Cherylc418 Posted 15 May 2012 , 11:33pm
post #1 of

Hi there! I have a home business and get all of my traffic by word of mouth and website. My business has grown greatly these last few months and clients have begun to ask for samples of my product before they book a cake. I normally charge for wedding cake tastings, but I am not certain how to handle this new request. I do understand why the customer wants this however the cost of making several small cakes, or cupcakes, seems too great for the smaller cake orders. Any suggestions or guidelines? icon_confused.gif

31 replies
ajwonka Posted 16 May 2012 , 12:03am
post #2 of

Wedding or not, my tastings are the same.

1. Only offered for 150+ servings
2. Flavors based on what orders I have that week
3. $25, put towards order

Otherwise they can buy a 6"!

jason_kraft Posted 16 May 2012 , 12:03am
post #3 of

We charge for tastings regardless of the event. If a customer wants to spend $30 for a tasting for an $80 birthday cake that's fine with us. (We do not credit the tasting amount toward the final order.)

Cherylc418 Posted 16 May 2012 , 12:51am
post #4 of

Thank you both! So having the customer choose two or three flavors and charging a set fee for this sounds about right then? I have done a few freebies lately and while they always ordered, i felt i should be charging for my materials, if not my time.

costumeczar Posted 16 May 2012 , 1:35am
post #5 of

I do tastings for weddings only, and only for over 80 or so servings. People are usually fine with that when you tell them, they don't really expect to get samples but they figure they might as well ask.

jason_kraft Posted 16 May 2012 , 1:42am
post #6 of

We actually do to-go tastings only, $30 gets you 2 cake flavors and 2 frosting flavors, with additional flavors $10 each.

But you will also need to look at what your local market is doing, if everyone else is offering free tastings you are probably better off following suit (and adjusting your prices to compensate).

Cherylc418 Posted 16 May 2012 , 2:04am
post #7 of

@ jason...what size or amount of cake do you give for your "to go" tastings?

jason_kraft Posted 16 May 2012 , 2:21am
post #8 of

For each cake flavor we include a single unfrosted 6" round (usually from the freezer) cut into bite-size round pieces with a cookie cutter, with each frosting or filling in a separate small deli container.

scp1127 Posted 16 May 2012 , 6:39am
post #9 of

If the event has some lead time, when I get an order close to what they want, I make a few cupcakes and have them pick them up. Also, since I have a retail location, they can buy some there or I can always have those flavors available for pickup for free. I do this for larger orders

If it's a corporate or possible large account, I make something reflective of my talents that can be enjoyed by a wider range of employees plus the decision-maker. This has gotten me spin-off orders.

I also make so many things for my daughters for school and work. Plus I do all desserts for family gatherings. They all know that if they want something, it may be what a potential client wants or something I need to develop. Then I save some for pickup.

So I really just adjust it to the client, but I never charge. If the client works at a location where potential clients work, I have actually delivered 12 cupcakes. For example, I did this for the OB ward nurses at the hospital. That one box has paid for itself many times over.

These opportunities are a great way to get your product in the right mouths.

jgifford Posted 16 May 2012 , 2:08pm

I agree with scp1127 - - I never charge for tastings. BUT, I only do them for weddings or for orders of 200+ servings. And I give them cupcakes, unfrosted, with frosting samples in separate containers. There's no need to give them a 6" cake - - that's a CAKE, not a sample.

jason_kraft Posted 16 May 2012 , 3:02pm
Quote:
Originally Posted by jgifford

There's no need to give them a 6" cake - - that's a CAKE, not a sample.



An unfrosted single layer 6" round is just as easy to make as cupcakes, and if your recipes are different for cakes and cupcakes you need to make sure the customer is sampling the same recipe they will be ordering.

jgifford Posted 16 May 2012 , 3:03pm
Quote:
Originally Posted by jason_kraft

An unfrosted single layer 6" round is just as easy to make as cupcakes, and if your recipes are different for cakes and cupcakes you need to make sure the customer is sampling the same recipe they will be ordering.




Granted - - and if I were charging for them, they could have any size they wanted.

Cherylc418 Posted 16 May 2012 , 4:25pm

I understand both of your perspectives, but I DO NOT have a retail space and was hoping for some wisdom for a home business who does not have cakes readily available. While I make several cakes a week I don't feel that making extra, and freezing until God knows when, is a good representation of my product. On the other had I do not want to push away potential business by not being flexible.

jason_kraft Posted 16 May 2012 , 5:00pm
Quote:
Originally Posted by Cherylc418

While I make several cakes a week I don't feel that making extra, and freezing until God knows when, is a good representation of my product.



For most recipes there's absolutely nothing wrong with freezing your product, provided you have good practices for freezing and defrosting. Our cupcakes and cakes taste just as good after up to 2 months in the freezer as they do fresh out of the oven.

Cherylc418 Posted 16 May 2012 , 5:07pm

I have never attempted to freeze for more than a week. Perhaps some tests are in order...

costumeczar Posted 16 May 2012 , 5:14pm
Quote:
Originally Posted by Cherylc418

I understand both of your perspectives, but I DO NOT have a retail space and was hoping for some wisdom for a home business who does not have cakes readily available. While I make several cakes a week I don't feel that making extra, and freezing until God knows when, is a good representation of my product. On the other had I do not want to push away potential business by not being flexible.




I have a home-based business and I dont freeze anything either. It can definitely affect the flavor of a cake, especially if you're putting things in your home freezer whre you also put the onions for next week's dinner.

What I do is schedule tastings all on one day, half hour appointments (I used to do an hour but ended up having a lot of time in between), and bake small sample cakes for that day only. Each group gets a plate of pre-iced samples and they can try them at the appointment so that I can answer questions while we're together. I've also done sample pickup dates where people can stop by in a certain time frame and pick up a box of samples in months where I had too many people to fit everyone into the appointment times that I had available.

I just make samples of the basics, I always do yellow, chocolate and almond, then one fruit flavor, usually lemon or strawberry. IF they hire me and they want to taste something specific there will be time between the hiring and their wedding for me to make extra of that if I'm making it for someone else, and they can come by and pick some up. I don't do special requests otherwise.

For brides who are out of town and aren't able to come to scheduled tastings, I'll have someone who's in town (usually her mother) come by and pick up the samples. Then they can decide to hire me based on that, and I'll get together with the bride later to do the design appointment, or do it online.

I don't charge for tastings, it isn't really something that anyone around here does, so I'm going to be the one to put the limits on it. I'm also not afraid to tell people who are really unreasonable that I can't meet with them, sorry it didn't work out. One person recently ignored the weekends that I told her I had tastings scheduled, told me that she was available on totally different weekends, then said that she wanted to come over after 8pm on Mother's Day when I said I couldn't do any of those. Uh, no, sorry.

cai0311 Posted 16 May 2012 , 5:29pm

I have a home based business and all samples are frozen. I cut up the cake in large bite size pieces, put the pieces in small zip lock baggies and then in large freezer size zip lock baggies. I can several small baggies in a large one.

Samples keep for about 3 months. Usually by that time I need to make more because supplies are running low - but if there are some left after 3 months they get pitched and replaced by new.

I do not allow clients to pick cake flavors or fillings. They get what I have on hand. This keeps my costs down, which is good because in my area no one charges for tastings. So, keeping with my area, I don't charge either.

If there is a flavor or filling they really want to try I will see if I have any orders for that coming up and bake up some samples from that. Or if I am running low on samples I will bake up new and make sure to include what the client wanted to try.

scp1127 Posted 17 May 2012 , 12:38pm

My reply was for a home-based business with no stock on hand.

As costumeczar mentioned, I don't freeze my cakes and I would never have a client sample a frozen cake. Every product deteriorates through ice crystals when frozen. This is not the case for freezing a few hours to lock in moisture, or in the case of a cheesecake where the texture matures from a few hours of freezing. But I mean literally, two or three hours, not enough for many crystals to form.

If you sell frozen cakes, then your frozen samples will taste like your cakes. But if this is not your practice, freezing the cake for a sample will give a less-than-perfect rendition of your product. Just something to consider, especially in a competitive market.

If you qualify your client ahead of time, no sample will go to waste. Remember it is also getting the product out to the public for future sales and word-of-mouth. If you don't qualify the clients, then yes, you could be giving away many samples to the wrong demographic segment.

cai0311 Posted 17 May 2012 , 1:22pm

scp1127, I have to disagree with you about freezing cakes. All my samples are frozen for weeks, sometimes months. When packaged correctly ice crystals do not form on the cake samples.

The cakes I make for clients events are not frozen ahead of time in most cases. The frozen samples and the never frozen cakes taste the same. No one at a consultation has ever said "was this sample frozen?" or anything of the like. I have a 92% booking rate for cosultations. I am sure this wouldn't be anywhere near that high if the samples tasted like freezer.

scp1127 Posted 17 May 2012 , 1:42pm

cai, then you have a new and amazing scientific discovery. The premise does not exist. First, the moisture in the cake crystalizes. Then as you open and close the freezer, and as the freezer defrosts, these crystals melt and re-form, each time deteriorating the product a little more than the time before, due to the natural growth of the crystal each time there is a minute drop in temp. Even a chemical-laden frozen grocery store cake will deteriorate because of shifts in temp. That's why they have expirations. Not for safety, but for quality.

I'm not saying that you cannot sell frozen products. Grocery stores do it all the time. But artisan bakers and top chefs would never do this. In artisan baking, the client pays a premium to insure that the cake has not been frozen, making it inferior to its fresh counterpart, more of a convenience product, than a freshly baked good. Sorry. This is fact.

When I mentioned cheesecakes, that short freeze firms up the batter and alters the cake in a positive way. It is then stored in the refrigerator, where the lower temp would not allow for the firmness to take place if solely used. But, storing a cheesecake in the freezer subjects it to the same deterioration as any other frozen good. Even ice gets ugly, food-smelling crystals in the freezer.

cai0311 Posted 17 May 2012 , 1:54pm

All I know is I have been handling consultation samples the same was for 5 years now and I have never had a problem.

I noticed you mentioned the opening of the freezer door as a reason for this. My freezer door is opened pretty much only when I need to take a sample out of the freezer. Maybe the lack of use helps?

As I wrote before, I haven't notice any difference in taste from the frozen samples to the unfrozen cakes I make each week for clients. And a client has never mentioned a difference in taste.

scp1127 Posted 17 May 2012 , 2:14pm

Ok, so science is wrong. I'm not sure why I am even posting again, except that there are readers out there that may be interested in scientific fact. Again, the constant defrost of the freezer is the same as opening a door. And if you only open the door to take out a sample, then you are paying electricity and bought a freezer only for a few samples and the rest is empty, not one thing else in there being used? I don't think so.

If you use box mixes, the crystalization is less noticeable because the chemicals artificially create the cake texture, or crumb, in a way that all manner of abuse, incorrect baking or improper method does little to alter the final product. But as in my grocery store example, it still happens. If the cake is scratch, the difference is more noticeable.

People do not expect frozen cake from a private baker or a bakery, so why should they ask?

matthewkyrankelly Posted 17 May 2012 , 2:41pm

I think what is being presented as scientific fact regarding cake storage is just a little over the top. Yes, water crystallizes as it freezes. However, I have never found it to deteriorate the quality of a cake.

When wrapped well, with minimal air space, cakes do quite well in the freezer. This has been my personal experience. My american buttercream does extremely well too. The people who tell you their cakes are wonderful after freezing are not lying. They are great1

It sounds like scp1127's recipe does not fare well in the freezer. It could be the recipe, the freezer is broken, or it is not wrapped in the same way as the others.

The real lesson here is that the freezer is a tool for caking. It works for a lot of people. If it works for you, it would be a great tool for your business. The only way you will really know is to try it. See if it works for you.

I'm more of a free baker. Whether scratch and fresh out of the oven or boxed and frozen/thawed and everywhere in between, we are all bakers.

Try it and let us know how it worked for you!

jason_kraft Posted 17 May 2012 , 2:47pm
Quote:
Originally Posted by matthewkyrankelly

I think what is being presented as scientific fact regarding cake storage is just a little over the top. Yes, water crystallizes as it freezes. However, I have never found it to deteriorate the quality of a cake.



This. We have done extensive testing on how cake holds up to being frozen (including blind taste tests) and there is no difference in quality after freezing for up to 2 months.

As said above YMMV depending on your recipe and process.

MimiFix Posted 17 May 2012 , 3:03pm

Not all freezers operate the same. A self-defrost freezer cycles continuously in a freeze-thaw-freeze to keep it frost-free. This cycle also affects the food so there is deterioration in a self-defrost model. A manual defrost freezer, however, keeps a constant temperature so that the food does not deteriorate. Most refrigerator-freezers are self defrost and are not recommended for anything other than short term storage. I have a manual defrost chest freezer set at -10 degrees and all my frozen products retain excellent quality.

So everyone's right.

jason_kraft Posted 17 May 2012 , 3:19pm

The freezer we were using was frost-free, I think it still comes down to the recipe and the process. Some recipes can withstand minor temperature variances better than others.

cai0311 Posted 17 May 2012 , 3:39pm

Thanks for the posts about the freezers. I don't want to sound like a not at all - I just know what has worked for me for the past 5 years.

And yes, scp, my freezer that is in my kitchen has 4 freezer bags full of samples, an ice pack and 7 (I counted) strawberry icecream bars. That is it. Outside of the cake samples, I never have any reason to freeze anything.

Which means the door only opens when I need samples.

hieperdepiep Posted 17 May 2012 , 7:47pm

I have froozen scratch cakes for 1 or 2 weeks and still find them yummie! BUT; they do differ from a fresh cake. The crumb is deffinitely different, more wet. Nothing beets a fresh light crumb! And the flavours get more soaked throughout the cake after unfreezing.

I wouldn't dare to freeze very small portions for the chance of detereation is bigger.

The recipies of scp1127 are excellent. icon_wink.gif
But the chemicals in boxes are there for a reason; when natural flavours and textures get lost they provide artificials who endure better. Up to you and your clients if they like them.

imagenthatnj Posted 17 May 2012 , 8:03pm
Quote:
Originally Posted by hieperdepiep

I have froozen scratch cakes for 1 or 2 weeks and still find them yummie! BUT; they do differ from a fresh cake. The crumb is deffinitely different, more wet. Nothing beets a fresh light crumb! And the flavours get more soaked throughout the cake after unfreezing.

I wouldn't dare to freeze very small portions for the chance of detereation is bigger.

The recipies of scp1127 are excellent. icon_wink.gif
But the chemicals in boxes are there for a reason; when natural flavours and textures get lost they provide artificials who endure better. Up to you and your clients if they like them.




Agree completely with everything said here.

kakeladi Posted 17 May 2012 , 9:19pm

..... never attempted to freeze for more than a week. Perhaps some tests are in order...

Yes, I agree. Baking up some small cakes (I had 3", 4" and 5" pans) and keeping them in the fzr is very helpful.
They are not only good for taste samples, but for 'on the fly' desserts if one should have company or want something sweet yourself icon_smile.gif

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