I am opening my cake shop in about two weeks (!), and I still cannot decide how to bake for cake tastings/consultations. Loaf pans? Sheet pans? I'd like to be able to reach into the freezer and slice a serving of cake that has already been filled and iced. I've seen many bakeries that do this. Or is it best to bake fresh each time? (That cost will add up fast.) What do you do?
When we have extra batter, we bake of 6" rounds. Those can be split, filled, quartered, and frozen. Our sample plate has 4 quarters of different flavors on it.
We only do to-go tastings. For $30 the customer gets two flavors of unfrosted 6" rounds (cut up into small circles with a cookie cutter) and two small deli containers with different frosting flavors.
Most of our customers have food allergies so we always bake fresh, otherwise I would keep 6" rounds of our most popular flavors frozen to use for the tastings.
When we have extra batter of basic flavor cakes we bake 4 inch cakes to store if the freezer. I offer the customers up to 3 basic flavor choices for tastings. If the customer is interested in a specialty flavor they have to purchase a full size cake at full price. That cuts down on "cake party tastings"
I bake six inch square cakes in my basic chocolate, yellow and white flavours. Then I cut each cake into 2 inch squares which I put into plastic boxes and wrap well and freeze them until needed I make a 5 cup batch of mousseline and divide that into 1 cup portions and flavour each with fruit purees (I grown my own so it's limited to peach, strawberry, fig, chocolate - no I'm not growing cocoa bushes...yet) as well as vanilla). then I take small scoops of each flavour and freeze those separately.
When I have a tasting I just take out a square of each cake and frosting flavour the morning of the tasting , put it on the plates and cover with saran wrap and by the time the customer arrives (all my tastings are at 2 pm) they all taste fresh. If the customer wants to taste a different cake flavour, say carrot or red velvet, then I make up a six inch square just for them and save the rest for another tasting.
When I have extra batter I bake it, even if it is just enough for a 5" cake. Once the cake is completely cooled I cut the cake in 1" x 1" X however tall the cake is. I place those pieces in a zip lock sandwich baggie. I can fit about 10 pieces in each sandwich baggie. Then I put all the baggies in a large gallon size freezer bag. I have had samples for 3 months in the freezer and they still taste great.
About 45 minutes before the consultation I take 1 piece of cake/person attending the consultation (I limit my consultations to 3 people) and put it in a jello shot cup. I line up all the cups on a large platter. I do the same for fillings only I put out 1 cup of each filling - not 1/person (so if 3 people are coming there is still only 1 cup of raspberry filling). I cover the entire platter with plastic wrap so if the client is running late the samples don't dry out (I only cover cake samples - fillings don't dry out in that short of a time). The cakes only need about 15 minutes to thaw, but I like to give myself extra time for the rare occasion the client is early.
The bride tries whatever I have in my freezer. They never pick the flavors. If my lemon tastes like lemon, then it is safe to assume my strawberry tastes like strawberry, almond like almond... The purpose the consultation is to find out if they client likes my baking style, texture of cake, skill level...
I offer over 40 different cake flavors and fillings there is no way I would let them pick because I would have to bake fresh for each tasting. That would cause my cost to go up and I would have to start charging for tastings (which charging is NOT common where I live). I don't have anything posted on my website that the bride doesn't pick the flavor/fillings. I just don't offer to let them pick either through email or on the phone when scheduling the appointment. Like I said, I have only had like 2 brides ask if they can pick what they try. And I do try to have those flavors for them (if I have an order with the same flavor I make a small cake to cut samples from).
I offer way more than 2 flavors at the consultation. As a bride, I would be bummed if I only had 2 options in front of me.
I offer 5 or 6 cake flavors (depends on how many different options are sitting my freezer) and 7 fillings + buttercream (fillings also depend on what I have in the house at that time).
This allows the client to mix and match flavor combos. They also think they tried more than they really did because chocolate cake with raspberry filling is different than chocolate cake with cream cheese filling - they go to try both (which they consider 2 options) but it wasn't any more work for me. Also, serving already filled cakes may rule out an option because the person doesnt like that cake or filling. I have had several people not like cream cheese filling. It is usually a filling I offer because I always have it in the house. Now, if I served already filled cakes and my pumpkin cake was filled with cream cheese that person would miss out on trying the pumpkin cake. With the mix and match options if they dont like cream cheese they can still try the pumpkin cake with a different filling.