Grrr! Everyone Wants A "novelty" Cake Or Special

Business By ilovesprinkles Updated 3 May 2011 , 4:16pm by Baker_Rose

ilovesprinkles Posted 30 Apr 2011 , 8:10pm
post #1 of 17

I just started my licensed and insured residential baking business a month and a half ago, and am slowly figuring out what I enjoy, what I hate, what's worth my time to do, etc... Of course, I enjoy doing it all when I want to do it, but as you all know, making this a business is a different kettle of fish!

So far, I have been selective with what I take on, and while I like a challenge, I also don't want to create a lot of stress for myself. This is a part-time job for me and nothing is more important than having time for my small children.

Lately, my issue is that everyone wants a )(**&%% novelty cake! Thank you ever so much, Cake Boss! icon_rolleyes.gif As one wise CC-er said, everyone wants an Ace of Cakes cake at a Walmart price, and thus far I have successfully scared off a few people by giving them realistic prices. However, this isn't working so well for others and, while I'm happy to have customers who are willing to pay, I just don't know if I want to be carving a vacuum cake, a sports stadium cake, or whatever outlandish thing a client dreams up, KWIM?

I'm thinking I need to be a lot more selective and streamline my menu, but given the fact that my business is so young, I am worried about the implications of doing so.

On a related note, while I have 8 different cake flavors and the same number of filling flavors, every other person wants something other than what's on my menu. So far I have been obliging with friends, but I have a feeling I'm going to have to add an extra charge for special requests, or start a second level of "premium" flavors.

If anyone has input, or has experienced something similar, I'd love hearing your two cents.

Thank you!

16 replies
myslady Posted 30 Apr 2011 , 8:45pm
post #2 of 17

being that you are the owner you get to call the shots. You can put a note on your website that you do not offer 3d cakes at this time if you do not want to do those types of cakes and you can do the same thing for the fillings. The one negative i see is that you may lose customers because of not being flexible about the flavorings.

jason_kraft Posted 30 Apr 2011 , 9:00pm
post #3 of 17

We also get quite a few customers who want cakes with elaborate decorations for their kid's birthday party. Once they see the price tag they usually settle for a regular single tier round or sheet cake with buttercream decorations.

One thing to remember when charging a price you think is very high is that the customer may be fine with it, so before you even offer make sure you have the time, skills, and inclination to make that cake. If you think you can't execute a specific design, counter with a simpler design that you are more confident creating.

Regarding the flavors, which flavors have customers been requesting that you don't provide? It is pretty easy to keep a few bottles of extract on hand to make a sponge cake into a raspberry/blackberry/lemon/lime/orange/coffee/etc. cake. If the customer requests a flavor that would be more complex to make than adding an extract to an existing recipe, we helpfully provide recommended combinations based on what we do offer.

HeyWife Posted 30 Apr 2011 , 9:24pm
post #4 of 17

And once people catch wind that you CAN do novelty cakes, the requests start getting more outlandish.

cylstrial Posted 30 Apr 2011 , 9:36pm
post #5 of 17

Raise your price for 3d cakes. LeahS hates making TT cakes. So she charges out the ying yang for them. If someone wants one, she'll make it, because it's worth it for her to make it at a higher price.

plymouthcakery Posted 30 Apr 2011 , 10:08pm
post #6 of 17

I have the opposite problem. I am itching to do more sculpted cakes, but everyone wants simple 8" round with a flat buttercream design on top. DH keeps telling me just to make some sculpted cakes and donate them, so I can have them in my gallery. I hate the idea of waste. You could always send your 3D requests to me, and I'll send my boring ones to you! icon_wink.gif (I'm in MA too)

JoanieB Posted 30 Apr 2011 , 10:23pm
post #7 of 17

They certainly are time consuming. One thing that bothers me is people always showing me a picture of a cake and wanting me to recreate it. I seriously don't know if I'm even capable of an original design LOL.

ChristineCMC Posted 30 Apr 2011 , 10:57pm
post #8 of 17

Do what works for you. This is your business and since you are just starting out now is the time to make it into what you want.

I don't have a business, but do make cakes for friends and family. I just made a castle cake for my son's birthday. It was very involved and took lot of time to make but it was my son and he really wanted a castle cake. I then had a friend ask me what I would charge to make her that castle cake for her son. I told her $300 because I knew it wasn't in her budget and if somehow it was, then maybe it would have been worth my time to make. I then reworked it for a less grand much smaller castle and told her $80, she was flabbergasted. She was shocked that anyone would spend that much money on a cake. Maybe I'm wrong, but I thought was being really nice and giving her a friend estimate.

Again, I'm not doing this as a business but my thoughts are if I am taking time away from my family and time I could be doing something else (even if I'm just surfing CC), I should something for my time.

pattycakesnj Posted 30 Apr 2011 , 11:17pm
post #9 of 17

If you are trying to build a business, then you need to separate yourself from the rest. A simple sheet cake or round cake with basic decorations, one can go to a bakery. So if that is all you do, you are competing with the bakery. If you branch out into 3d or tiered cakes, you can capture that part of the market. Charge accordingly, and remember not everyone will be able to afford you, but that is ok. From my point of view, it is more profitable in both time and money to make fewer larger cakes and less smaller cakes.

Rose_N_Crantz Posted 1 May 2011 , 1:49am
post #10 of 17

I know what you mean. I get so many people that want me to draw these elaborate designs and pictures on the cakes. I'm thinking, "what's wrong with getting just some beautiful flowers or festive balloons?" Just because the birthday girl is a hair dresser doesn't mean she wants scissors and combs and blow dryers and whatnot on her cake. Maybe it's just me, but I find a cake with flowers on it to be much more beautiful than some cake with a bunch of gumpaste figures sat on the top. To me, I just see all the work and for what? They just get thrown away. If you're willing to pay for those, fine, but I would rather just pipe some wildflowers.

Kitagrl Posted 1 May 2011 , 2:27am
post #11 of 17

I got sick of novelty cakes business has been a very gradual process. In a nutshell I've tried to do two things, and its finally paying off...

One, I have raised the prices of my 3D cakes. Not quite as high as I'd like yet, but definitely high enough....trying to at least SOMEWHAT gain payment for the time I put into them as compared to a tiered wedding cake.

Two, I have been trying to get in with a venue for whom I can do weddings, and that recently I have more of my calendar beginning to fill up with wedding cakes, and less of my calendar filling up with novelty cakes (although there are still plenty of them, and also including funky groom's cakes).

If you are good at funky cakes...just do them...and charge properly for them. If you are up late fuming that you hate the cake and you are only getting $xx for it, then you are not charging enough. If you are up late thinking "This is kind of a drag but its okay, I'm really glad for the money" then you probably charged enough.

mombabytiger Posted 1 May 2011 , 5:05am
post #12 of 17

My pet peeve are all the purse/shoe cakes. Can we officially declare them "over"?

indydebi Posted 1 May 2011 , 12:28pm
post #13 of 17

I had no desire to do carved cakes. More than once, when I'd get an inquiry for one, I'd tell them, "those are very involved and they START at $150 .... and that's before I even pick up a pencil to find out what you want." icon_twisted.gif Had someone said, "Ok with me!", then I'm properly compensated for the efforts involved.

lsz1978 Posted 1 May 2011 , 1:11pm
post #14 of 17

i actually like making sculpted cakes and more simple designs as well. my problem with this cake business that i have recently started (after so many of my friends and children's friend's parents suggest that i do so) is that i am having a hard time figuring out what to charge to these creations!?!? i have my base price on my website but some people are shocked with the high price i quote them for the crazy cakes they are interested in. i'd love your thoughts on how i estimate the time involved in making cakes that i've never made before and how much i should charge per hour of time i spend decorating them?

also, being a new business, should i make some of these cakes for the groups of people whom i know will bring me more business (like junior league women, garden clubs, etc) even though i won't be making enough money? should i consider the costs advertising of sorts?

i also have children at home, so making cakes has to be worth my time... as many of you have also saidicon_smile.gif!

cakenovice2010 Posted 2 May 2011 , 9:03pm
post #15 of 17

Once I went to school and came back I have a whole new perspective. I did a sculpted cakes of different shapes/sizes. They're involved and they deserve a bigger price tag. Quote high and you won't be resentful when you are making a carved Shrek face for $300.00 rather than $150.

Cost out your cake ingredients, your overhead costs and figure out how long it usually takes for say a carved face. Pay yourself an hourly rate (what are you willing to be paid to turn your oven on?) and then when someone calls you can say, "This particular design will take x amount of hours and be approximately $350" Don't underprice yourself or you'll burn out.

And if you want to stop doing novelty cakes altogether, just don't list any photos of your novelty cakes on your website. There are many great cake designers that stick to high end wedding cakes only, or non-carved cakes but with amazing sugar flowers etc... Know your market and then price yourself accordingly for the work involved. You have to figure out what you feel you are worth in terms of what to charge for your labour. icon_smile.gif

platinumlady Posted 2 May 2011 , 9:51pm
post #16 of 17
Originally Posted by indydebi

I had no desire to do carved cakes. More than once, when I'd get an inquiry for one, I'd tell them, "those are very involved and they START at $150 .... and that's before I even pick up a pencil to find out what you want." icon_twisted.gif Had someone said, "Ok with me!", then I'm properly compensated for the efforts involved.


Indydebi I so love this...I'm stealing it. I didn't mind doing these at first However, now that I have to drive 45 mins to the kitchen & there is so much time that goes into them I am resenting doing them. I've not made profit on them since I became properly licensed ... grrrr icon_mad.gif they take way too much time

& it's always a box cake with a name brand on them or a major brand theme cake & some don't understand why we cant just write the company on them or print the pattern for them... ugghhh

Baker_Rose Posted 3 May 2011 , 4:16pm
post #17 of 17

Many years ago I did one big basketweave cake covered with homemade flowers. At the time most people had only seen grocery store rose cakes and kid cakes so they were amazed I guess.

Well, it was a good 6 years before I wasn't getting requests for this SPECIFIC cake. I was so sick of doing it in every size and shape!!!!!

So, here I am 16 years later and guess what someone JUST asked me for!!!! "I don't know if you remember, but some time ago you did this gorgeous cake covered with flowers and it had icing like a basket on the side.............."


Tami icon_smile.gif

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