Exception To The Rule...advice Needed

Business By cakesbycathy Updated 4 Oct 2008 , 4:38am by CakeMommie

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cakesbycathy Posted 29 Sep 2008 , 7:22pm
post #1 of 41

I have it in my contract that I am to be the sole provider of cake. Also, under normal circumstances, I would never decorate a cake baked by someone else. However, I find myself in a unique situation and would appreciate some advice...

A bride I am working with has a gluten/wheat allergy. It runs in her family and approximately 2 dozen of her guests also have this allergy. She asked me about doing the regular wedding cake and also a smaller gluten free cake. I do not make gluten free cakes and am not going to attempt one. I strongly suggested she (or the wedding planner) call around to find a bakery to provide the smaller cake. Apparently they were unsuccessful (or couldn't find someone who was within their budget).

Now the MOB is planning on baking the smaller cake (since she has made gluten free desserts to accomodate her family). They are calling it the groom's cake. They would like me to decorate it.

Normally I would never do this, but I feel that in this case it is a special circumstance. This cake will only be served to the bride and the guests with the allergy.

I made it clear to the wedding planner that there would still be a charge for the decorating. But, I am at a loss as to what to charge, since normally I charge per slice. I am not even sure about the design yet, although according the the wedding planner they are leaning towards having it decorated similar to the wedding cake. I am meeting with them on Saturday, but need to work up a price quote for the planner before then.

Any advice on this is greatly appreciated!


40 replies
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janelwaters Posted 29 Sep 2008 , 7:27pm
post #2 of 41

How much do you charge per serving - can you charge a percentage of that? Like (just examples) if you charge, say $3 per serving - can you charge $1.5 to decorate and still make money??

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-K8memphis Posted 29 Sep 2008 , 7:36pm
post #3 of 41

I'm just wondering--is a flourless chocolate cake gluten free? I mean those are really simple if they are--they should be gluten free huh no flour. Then you can charge extra for it too 'cause it's uber special order.

But I would probably decorate that cake they are providing for practically nothing--just a border and some scrolls or something--shoot just toss it on & go y'know? I mean that's how I'm feeling right now. But I mean if it's as much as emptying a coupla bags of icing--just squirt it out & away you go.

I don't think I'd charge--I mean if they got me talked into them doing a cake in the first place I'd toss it in & pray for a nice tip. Either way I'd be happy doing it.

If it's gotta be a chichifoofoo decor then that's different--I'd kaching it. Like $3 a serving prolly. Y'know depends on the amount of bling.

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Laura102777 Posted 29 Sep 2008 , 7:37pm
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Given that it's a small cake, I'm not sure I wouldn't charge full price. Maybe take a negligible amount off for the fact that you don't have money invested in ingredients, but especially with small cakes the price is mostly for the decorating anyway. I probably wouldn't deduct more than 20% off what my full asking price for that style of cake would be.

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OhMyGanache Posted 29 Sep 2008 , 7:41pm
post #5 of 41

It would almost be the same as decorating a dummy cake. The cost/time is in the decorating - not the baking. I would charge the same as what you would normally charge. This cake may be harder to work with than your normal cake too!

I bake items that are gluten free - and some recipes are OK, and some (because of the lack of gluten) fall apart easily. Frankly, it might be more of a headache than it's worth. Why not have them serve it from the kitchen (such as sheet cakes) and then it won't need to be decorated?

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-K8memphis Posted 29 Sep 2008 , 7:44pm
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Here's the deal, it is very likely to be homely looking yes? So you want to be charitable and not allow statements like "Omg can you believe she charged x amount for that?" You want a nice distinct separation there --a nice buffer -- that your good deed goes rewarded and it does not bite you in the boo.

Everyone needs to know the relative made that cake--and that you merely blessed it as best you could under the circumstances.

Just some gluten free thoughts pour vous.

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LKing12 Posted 29 Sep 2008 , 7:51pm
post #7 of 41

Decorating is a whole lot more than baking. You are being paid for your skill and time. 75% of the total would be more than fair.

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sassycleo Posted 29 Sep 2008 , 7:52pm
post #8 of 41

Problem with that is no one is going to care that you charged for it. I like the idea of serving it as kitchen cake. Still charge for that though just like you would with anyone else. And yes really there is not difference with this cake then a dummy so find out what size it is going to be, 1 layer vs 2 layer figure out if you made a normal cake what would you have charged and then deduct 20%. I agree you may be in for a challenge with this cake, who knows what type of pans and such she's using, are thing going to be straight sided sharp corners if it is a square.

Personally I would ask them how these cakes hold up, because if they do fall apart easily I would pass and tell them to serve it as a kitchen cake. You don't want to be in the middle of decorating it for them and have it completely fall apart because who is going to replace it? Too much liability on this one personally . Ok ya got my two cents icon_smile.gif

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Deb_ Posted 29 Sep 2008 , 8:15pm
post #9 of 41

If it were me I'd respectfully decline. Not because the cake may fall apart or anything like that.

If these people have gluten/wheat allergies, how can you guarantee that the cake will not come in contact with something they're allergic to while in your possession? Too much of a headache and too much liablility risk.

Your contract states you do not decorate anyone else's baked goods, so why defer from the contract? That's why we have contracts, to protect every party involved.

I know it's a unique situation, but I strongly feel it is in your best interest to decline that request. I would tell them that after further thought, you really don't feel comfortable going against your policies that are clearly stated in the contract. Suggest it as a kitchen cake and let the mom make the icing and decorate it.

Whenever you feel "iffy" about a situation, it's always better to go with your gut. Good luck with whatever you decide icon_smile.gif

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cakesbycathy Posted 29 Sep 2008 , 8:15pm
post #10 of 41

Thanks for your responses!

Using it as a kitchen cake is not really an option. Since the bride has the gluten allergy she and the groom will be cutting into and eating this cake for their photo/feeding each other thing.

The MOB is only baking. I'll decorate, so it shouldn't look "homely" (knock on wood). But I've never dealt with this kind of cake before, so I had no idea how easily they fall apart! Will it be possible to pop it in the freezer for a while to firm it up if necessary?

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-K8memphis Posted 29 Sep 2008 , 8:24pm
post #11 of 41

But the cake might fall apart--the ones where I used to work did all the time.

Yeah, they don't stack too cool. They don't bake too high has been my experience where I used to work. They were like the grand canyon--just loaded with cracks. But I'm sure there's better ones out there, like flourless chocolate cakes. Hmm we made eggless cakes too so maybe I'm getting 'em mixed up--but no they came out homely.

I would let them ice and I'd pipe. That's all though.

Good Luck!!

Let us know what you decide and how it goes.

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sassycleo Posted 29 Sep 2008 , 8:26pm
post #12 of 41

I didn't even think about the fact of it coming into contact with something with glueten in it. Good save on that one.

I know two people with this allergy and seriously if they eat anything at all that has it (it's not just flour) they become REALLY sick. I wouldn't take that risk of ruining a bride's day because of something she ate.

Oh and don't for a second think that they haven't thought about this issue ahead of time. Knowing you don't do the glueton free cakes and they still chose you. Let them make the cake and decorate it. It can still be a kitchen cake with a slice already cut placed nicely on a plate behind the wedding cake. Let them cut the real cake and then her piece will be right there for him to feed to her.

When it comes to allergies you are taking a HUGE risk. What's to say that the caterer messes up and she gets sick. She's going to have it in her mind that it could possibly be the cake since you have already stated you didn't do them.

If you are going to throw caution to the wind and decorate it for them, then good luck have them sign a waiver or something. Have her bake you a cake in advance so you can practice and charge 80% of what you would normally charge.

Good Luck!

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-K8memphis Posted 29 Sep 2008 , 8:26pm
post #13 of 41

Y'know what else though??? The mob is gonna be busy and distracted and this does not seem like a good idea.

I was gonna say--do a test run but then I started thinking man, what if the test run is great and the mob bombs it for the real deal.


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sassycleo Posted 29 Sep 2008 , 8:28pm
post #14 of 41

Oh and on the homely comment I agree with K8, so the mob is baking, how well does she bake, what pans does she use etc. That cake could come looking like total crap that even the best decorator couldn't cover up - just be prepared and like I suggested a few min. ago ask them to bake you a practice cake which you have every right in asking for to make sure all bases are covered and you have a damage control plan in place. They will eat that line up!!

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sassycleo Posted 29 Sep 2008 , 8:30pm
post #15 of 41

Freeze the test run cake just in case. If she just base iced it she should be able to freeze it - although I don't know how the thaw process for this type of cake would be.

Too many variables what ifs and chances for disaster. Where are you located maybe someone here can help you recommend a good inexpensive to moderate expensive place that would do the cake.

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keyshia Posted 29 Sep 2008 , 8:35pm
post #16 of 41

When my son was 1 he had a wheat allergy...I found a gluten free cake for his first birthday. The recipe I had ended up being very similar to a regular yellow cake. It baked up nice and tall and was fairly sturdy (I only made him a 6 in round since it was only for him). I was surprised at how moist the cake was as well as how good it tasted. I had to have several people taste it because it did NOT taste like I would ahve thought with the stuff in it. If you decide to bake the cake, the ingredients can be costly...like xanthan gum, which is like $12 for a small bag that you only use about a tablespoon out of (unless you wanted the bride to supply since they probably have some on hand).

My son has since gotten over his wheat allergy but is now deadly allergic to nuts (ALL nuts). If you are going to ice the cake, I'd suggest making sure all the counters, utensils etc have been cleaned with hot soapy water (and/or counter cleaner) I would not make anything else around the cake, it's easy for things to be cross contaminated...and if need be, I'd box it up and put it where it wouldnt' be ANYWHERE near the other things the potentially have flour in them. I can share the recipe if you'd like, I think it would be a great service if you were able to do it...to me it would take customer service above and beyond. icon_smile.gif Good luck. I think I'd do it!


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Deb_ Posted 29 Sep 2008 , 8:43pm
post #17 of 41

I just had another thought.

Will the MOB be supplying the icing too? Conf. Sug., has cornstarch in it , doesn't cornstarch have gluten? Does all CS have cornstarch? I know I'm probably overthinking icon_cry.gif

Food allergies are so serious, if you're not a "gluten free" baker it's hard to guarantee a "gluten free" product, even if they bake it it's been in your "not gluten free" kitchen. icon_confused.gif

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cakesbycathy Posted 29 Sep 2008 , 8:45pm
post #18 of 41

This whole thing is giving me a headache icon_rolleyes.gif

I am in Cleveland. I'm not sure which bakeries they called around to.

I like the idea of the MOB providing a "test run" cake, to see how it bakes up. Maybe I could freeze it in case the actual cake for the wedding turns out disasterous.

I am definitely going to have them sign a waiver, releasing me from any responsibility in case anything happens.

I need to have a chat with the wedding planner...

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chelleb1974 Posted 29 Sep 2008 , 8:55pm
post #19 of 41

I do not believe that Cornstarch has wheat gluten in it. My friend's son is on a gluten free diet (no milk products either), and I make his bday cake every year. I buy a special cake mix for him, and use my regular buttercream frosting (Wilton class buttercream - no butter or milk).

Might not be the same circumstances and your bride and groom, but it's my $.02.


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sassycleo Posted 29 Sep 2008 , 9:58pm
post #20 of 41

Cherry Brook Kitchen has eggless and glueten free products. I tasted the eggless and while I wasn't thrilled with it, it wasn't that bad. I have to say though the mixes are WAY expensive 5.29 I think for a box and bake half as high if not smaller then a regular mix. I know the cake I did that was eggless the cost for the cake alone was $20 yup my cost.

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Jorre Posted 30 Sep 2008 , 6:08am
post #21 of 41

Whole Foods sells a boxed cake mix that is gluten-free.

It's no more difficult than a regular cake mix and while the texture is a lil different, it tastes very good. I ran all the utensils/pans/etc.. through my dishwasher for an extra wash before making the cake.

I cleaned my whole kitchen, made/decorated the allergy cake. boxed it up and put it away. Then I made the regular cake, I didn't want to take any chances that things could get mixed up.

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-K8memphis Posted 30 Sep 2008 , 9:39am
post #22 of 41

My own personal and steadfast rule is no allergy cakes. I prepared allergy food for my kid in his early days and I used up my allotment of patience for making special diet food. I actually used up all my patience altogether but that's another story. icon_biggrin.gif

But still yet anything that might end in an epi pen is not anything I will be a party to.

Your other issue is that of encroachment. People with special food requirements are really needy and in general many of them press with all due diligence to get their way--which is what is happening to you. You will be the poster child baker for all their special needs. Your name will get around as 'the one', their shining star bakerette, can make all their dreams come true

Like I said, I had a special needs kid and I understand the dilemas they face but there's no way I'm gonna risk somebody getting sick over some of my food. No way. That's the risk you are taking. To me they are wrong to ask you and clearly wrong-er to press you when it's a life and death issue. And times 20? Give (me) you a break.

That's why I said have her bake and ice it--and you squirt on some basic Wilton 101 decor at the reception. Yes it's too bad the bride has an allergy yes it's too bad 20 members of the family have issues BUT it's not your responsibility. It's a medical problem. Fini!

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Mike1394 Posted 30 Sep 2008 , 9:45am
post #23 of 41

Why don't you get the recipe, and do it yourself?


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deliciously_decadent Posted 30 Sep 2008 , 10:02am
post #24 of 41

i have done this before as i do not work with fruit cake i HATE it (sorry if you love it but i don't - did i say i hate it???) so a brides mother cracked it as she has made all her other daughters cakes (not quite sure just how many she has but anyhoo) so the bride decided to shut the mother up she could bake the top tier as i had already quoted the cake i charged the full price they never said a word. i figured if they wanted to decorate the cake they would have done it themselves so they were paying me to decorate it. if i was to have to do it again and charge acordingly i would charge $1 per seve less than what i would to do the whole cake as it is the decoration that costs the most not the actual cake.

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cakesbycathy Posted 30 Sep 2008 , 2:29pm
post #25 of 41

I was able to find a gluten free cake mix! So, I am going to attempt to see what happens. IF I can make it successfully, the I will bake the groom's cake and we will tell MOB that since she will be so busy with all the other wedding stuff, this will be one less thing for her to worry about.

Thanks again for all your responses!

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jr33176 Posted 30 Sep 2008 , 2:35pm
post #26 of 41

I had a family that I decorated gluten free cakes for. The mother baked the cakes and I only decorated them. When we first worked together, I gave her my list of ingredients for the royal icing, fondant and buttercream so she could review them. Before I began decorating I made sure everything was extremely clean. I used all disposable decorating bags, parchment paper and freezer paper to cover work surfaces, etc.

At the events, the mother made an announcement stating that she baked this gluten free cake and that I had decorated them with gluten free decorations. I charged about 75% of my regular cost and agree with everyone here that it is the decorating you are mostly charging for, not so much the ingredients.

This family was extremely appreciate of my decorating as they were unable to find any bakery in the area that provided gluten free products. They told me several times that with our arrangements, their children and family could celebrate occassions with beautiful cakes "just like everyone else".

In the end, you have to do what is most comfortable for you. If you feel good about working with the bride and her mother, then hold a meeting before you decide. You can be honest about your concerns, ask questions about logistics, etc. You may be surprised at how easy they are to work with. Folks with serious allergies are used to paying extra and making special arrangements to protect their health. Good luck!

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CoutureCake Posted 1 Oct 2008 , 4:35am
post #27 of 41

Here's what I do... SIL has Celiac's so I've gotten used to converting my kitchen over to do gluten free work (cake, breads, etc.).. The thing is, you've got to make sure your flavorings are also Gluten/wheat Free!!! It's not that difficult after a while because you learn to make sure everything is sterilized properly before starting and that there is no flour residue on the mixer or anything like that. I also wear gloves as an added precaution. In other words, an extra case of cleaning and they're the first things you bake/decorate before starting the rest of the cakes.

I'm not afraid to say that I use a mix called "Namaste" brand (www.namastefoods.com) that is easily available for me in chocolate and spice (which can be converted into carrot as well)... Because it's a brand that most people with Celiac's trust and they know there is a lesser chance of cross-contamination. Other than the mix and making sure everything is sterilized, there isn't much else for differences. The mix also helps to ensure you don't mess anything up, but I also have a clause in my contract that I'm not responsible in the case of anyone eating something they're allergic or have an intolerance to. Another icing that's o.k. to use is Rich's Bettercreme. I contacted them to ask and it's made in a wheat and dairy free facility.

The thing is, it's just not as complicated as it seems for the wheat/gluten free once you do it. Sure it's a pain in the rear, but it's not that different from decorating a regular wedding cake.

As for what to do, I think this is a good case to make an exception for I usually will offer them an exemption from the clause as long as I know about everything that is coming in (say they're having cookies and brownies brought in) and still refuse delivery if it's something like Sam's sheet cakes. I would put it on your sheet and talk it over with the caterers/cake cutter that the Groom's cake is Wheat/Gluten free so that there is no cross-contamination from that end. You don't want to go through the trouble of either giving them an exemption then the caterer/cake cutters/servers messing things up.

Good luck!!!! We just did this for a wedding on the 20th and the photographer was like "The picture of the cake is on us, this is the first cake my wife has been able to eat since getting diagnosed with Celiac's 9 or 10 months ago!! THANKYOU!!!!" (I also gave the gal the name of the brand I use so she can have that option added to her diet because it really is a challenging condition to have and anytime you can add a menu item back in they're happy as a clam!)...

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ceshell Posted 1 Oct 2008 , 5:26am
post #28 of 41

To add more options that you probably dont' even want to consider LOL, I will tell you that I have baked four gf cakes and used two as the actual cakes (i.e. there were two different occasions), and both of those were plenty sturdy. Now, the first was indeed a flourless chocolate cake as previously suggested (aka "truffle cake"). Heaven on a fork...although they are quite flat. You could stack two of them with layer of raspberry puree between but it's SUPER rich (and delicious...but rich) so that might be overkill, I mean most people can only eat a sliver of a cake like that (and then I eat all of the rest icon_biggrin.gif).

The second one I used as a finished cake was from this thread http://forum.cakecentral.com/modules.php?name=Forums&file=viewtopic&t=522883&postdays=0&postorder=asc&highlight=glutenfree&&start=0 it was the Hershey's one, which requires a minimum of special ingredients (and NO xanthan gum).

If you don't like the mix you are trying, with this recipe you can ensure the cake actually tastes GOOD if your name is to be attached to it. And of course the whole, being able to survey the cake prior to decorating it to make sure you feel it will hold up. This Hershey's gf cake was the top cake of my "diaper caddy" cake in my gallery, and supported a styrofoam phony cake extension (i.e. to make the cake as tall as a basket; it was only a 3-layer cake) and all the stuff in the caddy. Oh and it tasted like normal cake too. I didn't tell anyone it was gf till after they'd eaten it icon_smile.gif. The yellow cake in that thread was also VERY good and seemed sturdy although I only did a test cake, not a decorated finished product. But it was moist and, well, cakelike, a little dense (in a good way) and did not seem prone to crumbling.

I agree about the major concerns of cross-contamination in your kitchen, but my first thought is, well that will still be a concern for icing anyway so gluten-proofing your kitchen will already be a given. Flour residue on the mixer, oh yes, man that stuff gets into every nook and cranny of my mixer. I pretty much *heart* everything CoutureCake said!! icon_lol.gif [Hey thanks for that Bettercreme tip! I couldn't figure out if Pastry Pride was gf because it lists "natural flavors" (major gf no-no because it doesn't indicate if any of those flavors are wheat-based) so it is good to know there is a nondairy option for gf whipped icing.]

Oh and no, corn starch does not have gluten in it. You are thinking of "modified food starch" which may contain gluten and so must be avoided. It must be labeled as "corn starch" to be safe.

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CoutureCake Posted 1 Oct 2008 , 5:37am
post #29 of 41

Just thought of this... McCormik (sp?) is gluten free for their flavorings... So it's not like GF flavorings are difficult to come by either...

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all4cake Posted 1 Oct 2008 , 6:20am
post #30 of 41

There's a dumpload of ingredients that you may use in your icing that may contain gluten...

I found this list...


flavorings, artificial flavorings...I definitely would agree with the others to have them do the WHOLE thing and use it as a kitchen cake

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