First Bad Review

Decorating By ckkerber Updated 16 Jul 2006 , 3:27pm by jmt1714

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ckkerber Posted 13 Jun 2006 , 4:26am
post #1 of 29

I took my first cake decorating class in March so I'm new to all of this. Since then, I've made 9 cakes for various family members (including a baby shower) and felt like I might have found a niche for myself. A friend asked me to make two cakes for her son's birthday and, feeling a little too sure of myself, I agreed. Both were Spongebob themed, one was a sheet cake and the other a cookie cake. The cookie cake got rave reviews, the sheet cake did not. Both cakes looked really good and I was proud of my efforts but apparently the white cake was dry and didn't taste good. To quote my friend, "No one liked it." I used the All Purpose White Cake recipe from The Dessert Bible (you know, the one that says it's about as foolproof as a cake recipe gets). To get to my question . . . how do you try new recipes and experiment on something like a cake that you can't very well sample in it's completed form? I thought I had made a great cake that I was really happy with and it did not taste good at all. I don't feel like I can "try" every cake out first before making it for someone so there has to be some level of experimentation. How does everyone else deal with this? And how do you keep your confidence from waning when you fail? I have such a knot in my stomach right now.

(by the way, when I read the rules for posting cake pics it said you could not post copyrighted images . . . so how do people post character cakes on this site?)

28 replies
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momsandraven Posted 13 Jun 2006 , 4:33am
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Can't help you on that particular recipe, but I do try ALL of my recipes on my volunteer guinea pigs before I ever sell them to anyone. Perhaps the cake was a little overbaked? I've done that before. I'd say make a small cake with this recipe and try it for yourself. Is it up to the standards you want? If it is, give a slice to each of your neighbors for their opinion. Maybe you just had bad luck with the one cake.

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frindmi Posted 13 Jun 2006 , 4:38am
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I´m sorry you got that bad review. Just remember that the other cake got a good review and that you worked hard on them. I´ve made the white cake you mentioned and I would agree that it is on the dry side. I think that if you eat it the same day you bake it, then it´s good (I baked mine in the morning and leveled that same day later and I can say it tasted really buttery and yummy);however, the next day it was dry. I would recommend using a moistening syrup (sugar, water and a licqueur) that you brush in between layers. I think she even mentions in the book that the cake is best eaten the day off.

I don't bake proffesionally but with the cakes I bake for friends and family I use recipes I've heard good things about. I take advantage of the wonderful people on this website and ask if someone has tried a certain recipe before making it. People say: You should never try a new recipe when you have people over... well, I apply that to cakes. If I want to try something new, I do it for me first.

Hope that helps and cheer up! thumbs_up.gif ,


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Tiffysma Posted 13 Jun 2006 , 4:40am
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When I bake a cake for someone else, I bake at least 1 cupcake out of the batter for my sample. That way, I can taste it before I send it on to someone else. Then if it flops, I can do another. Of course, the cupcake will bake a little differently, but close enough to give you a good idea.

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playingwithsugar Posted 13 Jun 2006 , 4:41am
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Sorry, but I would never bake a cake for someone else that I have not already baked and eaten.

The reasons:

Recipes are a matter of taste. What is yummy to some people may taste like mud to others.

Every oven works differently. What might work well in a gas oven may not do so well in an electric oven. And let's not forget that Mrs. Beranbaum is probably working with a commercial oven, like a Viking or Hobart, rather than a home oven. This will also produce different results.

Hot spots and ovens that are off calibration or not monitored by a good-quality oven thermometer can lead to disaster when baking anything.

Also, you made a white cake for your friend. To me, white cakes are the touchiest of all batters to work with. Because the egg yolks are eliminated, the fat from the egg yolks is not there to help moisten it.

Buy an oven thermometer and check the oven to see if it's properly calibrated. Instructions on how to use the thermometer should be on the package. If the oven runs too hot, calculate the difference and turn your temperature down by that much.

Theresa icon_smile.gif

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Lousaria Posted 13 Jun 2006 , 4:41am
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I guess I should have read the rules of this site because I've posted all of my cakes. Of course one of them was Sponge Bob, oops!

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SarahJane Posted 13 Jun 2006 , 4:44am
post #7 of 29

I practice my recipes out on my family and friends and if it's good I put it in my cookbook keeper and if it's bad I toss it. I also write in the recipe book if it's moist, light and airy, thick and fudgy, etc. so that when I go to make a cake I can figure out what one I want.

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Loucinda Posted 13 Jun 2006 , 4:45am
post #8 of 29

That is the very reason all of the cakes I sell start from a mix. I do not like the variables that a scratch recipe has. I can make the same recipe 3 times and get a different result with each one. (and I am an experienced baker - not an amateur) I have TONS of baking cookbooks here and I have just decided it is not worth it to do the scratch cakes for my business. I have much better luck with the cakes that have the mixes as a base.

Now, I am sure you are upset right now, but you have to know that you cannot please everyone. There are going to be times that you will get people that are just not happy. Mark this one up to that, and continue on.

I would definatley think about the cake recipes you are going to use, if you want a good reputation, you need to make sure your cakes taste good. If you are going to use scratch recipes, you are going to have to try them out yourself to see for sure what you are getting. AND then you are going to have to somehow re-create that same cake every time. I know that if you go by weights rather than measure that some bakers have better luck - (I do not do it myself, I am the cake mix queen here.) I am sure some of the scratch bakers will chime in with what they can do to help you with the situation.

I am sorry you had this experience, but inthe long run, you are better off knowing what they thought about it. (IMO)

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ckkerber Posted 13 Jun 2006 , 4:46am
post #9 of 29

the cookbook that my recipe came from was The Dessert Bible by Christopher Kimball, NOT The Cake Bible. Though, I do have that cookbook as well.

Can I post my cakes if they've got characters on them?

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lastingmoments Posted 13 Jun 2006 , 4:54am
post #10 of 29

I believe the reference to the copyright image pertains to the person who took the original photo that you cant steal a persons picture and pass it off as your own work or picture. It is okay to make charachter cakes but not okay to sell them unless you are a liscensed bakery selling certain cake made with kits that they sale for this.....or unless you have recived permission from a company to use the image...

I am not liscened and I make cakes for friends and family.....but i do charge for my time and materials....I officially call it a tip!

Post your picture...dont be scared!

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Lousaria Posted 13 Jun 2006 , 4:56am
post #11 of 29

I just made, and sold 3 cakes, with the left over batter I made a 6" Get Well cake for my neighbour who just got in an accident. It was BC so I didn't taste any of the excess to make sure it tasted good, but I gave all the extras to my Mom. She told me that some, not all of the scraps tasted bad. I couldn't figure out why, also I don't know which cake it came from. I tasted the cake pieces and some tasted awful, I figured out why, I used brand new heat strips and the cake tasted exactly like the smell of the strips when they were in the oven. I wish I would of taste tested the cakes before selling them. I kind of hope the bad cake went to the neighbour (since he didn't pay for it), but I would hate for him to think that I was trying to poison him after he almost died in the accident. I don't know if I should ask him or forget about it and just keep an eye on my heat strips(make sure I soak them really well).

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ellyrae Posted 13 Jun 2006 , 5:11am
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I've always stuck with mixes. They have always been "no fail" for me. I always get raves about how moist and good they are and questions about "the recipe". My fav mix has been Duncan Hines for years, although they have recently changed their ingredients, adding milk, which is not a good thing in my home!! (allergies). You can always Dr. up a cake mix, and know that it'll taste good!

Don't let one bad review get you down. Just use it to strive to be better! As one post said, the other one got great reviews so hold on to that! If you feel you have found your "nitch", then stick with it! If you love what you're doing with cake decorating, then don't give up.

The more you do it, the better you'll get, the more fun it is, the better raves you get, the more people want your cakes, the better you feel!!!!!!

Everyone starts somewhere and everyone goes thru disappointments. If we didn't make mistakes, or get not so good reviews, how would we learn from them???

As the late artist Bob Ross used to say, "It's not a mistake, it's a happy accident!" Keep up the good work!

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Rodneyck Posted 13 Jun 2006 , 5:18am
post #13 of 29

You can do three things that might help you.

1. Start testing cakes. I do this all the time. Cut the recipe down to 1/3 and bake in one 6" pan, then taste and compare to other cake recipes until you find one that is awesome.

2. Torte each layer into two or three slices (depending on the layer's height). The thin layers will open up your cake to more options.

3. Experiment with adding more moisture and flavor to a cake. Try moistening syrups on each layer, using 1/8 to 1/4 cup per layer. Use fillings that are not just buttercreams maybe fruit based such as jams. Jams tend to help the cake stay moist, pastry creams, whipped frosting or cream cheese, also alternating fillings.

This all equals more work, but if done right, you will be known for how good your cakes taste.

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ckkerber Posted 13 Jun 2006 , 5:22am
post #14 of 29

thanks for all of the feedback and kind words. I feel like an idiot for experimenting without trying it first (I really like the idea of saving a bit of batter to make a cupcake to sample). I won't be making THAT mistake twice. Thankfully, the friend merely reimbursed me for ingredients as I'm not taking money for my cakes at this point as I'm still getting my feet wet. I have a sister-in-law's birthday this week that I said I'd make a cake for and I am MORE than a little wary!

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TamiAZ Posted 13 Jun 2006 , 5:25am
post #15 of 29

Every recipe I use when I was selling cakes was tested before I offered it... I did quite a bit of experimenting with both scratch and mixes. I decided on the ones I likes best (mostly doctored mixes) and that's what I offered.

There have been times that a bride asked for a flavor I didn't offer and I would do some experimenting before I told I could make the cake.

If you want to feel confident about the product you offer your going to have to do some experimenting... You just give all your experiments to family and friends and make sure you get their feedback.

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leta Posted 13 Jun 2006 , 5:46am
post #16 of 29

I didn't get whether or not this friend paid for the cake. Make sure you have recipes you can stand behind if you are asking for payment. If you did it out of the goodness of your heart, it's good to get an honest opinion so you can move on to the next recipe in your search for the cake everyone will rave about. Be objective. People have different tastes. My kids would likely choose a "little debbie" over my cake. Doesn't mean the cake is bad. You just started classes in March? You should be proud of your efforts. You must have really wowed them in the past to cause the expectation to be so high already.

You are trying a cake when you make it for someone. Tell them you're trying to find the perfect choc cake recipe and ask for their honest opinion.

Always use good quality ingredients, try to find recipes that have butter, cake flour, good quality chocolate, use fresh eggs. Bake at 325 to avoid dry edges. In a book of recipes, not everyone is a hit.

I always have scraps left over from leveling which I sandwich together with filling or icing whatever I have. In fact, I don't think my DH and kids remeber what sliced cake looks like on a plate. (DH just confirmed this--says he prefers the scraps)


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ckkerber Posted 13 Jun 2006 , 5:55am
post #17 of 29

[quote="leta"]I didn't get whether or not this friend paid for the cake. Make sure you have recipes you can stand behind if you are asking for payment. If you did it out of the goodness of your heart, it's good to get an honest opinion so you can move on to the next recipe in your search for the cake everyone will rave about.

My friend did reimburse me for the ingredients for both cakes. I plan to give her back the money as I feel so bad about making her a cake that wasn't up to par.

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leta Posted 13 Jun 2006 , 6:09am
post #18 of 29

Sorry, I think your post went up while I was typing.

I wouldn't worry about reimbursing. You made and decorated 2 cakes. 1 cake was great and both were decorated beautifully. It would be different if you made a profit. She said no one liked the cake, not, "You ruined the entire birthday" She has the pictures of the blowing out of the candles on the cute cake. It's worth her money. Half the people don't finish the cake even when it tastes great!!!

Let your friends and family be supportive of you, they reap the benefits.

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jmt1714 Posted 13 Jun 2006 , 1:46pm
post #19 of 29

re: variability of home made cakes:

I don't think that is always the case. I have solid recipes that never vary. The key to me is weighing ingredients instead of using cup measurements.

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subaru Posted 13 Jun 2006 , 1:59pm
post #20 of 29

Exactly why I use doctored mixes. I can't try all the recipes, (i'm fat enough!) So I stick with what I know is good. I always try the batter, too. YUM YUM.

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rachmakescakes Posted 15 Jun 2006 , 1:50pm
post #21 of 29
Originally Posted by leta

I always have scraps left over from leveling which I sandwich together with filling or icing whatever I have. In fact, I don't think my DH and kids remeber what sliced cake looks like on a plate. (DH just confirmed this--says he prefers the scraps)

Me too! Even if I've made the same cake a billion times, I always take a small bite of the scrap from leveling, just to make sure it's right. I bake and decorate at my at my dad's house and when he gets home, the first thing he asks is "Where are the scraps?"

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angelas2babies Posted 15 Jun 2006 , 10:36pm
post #22 of 29

I'm sorry that happened to you. That's my biggest frustration...testing recipes. It's true, not everyone is going to agree on the perfect cake, so all you can do is find a recipe that you love and that your designated "taste testers" love.

I can't tell you how many white cake recipes I made from many eggs I wasted before I found a recipe that I really like. If you want to try another recipe I recommend the "Better White Cake" recipe from the recipe section here. I wish we had a review section to make comments on the recipes, because I love reading how people altered the recipes, or what they thought of them.

Baking from scratch doesn't have to be a nightmare, but it does require a lot of recipe hunting and trial and error. Don't get discouraged. Your friend sounds understanding and you did put alot of effort into your cakes.

Good luck!

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PennySue Posted 16 Jun 2006 , 12:12am
post #23 of 29

I bake both from scratch and I use mixes as a base. Making a small 6 in before hand is always helpful. If I don't have time, I'll sample the top part that I level off. So far I havn't had to toss anything. For white cake I'm using the White Almond Sour Cream (in the recipe section this site) and for my chocolate I use Colette Peter's chocolate cake recipe. Both are really moist and taste fabulous.

I'm sorry your friend said that to you. I don't think that people in general have any concept just how much of our hearts and souls go into what we do. Unless of course they bake themselves. It really is more than just a cake, at least it is to me. If it wasn't something that brought pleasure to myself and to those I bake for I wouldn't do it. Well, there's my two cents. Hang in there!

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Jenn123 Posted 16 Jun 2006 , 12:20am
post #24 of 29

I recommend finding your "special" recipes/mixes and sticking to them as much as possible. I don't sell anything I haven't tested on my family first.

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7yyrt Posted 20 Jun 2006 , 2:34pm
post #25 of 29

One thing no one has focussed on... You said the cake tasted like the baking strips smelled... I'm new at this, maybe someone more experienced can explain why, and how to fix it...
As for the friend, if I've made a bad cake - PLEASE TELL ME! If a friend won't tell you, who will?!?

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DiscoLady Posted 22 Jun 2006 , 1:00am
post #26 of 29

For this very reason I never use scratch and only use BC mixes and I've never had a bad review in over 6 years.
KNOCK ON WOOD OF COURSE!!!! icon_lol.gif

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shrek Posted 23 Jun 2006 , 9:59pm
post #27 of 29

i always first test my cakes out on my closest family members. i never seem to like anything i make, but thats just my opinion

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morgiana Posted 9 Jul 2006 , 9:43pm
post #28 of 29

I always bake for scratch (cake mixtures are horrible here) and always use my husband as an experimental bunny (he is rather skinny with great digestive system... and sweet tooth). I have couple of my very favourite recipes which are so-called "familly treasures" (both from mine and my husband's family), but I love trying new recipes. For stacked/torted cakes I always use extra moisturising: I am pretty fond of tea/coffee punch.
Maybe you should have asked your friend what cake she had in mind... hope that it won't happend to you again.

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jmt1714 Posted 16 Jul 2006 , 3:27pm
post #29 of 29

always make a cake and test it before you make it for someone else. That goes for any recipe, really.

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