We were in business in the late 60\\'s thru the 90\\'s.
Considered a higher end shoppe-we were called Master Decorators rather than Cake Designers.
When we first began my mentor told me to always be paid if full ahead of a wedding cake delivery. \\"After the cake is gone folks are no longer interested in paying for it\\
I've been doing cakes for 6 years, and I find it is getting harder in a few ways...
complaining to get something for free is always around,
another is complaining that they can get a cake cheaper from someone else, and a lot of people now call last minute, which they never did before.. expecting to get a cake that day
But, not all cake orders are like that if it was, I wouldn't be doing cakes!
I started out 21 years ago as a hobby baker. 17 years ago I quit a government job to raise kids and I baked from a caterer friends kitchen. I've had my on shop now for 13 years. Back 21 years ago the cakes were always buttercream with more piping work and lots of royal icing flowers. Fondant was something that was rarely ever used. Sheet cakes were pretty much the norm for showers, parties and adults birthdays, shaped and character cakes were most requested for kids birthdays. Today since the cake shows have become so popular on t.v. everybody wants a 3 to 5 tiered birthday cake that only serve 15 and expect to pay $25.
I never use to be asked to do tastings. But now it's every flavor under the sun with fillings and 20 types of icing. I usually have 4 or more people at a tasting and they stay forever.
Up until 2008 when the economy turned upside down it wasn't unusual to have a 2 or 3 weddings every weekend with brides cake for 200 and a grooms cake for 200 for each. No one batted an eye at the charge, ask for samples or spent 3 hours picking out cake. Now everybody has scaled back on size but want more extravagant cakes for less money. The budget is always the determining factor, they love your cake but go with someone doing cakes from home for 1/2 my charge then ask me to cut my price. NO WAY.
I've chased my money down more than once, taken more that one bad check, traded cake for services that never came to pass. One on my worst experiences....MOG was paying for the ENTIRE wedding, delivered the cakes and a few days later returned to venue to pick up cake stand, the staff went on about how good my cakes had been and there wasn't a crumb left. About 2 months later the MOG calls to tell me she was dissatisfied with the cakes, they were dry, burned, inedible wanted to know if she could get a refund. Come to find out the couple split after 5 weeks and she tried to get her money back from everybody.
I took lessons from Betty Van Norstrand, who regaled us with stories of the old days (which I loved every minute of hearing).
She told me that, years ago, that it was no surprise to do (by herself) 40 birthday/small cakes per week, plus whatever number of wedding cakes were ordered.
Then I read the stories from some of the members on the forums I belong to, where they complain that they had to do 3 wedding cakes and 6 birthday cakes this week, and they're exhausted.
More than once, I wanted to ask them if they would like some cheese with their whine. LOL!
My heart goes out to all of you who have been in the business since Queen Victoria and her opulent wedding cake (well, darn near). You never had it as easy as decorators do today.
Sold my first wedding cake around 1980.
No tastings. They weren't even heard of. Brides came to my living room to look thru my books and photos and ordered their cakes from those. I also sold invitations and accessories and they flipped thru my order book to order those, too.
Didn't take credit cards and never had any non-payment issues. I can't even recall having to run down money. People paid cash or check up front with no qualms, no hesitation and no argument. (but then, there weren't any TV shows showing brides how to try to get out of paying for stuff, either!)
Agree with the above that the biggest argument was between bride and mom. Mine was usually over "if you want that design, I'm not paying for it!" thing. I decided early on that I had to have a policy on this thing, so I told them, "I will make the cake the bride wants. Bride, how you pay for it is your problem, so you and mom will have to work that out between the two of you."
Marketing is the big difference. Today, its all online internet connections with anyone all over the country (and I've even had brides in other countries ... military). back then I was limited to brides in my local area. Passing out biz cards, word of mouth and small ads in the local once-a-week newspaper.
I thought I was SO smart when i cut out engagements from the paper, was lucky enough to be able to find an address in the local phone book, and mailed the bride a copy of the engagement with a letter of introduction. Snail mail and WAITING for a response. Ugh! How did we ever survive it?
Fondant was not even a word in our vocabulary back then. There were no Hobby Lobbies with classes to learn how to do a cake. either the locally owned cake supply store had some classes or you just learned on your own by buying a Wilton book and followign the picture directions. If you couldn't make a BC rose, you were out of business.
In my small town, receptions were cake-n-punch only. If they did "go all out" with food, it was small hand & turkey sandwiches, veggie trays, chips and dip. Once in a blue moon, I delivered a cake to a wedding that had hot food served, but these were usually a big catholic wedding. I got started on the catering side doing the cold food stuff (sandwiches, veggies, etc.) I look back now and think "omg, you had some nerve calling yourself a "caterer"!