Advice On Wedding Tastings Please?!?!

Business By forheavenscake Updated 2 Sep 2011 , 1:25am by jules5000

forheavenscake Posted 29 Aug 2011 , 5:44pm
post #1 of 25

I am a home baker. .3 kids and do not have a ton of volume yet. So obviously any requested "tasting" is a new baked cake for me as I never have extras laying around. I'm trying to expand my wedding portfolio and had my first Bride contact me a few weeks ago. She was pretty much ready to sign the contract then asked to taste the flavor she wants. . .she tasted an amaretto cake somewhere and wanted me to replicate that. She didn't know if she wanted amaretto CAKE, or buttercream or simple syrup etc. . .so after asking all these questions she finally said she just wants vanilla cake with an amaretto buttercream and possibly syrup. .so I made it both ways for her. Spent big bucks on Amaretto that I don't normally keep in the house. . made her vanilla cake with amaretto simply syrup and amaretto buttercream then one with vanilla buttercream, cake and amaretto syrup. After tasting it she emailed back that "the flavors just aren't what she's looking for so I've decided to go with another bakery". . .I've emailed her back to try to get more specifics because if it tastes like crap I need to fix something, but if it's just that she didn't care for the flavor then why would she not get her cake from me?? Just change the flavor! My husband and I both tasted everything before it left the house and it was delicious. .vanilla cake with amaretto. .not too difficult. I had originally suggested a white chocolate amaretto cake, but she insisted she wanted vanilla cake.
Anyway. . .now I've wasted all this time and money on a slice of cake and didn't even get the order. . .how do you home bakers manage this?? I can't make all these "specialty" cakes for tastings only to not get the business.
Please. . any advice is MUCH appreciated!!

24 replies
yummy_in_my_tummy Posted 29 Aug 2011 , 5:52pm
post #2 of 25

I don't have a store front, I use a commercial kitchen, and although I could use the kitchen for tastings (there's a little meeting space), I don't because it's an extra fee. I do a to-go tasting, which is 4 flavors and 3 fillings. I bake 4" cakes when I have extra batter, and then cut them in fours and freeze them tightly wrapped in celophane. I charge $25 (although I think I'm going to increase it to $35), and if the client books with me, the tasting fee is applied to the deposit. That way, if they don't book, I'm not out the cost of materials.

MFARAH1020 Posted 29 Aug 2011 , 5:53pm
post #3 of 25

I learned the hard way just like you. I do not offer cake tasting. I did it once and lost 30 dollars making 4 different types of cakes. maybe you can charge 20 dollars for tasting and if the cake is ordered then you give them 20 dollars credit. You can't go to a supermarket and try the bread for free. You need to buy it.

forheavenscake Posted 29 Aug 2011 , 5:55pm
post #4 of 25

That's not a bad idea! I've always been afraid to freeze cakes. . do they really taste ok when you thaw them out?? I mean especially since you're trying to win business with the tastings, I am always paranoid that the frozen cakes won't be as good as what their actual fresh cake will taste like.

jenmat Posted 29 Aug 2011 , 6:20pm
post #5 of 25

I am a home baker (but I have a license and separate kitchen so I don't know if I fit into your query or not), but I do 75 + weddings per year.
I offer 2 flavor/filling combos and then my icings.
Tastings are part of the gig in most areas. And not every bride is going to like what you bake. She may have been looking for a different texture, different icing, whatever. The wedding mags tell brides to shop around and taste as many cakes as they can. You may have been one of her "back-ups" from the start, and that isn't your fault. If you tasted it and it tasted great, then fine, her loss.

I bake off 4" rounds and slice them through the middle for filling and then keep the icing selections separate. Maybe you put together a menu of 3-4 choices and then you can keep them frozen?

Again, if you want to do weddings, it WILL be something you have to prepare for and figure out, even though it can be a pain.

And yes, if packaged properly, frozen cake can taste just as wonderful, if not better, than freshly baked cake.

forheavenscake Posted 29 Aug 2011 , 6:27pm
post #6 of 25

Thank you jenmat for the advice. I know I need to figure it out that's why i'm doing that now, so that this never happens again! So you only offer a few wedding flavors? what if a bride wants a specific flavor that's not in your tasting "selection".

You mentioned if packaged properly. . .can you tell me how to package them properly so I can start freezing cakes??

jenmat Posted 29 Aug 2011 , 6:40pm
post #7 of 25
Originally Posted by slparker

Thank you jenmat for the advice. I know I need to figure it out that's why i'm doing that now, so that this never happens again! So you only offer a few wedding flavors? what if a bride wants a specific flavor that's not in your tasting "selection".

You mentioned if packaged properly. . .can you tell me how to package them properly so I can start freezing cakes??

Everyone has a different way of preparing cake, so don't take mine as gospel, but... I bake the cakes, then while still a tiny bit warm, I wrap in plastic wrap, then put in a ziploc. When I take them out, I let them come to room temp still inside the baggie. Try it and see if it works with your cake.

As far as how many flavors, I don't really limit the types of flavors they can choose. I have a pretty big menu, but it all stems from taking a few base recipes and swirling in other flavors and ingredients. So it doesn't mean I have to make a whole new recipe for just one tiny cake, as I'm usually baking all my base flavors every week anyway.

I do know that Leahs on here has a pretty large menu, and she actually has a "tasting" menu that they can choose from. I think there are 7 flavors. She says they can buy a big cake if they want to taste anything else.

The philosophy behind it is that the bride shouldn't be tasting the actual flavor of her cake, but the texture and quality that you bake with.

In my area, while I am very comfortable in my workload and turn lots of business away, I am still in competition with other bakeries who have storefronts and their entire menu on hand. There is one baker who allows the brides to taste anything on her menu, and says most people taste 5-6 flavors! So, while I do limit the free flavors they can choose, I can't really limit my options or my competition will get even more of an advantage. I offer the 2 flavor choices, and then if they want more, they pay $5/flavor. Not much of a profit there, but it at least holds them accountable.

Also, check the other bakeries and bakers in your area before you charge for tastings. 99% of the bakeries in my area do not charge, so that would set me up at a disadvantage as well.

lanana Posted 29 Aug 2011 , 7:03pm
post #8 of 25

If the customer starts by saying: "I tried this cake somewhere, and I want you to make that same cake flavor, blah blah blah... You must say, I am sorry but I have my own flavors, I have tried them , i love them, those are the one that works for me, If you would like to try MY flavors great!, otherwise go to that other bakery and order your cake with them.

That exactly happened to me, and because I was just starting my business, blah blah ... then I let that bride do what she pleased, I made her 2 tasting!!! gosh, and she wasnt happy about the flavor, she never liked the cake, she was not happy with me etc she told me: i liked the design of the cake but I have issues with the flavor!!,I understood that because she couldnt afford the bakery she wanted, she decided to go with me, and that is not a good way to do business !!!

For my tasting I bring 2 flavors, what ever I will be working on that week when we have tasting , if they want more flavors, then they must pay $25 and credited back to final payment if sign with me.

We had an ICES day of sharing this weekend, and I learned good stuff regarding contracts, tasting, design etc. I realized I am extremely flexible about my business, experienced bakeries with more than 10 years on the market, have their really established own politics and they stick to them, of course they are famous etc, but if you start your business all crooked, it will grow up crooked !!!

Baker_Rose Posted 29 Aug 2011 , 8:38pm
post #9 of 25

Next time, make her BRING YOU the cake she is talking about, so you know the texture, flavor etc. It isn't easy to try to replicate something based on someone ELSES taste palate.

Also, if you don't keep alcohol on hand, ask her to provide it so you don't have to pay that added expense. I once had a customer who wanted a filling with a liquor that I was never going to use (a flavor that I hate) and so I told them if they wanted that particular liquor they had to provide it. They didn't mind, it was their favorite, so she brought me her bottle, I made the cake and then returned the bottle.

Tami icon_smile.gif

jason_kraft Posted 29 Aug 2011 , 8:43pm
post #10 of 25
Originally Posted by yummy_in_my_tummy

I don't have a store front, I use a commercial kitchen, and although I could use the kitchen for tastings (there's a little meeting space), I don't because it's an extra fee. I do a to-go tasting, which is 4 flavors and 3 fillings. I bake 4" cakes when I have extra batter, and then cut them in fours and freeze them tightly wrapped in celophane. I charge $25 (although I think I'm going to increase it to $35), and if the client books with me, the tasting fee is applied to the deposit. That way, if they don't book, I'm not out the cost of materials.

We do exactly the same thing, except the to-go tasting is 2 flavors and 2 frostings/fillings for $30 (each additional flavor is $10).

We've found that in-person tastings don't really add a lot of value for us or the customer, discussions about design can take place via phone or email.

yummy_in_my_tummy Posted 30 Aug 2011 , 12:53am
post #11 of 25

I haven't had any issues with freezing cake. I actually bake ALL my cakes 1 week ahead and freeze, wrapped tight in celophane. I think it keeps them moist. And it's nice to have them in the freezer for tastings because I can whip a tasting "sample set" up the same day its requested icon_smile.gif

jules5000 Posted 30 Aug 2011 , 1:25am
post #12 of 25

slparker, for freezing my cakes, I wait until they are completely cool, wrap them really good in plastic wrap and then wrap them completely in Heavy Duty aluminum foil. I have a good friend in the wedding cake business that freezes her cakes in the pans once the cake has completely cooled sitting on a wire rack. yes, she wraps it well on top of that, but the pan gives her a good protection on the bottom. I only did that once because I knew I was not going to need the pan again before I needed the cake it was in. After I turned the cake out of the pan to cool on a rack I cleaned it completely and dried it thoroughly. then I put a piece of plastic wrap in the bottome of the pan. Put the cooled cake back in there and put the plastic on top and then wrapped the top of the cake and pan with heavy duty foil.

forheavenscake Posted 30 Aug 2011 , 7:35pm
post #13 of 25

Ok, I just added a little blurb about consultations on my website. .would you mind reading it and just make sure it sounds right?

jules5000 Posted 30 Aug 2011 , 8:53pm
post #14 of 25

slparker, I have 2 comments. One, I am not sure which little blurb it is that you added, but the only thing I see is the statement at the bottom that says made in a home kitchen under the cottage food law that is not inspected by the Fl. dept of agriculture. Then on another page, your pricing page it seems as if that pretty little border at the bottom of the page is covering up part of what you are saying about Wedding cakes. It may be there that is where your little blurb is added because I can tell that there is something below that border as far as writing goes, but you can't see what it says and you can't go beneath any further because there are no down arrows. I hope that helps. If your blurb is somewhere else let me know and I will go check it out. Otherwise you have a very nice website. Julie

forheavenscake Posted 30 Aug 2011 , 9:26pm
post #15 of 25

Jules5000 - It is a scroll bar. can you see the little circle, on the cream colored line, next to the top of the paragraph? slide that down and you can see the rest of the text.

jules5000 Posted 31 Aug 2011 , 12:44am
post #16 of 25

Thank you Slparker, I saw the circle the first time, but the little cream line was almost not there. It was so faint that I asked my husband to look and he found it and then I saw it. Your site is wonderful!!! Very nice work!!

cai0311 Posted 31 Aug 2011 , 8:12pm
post #17 of 25

When I have extra batter I bake it, even if it is just enough for a 5" cake. Once the cake is completely cooled I cut the cake in 1" x 1" X however tall the cake is. I place those pieces in a zip lock sandwich baggie. I can fit about 10 pieces in each sandwich baggie. Then I put all the baggies in a large gallon size freezer bag. I have had samples for 3 months in the freezer and they still taste great.

About 45 minutes before the consultation I take 1 piece of cake/person attending the consultation (I limit my consultations to 3 people) and put it in a jello shot cup. I line up all the cups on a large platter. I do the same for fillings only I put out 1 cup of each filling - not 1/person (so if 3 people are coming there is still only 1 cup of raspberry filling). I cover the entire platter with plastic wrap so if the client is running late the samples don't dry out (I only cover cake samples - fillings don't dry out in that short of a time). The cakes only need about 15 minutes to thaw, but I like to give myself extra time for the rare occasion the client is early.

The bride tries whatever I have in my freezer. They never pick the flavors. If my lemon tastes like lemon, then it is safe to assume my strawberry tastes like strawberry, almond like almond... The purpose the consultation is to find out if they client likes my baking style, texture of cake, skill level...

I offer over 40 different cake flavors and fillings there is no way I would let them pick because I would have to bake fresh for each tasting. That would cause my cost to go up and I would have to start charging for tastings (which charging is NOT common where I live).

forheavenscake Posted 31 Aug 2011 , 8:20pm
post #18 of 25

Thank you so much for the advice. I do have a question though. . .How can I word it so that it doesn't sound bad? I.E. I offer 2 samples of whatever is in my freezer at the time. . LOL!! How can I word it so they know they don't choose the flavor, but that it still sounds nice.

Thanks! i'm usually pretty good with words, but I just can't figure out how to phrase this option to them.

aprilismaius Posted 31 Aug 2011 , 8:48pm
post #19 of 25

I would call it a Baker's Choice tasting.

cai0311 Posted 31 Aug 2011 , 9:34pm
post #20 of 25

I don't tell them they are getting what is in my freezer. I have only had maybe 2 brides ask if they can pick the flavor or fillings. I tell them I usually serve what I have on hand (I don't say "in my freezer") and I will look at upcoming orders to see if any include what they want. If no orders include what they want, they will not be able to try those flavors. I explain because I can use what I have at my house already, I don't have to charge for tastings because time and money isn't being used to bake for each consultation.
No one has had a problem with not being able to pick the flavors/fillings.

The cake is not frozen or cold by the time they try it. No one has ever asked if the samples have been frozen. You can't tell at all. I don't lie, but I don't volunteer the info either. I don't see any reason to tell them where the sample is coming from.

SwtCanuck Posted 31 Aug 2011 , 11:08pm
post #21 of 25

I group my consultations together on the same day. I plan out ahead when I have a few cake flavours to choose from then bake a little extra to offer the brides. It is great to do it that way. Everyone gets an hour and I can usually book 6 brides in in one day. Soo much less stress on me.

forheavenscake Posted 1 Sep 2011 , 12:42am
post #22 of 25

Thanks! Well i wasn't planning on telling them they're frozen. . LOL more of just looking for a way to phrase it on my website so they know they can't specify the flavor options at the tasting and they will get what i bring. I guess I'll just say I offer a free consultation with 2 flavor options etc etc. . .if asked about specific flavors I'll explain that they can purchase a small cake to try what they like.

Thanks for all the opinions everyone! I really appreciate it!

cai0311 Posted 1 Sep 2011 , 3:43pm
post #23 of 25

I don't have anything posted on my website that the bride doesn't pick the flavor/fillings. I just don't offer to let them pick either through email or on the phone when scheduling the appointment. Like I said, I have only had like 2 brides ask if they can pick what they try. And I do try to have those flavors for them (if I have an order with the same flavor I make a small cake to cut samples from).

I offer way more than 2 flavors at the consultation. As a bride, I would be bummed if I only had 2 options in front of me.

I offer 5 or 6 cake flavors (depends on how many different options are sitting my freezer) and 7 fillings + buttercream (fillings also depend on what I have in the house at that time).

This allows the client to mix and match flavor combos. They also think they tried more than they really did because chocolate cake with raspberry filling is different than chocolate cake with cream cheese filling - they go to try both (which they consider 2 options) but it wasn't any more work for me.

QTCakes1 Posted 1 Sep 2011 , 11:01pm
post #24 of 25

Heck, no don't let the bride decide. Your talking big money when you let them do that. They're just supposed to find out if they like your baking. I choose 4 flavors, 3 frostings, done.

jules5000 Posted 2 Sep 2011 , 1:25am
post #25 of 25

You all have had such wonderful ideas and ways to handle this topic. Even if I am not on that particular page in my life I still learn things from all of you. Thanks for being so wonderful and helpful.

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