kvand Posted 29 Apr 2013 , 8:25pm
post #1 of 22

I am getting tired of everyone one asking for a "simple and elegant cake" you know the kind. plain BC or fondant with a ribbon and a few flowers on top.  B-o-r-I-n-g.  I'd love a challenge.  Something that has some fun textures etc.  I have made display cakes with a ruffle effect, large sugar flower, pleating etc to show I can do it and how fun it can be.  I don't even charge that much for add ons.  But for some reason I am attracting the super budget conscious plain jane-ers. I have done a couple of bridal shows but that's about it other than my website for advertising.  Advertising is just so expensive around here... maybe everywhere.  I have a few connections in the bridal circuit in my area who say they exclusively refer to me.  I am also getting tired of people asking for just a two tier cake because they have all these other deserts etc.  Where are the 4,5 or 6 tier cake people?!?  Can someone tell me where this "lets cheap out on the cake" mentality has come from?! There are other decorators in my area that seem to get some really cool designs but alas... I seem to get the more plain designs.  I even try to suggest fun elements to their cakes and they just look at me with blank stares and say... I really just want something simple... seriously?!? Another thing that drives me bananas.... "I don't want fondant... its gross"  and then they show me a pic of a fondant cake and ask if I can make it with buttercream. ugh?!?

 

Thanks for reading my rant...

21 replies
PTDixieGal Posted 29 Apr 2013 , 8:38pm
post #2 of 22

I'm new to this...I was reading your post and one thing that always gets me...everyone has a different definition of "simple" and "elegant." It's like your definition of "normal" and my definition of "normal"-they may be close but not quite the same. I saw a five tier wedding cake online that-in my mind-was very elegant (my mother saw it and thought it was gaudy) and if I ever make a wedding cake this might be a goal for me to work toward...but if I ever get married, it might not be something that I personally would want as I want a small wedding. I think it just depends on who you are dealing with and what their situation is.

jason_kraft Posted 29 Apr 2013 , 8:48pm
post #3 of 22

AWho specifically are you targeting? If your only exposure is your web site and bridal shows you aren't really narrowing down your target customer (beyond people who go to bridal shows, which may skew more conservative). To expand your reach you need to find the communities where there is an overlap between people who are looking to take creative risks and people who can afford to spend the money on a high quality cake. Once you've identified these communities, hit them with targeted online ads and collaborate with local businesses in their area.

kvand Posted 29 Apr 2013 , 9:19pm
post #4 of 22

The area I am in has a little bit of everything. There are people here with a TON of money but majority of people are about average to low income.  The cost of living to income is pretty high.  However... Our area is big for destination weddings.  Of course I would like to target these brides and I have tried with my website.  I have gone to a few of the nicer venues to try to drum up some business/connections.  I get a ton of inquiries on facebook but find that most of those are dead ends... these are the "I just want a small cake for me and I am going to serve my guests grocery store crap cake" type... ugh... I try to avoid those because I don't want my name attached to walmart cake.  we have a wedding café here and I have considered doing some advertising there.  They charge about $300 per month to have a 12x12 ad on display on their wall.  I am not sure if this will pay off or not.  I am a relatively small operation.  I usually only do 3 weddings per weekend (a couple of weekends I have 5 this summer).  I am trying to keep operating costs low for now while I am keeping things small.  I hope to grow significantly in a couple of years when both my kiddo's go to school.  (The hope and dream is a store front shop - there isn't one in my area right now... fingers crossed it stays that way while I am busy with other commitments.)

PTDixieGal Posted 29 Apr 2013 , 9:48pm
post #5 of 22
Quote:
Originally Posted by kvand 

The area I am in has a little bit of everything. There are people here with a TON of money but majority of people are about average to low income.  The cost of living to income is pretty high.  However... Our area is big for destination weddings.  Of course I would like to target these brides and I have tried with my website.  I have gone to a few of the nicer venues to try to drum up some business/connections.  I get a ton of inquiries on facebook but find that most of those are dead ends... these are the "I just want a small cake for me and I am going to serve my guests grocery store crap cake" type... ugh... I try to avoid those because I don't want my name attached to walmart cake.  we have a wedding café here and I have considered doing some advertising there.  They charge about $300 per month to have a 12x12 ad on display on their wall.  I am not sure if this will pay off or not.  I am a relatively small operation.  I usually only do 3 weddings per weekend (a couple of weekends I have 5 this summer).  I am trying to keep operating costs low for now while I am keeping things small.  I hope to grow significantly in a couple of years when both my kiddo's go to school.  (The hope and dream is a store front shop - there isn't one in my area right now... fingers crossed it stays that way while I am busy with other commitments.)

 

I just wanted to say best of luck to you.

bct806 Posted 29 Apr 2013 , 9:54pm
post #6 of 22

 Another thing that drives me bananas.... "I don't want fondant... its gross"  and then they show me a pic of a fondant cake and ask if I can make it with buttercream. ugh?!?

 

Thanks for reading my rant...

This drives me crazy too. It seems no one that wants a cake from me wants fondant but they all want cakes that  have fondant all over them. Their are some techniques that just don't have the same look to them when done with buttercream. I had someone ask me whether it was difficult to do when I delivered her cake. I was honest with her and told her since she wanted whipped icing and not the fondant in the picture it was hard to get it to look like that. I put some fondant toppers on the cupcakes just so she could try what mine tasted like. 

PTDixieGal Posted 30 Apr 2013 , 12:44am
post #7 of 22
Quote:
Originally Posted by bct806 

This drives me crazy too. It seems no one that wants a cake from me wants fondant but they all want cakes that  have fondant all over them. Their are some techniques that just don't have the same look to them when done with buttercream. I had someone ask me whether it was difficult to do when I delivered her cake. I was honest with her and told her since she wanted whipped icing and not the fondant in the picture it was hard to get it to look like that. I put some fondant toppers on the cupcakes just so she could try what mine tasted like. 

I think sometimes people don't understand that the fondant is what makes it have a really smooth, "polished" look (for lack of a better term), in my mind. It just makes it look prettier. I'm thinking that one thing I may do is an approach like this-let them see what it looks like with fondant and without and let them decide. The cupcakes would be a good way to demonstrate it. "This is what it looks like without the fondant...now this cupcake has fondant. See the difference?"

embersmom Posted 30 Apr 2013 , 6:22pm
post #8 of 22

It could also be that many people either don't like the taste of fondant or have heard of others not liking the taste, so they're afraid to bite the bullet, so to speak.
 

Baker_Rose Posted 30 Apr 2013 , 9:34pm
post #9 of 22

Well for years I would have to bring overly extravagant brides down to the real world, that was back in the day of 8 tiers, pillars, stairways, fountains etc.  For many years it has only been stacked, iced so smooth it looks like fondant (very few want fondant for the extra cost in my neck of the woods) and then decorated with simple flowers, sometimes fondant leaves or the florist makes bouquets for the top and sides, ribbons, etc.

 

I have heard from quite a few brides, "The cake isn't important, it never gets eaten, it's a waste of money, I don't like cake, the cake is the least important thing in the wedding....."  My head is going to explode!  I have tried to explain that yes, bad cake is a waste of money that doesn't get eaten.  People who start drinking alcohol on the morning of the wedding usually don't want cake by the evening, and cake haters more than likely love my cake, "buttercream is too sweet" people usually love my icing.

 

I'm preaching to the choir!  The last girl I spoke with really ticked me off, going on and on about how wasteful the cake was, how silly and stupid it was for the bride and groom to shove cake in their faces, etc.  I finally told her, "I'm sorry you don't think cake is important, but I will think that your wedding cake is very important."  Didn't get that order.

 

I'm just too old for this.

costumeczar Posted 1 May 2013 , 12:21am
post #10 of 22

I'll tell you how to get more interesting designs...Start complaining about how many boring pearls and swirls cakes you have to do, then realize that you can do those in your sleep but people still pay money for them, then get happy that when you get a few of those you'll be done faster, then start wanting to have a lot of them so that you'll have more time off. As soon as you embrace the pearls and swirls those orders will dry up and you'll start getting lots of "creative" cakes that take more time and make you work longer hours. At least that's what happened to me this year.icon_rolleyes.gif

 

Things go in cycles...I think that people were doing plainer cakes last year because they think they're cheaper, but I've hardly done one of them in the last three months. All I know is that when I have three pearls and swirls cakes I will have time to take a nap that day. When I don't, I won't. I like naps.

Evoir Posted 1 May 2013 , 1:01am
post #11 of 22

I'm like costumeczar - I have learned over the years to appreciate the simple cakes as they are a fast ticket to $$. You can do more of them in less time.

 

Once you start being creative and adding first-time-ever design elements to your designs, you are upping your stress level, upping your time spent on a specific cake and turning away other cakes because of the extra time and effort you will be spending on your 'special' designer cake.

 

Look, I DO understand where you are coming from... Seriously, I actually would proabably prefer to do one interesting cake a week than 5 plain janes, but it comes down to how much you rely on your caking income to live. The interesting cakes will make for good portfolio/website pictures and let people know what you are capable of. But if you need turnover, you probably should be careful what you wish for!

 

One thing I did when I was a younger cake decorator, was I would do a particular decor I'd never tried before for free. So, the client was not out of pocket to opt for a handpainted tier, or piped details in RI etc. This gives the client a sense of getting something exclusive and also saving money. I don't do it anymore, and now I can charge what I want for these additional details.

PTDixieGal Posted 1 May 2013 , 3:20am
post #12 of 22
Quote:
Originally Posted by embersmom 

It could also be that many people either don't like the taste of fondant or have heard of others not liking the taste, so they're afraid to bite the bullet, so to speak.
 

Very true ;) Personally, I was always taught to try new foods...it makes life interesting!

kvand Posted 1 May 2013 , 4:19am
post #13 of 22
Quote:
Originally Posted by Evoir 

I'm like costumeczar - I have learned over the years to appreciate the simple cakes as they are a fast ticket to $$. You can do more of them in less time.

 

Once you start being creative and adding first-time-ever design elements to your designs, you are upping your stress level, upping your time spent on a specific cake and turning away other cakes because of the extra time and effort you will be spending on your 'special' designer cake.

 

Look, I DO understand where you are coming from... Seriously, I actually would proabably prefer to do one interesting cake a week than 5 plain janes, but it comes down to how much you rely on your caking income to live. The interesting cakes will make for good portfolio/website pictures and let people know what you are capable of. But if you need turnover, you probably should be careful what you wish for!

 

One thing I did when I was a younger cake decorator, was I would do a particular decor I'd never tried before for free. So, the client was not out of pocket to opt for a handpainted tier, or piped details in RI etc. This gives the client a sense of getting something exclusive and also saving money. I don't do it anymore, and now I can charge what I want for these additional details.

 

This is why I vent to you wonderful people... helping me see the positive in the boring.:)  I like your idea of offering a new design element I want to try for free or reduced... I'll definitely think about that.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Evoir 

I'm like costumeczar - I have learned over the years to appreciate the simple cakes as they are a fast ticket to $$. You can do more of them in less time.

 

Once you start being creative and adding first-time-ever design elements to your designs, you are upping your stress level, upping your time spent on a specific cake and turning away other cakes because of the extra time and effort you will be spending on your 'special' designer cake.

 

Look, I DO understand where you are coming from... Seriously, I actually would proabably prefer to do one interesting cake a week than 5 plain janes, but it comes down to how much you rely on your caking income to live. The interesting cakes will make for good portfolio/website pictures and let people know what you are capable of. But if you need turnover, you probably should be careful what you wish for!

 

One thing I did when I was a younger cake decorator, was I would do a particular decor I'd never tried before for free. So, the client was not out of pocket to opt for a handpainted tier, or piped details in RI etc. This gives the client a sense of getting something exclusive and also saving money. I don't do it anymore, and now I can charge what I want for these additional details.

This is a good perspective.. thank you... I guess I should be thankful for the easy money :)

 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Baker_Rose 

Well for years I would have to bring overly extravagant brides down to the real world, that was back in the day of 8 tiers, pillars, stairways, fountains etc.  For many years it has only been stacked, iced so smooth it looks like fondant (very few want fondant for the extra cost in my neck of the woods) and then decorated with simple flowers, sometimes fondant leaves or the florist makes bouquets for the top and sides, ribbons, etc.

 

I have heard from quite a few brides, "The cake isn't important, it never gets eaten, it's a waste of money, I don't like cake, the cake is the least important thing in the wedding....."  My head is going to explode!  I have tried to explain that yes, bad cake is a waste of money that doesn't get eaten.  People who start drinking alcohol on the morning of the wedding usually don't want cake by the evening, and cake haters more than likely love my cake, "buttercream is too sweet" people usually love my icing.

 

I'm preaching to the choir!  The last girl I spoke with really ticked me off, going on and on about how wasteful the cake was, how silly and stupid it was for the bride and groom to shove cake in their faces, etc.  I finally told her, "I'm sorry you don't think cake is important, but I will think that your wedding cake is very important."  Didn't get that order.

 

I'm just too old for this.

it drives me bananas when people say its not important!!  some people have no filter! if you don't think a cake is important that's ok you are entitled to your opinion but don't tell the baker about it!!

costumeczar Posted 1 May 2013 , 10:22am
post #14 of 22

A

Original message sent by kvand

This is why I vent to you wonderful people... helping me see the positive in the boring.:)  I like your idea of offering a new design element I want to try for free or reduced... I'll definitely think about that. This is a good perspective.. thank you... I guess I should be thankful for the easy money :)

it drives me bananas when people say its not important!!  some people have no filter! if you don't think a cake is important that's ok you are entitled to your opinion but don't tell the baker about it!!

The "I'm here to be creative" thing is nice,but I'm here to run a business, and a business needs a profit, and profits come with making money efficiently. Plain designs are great if they pay the same and take less time. If I want to be creative I'll go do something else for my own enjoyment.

Here's another way to look at the "the cake isn't important" attitude...Good, because that customer is far less likely to complain that you ruined her wedding because the color of the ribbon on the tiers wasn't exactly the right shade of puce! :smile:

tabathaba Posted 1 May 2013 , 10:50am
post #15 of 22
Quote:

Their are some techniques that just don't have the same look to them when done with buttercream. I had someone ask me whether it was difficult to do when I delivered her cake. I was honest with her and told her since she wanted whipped icing and not the fondant in the picture it was hard to get it to look like that.

 

To be honest, this is your own fault. When somone tells me they want a specific design that is fondant based, I don't give them the option of having it in buttercream.  I am not going to cause myself extra time, difficulty, and stress because they want it to look just like fondant but be buttercream.

 

I will carefully explain that the design they want is a fondant design and if they want buttercream frosting, then here are some suggestions that might be a similar look. Most of the time they say, "Oh, I didn't realize that they could only be done with fondant, we'll just do the fondant then."  I've never had any complaints after the fact and they are happier because the cake looks just like they wanted it to. 

costumeczar Posted 1 May 2013 , 12:33pm
post #16 of 22

ABut there are plenty of designs that can be done on a buttercream-covered cake just as easily as on a fondant cake. I get clients telling that this or that baker told them that they can't do this design on buttercream, when it's something like fondant stripes on a plain white cake. Of course you can, you just have to smooth the buttercream out, which is obvious to me that the baker in question just doesn't feel like taking the time to do the right way.

tabathaba Posted 1 May 2013 , 12:36pm
post #17 of 22

AExactly, and I don't mind doing that at all. The issue I have is managing expectations when clients want a buttercream cake that looks exactly like the fondant picture they bring me.

bct806 Posted 1 May 2013 , 4:53pm
post #18 of 22
Quote:
Originally Posted by tabathaba 

 

To be honest, this is your own fault. When somone tells me they want a specific design that is fondant based, I don't give them the option of having it in buttercream.  I am not going to cause myself extra time, difficulty, and stress because they want it to look just like fondant but be buttercream.

 

I will carefully explain that the design they want is a fondant design and if they want buttercream frosting, then here are some suggestions that might be a similar look. Most of the time they say, "Oh, I didn't realize that they could only be done with fondant, we'll just do the fondant then."  I've never had any complaints after the fact and they are happier because the cake looks just like they wanted it to. 

My own "fault?" I just started doing this a few months ago and I was up to the challenge. It still looked good but I told her it wouldn't look exactly like the picture ahead of time. I had the order a month in advance so I had some time to think it through. She was adamant about what she wanted and I respected that. She respected the fact that it wouldn't look exactly like the picture.  

tabathaba Posted 2 May 2013 , 10:45am
post #19 of 22

What I was describing as your "fault" was that you were complaining about people wanting designs in buttercream that do much better in fondant. I used to do this. And for some designs I still do, but only if I feel comfortable that the technique will work in buttercream. The way I look at it is that I'm the professional and unless I feel comfortable with the way a cake will turn out, (and the amount of headache and extra time spent), then I will insist on either buttercream or fondant for certain designs. If you agree to do a design that is extra stressfull, then you should be charging accordingly and it shouldn't be a reason to complain.

 

I value my reputation and the way that my cakes look. If a client comes to me with a cake that I don't think will look good the way they are insisting on it being done, then I will send them to someone else. People come to me because they love the creativity and design of my cakes, I can't afford to do designs that I know will look bad just because someone thinks they know better than me how to decorate a cake.

 

For me, this also speaks to the initial post regarding fun designs. I hardly ever have a bride that knows exactly what they want. In my experience, the brides that say they want a just plain cake just don't know what they want. I had a bride ask for a plain cake and after talking to her about her colors, flowers, and other wedding details, she fell in love with a square design I recommended that had sugar daisies cascading down it. She went from not really caring what the cake looked like to absolutely loving her wedding cake.

 

I think that's part of our job, helping clients see some possibilities and different style ideas and finding one they love!

TheCakeDude Posted 2 May 2013 , 1:58pm
post #20 of 22

AA large part of my business is based on the fact that I can smooth buttercream down to look like fondant. Most fondant designs can be achieved in buttercream, and if not you have to be able to tell the customer that honestly. The one downside to buttercream is that it's more fragile and touchy, and my pickup customers don't seem to understand that....haha!

embersmom Posted 2 May 2013 , 2:17pm
post #21 of 22
Quote:
Originally Posted by PTDixieGal 

Very true ;) Personally, I was always taught to try new foods...it makes life interesting!

 

I've found that most fondant-averse people are very accepting of MMF ;)

cupadeecakes Posted 2 May 2013 , 2:21pm
post #22 of 22
Quote:
Originally Posted by TheCakeDude 

A large part of my business is based on the fact that I can smooth buttercream down to look like fondant. Most fondant designs can be achieved in buttercream, and if not you have to be able to tell the customer that honestly. The one downside to buttercream is that it's more fragile and touchy, and my pickup customers don't seem to understand that....haha!


Me and TheCakeDude Abide! icon_wink.gif

 

Seriously, there are lots of fondant cake designs that can be done in buttercream, but it does take some practice working with it to get it smooth.  Fondant still has a time and place in my shop (outdoor weddings, etc) but honestly I would rather work with buttercream.

 

But I totally get wanting to get some more exciting designs - I want them too!  I went so far as to remove all the "plain" designs from my look book and people still ask for them.  When I was taking the "Big Bird" class from Mike McCarey there was some discussion as to how cool it must be to get to make such exciting cakes every week.  Mike spoke up and said, "Oh, I've never sold a Big Bird Cake like this - people won't pay what it would cost me to do this.  I get to make my fair share of cool and extreme cakes, but swiss dots still pay the bills".  It really struck home to me - no matter what my skill set, there's still going to be a steady stream of people that just want a plain old cake.

 

Now I do like costumeczar suggests - take their money, knock the cake out in a day, and spend the rest of my week playing in my yard, or something else fun!

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