Two weeks ago, a neighbor who I don't know very well stopped by the house and asked if I would make a sweet sixteen cake for her daughter. I told her I hadn't really gotten my business started yet, and she asked if I could just make the cake as a favor, if she bought the ingredients, because they had planned a big party and then run out of money for the cake and the food. I was thinking, "Okay, a free chance to practice," and I told her I would. I told her the ingredients for what she was wanting might run about $100, and that she'd have to drive me and the cake over to the venue so I could set it up, because I didn't have transportation on that day..
Two days later, she called and asked if she could bring her husband by because he wanted to meet the person he would be handing his money over to, because he didn't feel comfortable otherwise. I said sure, and they came over. He had a flash drive full of pictures from Pink Cake Box and a head full of big, fancy ideas. We settled on a design and then they also wanted another, smaller cake for their other child whose birthday was also that day, and 50 decorated and bagged cookies as favors. And then the husband said, "Oh, and the extra cake and the cookies, we can get all that for the original price of $100, right?" I explained that it wasn't a price, that was the cost of the ingredients and that with the bigger cake and extra stuff added, there would be more ingredients.
I didn't hear anything from them for a couple of days and I was happy with that. Then she emailed and asked if I would go shopping with her for the cake ingredients because she didn't want to just hand me money. At that point I should have backed out of the whole thing, but I had already started making the gumpaste pieces and felt like I had time invested in it. We went to get the ingredients (five hours to go to two stores that were ten minutes from the house) and then she ran out of money for some of them and said she'd get them the next day.
The next day she called and asked if I really needed the rest of the ingredients. I said yes, of course. She came by to bring some of them that evening when I was making the cookies, and stayed to watch. I gave her a brush and let her put pearl dust on the cookies, but she kept breaking cookies. Then she gathered up the broken pieces to take home, since (as she said) she had paid for the ingredients. She also insisted on taking the cookies home with her right then "so nothing happens to them."
The next day she called to ask if I really had to have the rest of the ingredients. I said yes, but hang on, let me get the cakes out of the oven. Then she said, "So you can bake the cakes without the rest of the stuff, I guess I don't need to get it." I told her I'd started baking the cakes I had enough ingredients for. She brought the ingredients and pointed out that my kitchen was messy (some flour on the counter and measuring cups in the sink, I was halfway through an entire day of baking) and that my house was ugly, that she could have had a house like mine but couldn't stand the builder, and said she was going to take cake lessons from me so she could make some good money. I told her I was on my way out the door to get the kids from school and she'd have to leave for now.
The next two days, she kept calling me every couple of hours. "Are you working on my cake? What are you doing right now?" I finally quit answering my phone or replying to texts because she was driving me nuts.
The day of the party, I called to ask what time she was coming, and she said her husband would pick me up when he had time. She said she didn't want us to stay for the party because the Mariott said they couldn't go over the occupancy for the room, but she would like me to come back later on to cut and serve the cake. I told her to clear out the entire back of her van, and reminded her that I had to bring my kids with me (because I'm not paying for a sitter for a free cake) and that we would need a ride home after we set up the cake. The party was starting at 7 and he didn't pick me up until 6:30. Their van was full of other party things and he didn't know how to fold down the back seat. I folded it and loaded the cakes, then he had to stop by his house to get more stuff, which he wanted to put on top of the cakes and which ended up going on my kids' laps.
I set up the cakes, took a couple of pictures which didn't come out very nice because the cake was stuck in the back corner of the room under one of the dj's speakers. One of the neighbor's friends was already there and she came up and said, "I heard that N--- helped you with most of the work on the cake." I looked at her like What? and she said, "She already told me she did most of this, so don't try to take credit for her work." The room was very small and crowded and hot, and I was done setting up the cake and was ready to go home, but the neighbor's husband couldn't drive us because "the limo is about to arrive. Don't you want to watch them arrive in the limo, and stay and cut the cake?" Hell no. I got my carseat from him, told him I hoped his party went well, and the kids and I walked off down the street, even though it was dark and a bad part of town.
At no point did these people ever thank me for the cake.
I've decided I'm just not cut out to bake for people who aren't friends or relatives. Even money wouldn't have made this acceptable.