What Do You Do If You Get Sick?

Decorating By luvmykids2bits Updated 24 Oct 2014 , 11:22pm by freesia777

luvmykids2bits Posted 11 Oct 2014 , 5:24pm
post #1 of 23

I've been doing cakes for two years now, and so far so good, but I have an order in a few days (Wednesday) and my throat is getting scratch and sore and my ears are sore and I've started coughing.  We've had a bug going through our house that has knocked my husband out for six days and my son for 14 days (his turned into pneumonia).  I hate, hate, hate the thought of backing out of an order I've already committed to, but I feel crummy and suspect it will only get worse.  I'd rather back out with enough time for her to make other arrangements than wait until the last minute and cancel on her.  It's a small 8 inch birthday cake.


How do others handle orders if they get sick?

22 replies
jenmat Posted 11 Oct 2014 , 5:58pm
post #2 of 23

I've been in business for going on 7 years and in all those 7 years I've never gotten so sick I can't work. You just power through. that said, I have backups that can help me. Once I burned my hand (palm) so badly that I had to go to the emergency room and have it in a wrap for a week. Having helpers be my hands was a huge blessing. 

All that said, for an 8" birthday cake, I would probably back out. I do weddings, and there is no backing out of those. If you think you'll be in bed, just apologize, give the customers suggestions for a last minute baker, or make the cake today and refrigerate it or prep it as much as you can so that putting it together will only take a tiny bit of your time. 
Hope you feel better soon!

Norasmom Posted 11 Oct 2014 , 6:00pm
post #3 of 23

Definitely back out.  Your customer will appreciate the fact that a sick person did not make the cake they are going to be eating.  It would be different for a wedding, then I would say get help and power through.  Your customer will understand.

I cannot imagine trying to bake if I felt sick, and you don't want to get pneumonia either.

msbelle21 Posted 11 Oct 2014 , 6:42pm
post #4 of 23

AI don't bake when I'm sick or contagious. Period. I trust myself not to spread germs, but I can't imagine me giving products to someone while sneezing and suffering a runny nose. I wouldn't want someone to sell me goodies in such conditions, so I don't do it to them. It's not allowed under the cottage food law here anyway. Better safe than sorry in my opinion.

MimiFix Posted 11 Oct 2014 , 9:00pm
post #5 of 23
Originally Posted by msbelle21 

I don't bake when I'm sick or contagious. Period. I trust myself not to spread germs, but I can't imagine me giving products to someone while sneezing and suffering a runny nose. I wouldn't want someone to sell me goodies in such conditions, so I don't do it to them. It's not allowed under the cottage food law here anyway. Better safe than sorry in my opinion.


Bless you, msbelle, for your thoughtful, caring response. I strongly suggest that home bakers take the food safety courses offered for food workers.


There's a difference between "powering through" a broken arm or appendicitis, and "powering through" anything contagious. The rationalizations on here are disturbing. I had hoped we could share other tips, such as how to find back-up before one becomes sick. But after reading about this issue in three separate, current threads, I am appalled at the number of people who are willing to spread sickness. Do your customers a favor and sign up for a food safety class.

-K8memphis Posted 11 Oct 2014 , 9:07pm
post #6 of 23

reminds me of an old story not food related but anyhow -- my daughter's first grade teacher proudly announced to the parents that she 'never calls in sick' -- omg don't breathe on my kid, lady 

luvmykids2bits Posted 11 Oct 2014 , 10:02pm
post #7 of 23

Maybe I should clarify - I'm wondering how others back out of an order they've already committed to or if they have a clause in the contract that they could share regarding illnesses?  Do you recommend other bakers (I only have a relationship with one other baker and her work can be a bit hit and miss, so I hesitate to recommend her), offer a discount on a future cake, etc?  Just apologize profusely and call it a day?  No money has exchanged hands at this point.  I hate disappointing people and feel so bad about cancelling this order, so just looking for what others do to handle an awkward situation!

bubs1stbirthday Posted 11 Oct 2014 , 10:54pm
post #8 of 23

I used to be one of those people (and my boss expected it) that showed up to work whether I was really sick or not and then something happened that changed my perspective. My 3 year old nephew was diagnosed with Leukemia.


You never know who you are baking/cooking/waitressing/making coffee etc for. I don't even bake biscuits that I know will be sent interstate so will take longer to get to my Sister than the survival period of the common cold if we have a cold in the house.


If you serve a cake to someone whose immune system is severely repressed and you have coughed / sneezed even just a mild cold virus onto it, it can easily result in a hospital stay or worse if the cold develops into something more serious.


Please think of others when you say that you have never been so sick that you haven't been able to power through. It is nothing to be proud of that you have coughed and spluttered or sneezed onto someone else's food.


If I were the OP I would actually do the leg work for the customer and try to find another baker to do the cake for them. This would enable you to back out without guilt and for you to leave the customer with a good opinion of you.


Good Luck.

julia1812 Posted 14 Oct 2014 , 3:31pm
post #9 of 23

AThink it's always tricky if you are working alone and suddenly you are sick. But I would just use good judgement and obviously not expose the customer to any risk. Germs are everywhere and you are always left with a small risk, but I guess nobody here would clean their nose or sneeze without washing /disinfecting their hands afterwards, right? In my kids school the entire Germ family paid a visit: Hand-food-mouth disease, chicken pox and body herpes

nancylee61 Posted 14 Oct 2014 , 4:32pm
post #10 of 23

I hope my baker would back out. I would hate to have someone with Ebola, or even the flu, making my birthday cake. (Yes, I'm exaggerating!)

remnant3333 Posted 14 Oct 2014 , 5:54pm
post #11 of 23

Find out if there is anyone here on cc that may be in your area or near you who could make the cake. Hope you are feeling better soon. Let people here know where you are located and maybe someone will be able to fill in for you. Good luck!

Rfisher Posted 14 Oct 2014 , 10:21pm
post #12 of 23

Ahttp://www.unc.edu/courses/2010spring/envr/421/001/readings/norovirusfood.pdf I wonder if this bakery is still in business? Food safety course completed means nothing if there are bakers willing to suck it up and power through their infectious disease. Some one thinking they are "not that sick" to not prepare food was probably the case of the person making the cakes noted in the link above. I wonder if that person exhibited any abnormal behavior for their fellow workers to notice. OP, I hope you have contacted your customer. Be truthful. And you really can't recommend someone you have no confidence in. That does no one any favors. And if your customer gets mad because you backed out on sharing your tasty germs, well your conscience is still clear, right? If you soldiered on, what's your plan when they want to be compensated for sick guests and family?

MimiFix Posted 14 Oct 2014 , 11:37pm
post #13 of 23
Originally Posted by Rfisher 

... Food safety course completed means nothing if there are bakers willing to suck it up and power through their infectious disease. Some one thinking they are "not that sick" to not prepare food was probably the case of the person making the cakes noted in the link above. I wonder if that person exhibited any abnormal behavior for their fellow workers to notice.



Thank you for posting this, Rfisher. The part that amazed me, page 1061 of the report: "All employees, including the two with documented illness, denied being ill while working." 

jenmat Posted 15 Oct 2014 , 12:37am
post #14 of 23

Good grief. And this is a great reminder why I limit my responses on the internet. Doesn't take much.


For the record, I have an excellent immune system and I also happen to have my off season coincide with cold and flu season. So I've never had to experience what the OP was describing OR Ebola, if ya'll are worried about that. I DO get burns, neck stingers, shoulder swelling, sore legs, sore knees, headaches and cramps and DO power through those every day. And yes, I've taken a food safety course, thank you. Several.


I have a helper that is available pretty much any time I need her and if I were to have a severe sickness, I wouldn't have to worry about it because she can do 90% of what I can and the other 10% is gumpaste and would have been done weeks beforehand. I also bake ahead of time and freeze, so all she would have to do is make fillings and icings and fill and frost. I am a planner by nature and I like to be prepared for anything that could potentially ruin a wedding cake experience for my bridal couples.


For those who are frequently sick or don't have backup, I would like to hear what you did when you had to cancel a $1000 wedding cake. That would be awkward.


In addition, aren't many illnesses contagious before we even know we are ill?? Isn't that why we practice good hygiene and food safety rules and regulations??? So that even if we are GETTING sick, we are able to keep the public safe? Not saying that if you know you're sick and excreting everywhere that you should continue because you've washed up, but truly I won't know I'm sick until I'm, well, sick.


That is all I've got.

luvmykids2bits Posted 15 Oct 2014 , 2:08am
post #15 of 23

Oy vey....


I was looking for suggestions on how to handle it if you do work alone and have to back out of an order because you are too sick to do it.  Thank you to everyone who made suggestions, especially the one about searching on CC to see if there are any bakers nearby me.  Like I said, I only have a connection to one baker nearby and her work is hit and miss, so I don't really want to recommend her (I feel bad saying that!).


My son is immune-compromised so I get that.  I'm very careful about germs and cleanliness and not passing things on via my cakes.


So how did it all turn out?  Fabulously, actually.  While at the Health Food Store on Saturday looking for a certain immune-boosting supplement for my son, I stumbled across this Anti-Viral Tincture.  I've always been a wee bit skeptical of herbs and supplements to be honest, and was only there as I'm willing to try anything to get my son's immune system back where it needs to be, but the Anti-Viral intrigued me.  $36 bucks later, the stuff tastes awful but oh my word it's a miracle worker!  Almost immediately my head felt clearer, I had more energy, and within five minutes my sore throat was gone.  I kept taking it, and yesterday I felt completely healthy, so I went ahead and baked my cakes and decorated it today.  Crisis averted, but I hope to figure something out in terms of what to do in the future if I get sick.


I rarely do wedding cakes, mostly birthday cakes.  But I can't even fathom the horror of having to back out of a wedding cake order due to illness.  Do y'all put a clause in your contract if you work alone?  If so, what does it say? 

mcaulir Posted 15 Oct 2014 , 1:05pm
post #16 of 23


Originally Posted by nancylee61 

I hope my baker would back out. I would hate to have someone with Ebola, or even the flu, making my birthday cake. (Yes, I'm exaggerating!)

I don't think your hope there is universal. I have been sick, called the person I was making the cake for, and basically said, 'I'm sick and probably contagious, I'm fine to do the work of making the cake - do you want it?' and 3 times the recipient has said yes of course they want it.


Small 8 inch birthday cake might be easily replaceable - anything big or complicated or expensive can't be ordered elsewhere overnight. And most people will still want their cake.

FrostedMoon Posted 15 Oct 2014 , 3:26pm
post #17 of 23

This is an ongoing concern of mine as a home baker.  I am lucky enough to have two talented caking friends in the area who can take orders (and I will take theirs!) if we or our kids are sick.  This is also a big reason why I tend to stick to birthday cake and smaller celebration cakes versus breaking in to the wedding business.  I do not have cake helpers at my house, no helpful family in the area, and a husband that travels pretty regularly.  If a kid wakes up sick, it's me and only me that will be taking care of them.  My son is medically complicated and it's not unheard of for him to end up hospitalized for something he picks up from other kids.  Very grateful to have options for caking help when needed.


That being said, if I am sick/contagious, I would contact the customer ASAP and explain the situation, then offer to have the friend do the cake instead.  I think it's a great idea to put on your website/contract that you work alone and if an illness or accident occurs how you would handle it.

cara1982 Posted 15 Oct 2014 , 3:50pm
post #18 of 23

AI had to cancel an order a few months ago actually. I called the customer on the Wednesday and the cake was due on the Saturday. It was the worst thing I've had to do for a while, but the abuse she gave me was untrue. I had about 3 or 4 text messages and a nasty review on my facebook site. I even offered to continue to bake the cake as she made me feel so guilty! Either way, it's a horrible decision to make.

Pastrybaglady Posted 15 Oct 2014 , 5:22pm
post #19 of 23

Yikes, yet another reason not to do wedding cakes!  It hasn't happened yet, but when I feel even an inkling of sickness I immediately go for the echinacea, C and E.  If I catch it right away it usually stops it right there.  That and the thought, "I don't have time to be sick!" - not just because of baking but you know, life.  I like the idea of finding someone in your area, but then again they would have to be up for a last minute cake of your quality and visa versa.

costumeczar Posted 16 Oct 2014 , 12:59am
post #20 of 23

To answer the original question, I have a clause in my contract the specifies what I would do in terms of refunds, blah blah blah if I got sick or couldn't do a cake. I also have friends who will take the order if I was desperate. This weekend I'm delivering a cake for another local baker who had a death in the family and will have to be out of town for the wedding day. Since I won't be doing any work on the cake she won't have to explain anything to the bride, but if it was a situation where I had to work on it she'd have to decide whether or not to tell the bride that she hadn't done 100% of the work.


My clause says this: If A Cake To Remember cannot perform this agreement due to a fire, casualty, strike or other civil disturbances, Acts of God, including but not limited to, road closures, severe traffic, fire, terrorism or other causes beyond the control of the parties, or due to the baker's illness, then A Cake To Remember shall return any money paid by the client, less expenses, but shall have no further liability with respect to this agreement.  In the event A Cake To Remember fails to perform for any other reason,  A Cake To Remember shall not be liable for any amount in excess of the money the client has paid.  In the event of personal emergencies that prevent A Cake To Remember from doing the delivery and setup, A Cake To Remember will attempt to make arrangements with alternate cake providers to do the work, and will provide refunds to the client in proportion to the amount of work A Cake To Remember was not able to do. In the event that any of the above conditions prevents A Cake To Remember from delivering a completed cake, no refunds will be issued, but the client will be given the option of picking the cake up the day of, or within one day of, the originally scheduled event.


This was written by an attorney after I went over situations that had arisen in the past. Hurricanes that knocked power out and blocked roads, floods that washed out the only road into a remote venue, etc. Those would be out of my control and if I wasn't able to make a cake due to a power outage, for example, I'd have to refund money but not my expenses. If I had finished the cake but couldn't deliver it it gives the client the option of driving through the flood to get it but i don't have to refund anything,


The mention of being sick and finding another baker refers to me refunding the client for the work that I couldn't do. Say I had already done a bunch of gumpaste flowers then got sick before I could bake the cake. I would refund the client the amount of the cake cost itself but not the cost of the flowers. I'd arrange for another baker to do the cake and I would pay the baker out of my own pocket since that's my problem and the bride would basically be getting a cake from someone she didn't choose. She'd still be getting my flowers, so she would pay for those, but the rest would be on me. It would mean that I'd be out some money but if I was a bride and my baker called to say she couldn't do the cake, the only thing that would make me remotely happy about it would be to handle it that way.

ruellesmith Posted 16 Oct 2014 , 10:22am
post #21 of 23

I would back out as well when I'm not feeling well. Making a cake while sick is something I don't want to happen again. I learned it the hard way. It's really difficult to concentrate on perfecting a cake when all I want to do is rest. I'll just make sure to inform the customer that I am unable to make the cake. If I know someone who can make the cake in time, I'll refer him/her to that person.

Snowflakebunny23 Posted 16 Oct 2014 , 10:39am
post #22 of 23

Interesting one -  I tend to do wedding cakes and, as a general rule, if I had a cold then I would do my best to carry on while taking every precaution I could not to spread bugs so face masks (don't laugh!), frequent washing and definitely washing after blowing noses etc.  If however I had unexplained vomiting/diahorea as a bug then I would contact the Bride and do everything I can to make alternative arrangements - food standards in the UK state that if you have a bug like that then you have to declare it to your employer (me!) and steer clear from food handling for 48 hours after it clears (if memory serves correctly).  I do try and keep different sizes of cake in the freezer so if there is a problem then I have a backup which doesn't require baking and which I could give to someone else, even if they have very full schedules.  Like others have said, i try to make decorations for cakes as early as possible so hopefully, that part would already be done. xx

freesia777 Posted 24 Oct 2014 , 11:22pm
post #23 of 23

AJust wanted to say thank you for this thread. I'm a hobby baker and was planning on making a cake for my friend's daughter's 14th birthday this weekend. I came down with a whopper of a cold yesterday, and my first thought was to just make the cake anyway because I promised to. Then I remembered this thread (and saw the mountains of snotty tissues growing around me) and realized that it probably wasn't the greatest idea. So instead I'm napping and taking it easy -- and she'll get her cake next weekend. I'm a little bummed because I was excited to make the cake, and I finally found a tasty chocolate frosting to use, but better safe than sorry.

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