300/serving for 100 people? $15 vs $3.



If the $15/serving cake takes more than 5 times as much labor as the $3/serving cake, I'd say the $3/serving cake is the better bet.

I find it's easier for customers to understand the cost of the cake if you divide it up into a per-serving price plus the cost of premium design elements. So the cake itself could be $3/serving, but the design would be an additional $240 (as an example, 10 hours of labor at $20/hour -- you don't need to explain this much detail to the customer).

When the customer realizes how much more they are paying for a labor-intensive design, they often choose a simpler design.

aswartzw Posted 3 Dec 2010 , 8:38pm
post #9 of 60

If people are willing to pay your current price for those cakes, then you are excellent and you have customers that are fully aware of that.

Just think of how many people on here can't even get that out of a wedding cake without people complaining.

So a couple of things:
1) Do you like novelty cakes?
2) Why do you want to do more wedding cakes? Is it because you can whip out more in less time thereby increasing your profit? Would you get bored with wedding cakes? Would you get tired of the hassle from the people who want wedding cakes cheaply?

I think what I'm trying to say is you've got the people who appreciate you and don't give you a hard time. Do you what to risk losing this priceless customer base by moving to a less appreciative one?

Honestly, I'd much prefer what you have than popping out lots of cakes to people who don't appreciate my work.

Edited to add: You could consider a small % increase overtime so your customers don't really "see" the price increase and balk at it. Sort of the "making smaller candy bars without raising the price" concept.

pinkpiggie78 Posted 3 Dec 2010 , 8:49pm
post #10 of 60

What if you only do novelty cakes for existing customers? The only way they can "become" a new customer is to book a wedding cake...

Kitagrl Posted 3 Dec 2010 , 8:55pm
post #11 of 60

To answer a question above...it is pretty much 20 servings, I did not cut much cake off.

Most of my time has been in many gumpaste pieces....will be possibly trying some pulled sugar too but not sure if that will work...that's on me though. icon_smile.gif

I guess....I'm getting a little burned out...I need the money but if I have the option of spending 3 hours on a $300 cake or 10 hours on a $300 cake....I will choose the 3 hours even if its "boring" buttercream and a ribbon or something. I have four boys, and I find my house not being cleaned properly and such. Maybe its a time management thing, I dunno, and then a couple weeks ago I ended up in the hospital for some mild health problems which put me behind, etc. Then I took two weeks off around Christmas to recoup and then someone called me with a gift certificate for a free cake I raffled off LAST year, with an exp. date of the end of this year...and he wants it for December 23...so there went one of my free weeks.

With the cake I'm working on now, the customer enjoys highly detailed cakes so....they keep ordering them. haha. I do try to streamline and simplify when I can but this particular one just takes time.

I'm sorry, I know some of you are like "Gee I wish I could get your prices!" But for one thing, I live in a high cost of living area...which I'm glad for....and for another thing, even if I charged $300 for a 20 serving cake...to me time is money...and a $300 wedding cake is much better profit than a $300 detailed novelty cake with gumpaste figurines any day. Ya know?

Not trying to have a bad attitude...just I guess I'm getting a little tired of being "caker" and I want to just be "Mom" for awhile....and this weekend my hubby is out of town as well. And really, I would like to make my hours worth as much as possible. Spending 5 hours on a 100 serving cake for $400...say the profit is $300....or spending 10 hours on a 20 serving cake for 10 hours for $300....say the profit is $250....your hourly "wage" for the first cake is $60/hour and your hourly "wage" for the second cake is $25/hour.

The math is rough and probably not true to life...but maybe you can understand where I'm going with it....

Please understand I'm not being ungrateful to my customers or ungrateful for my talent, nor my opportunity to work from home...I guess I'm just trying to figure out how to work this....the more I offer novelty cakes, the more orders I'll get for them....so I need to figure out my pricing I guess. I already feel my pricing is about as much as my customers will pay (my orders have dropped off a tad, some of my older regulars can no longer afford it) but the profit is so much lower than wedding cakes.

playingwithsugar Posted 3 Dec 2010 , 9:08pm
post #12 of 60

I can tell how burnt out you are - I remember the eager beaver who loved to do the more detailed work.

It's time for you to limit yourself. If someone books a simple wedding cake, then only take orders for that day for other simple work. If someone orders a more complicated piece, then don't take any other orders that weekend, unless they're really simple and you know you have the time to do it right.

And, unless you really need the money, put a notice on your website that you will be closed from the week before Thanksgiving until after the New Year, no exceptions.

Theresa icon_smile.gif

aswartzw Posted 3 Dec 2010 , 9:18pm
post #13 of 60

So why aren't you getting more wedding cakes, then? There must be a reason you are getting novelty cakes over wedding cakes and you can't blame it on pricing.

For example, in a normal month, how many queries do you get on wedding cakes vs. novelty cakes? Now how many customers do you get from those queries? Are you just not advertising correctly to grab weddings? Are you getting novelty cakes more because you are relying on regulars?

I can't help but think that there is a reason you are placed in this situation where novelty cakes appear to be outweighing the weddings.

In an ideal situation, you should have a ratio of for example 3:1 wedding cakes vs. novelty. So every week, you pop out max 1 novelty cake. The rest of the week is filled with weddings.

But, it also sounds like it's time to do "novelty cake" breaks. Don't accept any orders for a period of time that are only novelty. Or something like that.

Kitagrl Posted 3 Dec 2010 , 9:19pm
post #14 of 60
Quote:
Originally Posted by playingwithsugar

I can tell how burnt out you are - I remember the eager beaver who loved to do the more detailed work.

It's time for you to limit yourself. If someone books a simple wedding cake, then only take orders for that day for other simple work. If someone orders a more complicated piece, then don't take any other orders that weekend, unless they're really simple and you know you have the time to do it right.

And, unless you really need the money, put a notice on your website that you will be closed from the week before Thanksgiving until after the New Year, no exceptions.

Theresa icon_smile.gif




I've already been limiting myself to like 2 cakes per weekend haha....not sure why I'm so bummed...there are people on here with full time jobs who do more than that!!!!

Oh well! icon_smile.gif I guess even with a few cakes, the time it takes to do the prep, and the paperwork, and the cleaning up and everything takes more time than it seems...and I try not to work too late at night so I can unwind with my hub... my toddler watches way more tv than is healthy. haha.

Anyway....I'm on schedule for this weekend's cake, and then just one cake next weekend because the second one had to cancel...so I am okay.

Thanks for letting me vent!!!!

I was just trying to figure out if there is anything I should change as far as my novelty cake pricing as compared to wedding cakes.

Kitagrl Posted 3 Dec 2010 , 9:21pm
post #15 of 60
Quote:
Originally Posted by aswartzw

So why aren't you getting more wedding cakes, then? There must be a reason you are getting novelty cakes over wedding cakes and you can't blame it on pricing.

For example, in a normal month, how many queries do you get on wedding cakes vs. novelty cakes? Now how many customers do you get from those queries? Are you just not advertising correctly to grab weddings? Are you getting novelty cakes more because you are relying on regulars?

I can't help but think that there is a reason you are placed in this situation where novelty cakes appear to be outweighing the weddings.

In an ideal situation, you should have a ratio of for example 3:1 wedding cakes vs. novelty. So every week, you pop out max 1 novelty cake. The rest of the week is filled with weddings.

But, it also sounds like it's time to do "novelty cake" breaks. Don't accept any orders for a period of time that are only novelty. Or something like that.




Its because around here, most caterers provide a wedding cake in the package. I do get groom's cakes inquiries, and occasional weddings if the bride is piecing their own wedding together or does not like the cake the caterer provides. Plus, tons of competition in a large area.... Plus, you can get a wedding cake from any one of hundreds of bakeries but you can't get a 3D/gumpaste figures/novelty cake from as many places. So....brides get their cake from the caterer, or from a referred baker.... but people looking for something like they see on tv shows call me. haha.

Does that make sense? I do hope the country club that called me recently will get me an inroad to more weddings with them because they really enjoyed my cake.

Kitagrl Posted 3 Dec 2010 , 9:24pm
post #16 of 60

I will say I probably do not market myself correctly...I haven't had time for much...I have had two cakes in Philadelphia Wedding magazine (second one not yet published) and have tried a bridal show (didn't work) and a few other publicized things....but I guess I've been doing novelty cakes so long, that's still what I get called for.

I need to find caterers who will call on me for cakes, I guess.

I think I really just wanna be lazy for a month or two. haha.

cakesbycathy Posted 3 Dec 2010 , 9:28pm
post #17 of 60

Is it financially feasible for you to a) take some time off and b) up your prices a little?

Until you are more well-known for wedding cakes then if you stop doing the novelty cakes (or price yourself out of doing them) are you going to lose business? Can you afford for your clients to go elsewhere and possibly not return? If you are doing this because you need the income, then I'd reconsider stopping the cakes that you are known for.

Kitagrl Posted 3 Dec 2010 , 9:45pm
post #18 of 60
Quote:
Originally Posted by cakesbycathy

Is it financially feasible for you to a) take some time off and b) up your prices a little?

Until you are more well-known for wedding cakes then if you stop doing the novelty cakes (or price yourself out of doing them) are you going to lose business? Can you afford for your clients to go elsewhere and possibly not return? If you are doing this because you need the income, then I'd reconsider stopping the cakes that you are known for.




Well I *think* January is going to slow down, and the end of this month will slow down (although I do have a very large cake January icon_cool.gif. So maybe that will be enough time for me to get back into doing this again.

I guess I'll just keep doing what I'm doing, limiting myself to a couple cakes per weekend and when I feel its enough, I'll be "booked". Usually weddings book before novelty cakes anyway.

aswartzw Posted 3 Dec 2010 , 9:46pm
post #19 of 60

Just an idea then:

For weddings: price your novelty cakes higher but offer a discount if the wedding cake is booked as well?

Clearly those cutting fees probably hurt as well which is why people prefer going with the preferred caterer as well. Maybe to offset that offer a free anniversary cake or a free gourmet flavor upgrade. Make your wedding cakes "novel" in taste vs. deco.

You can still be the novelty cake lady, but be the novelty wedding cake lady.

Kitagrl Posted 3 Dec 2010 , 9:55pm
post #20 of 60
Quote:
Originally Posted by aswartzw

Just an idea then:

For weddings: price your novelty cakes higher but offer a discount if the wedding cake is booked as well?

Clearly those cutting fees probably hurt as well which is why people prefer going with the preferred caterer as well. Maybe to offset that offer a free anniversary cake or a free gourmet flavor upgrade. Make your wedding cakes "novel" in taste vs. deco.

You can still be the novelty cake lady, but be the novelty wedding cake lady.




I've thought about the free anniversary tier.... I am wondering how I could market that, though, since once brides get their caterer they do not usually shop around for wedding cakes....

SugarFiend Posted 3 Dec 2010 , 10:14pm
post #21 of 60
Quote:
Originally Posted by Kitagrl

Quote:
Originally Posted by aswartzw

Just an idea then:

For weddings: price your novelty cakes higher but offer a discount if the wedding cake is booked as well?

Clearly those cutting fees probably hurt as well which is why people prefer going with the preferred caterer as well. Maybe to offset that offer a free anniversary cake or a free gourmet flavor upgrade. Make your wedding cakes "novel" in taste vs. deco.

You can still be the novelty cake lady, but be the novelty wedding cake lady.



I've thought about the free anniversary tier.... I am wondering how I could market that, though, since once brides get their caterer they do not usually shop around for wedding cakes....




The caterer. Well SOMEone is making the wedding cakes. Can you approach the caterers? Like contract out? "Use us as your caterer, and you get an exquisite 'Cakes by Suzy' wedding cake!"

Just an idea. It's the same in my area with the caterers making the cakes.

costumeczar Posted 3 Dec 2010 , 11:26pm
post #22 of 60
Quote:
Originally Posted by SugarFiend

Quote:
Originally Posted by Kitagrl

Quote:
Originally Posted by aswartzw

Just an idea then:

For weddings: price your novelty cakes higher but offer a discount if the wedding cake is booked as well?

Clearly those cutting fees probably hurt as well which is why people prefer going with the preferred caterer as well. Maybe to offset that offer a free anniversary cake or a free gourmet flavor upgrade. Make your wedding cakes "novel" in taste vs. deco.

You can still be the novelty cake lady, but be the novelty wedding cake lady.



I've thought about the free anniversary tier.... I am wondering how I could market that, though, since once brides get their caterer they do not usually shop around for wedding cakes....



The caterer. Well SOMEone is making the wedding cakes. Can you approach the caterers? Like contract out? "Use us as your caterer, and you get an exquisite 'Cakes by Suzy' wedding cake!"

Just an idea. It's the same in my area with the caterers making the cakes.




That's a good idea.

But if you're working and getting $15 a serving for any cake, regardless of whether it's wedding or not, I wouldn't be too bummed about that! You're doing fine!

Kitagrl Posted 3 Dec 2010 , 11:42pm
post #23 of 60

Yeah....thanks. icon_smile.gif Just the end-of-the-year tiredness I guess!

AmandaLP Posted 4 Dec 2010 , 2:51am
post #24 of 60

I can totally see your point of time vs money.

For many bakers, I can see how pricing per serving is the way to go. However, view it as your are being paid for your time and art, rather than simply the cake. If they wanted the cake, they can go elsewhere for cheaper. They are paying the premium for your creative side.

Could you try something like "cakes over X number of servings start at $X price for basics" and "novelty cakes are our specialty, however, due to the time intensive process, these are priced based on the labor involved, rather than per serving."

Kitagrl Posted 4 Dec 2010 , 3:00am
post #25 of 60
Quote:
Originally Posted by AmandaLP

I can totally see your point of time vs money.

For many bakers, I can see how pricing per serving is the way to go. However, view it as your are being paid for your time and art, rather than simply the cake. If they wanted the cake, they can go elsewhere for cheaper. They are paying the premium for your creative side.

Could you try something like "cakes over X number of servings start at $X price for basics" and "novelty cakes are our specialty, however, due to the time intensive process, these are priced based on the labor involved, rather than per serving."




I actually kind of did that for this project....she basically told me her budget and I said I'd do as much as possible for that amount on her cake. But still in my head I end up calculating roughly "per serving" and also knowing how much time and work the cake ends up being....although I don't really log hours. Maybe I should...for a comparison basis to help me with pricing.

sugarandstuff Posted 4 Dec 2010 , 3:13am
post #26 of 60

Your cakes are amazing - it would be a shame for you to stop doing them - you have a great talent. Have you thought about putting a minimum on your 3d and highly detailed gumpaste figure cakes? What is it that you would feel good about getting - e.g. You could start by saying you have a $400 minimum on these types of cakes and go from there.

cheatize Posted 4 Dec 2010 , 4:14am
post #27 of 60

It sounds to me like a case of the blues. The kid is watching more tv than you like, the house is messy, hubby isn't around this week, and Christmas is going to arrive whether you have time to bake, decorate, shop, and wrap or not.

If this is the case, I would dream about possibilities but not make any decisions right now. That is, any decisions except deciding to turn down some additional work right now.

It doesn't help that "Baby, it's cold outside!" LOL. First, less sunlight and now cold. Blech.

scp1127 Posted 4 Dec 2010 , 10:38am
post #28 of 60

Add up what you actually make per hour on your wedding cakes and make sure you are not making less on the 3D cakes. Then charge accordingly. Your cakes are worth the time you put in them... they are beautiful. This way you wouldn't care what cake you do because you will be compensated the same.

indydebi Posted 4 Dec 2010 , 12:28pm
post #29 of 60
Quote:
Originally Posted by jasonkraft

When the customer realizes how much more they are paying for a labor-intensive design, they often choose a simpler design.


While I normally am not a fan of add-on pricing, I think in your case that jason has a good idea. kita, you DO have a great talent (you're on my list of "CC'ers I want to be like when I grow up!") and obviously you have a (growing) fan base who understands and appreciates that. As you said, it may be in your marketing technique.

How's your baking calendar for the end of the year? Did you budget out some "mom" time around the holidays? If so, kick back and string that popcorn or whatever you do as part of your holiday tradition. Re-charge yoru batteries and then hit the new year running with a new plan and new motivation!

Kitagrl Posted 4 Dec 2010 , 1:20pm
post #30 of 60
Quote:
Originally Posted by indydebi

Quote:
Originally Posted by jasonkraft

When the customer realizes how much more they are paying for a labor-intensive design, they often choose a simpler design.

While I normally am not a fan of add-on pricing, I think in your case that jason has a good idea. kita, you DO have a great talent (you're on my list of "CC'ers I want to be like when I grow up!") and obviously you have a (growing) fan base who understands and appreciates that. As you said, it may be in your marketing technique.

How's your baking calendar for the end of the year? Did you budget out some "mom" time around the holidays? If so, kick back and string that popcorn or whatever you do as part of your holiday tradition. Re-charge yoru batteries and then hit the new year running with a new plan and new motivation!




Awww thanks Indy. icon_smile.gif

Yeah I did schedule out two weeks of "no cakes" time to be with my family and then like mentioned earlier, a guy came out of the blue with a free cake I raffled last year that expires the end of this year, and he wanted it Dec 23...so I went ahead and honored it (what else to do?) so I was upset that I'm now doing a cake during one of the weeks I planned to take off.....and the week after New years I have a HUGE cake. But never again will I grant gift certificates for any reason.....I have learned the hard way about that at least three times this year. haha.

Maybe I should look on next year's calendar and go ahead and block off some dates just to chill with the kids.

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