So I had a birthday cake order due today. Fairly large serving (75-100 servings). I don't have the capabilities to do a full sheet so instead, I did a 16-8-6 (square-square-round). When the customer arrived for pick-up, I could see it all over her face that it was NOT what she was expecting. It was an 80th birthday so I figure it deserves to be special-- I did intricate piping/scrollwork on the bottom and top tiers. Cornelli lace on the middle. Silk roses/FBCT birds carrying scrolls/pearl airbrush finish etc....And she looks at me and says--"I was expecting a sheet cake". I was only charging $50-60 for it. Now I feel like I should offer a discount because it wasn't what she wanted??? I think I'm floored because I can't imagine expecting a sheet and being presented with a 3 tier and not being happy with it. I mean she got a better cake for less money. :(
On the upside-- Even though I was only running on 3 hours of sleep, I didn't cry! I still have to fix the color of the birds (wasn't what she wanted-- but didn't specify that in her order) and re-deliver tomorrow. I know you can't make everyone happy all the time but to put that kind of work into a cake and lose money on it and they still aren't happy...GAH! Makes me want to quit!
OMG!!! did you say you only charged $50-$60 for those three tiers? well, lady I'd get mad at you for UNDERCHARGING!!! It may not be what the customer ordered, but she definitely got way more than she paid for!
You will be in trouble if you keep doing this- you probably are at a loss considering the amount would probably not even cover the cost. If I were you, I'd stop and think long and hard.
But well done to you for having the heart to make something special for the birthday celebrant.
Sorry if this is abrubt but sounds like she needs to pull her head out of her A** and learn to appreciate the time and effort that went into this cake, And you need to start to appreciate your own talents and know what your time and abilities are worth. $60 for a three tier is undercharging by ALOT!! and you will end up resenting the work if its not worth the money you get paid. xxx
AShe ordered a sheetcake and you substituted something else without discussing it with her. Now she has the added stress of transporting and serving a tiered cake. "Better" is not all about your time/effort, but what suits the customers needs.
AShe's probably thinking, "how do I cut that?" Cake civilians always know how to cut a sheet cake.
ADid she tell you to make whatever design and shape you wanted?
50 cents a serving??? Please promise you won't do that again. And you are "fixing" something on it??? Your customer should have hurried out the door with it, mis-colored birds and all, for that steal of a price.
You are keeping prices artificially low for all the other talented bakers out there in your area - help your community out and start charging realistic prices. You can't be cheaper than the grocery store!
Can you show us pictures of the cake? It sounds really nice!
I can see your disappointment. I guess its a hard lesson learned to only make what the customer asked and not "upgrade."
Did you realize when you accepted the job you couldn't do the sheet cake?
Sorry you're upset. I'm confused. The customer wanted a sheet cake. You said you didn't have the capabilities to make that. Why not? Did you not have the right pan?
Did the customer know you were making a tiered cake? It just sounds like you gave her something she wasn't expecting or didn't want.
Even though your cake was nice, depending on the situation, maybe a sheet cake was exactly what the customer needed for her event.
A 14" square would have been enough (similar to full sheet), and 16" square by itself is too many servings. What you made serves 172... at $50 - $60, you only charged .29 - .38 per serving! Yes, she probably wanted something easy to transport and serve. No discount -- although it wasn't what was ordered.
I post on my fb page that I do not make sheet cakes because the pans don't fit in my ovens. It eliminates a lot of questions from people.
AWow! So sorry to hear she reacted like that! But sadly I'm not totally surprised since I've had quite a few balk just at the prices I charge.... However, I just wanted to contribute that while a full sheet cake pan won't fit in my home oven, a half a sheet will and you can bake each half sheet one a time in the oven and then put them together on a full sheet sized cake board and ice the whole thing to look like one full sheet. I've been able to accommodate requests for half chocolate and half vanilla like that too! I agree that you should rethink your prices too because while some will balk at your prices others may find such low prices suspicious and may think you're hiding something. Other people take cues from you on how to value your services and if you charge reflective of your supplies AND your labor they will put a value on your services accordingly. I've told quite a few that I'm not the grocery store so I don't charge like one and that I understand budgets and that I won't be offended if they need to go to the grocery store but when they want something custom and special they know where to find me. And a lot of them do! Best wishes to you and happy baking!!!
Yep, that's the usual solution. Full sheet cake pans don't fit most home ovens (been there, done that) . Baking two half sheet cakes solves the problem. Live and learn.
I feel bad for you because I can imagine the time and work you put into it. No one wants to see a disappointed customer. On the other hand you did not make what she ordered. Was there not any discussion, sketch or explanation of what you would be doing for her BEFORE you did all the work?
I should clarify...she just said how many servings she wanted (75-100) and that she wanted it 1/2 vanilla/1/2 chocolate. She ASSUMED I was doing a sheet. We are in a rural area and literally the only game in town is the grocery store. Sheets are all they do. :-/ I quoted that price to her with a sheet in mind. After studying about buying the 1/2 sheet pan and doing two to make the full (would have had to order the new pan PLUS a board- and then HOPE it made here in time) it was easier to just use what I already had. And I did a SINGLE layer 16". TWO layer 8". And SINGLE layer 6". So no, it wasn't an overage on servings.
I totally admit that I should have been more clear on EXACTLY what I was making her. I take responsibility for that.
And on pricing...believe me, I KNOW how rediculously low it is. The grocery store does a sheet that serves 80 for $48 and change. I can't compete with that!
I only know of one other caker in the area and her prices are in line with mine. So I'm not undercutting her. ;-)
I put the extra effort into this cake because we knew the family. When I made the changes and re-delivered today everyone was in good spirits, and I got the stamp of approval from the birthday girl herself!
I appreciate the comments everyone-- :-)
Don't get discouraged. I'm sure you did your best and you know what they say about "you live you learn". I bet your trying so hard to "fix" the issue will earn you more customers. A huge tip from me would be to join and read the cake boss site. (Not the Cake Boss Buddy). They have so many FAQ&As and it will really help you in your private business. They even have software that will help you keep track of everything and calculate how much you should be charging. I'm not sure how, but they are somehow affiliated with Cake Central and you get a discount in purchasing the software if you are a member here. And even if you don't purchase it they have great information that will save you a lot of time and money. Check it out.
She got a beautiful tiered cake instead of a sheet cake? And she's upset? I would have thrown my offset spatula at her.
I'm only a hobbyist, but I always supply cutting directions and disposable gloves with my cakes if I won't be at the party. People always relax when they have written directions to follow.
"The grocery store does a sheet that serves 80 for $48 and change. I can't compete with that!"
You are providing a custom product and service . . . you aren't supposed to compete with the grocery store. If you and your other custom competitor keep prices low because that is what the other one is doing, neither of you will make any money. Being in business is about more than what other people charge - if you don't see the value in your time and skills, no one else can see it, either. Best of luck on your future orders!
AIf the local market size is small and underpricing has been going on for a while, the well may already be poisoned and a standalone custom cake business may no longer be viable.
I know that I can fit 1/2 sheet pans into my oven, but I don't like to make sheet cakes AT ALL, So I just use sheet cakes not fitting in my oven as a standard excuse. Once people know I only make round cakes, they are good with it, unless they can't afford it, which is also fine by me. I don't want to charge less for those who can't afford my cakes I'd rather turn down the business. I don't bake a ton of cakes yet, though.
ASorry to hear that. And it sounds like you made an amazing cake as well. I find some people will complain just for the sake of complaining. We had a customer who when ordering her cake said she wanted pink and girly with handbags/purses for decorations. Everything else was left to us within her budget. When she collected the cake she criticised everything about it. We'd used a light baby pink fondant and she said it was too dark and she wasn't happy with the position of the decorations. Yet when we offered her a discount she refused and payed the full amount, which in a way made me feel even worse. It's a horrible feeling but unfortunately you will always find people like this.
Original message sent by jason_kraft
If the local market size is small and underpricing has been going on for a while, the well may already be poisoned and a standalone custom cake business may no longer be viable.
I'm not a fan of sheet cakes either, but you don't need a huge pan to make a sheet cake. When we made a huge 8x3 foot cake in school, we sure didn't use an 8 foot cake pan! :D Could have used your regular square pan and laid the cakes out side by side on a large board, masked together.
Are you sure you are making any money? My least expensive cake I make is more per serving than you charged. Even if you made a little (and it would be very little) you are make about $0.10/hour. Nothing is worth that.
It doesn't matter that the other baker in town charges the same as you. You need to up your prices. And grocery stores are not your competition, so don't compare your prices with theirs.
AI'm new to cakes and am clueless on pricing. Is there a guide somewhere to help? I did an 11"x15" sheet cake for a group my husband belongs to and was immediately asked for prices. It was embarrassing to be caught flat-footed like that. I simply have no clue.
AYou need to calculate all your expenses. cake mix ingredients, fondant, frosting, plus gas water and electricty. Even small things like the 10cents of food coloring you used or the 10-20 cents of dish detergent. once you've calculated all that you need to decide what your time is worth. and pay yourself an hourly wage. ring around bakeries and other registared home bakers and check their pricing. don't undercut them. you don't want to be known as the "cheap" cake lady. also dont compare prices to any supermarket ir walmart. Their prices are much lower, but they don't nessasaraly make custom cakes. The cakes are frozen and some random guy has spent 30 minutes tops decorating. anyone who want a beautiful peice of art will pay for it. HTH if i have any information on here that's incorrect feel free to cirrect me
Original message sent by GrannySkywalker
I'm new to cakes and am clueless on pricing. Is there a guide somewhere to help? I did an 11"x15" sheet cake for a group my husband belongs to and was immediately asked for prices. It was embarrassing to be caught flat-footed like that. I simply have no clue.
Thank you for this Jason! I agree that the well is indeed poisoned. I started into the cakes because it was a wonderful creative outlet for me, but with the incredibly small profit margin-- it has become tedious at best. With the advice from you awesome cake central members, I have upped my prices substantially. If I lose business because of it, then so be it. My TIME and skill is more valuable than that. I think I felt I was in competition with the other caker and had to keep in-line with her....but one of the members had a tag that said, "When your prices are cheap, you will always be busy" or something to that effect. So I will gladly let the other caker have it! I will be content to do a few high-end cakes for some bank- rather than work myself into the ground making pennies!
Thank you all very much for helping me to realize this! :D