Self Confidence Took A Hit, Did I Overcharge?

Business By mommytocjnalexis Updated 16 Mar 2012 , 7:44pm by Jason92s

mommytocjnalexis Posted 14 Mar 2012 , 2:56pm
post #1 of 22

So I've been baking for over a year but just began (as in a couple months ago) charging for my cakes. I bake under cottage law for now while I put together a business plan and find a space to rent and get licensed. I love making cakes but as you probably know not every one turns out spectacular. I made a cake for a friend's daughters birthday and everything that could go wrong did, okay not everything but enough to kill my confidence. I just got The Mat which I really like for rolling fondant but I over greased it which made smoothing the fondant a bit tough (ie the smoother kept sticking to the grease), then I had run out of tylose powder so I used gum-tex for the bow pieces (see pic attached) and I used too much which made the bow limp and brittle, my zebra stripes got way too thick and to top it off the peace signs I cut with my cricut cake kept breaking so I had to freehand the large ones all around. Of course most of that was all the last minute stuff so it made me 20 minutes late for the delivery. As if that all wasn't enough, I had stacked the cake before delivery and used 3 bubble straws under the top layer (the tiers are 9" and 6") and I don't know if there wasn't enough support or what but the bottom had a tiny crack beside the #1 when I took it out of the box. I seriously wanted to cry and was so frustrated. I'm sorry I know that was a bit long but I just wanted to know if anyone else ever starts to question their abilities and loses confidence. How do you deal with it? The bottom line is I gave her a friends and family discount (20%), the cake cost way more in labor with all the issues I had (like 6 hours to put together) and I charged her $38 which still feels like I charged her too much because of all the cosmetic blemishes. I know it's a bad picture but do you think I overcharged?


21 replies
kelleym Posted 14 Mar 2012 , 3:03pm
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I'm betting that $38 roughly covered your ingredients and supplies. You did not overcharge your friend for that cake. You are of course right, there are issues with the cake that, in my opinion, would not make this cake acceptable for sale to a real customer. But for essentially "cost" to a friend, it will do just fine. You show a lot of promise, you just need to keep practicing icon_smile.gif Keep doing cakes for friends and family for a while until the kinks get worked out and you can routinely do a cake like this with none of the issues you ran into this time, which mostly stemmed from inexperience. You've already identified some of the causes of what went wrong, so you're already in better shape for your next cake. You will be great!

mommytocjnalexis Posted 14 Mar 2012 , 3:24pm
post #3 of 22

Thank you kellym! There was a whole mess of things that went wrong here, it was awful! lol I usually like to just charge to cover supplies for friends and family for now because they are giving me great experience while I prepare for a business. Thank you for the compliments, I really appreciate it! Any other advice, suggestions, criticism on my cake? I'm always trying to find objective opinions but it's difficult to get that from friends and family so anything you can throw at me would be greatly appreciated! And I had to laugh at your siggie because I did call it cottage law in my post. lol I love these boards even though I don't have much to contribute yet but I've learned so much just from reading, thank you to everyone here for that!

nursenoelle1 Posted 14 Mar 2012 , 3:24pm
post #4 of 22

I'm just starting out, and I just had a similar experience with a cake. Luckily it was my own son's, but it was his 1st birthday and the whole family was there. My husband reminded me that even Buddy(from the Cake Boss) has cakes that crack before they get there or little mishaps. If need be he either gives the customer another cake for the future, or decreases the price, or whatever. It just made me feel better that even experts have cakes that don't turn out perfectly.

QTCakes1 Posted 14 Mar 2012 , 3:42pm
post #5 of 22

I do not think you over charged at all. In fact, you undercharged. With that said, until you get enough pratice in, I woudn't sell cakes until they are sell worthy. I don't think they are is anything more you could have done for the cake, cause you know what went wrong. The only thing is just getting more expierence in.

QTCakes1 Posted 14 Mar 2012 , 3:45pm
post #6 of 22

And just to give you an idea of undercharging, my base price for a cake that size would have been $170, not inlcuding bow, sales tax or delivery.

Debbye27 Posted 14 Mar 2012 , 3:53pm
post #7 of 22

No way did you undercharge. A two tiered plain cake covered in fondant would be worth more then $40. Your friend probably wouldn't have gotten all up in the cake looking at minute errors a whole- it's a cute cake and I'm sure the 10 year old loved it!
It's funny b/c I have a very similiar cake I am doing next week for a friend's 11 year old daughter- same light blue and green colors, zebra stripes, and fondant bow with the curly things coming off of it!
But if you are looking for critiques and advice, it's nearly impossible to freehand cut out a circle- so in future if your machine breaks, use something round as a template, and your stripes and ribbons don't look clean cut. What are you cutting with? You can see the ridges on the edges where the cut wasn't clean. I've had this happen to me as well, I now use an exacto knife and a vinyl mat greased with shortening underneath.
I've never done zebra stripes or a fondant looking forward to next weeks cake - don't let your confidence be lowered though- I'm new, too, and every cake I make comes out less then what I envisioned. I'm learning with every cake, I just wish that I could have redo's after I learn ;D
I don't think you should have discounted your price that much- I think you were over worried about it.

kelleym Posted 14 Mar 2012 , 3:53pm
post #8 of 22
Originally Posted by mommytocjnalexis

Any other advice, suggestions, criticism on my cake? I'm always trying to find objective opinions but it's difficult to get that from friends and family so anything you can throw at me would be greatly appreciated!

Aside from the things you noted, one of the most glaring problems to me is that lack of a border on either tier. Some cakes don't need a border; this is not one of those cakes. Some simple rolled fondant balls as a border would have helped tremendously. Other than that, work on the overall cleanliness of your fondant covering and fondant cutouts. Everyone starts somewhere, just practice, practice, practice!

pieceofcaketx Posted 14 Mar 2012 , 3:58pm
post #9 of 22

The fact that you recognize what is wrong with it and wish to improve your skills already puts you ahead of a lot of other cake decorators.
Just remember we all started somewhere, my first cake didn't even have dowels or cake boards, just 3 cakes stacked on top of each other.
Unfortunately all those pictures got mysteriously lost...hehe

Just keep practicing and learning from your mistakes.
For the bubble tea straws I use 2 less then the cake they are supporting, so if it's a 6" I use 4, an 8" I use 6 and so on.

abilliot1304 Posted 14 Mar 2012 , 4:27pm
post #10 of 22

Don't feel too bad! My last one was supposed to be a bouncy ball cake. It had so many swirled fondant balls on it, it was sinking faster than I don't know what. Instead, everyone thought it was a "Dr. Seuss" Cake...That's not good! Y'all remember the crazy shapes in those books?! lol Everyone has a few rotten ones. Luckily, it was for family. I was given $60 for it. Trust me, if I would have let anyone take a picture of it, I would show you and you would feel great about your cake. My confidence took a real hit too, but I really enjoy doing cakes, so I can't keep my head out of it. I DID cry on that one lol But I will say, as bad as it looked, it tasted fantastic. That was enough consolation for me. Especially since a week later, my husbands aunt requested another cake. Just no fondant this time lol My next big project will be for my 3 year old daughter's beach monkey party: two (2ft tall) palm tree cakes and a pool with a monkey swimming in piping gel. Wish me luck! icon_smile.gif Hope you get your confidence back!

mommytocjnalexis Posted 14 Mar 2012 , 5:27pm
post #11 of 22

nursenoelle1 - I'm sorry you had a similar experience but thank you for reminding me that sometimes things just don't go right.

QTCakes1 - Thank you for the insight on the charging, I was way off your price if I would've nailed it. Should I still charge friends and family? I thought I'd try out a pricing structure on them while I get my practice in and it helps cover my costs.

Debbye27 - That is too funny that you are doing a similar cake, good luck, I can't wait to see how yours turns out! From my experience I would make sure you don't cute the zebra stripes too thick and do the bow days ahead of time and make plenty extra, all things I wish I would've done this time around. I'm sure you already know all that though. lol I've been using a pizza cutter to cut the strips but I doesn't seem to cut cleanly like you can see here. Normally I clean up the edge with an exacto knife but I ran out of time on this one (mistake #32, not enough time, lol). I never thought of just starting with the exacto knife, I'm going to give that try! I second the wishing for redo's, I can't tell you how many times I've redone this cake in my head, I'm sure I'm not the only one who does that. icon_rolleyes.gif

kellym - I failed to mention the border, I had planned to use the wilton pearl maker for the border but it didn't work out and I ran out of time for something else. In hindsight it probably would've been best to be a few more minutes late and at least put a fondant ribbon around. Any advice on getting good rolled fondant balls? I haven't been able to master those yet.

pieceofcaketx - Thank you for the bubble straw advice, I'm going to start doing that from now! I understand all too clearly lost pictures as this pic won't see the light of day beyond here and my facebook page I got tagged in. lol

abilliot1304 - Thank you for making me feel better! Your poor cake! Trust me there were tears shed over this cake as well. Good luck with your cake, you should post pics, I'd love to see it!

Okay I'm sorry I feel like I have monopolized this post and board with a bunch of questions, maybe I should post these over on the How Do I board. Let me know if I'm breaking the rules here, I'm still trying to figure this board out. Thanks again everyone for taking the time to help me out! You know what would be great, to have a place you can post a pic of a cake and get critique like they do on photography boards. Do we have something like that here?

Debbye27 Posted 14 Mar 2012 , 5:57pm
post #12 of 22
Originally Posted by pieceofcaketx

Just remember we all started somewhere, my first cake didn't even have dowels or cake boards, just 3 cakes stacked on top of each other. .

That's funny - my first cake was a 3 tier cake too, I knew I read somewhere that I needed dowels, so I cut and inserted a few sticks in each tier....only no board on top of them! I was wondering how a couple of pointed sticks was supposed to help my whole cake be sturdy! Oh if I could redo that one!

And as far as the balls, I heard that if you either weigh each ball or use a measuring spoon they will be perfectly sized, if they all start the same size.

QTCakes1 Posted 14 Mar 2012 , 6:01pm
post #13 of 22

While you are learning and perfecting you skills, I wouldn't charge anything. What I would do is give them a list of everything you need and have them go get it. If there is something you need to order, let them know the entire cost. I would also let them know that once you are at a proper level, you will be charging full price. Give them an invoice with every cake, so they know the actual cost, not just what the ingredients cost. Do not doscunt to friends and family, EVER. At best, 10-20%. I know we all have lovely friends and family. I say no discount just to save you a possible future headache. Trust me on this. I swear, it is best not to discount.

And I agree with PieceofcakeTX. Just the fact that you know you made mistakes and are willing to ask for honest opinions, you are SOOO ahead of the game. I have seen here too many times cakes gone wrong and then people get upset when they are told so.

As for my pricing, not sure where you are at, I don't live in a high income area, nor a low one. I thing my pricing is fairly average and competitive for a general market price point.

SweetTzippy Posted 14 Mar 2012 , 6:54pm
post #14 of 22

I don't think that any amateur or professional and experienced cake decorator going all the way to the "Cake Boss Buddy", as someone mentioned here, has not had and don't occasionally have mishaps or days when things don't turn out well. The difference is that with their experience and possible enough time available they know how to fix the mistakes or hide it very well.
It has happened to me and it can affect our self-confidence, but it shouldn't. We should know that, as in many things in life, great lessons are learned from our mistakes. I am sure that if you had to redo this very same cake all over again it would turn out great because you know exactly were it went wrong and how to make it right. With your humility and your acceptance of productive criticism you are far ahead of many others who look for excuses instead of taking responsability when they don't present a good product.
Now about pricing... that's a subject that is discussed here over and over. I am yet to see a perfect formula to get it right. Someone here advices you not to give cakes for free, neither to offer discounts for family and friends and I couldn't agree more. I am gradually increasing my prices as my cakes look/taste better with experience and the use of more sophisticated tools. Here we know the time and money we invest in this craft and if we don't value our work then no one else will.

Good luck icon_smile.gif

kakeladi Posted 14 Mar 2012 , 8:12pm
post #15 of 22

.......For the bubble tea straws I use 2 less then the cake they are supporting, so if it's a 6" I use 4, an 8" I use 6 and so on..........
....... Thank you for the bubble straw advice, I'm going to start doing that ........

That is *overkill!* There won't be any cake left to eat using that many in a 6"er - nothing but holes icon_sad.gif
You are only trying to support the *weight* and a 6"er is very, very light in weight. 3 at the most if all that is needed & they should be regular drink straws not bubbles.
Now, when you get up to 12" and larger cakes, then I somewhat agree w/you. Always use an odd # and spread them out around a circle 1" smaller than the cake board going on top. Example: 12" cake/board going on top of a 14" cake: use 9 straws evenly spaced around an 11" circle. *never* put any in the middle of the circle.

QTCakes1 Posted 14 Mar 2012 , 9:17pm
post #16 of 22

I'm sorry, but I would be using 4 bubble tea straws to support a 6" as well. It does not eat up or destroy my cake and it is even support.

cat2512 Posted 14 Mar 2012 , 9:43pm
post #17 of 22

Are you talking about putting 4 straws underneath a 6" cake to support it? Or putting 4 straws in the 6" cake? I wouldn't understand why you would need to put straws in the top tier of a cake unless it's one dowel rod down the middle of the tiers.

QTCakes1 Posted 14 Mar 2012 , 11:28pm
post #18 of 22

Putting them under the 6" cake.

pieceofcaketx Posted 15 Mar 2012 , 12:41am
post #19 of 22

Well that's what I do and I have yet to have a cake fall over so I think I'll stick to my overkill method.

mommytocjnalexis Posted 15 Mar 2012 , 1:27pm
post #20 of 22

Thank you all for the great advice, critique and discussion, you have no idea how much I could give you all a big old hug! icon_biggrin.gif

I think pricing and how to best support cakes are two highly discussed topics, at least from all the reading I've done over the last year (yes I'm just finally starting to come out of lurkdom icon_redface.gif). I'll have to keep playing with it and see how it goes. This poor cake was by far and away one of my worst, right up with my very first cake I did for my daughter last year but each one has gotten better until this crazy one. Oh well, I know you guys are right that everyone has those cake days and I just need to figure out the best way to fix/cover up the mistakes for future cakes. I do have a few of my other cakes in my cake gallery and many others that haven't made it there that I feel better about so I know can do this. I love nothing more than caking and learning new things about the craft, I just need to learn to suck it up and learn from the mistakes and move on. lol

SweetTzippy Posted 16 Mar 2012 , 6:15pm
post #21 of 22

Just saw this and thought about you.... and me! LOL

Jason92s Posted 16 Mar 2012 , 7:44pm
post #22 of 22
Originally Posted by QTCakes1

I'm sorry, but I would be using 4 bubble tea straws to support a 6" as well. It does not eat up or destroy my cake and it is even support.

Ditto this. This is not overkill in any way. We're talking about a straw with a 1/16" thickness.

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