Help! Wedding Cake Hedoublehockysticks... Refund?!?!???

Decorating By soygurl Updated 29 Jun 2006 , 11:56pm by Lisa

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soygurl Posted 18 May 2006 , 3:35am
post #1 of 110

Sorry, this is REALLY long but I desperatly need help! I agreed to do a vegan wedding cake on the 6th. I've made two vegan weddign cakes before so I wasn't worried. Then the hell begins:
First, I WAY undercharge. I agree to do a cake for 150 for $250. In the end, I ended up SPENDING about $350 on the cake (maybe more, I don't know exactly).
But the real trouble began when the bride decided to change the cake. I had made her three flavor samples (included!) several months before and she had decided on my scratch vegan chocolate. Then about a month before the wedding they email me and say they changed their mind and want a DUNCAN HINES MIX (no offense to those who use mixes, but I've never liked them) mad with egg replacer! Not only that but they want CANNED frosting. When I said I couldn't ice the cake with canned frosting they decided they wanted it for the filling. Ok, fine. I said ok, after all, they should have what they want right?
Well, I made a test cake with the mix to make sure it would work with the egg replacer and it did. It was a little "flimsy" so I looked up a few other egg replacers to try and stableize it a little.
Then comes the time to start baking. Due to a lot of housing drama I had to make the entire cake in my friend's TINY kitchen. I started baking early on the 4th (the wedding was the evening of the 6th). The first batch looked good. The second did not. I did everything the same, but the second set of cakes I made didn't rise well and just looked... funny. So I scraped them and decided to buy some more cake mixes and redo them. The first three stores I went to were out of that particular mix (they had a sale on DH). All of this and I am falling very behind schedule. I had wanted all the cakes to be baked by the 5th so I could make the icing and assemble the cakes on the 5th, and finish frosting and decorate on the 6th (all they wanted was a bottom boarder and one row of swiss dots). I finaly get the cakes baked but not until the evening of the 5th because I had to go back to the store AGAIN when I ran out of egg replacer. I get up REALLY early on the 6th and start to stack the cakes. This is where the REALL problems start. Every other cake is totaly falling apart. I do my best to piece them together, but they were all sliding and crumbling and just NOT stable at all. I get the frostsing slaped on and I'm really running late. I got to look up the bride's number so I can let them know why I'm not there yet, and as I was trying to find it one of the bride's mades calls. I tell her that I am running late because there have been problems with the cake, but that I will be there a.s.a.p. Then the last cake I was puting to gether and frosting basicly falls apart. I do my best to get it decent looking, but it's... well pretty bad. Then the bride's maid calls again and starts yelling at me, saying that the bride is freaking out and where the hell am I. I tell her that I am leaving right then, and that I will be there as soon as I can. That I have been doing my absolute best, but have run into a LOT of problems. We hang up and I rush into the car. Right after I start driving I remember that I didn't put on the swiss dots yet but just figure I'll do them there because I brought a piping bag and icing.
Well, long story short (yeah right!), I drive REALLY carefully, but the bottom two layers collaps on the way. I get there, open the box as start bawling. Literaly. A really nice guy came over to look (everyone was already there at the reception) and I start babling about how I will just use the cakes that are still whole and stack them, and he says that it sounds like a good plan (he said a lot more and was REALLY nice and supportive). So I bring all the cakes in through a bunch of people and start assembling the cake. There were 3 people taking pictures and 2 video taping and it was horible. I get the cake set up, and the flowers put on and find that I left all my tips at home! So there isn't anything else I can do and I leave.
I figure I'll email her, but I decided to wait 2 weeks because of her honeymoon. Yesterday she emailed me and said they came home early form their honeymoon. She wants a full refund.
Yes, I realize that the cake was nothing like what she wanted, but the WASA a cake there (that tasted GOOD... I had the smashed cake to sample after all). In the email she says that it was the wrong SHAPE of cake, which is TOTALY false, and that is was clear to her that I threw together the cake in a rush. Those are the main points of her email that I completely disagree with, but to top everyting off, my purse was stolen a week ago and my copy of the contract was in my purse.
I can't afford to refund all her money, not to mention that I already SPENT money on this cake. I guess I could offer to give her a payment plan for a refund, but I really don't think I owe her a refund... well at least not a FULL refund. I did everything I could to make sure she had a wedding cake, and to make it as much like the one she ordered as posible, but things just didn't work out that way. What should I do? What should I tell her? I'm so upset and overwhelmed by this!!! I really just want to cry, but I've already done that (a lot) over this cake, and it isn't helping. Thanks for any advice!


109 replies
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jlh Posted 11 Jun 2006 , 11:28am
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I was sorry to hear about your horrible cake story. I've never heard anything like it. Is she a friend...friend of friend? In other words, will she have any effect on your future business (or lack there of)? If you are in business (legitimately), you might want to consider the refund or a partial refund to make her happy. As horrible as it sounds. For $125, it might be worth having the entire experience over with. Of course, she probably thinks you spent about $10 on ingredients (which is not accurate). You know how people think! That may even be the reason she asked for box mix and canned frosting...thinking it was cheaper?? I'm having a very hard time figuring out why someone would jump from a vegan cake to a box mix. If she claims you were late and claims you delivered less than she paid for, she might keep up the fight until she gets something back. I think I'd try to meet her half way and chalk it up to experience. There is no way a bride will ever understand the work it takes. Plus, she may never see the "problem" with changing her mind last minute, since you agreed to the change. She feels like she's been wronged, and so do you. Therefore, I'd try to meet half way.

I'd tell her... "I'm truly sorry the cake did not meet your expectations. After signing our contract and agreeing upon a final product, I tried my best to accomodate your requested changes. Unfortunately, the changes were significant and ultimately limited my ability to deliver the cake we had originally agreed upon. In an effort to rectify your grievance, I am willing to refund 50% of the original price." You may add that from here on out, you'll never stray from your tested and proven ingredients and methods again.
good luck

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emilykakes Posted 11 Jun 2006 , 12:10pm
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Originally Posted by jlh

I'd tell her... "I'm truly sorry the cake did not meet your expectations. After signing our contract and agreeing upon a final product, I tried my best to accomodate your requested changes. Unfortunately, the changes were significant and ultimately limited my ability to deliver the cake we had originally agreed upon. In an effort to rectify your grievance, I am willing to refund 50% of the original price." You may add that from here on out, you'll never stray from your tested and proven ingredients and methods again.
good luck

I totally agree with jlh. Very well put!

I am really sorry this is happening to you. It sounds like you have had a rough week!

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mmdd Posted 11 Jun 2006 , 12:36pm
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You spent atleast $350 just to make this cake?!?!?! And, you only charged $250..............hmm....I would tell her that you only charged her for what it cost you to make it.

I would give a detailed list of what ingredients had to be used, etc. so she can see what time you worked and how much trouble you had.

Being a vegan order, shouldn't it have cost extra? I mean, you have to buy "special ingredients" don't you?

I'm sorry, but I wouldn't refund a dime!

But, I guess an underlying questions would be about the there any way she has a copy of it? What do your contracts say about refunds?

Good Luck and I really hope you get it figured out!

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Monica0271 Posted 11 Jun 2006 , 12:43pm
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I have been thinking about what I would be do & I would suggest a detailed list of ALL the ingredients that were used BOTH of the tastings & the wedding cake its self. I would NOT refund any money. You have lost money on this one.

I wish you the sest of luck on your decision.

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KakesandKids Posted 11 Jun 2006 , 1:15pm
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Looking at this from the bride's perspective.....her wedding cake was ruined and nothing like what she wanted so she should get all her $$ back. If you under charged her that is not her problem, if you spent more than you made, still not her problem, and when she changed her flavor that close to the wedding date you really should have told her sorry it is too late at this point to make any changes especially when you normally don't work with box cakes. She is not making a big deal out of nothing in this particular cake and even though the demolished cake tasted good....that is not the point. She could be a ton of trouble if you don't refund the $$....she could spread terrible things about you, contact the health department, call a lawyer, etc.

I apologize if this sounds harsh, but its just my opinion and I am sure the bride was devastated by the whole thing. I'm sorry it happened to you and try to just keep your head up. We all have a disaster cakes we wish we had never done!

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Jenn123 Posted 11 Jun 2006 , 1:18pm
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I'm sorry about this experience. I know it was truly unhappy and stressful for you. However, I think that all the trama and expense was due to bad planning on your part. You agreed to the change and then couldn't pull it off. This isn't the bride's fault. I can't belive that the ingredients cost more than $75 not counting the multiple bakings.

I don't know how big the final cake was or what it looked like. You didn't deliver what you promised or even when you promised it. You caused her as much stress and disapointment and embarrassment as you felt. Don't forget that the contract goes both were supposed to deliver a cake decorated a certain way, in a certain size, at a certain time. If it wasn't as the contract described, I think you owe her a full refund. This is true especially if you are planning to do future cakes. You will ruin your reputation if you don't do the right thing by her.

I'm so sorry about how this turned out. I can really relate to how you are feeling about it. Just look at it as a learning experience. Don't except cake choices that you aren't experienced with and especially not at the last minute.

Best of luck in the future!

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TamiAZ Posted 11 Jun 2006 , 1:29pm
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I have to agree with the Jen123 & Kakesnkids... You should refund all the money. I'm sorry you had such a horrible time with the cake and your going to be losing money, but you have to look at it from the bride's perspective. She trusted you to deliver her dream cake on her special day and unfortunately, that didn't happen. You should just use this as a learning experience.


I'd tell her... "I'm truly sorry the cake did not meet your expectations. After signing our contract and agreeing upon a final product, I tried my best to accomodate your requested changes. Unfortunately, the changes were significant and ultimately limited my ability to deliver the cake we had originally agreed upon. In an effort to rectify your grievance, I am willing to refund 50% of the original price." You may add that from here on out, you'll never stray from your tested and proven ingredients and methods again.
good luck

I have to disagree with this...It's not the brides fault this happened. When you making wedding cakes you should make sure that you can accomodate their requests before you promise you can. If a bride asks me for something different or unusual (cake or the design) I make sure that it can be done before I make any commitments.

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DelightsByE Posted 11 Jun 2006 , 1:34pm
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Here's my opinion on this. I would contact the bride over the phone, not try to do this via e-mail. I would begin with the verbage jlh suggested as a starting point. But you really should prepare yourself to refund in full, if for no other reason than to save your reputation. Sure, what happened wasn't your fault, but it wasn't the bride's either and you can bet whose side of the story is going to get spread the fastest.

I never knew that DH mixes were vegan. Hmmm.

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carrielynnfields Posted 11 Jun 2006 , 1:42pm
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I have yet to be in a wedding cake situation, but I have worked in customer service for a LONG time. What I will say is this. If you wish to continue making cakes as a business then I would set an appointment to meet with the new bride. Face to face resolution is always best. Have ready the list of ingredients and cost, the time it took and know that you will be giving her the refund. Let her know how sorry you are and how right she is (I know this will probably hurt the most, but you know the saying "the customer is always right") Explain to her your costs and time put into it then give her the refund and humbly tell her you would love a second chance to show her just how fantastic you are, extend a 10% discount on her next celebration cake. Tell her again how sorry you are and congratulations on a wonderful marriage. It will hurt and will not be fun, but in the end if you can "kill her with kindness" then you might find you have a loyal for life customer who will gice you lots of other business out of respect for your decision to take 110% care of her concern. Good luck. My heart is with you.

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gmcakes Posted 11 Jun 2006 , 1:53pm
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Unfortunately, I have to agree with the majority. If you think of this from the bride's point of would want the refund too!

Explain to her that the box mixes are designed to work with the specified ingredients, and that the changes she requested (egg replacement), caused the cake to be unstable.

You can start by offering a refund of 50%. I suggest having receipts on hand to "back up" your expenses. If she still insists on a full refund, give it to her.

I understand it will put a substantial dent in your wallet. (As it would mine if it were me!) But, word of mouth carries far and wide. She will tell everyone that she was dissatisfied with your work, and then she will say "..but, in the end she did refund (part/all) of my money!"

The fact that you make things right carries just as well as word of mouth. I think it shows that you are an honest person.

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lsawyer Posted 11 Jun 2006 , 2:18pm
post #12 of 110

have to agree with carrielynnfields--give a full refund, apologize profusely, and explain your difficulties (in person). Kill her with kindness and let her see that you are sincere. All businesses have to suck it up and lose at times, but it does wonders for public relations/goodwill. I would go one step further and bring her a 6-inch anniversary cake and a small bunch of flowers, and offer 50% off her next order. This is just me, though. I would do everything possible to win her over. Let us know how it goes.

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fearlessbaker Posted 11 Jun 2006 , 11:03pm
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I agree. The only right thing to do is give her back a full refund. Once that's done praise yourself for doing the right thing. forget the negative part. Look at it as a valuble lesson and move on.

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Doug Posted 11 Jun 2006 , 11:19pm
post #14 of 110
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DelightsByE Posted 11 Jun 2006 , 11:23pm
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VERY good point Doug (are you finally awake yet?)

On my contract I require payment in full for wedding cakes 2 weeks prior to the event date. This is also the date after which no changes or cancellations can be made. (Well, they can cancel but I get to keep their 25% deposit)

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peg818 Posted 12 Jun 2006 , 1:06am
post #16 of 110

I'm so sorry for this happening to you. Fear of something like this is why i never spend the $$ recieved on a cake until the cake is done and delivered successfully. Then should something go wrong and i have to make good on it, i have the cash handy to do so.

I do agree with everyone else, its not this brides fault that you got in over your head. We could all learn from this, and not take orders that is beyond us at the time.

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carrielynnfields Posted 12 Jun 2006 , 5:12am
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I am wondering how waterfallsoygurl feels about all the responses and what she has chosen to do. I hope you take all of this feedback as help and love. We want only what is best for you and we hope it all comes good in the end. Let us know how it goes.

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candy177 Posted 12 Jun 2006 , 6:12am
post #18 of 110

I agree. As much as you may have spent on this cake, you should give the bride a full refund. It will save face. Trust me. I've also worked in customer service and I know that bad press spreads much faster than good press!

Face time is also necessary. You can present her with a list of the ingredients you used and their cost, that might help the bride see just how much effort it took on your part, but the cake disaster definitely made a bad dent in her wonderful day.

Long story short - the first time I got married, my parents hired a bakery to do a 3 tier heart cake with pillars and lots of pink roses. Cake was to be torted and filled with IMBC. The cake was an hour and forty minutes late, was 3 stacked rounds (no pillars) and a couple of roses thrown here and there. No IMBC. No torting. Dunno what it was. (Wasn't doing cake then.) Completely ruined my day. Turns out the baker was called out of town on emergency family leave. No one called me though. My stepmother walked in with the top tier and Salvatore immediately wrote her a check for a full refund. While I was upset about it, his willingness to rectify the situation definitely eased my anger. So, I always had that nice little statement to add after I said my cake was horrid. (It didn't taste as good as the samples either lol)

As far as my contract is concerned - I have a 50% deposit. Final payment due and no changes after 2 weeks prior, or else they incur a charge of $50 or the cost of the change - whichever is greater.

I'm really sorry that this all happened to you! Definitely a bad week! I'd just chalk it up to a learning experience!

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knoxcop1 Posted 12 Jun 2006 , 6:41am
post #19 of 110

OH. MY. GOBS--You poor, poor thing! Really sorry this happened to you...

BUT--I've lived through that kind of thing--not exactly with cakes, per se, but a "housing-drama-changing-kitchen" type of thing---AND IT NEVER EVER WORKS OUT RIGHT!! icon_mad.gif

So, in the future--go with what everyone earlier has said--and ALWAYS icon_rolleyes.gif ALWAYS try to have EXTRAS on hand for "mistakes!"

I agree with the contract clauses and the partial refund. icon_cool.gif

No WAY in hell I'd give her a full refund, though...she'd just have to get over it. icon_surprised.gif


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HollyPJ Posted 12 Jun 2006 , 6:57am
post #20 of 110

I'm so sorry that happened to you. What an awful predicament to be in.

I have to agree with those who recommended you give the bride a full refund.
I hope you are able to recover financially!

Let us know what you decided to do.

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HollyPJ Posted 12 Jun 2006 , 7:04am
post #21 of 110

One more thing...

I know you can recover from this lousy experience. After all, you're the decorator who figured out how to put a real waterfall on a wedding cake! (For those of you who haven't seen that cake, take a peek in her photos--it's really cool. ) icon_smile.gif

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Stefy Posted 12 Jun 2006 , 11:51am
post #22 of 110

I'm sorry this happened to you but I agree with the majority. I would refund the full payment. In the end (no matter how you look at it and how painful it was) you agreed to the changes and the bride did not get what she wanted nor paid for. We all know that working with brides can be difficult but ultimately they are the ones paying for the product and service. If you refund her money, apologize for the unfortunate string of events and leave her with a smile her final thought will be "Even though I didn't get what I wanted, she made it right" rather than an agry bride that might not stop until your reputation is in shambles. Chalk this up as a lesson learned.

Again - I am so sorry this happened

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LNW Posted 12 Jun 2006 , 2:19pm
post #23 of 110

DH cake mixes are NOT vegan. They have milk product in them. The egg replacer is what most likely caused the crumbling. I was out of eggs one night and wanted cake so I used egg replacer with a DH boxed mix. The cake was soooooo crumbly I couldnt even ice it without the cake falling apart.

Im sorry you had to go through all that. Your post had me scared lol. But I have to side with the bride here. You shouldnt have agreed to make those changes and Im sure had you known that boxed mixes (unless advertised as such) are not vegan you could have told them that and avoided the whole mess. You didnt hold up your end of the contract. Im sure the embarrassment you felt by having to deliver and set up the crumbly cake was nothing compared to what she felt by having to serve that to her family and friends. I would put yourself in her shoes and think what you would want. If it were me Id expect a full refund. Id write her a check for the full amount, apologize and try to butter her up as much as possible so she doesnt tarnish you rep.

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ge978 Posted 12 Jun 2006 , 2:29pm
post #24 of 110

~Kelsie: please realize that many of us have been where you were at one time or another. Or if we haven't we may be. I can't even imagine how you felt. Don't let this stop you from making other wedding cakes...use it as a lesson learned...believe me, I have had to learn many lessons & am still doing so!! icon_wink.gif

Do you have a picture of the finished wedding cake?

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jmt1714 Posted 12 Jun 2006 , 2:43pm
post #25 of 110

not to pile on, but . . .
not only SHOULD you give her a refund, you ought to it and quickly. I you have a contract and she has pictures (which in your own post you say would indicate the cake isn't what the contract specifies), you will lose if (or more likley when) she takes you to small claims court. A judge won't care what it costs you to make or if her requests caused problems, since you agreed to meet her requests. AND you'll have court fees to pay on top of all that.

I think the posts have a good theme: use this as a learning experience, and move on. No sense in owrrying about it anymore since it is past.

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traci Posted 12 Jun 2006 , 2:54pm
post #26 of 110


I am truly sorry for the horrible experience. I have had nightmares of this happening to me! my opinion...I think you should give the bride a full refund and apologize for all the issues. You might kindly explain that the changes to the cake made it difficult to make and you did a test on one cake...but ended up having trouble on the rest.

This could have happened to any of us. Sometimes things just do not go as smooth as we want them. Take this as a learning experience and do not give up!

Do you have a photo of the cake??? Sometimes we are our own worst critics! icon_smile.gif

Good luck on the next one! icon_smile.gif

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gmcakes Posted 12 Jun 2006 , 2:57pm
post #27 of 110

I am anxiously awaiting an update from waterfallsoygurl!

I hope you realize we all understand your frustration with this situation. And, as stated before, many of us have been in a similar situation!

We hope all works out well for you, and for your disgruntled bride. You are an excellent decorator, please don't let this one cake undermine your confidence in yourself. Make things right with her and move on to better things!

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rezzygirl Posted 12 Jun 2006 , 3:23pm
post #28 of 110

Hey waterfallsoygurl. First of all, thank you for sharing your experience with us, there is a lot to learn there. Unfortunately, at a considerable cost to you, time and $$ and frustration, I'm sure. Bottom line, you have to make the call based on your relationship with this customer, but know you have us CC"s support. Question..was any of this cake edible, was it eaten? If so, you may have a case to recover some of the ingredients costs at least. Whatever you decide, I agree, smother her with kindness when you communicate. That goes a lot farther than any other approach. Good luck.

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Latinlady Posted 12 Jun 2006 , 3:26pm
post #29 of 110

I am going to try to be as nice as possible about this whole thing as I can. And I am very sorry that this happened to you. But, after reading your post and taking a look at your photos, I would recommend that you refund the brides money, in full. You got in way over your head on this one.

It will be a learning experience for all of us to keep up our skills and no our limits!!!!!!

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wendysue Posted 12 Jun 2006 , 3:46pm
post #30 of 110

Wow, so sorry this happened to you. You should probably refund her money. I don't think you'll find peace within yourself until you do. I can totally sympathize with the bride, but being a decorator myself can easily imagine myself in your shoes too.

I think what I'd do is talk to her and explain the details of what went wrong, just so she understands that you didn't just slap something together. Give her some understanding of how much time and money you actually did spend on this cake, then give her a refund. This way she will hopefully move on without harboring any angry feelings towards you. She really needs to know that you worked your butt off for her and that the end result was the product of your inexperience with boxed mixes and egg substitutes and such.

It does suprise me too that she wanted boxed mixes and frosting since they're not vegan! Wonder if she knows this? They both have milk products in them. Too bad she couldn't just have left her original order alone, but next time you have a vegan bride you'll know first hand what does and doesn't work and can make the best choice for them.

Sorry if I'm rambling, I just feel for you! This is something that I could so see happening to me. I have my Lucy moments all the time (Lucille Ball) and that's the way I imagine this in my head. I think the worst part for you is that you really did do the best you could and the result were disasterous. It's hard to work and work at something and then have no one appreciate your efforts. Hang in there. Next time will be better! thumbs_up.gif

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