Selling Cakes When You're Not Legal

Business By yellowjacket Updated 9 Oct 2006 , 6:51pm by MrsMissey

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yellowjacket Posted 2 Oct 2006 , 5:54pm
post #1 of 71

I live in Missouri and from what I can tell there isn't a way to sell out of your home an be legal. It seems that there are many states where this is the circumstance. I don't plan on decorating cakes as a full time job or actually opening up a shop, but I do enjoy it and wouldn't mind selling a few. In fact, I took my first real order a few weeks ago to be picked up this week. Also, a friend of my sister's is interested in me making her wedding cake.

So for those of you who sell out of your home and aren't technically legal, how do you do it? It seems that the health dept/dept of agriculture or whoever isn't really out to get the small home baker. But what can you do or not do if you're not legal? Do many reception sites recquire that the cake be from a licensed kitchen? Can you do bridal shows? What about approaching florist, wedding planners, etc to tell them about your cakes? What about advertising on the back of church bulletins and on I actually checked the cake vendors on in my area, and several seem to be home bakers. So are they not legal?

So for those of you who aren't legal, how have you advertised other than friends and family? Anyone here from Missouri who's operating out of their home? Thanks!

70 replies
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dydemus Posted 2 Oct 2006 , 6:03pm
post #2 of 71

I'm a hobbyist doing cakes out of my kitchen. Where I live, Florida, you have to have a completely seperate kitchen to get licensed. It's my understanding that any kind of advertising can get you into trouble if you are not licensed. This includes business cards or putting your name in a brochure. For me, it's a hobby that pays for itself, and that's enough for me. Word of mouth keeps me busy enough for now.

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ChRiStY_71 Posted 2 Oct 2006 , 6:14pm
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What is the penalty if you get caught selling a cake?
Could you just ask for forgiveness and not for permission? hehe!~

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SweetThistleCakes Posted 2 Oct 2006 , 6:27pm
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12 months probation and $5700 in fines for a first offense if you're in parts of TX.

Sounds real attractive, right?

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yellowjacket Posted 2 Oct 2006 , 6:37pm
post #5 of 71

That's a pretty hefty fine, and exactly what I want to avoid. So how are other home bakers (in areas where it's not legal) advertising? Are they just taking the risk of getting caught and paying the fine?

Or is it understood that although it's not technically legal, noone really cares or will come after you?

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ChRiStY_71 Posted 2 Oct 2006 , 6:40pm
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Yikes! That's pretty tough! tapedshut.gif I definitely wouldn't do any advertising unless I was sure that they didn't enforce their laws!

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PoodleDoodle Posted 2 Oct 2006 , 6:40pm
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I'm not sure about this but I suspect that you could be sued if someone were to claim that they got food poisoned after eating your cake. Having a business license would probably require some type of liability insurance. I would just make sure customers understand that you aren't licensed.

I'm not licensed but all my customers are friends and I pretty much let them pay me what they feel the cake is worth - which has turned out to be more than I would have charged!

Another consideration, If your deliver a cake to a restarant or other food establishment, they may ask to see your license before allowing you to set up the cake. I think this would be my primary concern if you plan on making wedding cakes.

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rosiecakes Posted 2 Oct 2006 , 6:42pm
post #8 of 71

There's something to be said for not advertising, cakes so unique and special you have to know someone to get one...he he he

Someone on another board once said that a business card is an invitation for the board of health to come inspect you. I sell so few outside of my circle that i really dont think they have anything to shut down, errrrrrrr " HANDS OFF MY KITCHENAIDE!!!!!!!!"

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berryblondeboys Posted 2 Oct 2006 , 6:54pm
post #9 of 71

What I would like to do is to test it all out -see if I can build up any sort of clientele. If I can, then I can do whatever it is that i need to do to become legal (as I can bake in my home, but would have to make some significant modifications),

But, I'm NOT wanting to spend hundreds or thousands on something that goes Phffft. I'm also thinking of starting some specialty sewing/embroidery business, but I don't have to worry AT ALL about food poisoning or anything like that. It's so complicated just to TRY...

Here's another question - what do those Pampered Chef people do? they are cooking in people's homes for a party - is that the difference? I was thinking of maybe (if they don't have rules against it) of doing Pampered Chef and as a comment to the side mention I do cakes and pies and such too... is that too sneaky? Can you tell I'm trying to find ways to STAY HOME!?!?!? What's the point of renting a kitchen somewhere else if it means I would be leaving my home to work?


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mommabuda Posted 2 Oct 2006 , 7:02pm
post #10 of 71

I sell to friends and family and anyone that they refer to me... that way I'm not really getting out there but I'm building somewhat of a client base if I ever DO get a kitchen made. I know that in our small town, the vendors don't care if you're licensed or not for wedding cakes but in the bigger cities they require it so I would check it out before committing to a cake job. I charge very little as it is because I just want the practice mainly... as long as they cover ingredients, I don't care what else I get.

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shenninger Posted 2 Oct 2006 , 7:11pm
post #11 of 71

I have been curious of this too. Does anyone know the restrictions for Arkansas. I looked up the Health Department website and really couldn't make out what can and can't be done. Anyone have any answers for Arkansans wanting to bake out of the home?

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mkerton Posted 2 Oct 2006 , 7:24pm
post #12 of 71

I think the key probably is to find someone else in MO who has done it and can advise you....I think the lady who made my wedding cake, stuck to word of mouth advertising....friends and friends of those friends type of deal....I know she said she did it all through college for extra spending money and 10+ years after that and I would wager to say she never had a problem....but I know she didnt do bridal shows and such...

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SweetConfectionsChef Posted 2 Oct 2006 , 7:24pm
post #13 of 71

I've talked about this on previous posts but I can't seem to stress it enough. I'm not trying to make anyone mad but simply state the risks involved in home baking. Not only could you be fined and get a criminal record, but you could be tracked down by the IRS, your state's Controllers Office (cakes require sales tax), or get in deep with the HD, but all it takes is that ONE disgruntled customer to claim they got food poisoning and sue you. There goes any financial security you may have including your home. And something else, your home owners insurance can drop you for having an illegal home business... It's just not worth the risk. It saddens me that our country has resorted to these measures to stop people from baking from home...but not everyone is as clean and concerned about proper food handling as we all are! There are people who could care less about the harm bad eggs can cause or what happens when you don't sterilize and wash everything properly. They have ruined it for the good ones! icon_evil.gif Heck, in Texas, atleast Harris County, the kids can't even take home baked goods to school for parties...they have to come from a store with an ingredient label!!

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SweetThistleCakes Posted 2 Oct 2006 , 7:30pm
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Originally Posted by berryblondeboys

Here's another question - what do those Pampered Chef people do? they are cooking in people's homes for a party - is that the difference? I was thinking of maybe (if they don't have rules against it) of doing Pampered Chef and as a comment to the side mention I do cakes and pies and such too... is that too sneaky? Can you tell I'm trying to find ways to STAY HOME!?!?!? What's the point of renting a kitchen somewhere else if it means I would be leaving my home to work?


PC is completely different. They are not selling food out of their home for any type of profit. Mixes are exempt unless they are sold in a public setting here. IE- the monthly venue that I sell at the "nice" Homemade Gourmet lady has to get a food permit because of the city requirements. But when you sign on with these companies, they dock your commission (with PC it's $2 per month) for insurance. Granted, there food products are prepared in a mass commercial kitchen and all.

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Chef_Stef Posted 2 Oct 2006 , 7:31pm
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Consider carefully before proceeding is all I can say. I'm not doing it as a hobby, so I have a different take, but here's my 2 cents.

Many women "back in the day" (we all know one-- an aunt, a friend's mom, whoever) have done it for years with narry a hitch.

BUT. This isn't our aunt/mom/friend's world any more. People will sue you over anything, and if you're not legal, you invite a bee's nest of problems.

Worst case scenario I've heard (aside from fines) is a lady who actually LOST her home over the issue. I don't know the whole story.

If you're selling for "whatever they want to give you" to just friends and family, that's a *little* safer than wanting to start a business in any form.

Also bear in mind that large venues are often responsible for the food served at receptions in their facility, and they will prevent you from bringing in a cake if it wasn't made in a legal kitchen. Not to mention the Health Dept occasionally does a walk through the kitchen at large receptions, just to check. How'd you like to explain to a bride on her wedding day that her cake is on its way back to your house because they wouldn't let you bring it in? icon_surprised.gif

AND, last but not least, if the local caterers/cake decorator/bakeries find out about your little venture (and if you're viewed as competition by them) they will usually immediately turn you in.

Like they say, the "cake ladies" are hard to regulate, and very many "cake ladies" fly under the radar and never have any trouble...but all in all, I want a business that is legit. I did one cake at a huge venue right at the time that I was just finding out that it's illegal here, and I felt so...subversive!...setting that thing up! So something that should have been a terrific exposure for me, handing out cards to the wedding planner, DJ, etc., felt more like me skulking and trying to not have anyone ask me too many was not fun, and I changed my approach thereafter.

Most customers (and many local bakeries/caterers) never ask, know, or care, but all the same, I rent a legal kitchen, have insurance and business licenses, and will get whatever else I need to stay on the up and up. When and if I get busy enough, we'll build a separate kitchen here. Until then, I rent, and I sleep better at night.

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berryblondeboys Posted 2 Oct 2006 , 7:32pm
post #16 of 71

It is so sad. I was hoping this would be a way for me to stay at home longer, but I don't think it will work as DH will not be willing to fork out a penny for a "what if" business. I'll go ahead and get the info I need to make an in-home bakery, but I'm not encouraged.


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imartsy Posted 2 Oct 2006 , 7:45pm
post #17 of 71

Man that is one hefty fine in Texas!!!!! icon_eek.gif I wonder what it is here in KY...... I mean come on - if you're making that much money and you're illegal than sure - but if you made $70 every couple of months making cakes they're going to fine you that much???!!! icon_mad.gif Seems a bit absurd.....

I definitely know people that don't have clean kitchens - I'll say it again though - I wish the health department could just take a moment to come visit our homes and do an inspection of them - if you're nasty w/ your own family, then you can't cook/bake for others! They could be "surprise" visits I suppose.... just to see if you keep everything up to standards - like your refrigerator might have to have a thermometer thing in it to make sure it's the right temperature - and how and where you store your ingredients woudl have to be checked - maybe that would end up to be too much trouble too - but it sounds a little easier than trying to re-do your entire home and get ANOTHER fridge and ANOTHER oven and seperate everything........

I just bake for friends right now - I don't think I'd even take an order from someone who wasn't at least a close friend - or a close friend of a friend..... I'd be too scared they'd get upset w/ something and want thier money back or go sue happy or something b/c it turned out a different color than they expected - there ARE crazy people out there...... so for now I'm just baking for friends and family while I develop my skills and decide if this is something I want/could do full time. It helps build up your business AND gives you practice - so why not? The only problem is the cheap friends - you gotta still charge what you're worth and not back down!

Good luck with everything - I wouldn't advertise a lot except by word of mouth - I think you can put a website up w/ pictures of your cakes (I have a Yahoo page- nothing fancy) but you can't put your name/telephone/ "call me if you want a cake like this made for you" - kind of stuff..... it can't LOOK like advertising...... but if someone wanted to see pictures of your cakes, you could have a portfolio or you could do something online or even send them some pictures by e-mail to "advertise" your talents.....

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Chef_Stef Posted 2 Oct 2006 , 7:47pm
post #18 of 71

Don't despair. I went through the same feelings.

Search your area (and it will take some serious looking) and see if there's a kitchen you can rent. I called and called and begged and cajoled and got turned down by everyone from day spas to bakeries to churches; then I literally had one land in my lap because I put out the word that I needed a kitchen, and my insurance guy (of all people) knew a guy who runs two restaurants locally and is really into entrepeneurial people like myself, who said, "no problem--you can use it anytime" without even meeting me!

Call local clubs, churches, schools, and mom-and-pop restaurants or afternoon/evening cafes or non-cake bakeries and see if you can find someone who will rent to you or work with you. They're out there; they're just hard to find.

Also, google "incubator kitchen" in your area. I found two here, but both are at least a 30-40 minute drive away and not too feasible for me.

Don't give up! Licensing costs almost nothing and can be done online through your state. Insurance costs like 80 a month (here), find a kitchen to rent and you're good to go. thumbs_up.gif

Then if you get busy, you can look into renting an actual shop or building one.

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berryblondeboys Posted 2 Oct 2006 , 8:18pm
post #19 of 71

Thank you for the encouragement. It makes me feel a bit better. I guess if the only thing I have to "deal" with is a double sink which I don't have yet, then it's probably possible to get a double sink wihtout breaking up the kitchen! LOL I'll have to wait to get my packet (ordered it today) and go from there.

The good thing is - I made ONE cake this weekend for a girlfriend and another girlfriend emailed me today asking if I could make her cake, so I suppose this is POSSIBLE!!!


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Chef_Stef Posted 2 Oct 2006 , 10:22pm
post #20 of 71

Well, there you go! thumbs_up.gif

It sounds like you're on the right track. It's do-able; it's just not a simple-simon business to jump into and start up in some states.

Keep us posted, of course. icon_smile.gif

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naiyah Posted 3 Oct 2006 , 2:54am
post #21 of 71

Hi Everyone!
I just want to thank you for sharing your experiences and insights! I've been hesitant to heavily "advertise" my new venture because of the legal ramifications. icon_sad.gif

Homecook is soooo right on the money (pun intended), all it takes is ONE disgruntled (no matter how big or small the issue) icon_evil.gif client/co-worker/competing business owner/friend/relative or stranger to make that call to the Health Dept and we're talking massive legal red tape, financial sanctions, and/or jail time. I should know, I live in CA (the sue-happy state) and I work for a local government branch. icon_cry.gif

I also know too well w/ the frustration of wanting to share our beautiful creations of love (yeah, it's cliche & cheezy but true) w/o proper licensing, but I think having a peace of mind overwhelmingly outweighs the stress of constantly looking over my
shoulder. Ugh...I feel ya... icon_wink.gif

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mkolmar Posted 3 Oct 2006 , 5:58pm
post #22 of 71

ok, I'm glad I read this thread. I've been on the fence on this one! my brain tells me to not sell cake in MI illegally, but my heart has been telling me to do it because it's been very difficult in MI to get things started. I'm calling VFW's, Halls and's been a ruff road, but I look at it as may be right now is not the good time I think it is and a higher being is making sure I'm ok first. icon_razz.gif

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CupCake13 Posted 4 Oct 2006 , 6:34pm
post #23 of 71

I'm in a state that doesn't allow home bakers. icon_cry.gif
I'm very worried about going farther than I am right now (just doing a couple of cakes here and there) because the woman I used to work for (she has a bakery) is the vindictive sort. It's sad really. She never believed I decorated cakes and wouldn't even ever give me a chance. So, I'm doing it on my own, quietly. icon_biggrin.gif I'm working on perhaps getting the church kitchens. We're building a new building, so I'm not sure how that will go.

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emf7701 Posted 4 Oct 2006 , 7:12pm
post #24 of 71

i too have been struggling with the whole "should i get licensed" question. in ohio you can either be licensed or consider yourself a "cottage industry". for now i've chosen the latter. i have labels that i put on my cakes telling of all the ingredients, weight of product, the fact that it was "home produced".... getting licensed in ohio looks pretty easy. a kitchen inspection and a $10 yearly fee. but then you have to pay taxes. most of the cakes i make are for family and friends. family i don't charge for and friends i do, although i'm sure i'm not chargling nearly enough! in the last year i think i "made" $170..... $70 of which went towards supplies. i am not paying taxes on that last $100! that's crazy. so maybe someday, if i get more customers, i'd get licensed. i would love to do weddings.... but that probably won't happen until i am licensed, since a lot of places don't allow un-lincesed people to bring cakes into their venues. unti then, i'll just keep baking for family and friends and consider it practice!

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imartsy Posted 4 Oct 2006 , 7:42pm
post #25 of 71

I was just thinking - where ARE you supposed to come up with this magical money to get licensed? I mean if you can't sell them to start with - how are you supposed to be able to expand? You have to make some money before you can open up a business - a lot of people will start a business, make a little money, and THEN make it legal when they can afford to do so - it only makes sense really. If you aren't making any money, why pay someone for a license, rent, etc.? And if you can't or aren't or don't want to make enough cakes to have your own bakery/kitchen - then why SHOULD you have to be legal to sell at all? Maybe there could be a happy medium - like if you make over $600 a year in cakes, you have to pay taxes and you have to have your business legalized - if you make less than that, you can sell out of your home with a twice yearly inspection by the health department or something to make sure your home isn't infested w/ nasty bugs and your flour doesn't have critters in it and is sitting next to the dog bowl or something......

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emf7701 Posted 5 Oct 2006 , 2:23am
post #26 of 71


agreed! and in ohio $600 happens to be the limit. if you make under that, you don't have to file any taxes... unless you are licensed. if you make $10 and you're licensed you pay taxes on that. RIDICULOUS! for now, i'll stick to being a "cottage baker"!

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imartsy Posted 5 Oct 2006 , 2:43am
post #27 of 71

Same law in KY - I think maybe anywhere - if you make less than $600 as an "independent contractor" or "business owner" - you don't have to pay taxes on it. Seeing as how I haven't made that much on cakes as of yet, I don't feel I should have to become legal and/or pay taxes on the tiny little bit I've earned selling a couple of cakes - besides, once it's sold, the evidence is eaten, right?? icon_lol.gif

---I'm not saying we shouldn't pay taxes - I just sometimes feel the IRS taxes even the taxes! And I'm not talking about hundreds and thousands of dollars being unaccounted for - I'm talking about money from like babysitting or selling some homemade jam or a cake for a tiny bit of money - not something you would charge someone else sales tax for and then "withhold" it from the gov't - hope that all makes sense!

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Julisa Posted 5 Oct 2006 , 3:01am
post #28 of 71

HI! SOOOO very glad someone asked this simple question. If you have to pay taxes on the money you make selling cakes, can't all your supplies be deducted as business expenses? I mean if you are going to go to the trouble of "making it leagal", then go the distance and clame every grain of sugar.

I don't know what it takes to get leagal here in Texas, but it doesn't surprize me that the fine is so large. Everything is bigger in texas. Lucy us. Like Harris County, Brazoria County doesn't allow any food products to be taken to school as snacks or treats unless it is pre-packaged.

I am now going to have nightmares about getting sued. I just passed out "card" at my daughters dance class and got an order for the 21st. icon_eek.gif

Also, what does the abbrv. "DH" stand for? I see everyone using it and have no clue as to whom they are reffering. icon_rolleyes.gif

Thanks for all the posts on this subject.

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mbalis Posted 5 Oct 2006 , 3:09am
post #29 of 71

DH = dear husband

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RisqueBusiness Posted 5 Oct 2006 , 3:13am
post #30 of 71

In Florida I don' t charge tax on my cake sales, only on food that is consumed on premis.

I got my coupon book and freaked out, I finally calmed down when I called the IRS! lol

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