Making Birthday Cakes For Friends In Substitution For Getting A Gift... It Is Too Pricey!!

Lounge By CharlotteKelly Updated 22 Jun 2015 , 9:09pm by indydebi

CharlotteKelly Posted 10 Jun 2015 , 10:42pm
post #1 of 17

Hey guys! So, to avoid having to go out and got through the trouble of getting my friends all birthday gifts, I make their cake for their party. I have quite a lot of friends (not bragging, just saying) so this makes such constant present buying to be pretty troublesome. Plus, as a teenager in high school with obviously no business or anything, I need all the opportunities/excuses/practice I can get to bake cakes and decorate them. It seems like a win-win situation right? My friends get cakes, I get practice and experience, and I don't have to worry about getting them the "perfect present" and everybody is happy.

Well, I end up making some pretty good sized cakes for these friends, and they can be expensive and time consuming... Sometimes it doesn't really feel like a win-win situation on my half. Also, they have no idea (and I don't blame them for this) how much work, money and time goes into a cake sometimes.

So, my point is, is this worth it? I think this is a good system, but I'm starting to think that if a cake costs over a certain amount of money to make, I should have them pay for the rest of it. I was wondering if you guys thought that was reasonable or if it was too weird to ask for someone to pay for part of their birthday present... You know? 

If I did decide to do this, how much should I pay before having them pay the rest? Probably about the same amount of money as a generous/nice present, but how much do you think that would be? 

All input, other ideas, and thoughts welcome! :) Thanks in advance :)


P.S. If you feel anything about this "situation" needs clarification because I wrote something confusing, I'd be totally happy to clear it up :)

16 replies
lalaine Posted 10 Jun 2015 , 11:08pm
post #2 of 17

when i turned 50, i decided i needed to learn a new hobby to keep my mind sharp. i chose cake decorating because its something i always wanted to learn to do.  i started out like you, making a cake here and there to be the birthday present of my friends or coworkers.  within a matter of months, it became assumed that i would give a cake to people on their birthdays.  i learned to make more and more elaborate cakes, which cost more and consumed more time.  as the years went on (9 to be exact), people came to expect it. although i have a full time job, i live alone and have my own house and dogs to take care of with no help, i spend a lot of my "free" time making cakes for other people as gifts. it got to where i was making 52 per year, almost one a week!  talk about expense!  yes, no one really knows how much it costs to make a cake. especially if you use fondant and things other than simple buttercream.  extra cost for fillings, fruit toppings, cardboard rounds, fancy tinfoil, doilies, pans, it all adds up.  i have continued to make them as gifts, but i have honed it down to just friends, immediate coworkers and family.  i can no longer afford to make them for acquaintances.

i wouldnt charge anyone for these cakes. they are a gift.  instead of going out shopping and trying to figure out what someone would want, i make the cakes.  sometimes you have to pull back on the expense and make something simple. i try to keep the cost as close to $20 as possible, but if i use whipped cream and fruit, it goes up to $30.  there have been a few times i have spent $50 to $60 but thats usually because i have to make a cake big enough to feed a lot of people. a recent 3 tiered cake for a 25th wedding anniversary cost me $100 to make. i did charge for that one as it was for a coworker that i'm not really friends with outside of work.

i think it would be inappropriate to ask for partial payment. that would be like saying i'm buying you this designer purse, but i cant afford it all, so if you chip in half or 1/3 the cost i'll give it to you.  like any other gift, you need to keep it within your budget. otherwise, it may be cheaper to just buy them a gift. and save your talent for those who are really close to you. i've learned the hard way over these past 9 years that people i thought were my friends are really only acquaintences. they only talk to me when i bring in a cake.  otherwise i dont exist.  so i've really cut my list back to about 25 per year now.

mccantsbakes Posted 10 Jun 2015 , 11:17pm
post #3 of 17

I had to stop doing this myself, because it was too expensive and too time consuming.   

Now I only do free cakes for very close friends and close family.   (Siblings/parents/grandma/BFF/inlaws) IF I WANT TO....that is the very important part. 


everyone else has to pay or at least pay ingredients if THEY want the cake.    (I have a sort of tiered system of who gets to get discounts and who doesn't know me well enough to get the hook up etc.) 


here is the downside to this though,  sometimes I will get asked by extended family to make a cake (charged for, possibly at a discount) but then they also want me to come to the party.   (Which I may have otherwise not have gone to since they are extended family)  This means not only am I making a cake (at a discount, but spending the same amount of hours on it) I also have a long drive (family lives 50+ miles away) and I have to get a gift becasue hello, I am now a guest as well as the cake supplier.     

When I add up the cost of the cake, minus what I will get for it in, add in the gas money plus my time and then the cost of bridge toll and then a gift......I end up paying to be a guest and I supplied the cake too.  Which no one but ME seems to mind.  


so I usually decline those gigs.....becasue I end up resenting the whole thing.     So for me, it's either free as a gift for certain folks or I am ONLY a guest.    The end. 


One time I made cupcakes (paid) for a friends Tupperware party and I ended up being pressured to stay and ended up being pressured to buy Tupperware.   By the time I left, I had spent my profit 3x over and to top it all off, my friend who asked me to make the cupcakes made commission on the whole night.    I felt like a total sucker that night.  

Never again. 


I think you could say to friends that you would love to make their cake at a discount.  But if you use the word "gift" that sort of means "free" otherwise you may come off as being tacky. (Personally I don't think you are, but someone may think that ya know)

cakelovesmetoo Posted 10 Jun 2015 , 11:22pm
post #4 of 17

Hi CharlotteKelly, I feel you, I have been on same boat and I know how cost can go up with baking cake.  But I do agree with lalaina, I am not sure asking for partial cost would be a good idea. Good luck.

MBalaska Posted 11 Jun 2015 , 12:57am
post #5 of 17

Keep making cakes for your gift. Make one normal 8 inch round cake PERIOD.  Iced with a little piping only.  Just like one would pick up at the local grocery store bakery for $15 or $20  is appropriate.

 Just because you have grown, advanced in your skills, and learned to make elaborate highly detailed decorated tier cakes does not mean that you are obligated to make a $600 cake for every gift.  That's bull_____ quite frankly.  Unless if you are receiving elaborate expensive gifts from these people, they are not entitled to such grand gifts from you.

Your friend will get a nice gift that taste fresh & delicious unlike anything that can be bought in your town make with love by  you.   Think of it this way, you are making a gift for the birthday person, if you were giving them jewelry would you bring a piece of gift jewelry for every single person attending the party?  If so, please invite me next time.  Let your cake be just a small sample of your great tasting baking, don't saturate your own market with free stuff.

MBalaska Posted 11 Jun 2015 , 1:02am
post #6 of 17

I'd also recommend that you change things up a bit.  You've made enough cakes, make a batch of rich delicious brownies, a plate of cookies with yummy corn syrup glaze, a New York cheesecake,  lemon bars ........ try different things so that you don't burn  yourself out hating the process of cakes and become stereotyped as the mandatory cake slave.

CharlotteKelly Posted 11 Jun 2015 , 3:17am
post #7 of 17

Thanks so much for the responses everyone! ALL the feedback was super helpful! I agree that gifts should be free... I guess I just needed to hear it from someone else too?


MBalaska, I really like the recommendation that I change it up and do things other than cakes. That would be fun! 

Again, thanks everybody!!!


CharlotteKelly Posted 11 Jun 2015 , 3:18am
post #8 of 17

Thanks so much for the responses everyone! ALL the feedback was super helpful! I agree that gifts should be free... I guess I just needed to hear it from someone else too?


MBalaska, I really like the recommendation that I change it up and do things other than cakes. That would be fun! 

Again, thanks everybody!!!


CharlotteKelly Posted 11 Jun 2015 , 3:18am
post #9 of 17

Thanks so much for the responses everyone! ALL the feedback was super helpful! I agree that gifts should be free... I guess I just needed to hear it from someone else too?


MBalaska, I really like the recommendation that I change it up and do things other than cakes. That would be fun! 

Again, thanks everybody!!!


MKC Posted 11 Jun 2015 , 12:39pm
post #10 of 17

When I make cakes for friends as gifts, my rule is that I make what I want...it has be to fun for me too. They will give me ideas but in the end I remain the "cake designer".

The only thing they can really choose is the cake flavour!

bakeforfun21 Posted 11 Jun 2015 , 12:53pm
post #11 of 17

I only do it for immediate family. I had a cousin ask me to do a graduation cake for her but what she wanted would have cost at least $150. She expected it free. I can't do that. 

mccantsbakes Posted 11 Jun 2015 , 5:57pm
post #12 of 17


Quote by @MKC on 5 hours ago

When I make cakes for friends as gifts, my rule is that I make what I want...it has be to fun for me too. They will give me ideas but in the end I remain the "cake designer".

The only thing they can really choose is the cake flavour!

YUP!  THANK YOU

Webake2gether Posted 11 Jun 2015 , 6:53pm
post #13 of 17

I agree with the other poster about switching it up and if you want to do a cake pick a size and stick to it. Set the expectations of others at a manageable level for you!! I know it's hard I always want to go above and beyond but my husband reigns me in a little and I realize I can't invest too much time or extra money in everything we do. Do the big elaborate cakes for your birthday (or for parents, grandparents and siblings). The sooner you start the easier it will be :) Hope that it all works out for you!!

theresaf Posted 12 Jun 2015 , 2:08pm
post #14 of 17

Hi! I think it's great that you make edible gifts for your friends and I do agree with the above.

When I make cakes or treats for family as gifts one of the things I do is to make it either in the shape of something they like or to use a flavor they like. Something that is personal to them to let them know I spend time thinking about them.  This does not translate to be something expensive but you get to try new techniques.  For example, one of my sisters loves those hard Bavarian pretzels so I made cream puffs in the shape of the pretzels, I made my father a stack of pancakes cake for Father's Day one year, one of my brothers got a Texas Hold-em table and another brother got a barbecue with cheeseburgers and hot dogs -  all cakes. They don't all have to be tremendous and I've made things supersize as well!


Your friends like handbags? Make cupcakes with fondant toppers so you can make a lot, get fondant practice but its still a couple dozen cupcakes.  And don't forget to take pics!

Best,
Theresa

CatPoet Posted 14 Jun 2015 , 5:53pm
post #15 of 17

I do this for all my friends   BUT   every one gets ONE cake made to  five top  favourite   flavours and then that cakes is theirs.  So if they want  their cake again, they just ask and since we are now older I do get paid.

Ask  your friend , if they like you making cakes and if they understand the cost of a cake and also for you benefit you could do less elaborate cakes and focus more on flavour.  The flavour is more important then fancy sugar work in the end and that is what you should learn. 

Oh and  I have friend who practice sculpting for cakes in  cheaper stuff, like play dough and salt dough, just to get  eye for details.

cakedecorator29 Posted 20 Jun 2015 , 10:52pm
post #16 of 17

I think this is a common mistake we all make when starting out we just want to get our name and talent out there. When I first started out I had everybody that wanted free cakes and nobody that wanted to pay, so I quit volunteering cold turkey. Although I still need to learn a good price point for my area at least I am starting to get some clientele who get that it costs and is alot of work. I have a full time job so I don't rely solely on my cakes for income, but I do want and deserve to be paid for my work as we all do!

indydebi Posted 22 Jun 2015 , 9:09pm
post #17 of 17

It has already been said, but have them pay for the ingredients.  And I would add, have them do the shopping and pay for it!!  You need 4 eggs?  They have to buy the whole dozen.  You need 2 cups of crisco?  They have to buy the whole can.  You need 2 feet of decorative foil?  They have to buy the whole roll.  Plus gas and time to do it all.  I just did one this past weekend for a relative.  I did the shopping because she is out of state, but on the "you pay for ingredients" list, that included the $15 cutters I had to buy, the $16 tub of fondant (of which I only used less than half), the whole roll of foil (that I used to cover 3 cardboards).  The receipt total came to $94 .... and she wrote me a check for $125 because she appreciated the work and time involved.  I will also add she is an exception and understands what's involved ...... but most don't which is why I say "Give them the shopping list and let them get it."  For some people, its the only way they REALLY understand the cost.

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