Wedding Cake Jitters

Decorating By whitleyjean Updated 8 Jan 2016 , 7:11pm by Apti

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whitleyjean Posted 6 Jan 2016 , 2:29pm
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Hi y'all,

I have a coworker that asked me to make her daughters wedding cake a few months ago. The wedding is in June. The problem is, I have never done a wedding cake. I am a hobby baker that enjoys making celebration cakes out of my home. The picture she sent me is the trendy cream rosette cake w/burlap decor. It doesn't look too complicated...if I could do it in my home. As time goes by, I am beginning to panick. I don't deliver, but this will require me to. I typically only make 1 layer cakes. I have made 2 layer cakes for my family only--so I know nothing about stacking and traveling. This will be at least a 4 tier cake--she wants it to feed 200. (When discussing logistics of the tiers rececntly after I inquired what her daughter wanted, she added, "Oh, we'll have a groom's cake too." I don't know if that means she is expecting me to do that too, or not. I don't have the bigger pans, so would have to invest in those. And I usually do a mixture of ermine frosting & buttercream. Do you frost it at the venue??? I am worried about having enough (I won't be able to cook on the spot at the venue if I need more), and also about it melting in the TX heat (although she said it will be inside, then moved outside to be cut--which still makes me nervous). How do you keep the burlap from getting oily? Help! I haven't even discussed pricing. Everytime I sit down to try and come up with a plan, it makes me think I need to just tell her I won't be able to do it. How do I let her down nicely & professionally?? TIA

14 replies
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Webake2gether Posted 6 Jan 2016 , 2:59pm
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If you want to opt out of doing the cake I would politely tell them that at this time you are unable to fulfill the cake for them and that you wanted to give them as much notice as possible so they can secure another baker for their cake. 

Its my professional opinion not to take paid orders on something that you are not familiar with. We have reached a point in our business where I am not comfortable taking orders on multiple tiered cakes until we've mastered them on practice cakes first. I don't want to be responsible for ruining someone's wedding cake at all lol. Of course there will be things we've never done before that a customer will request but when there are more questions than I've got answers for or more confusion than clear direction I won't do it. I'm not saying that with some research and some practice you couldn't accomplish this cake for them but the reality is if you can't what will they do especially if you don't realize it until it's too late for them to find someone else. Do you have a baker you could refer them to? That would help when telling them you can't if that is what you choose to do. 

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Snowflakebunny23 Posted 6 Jan 2016 , 3:42pm
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I'm with WeBake2gether.  I will not offer something unless I have done it or, can do a good few tests before the big day (and then I will put a caveat at the consultation that it may not be possible).  Have you already said that you would do this?  And does the Bride know that you have never done this sort of thing before??  There is a BIG difference between someone asking you to do a small wedding cake of 2 tiers, then maybe some cupcakes and then a 4+ tier giant!  A BIG difference.  I am feeling a big hypocritical here as my first tiered cake was a 4-tier wedding cake for a friend when I was a student but, while it was a success, I was a total nervous wreck for the month beforehand.  I didn't enjoy it and I didn't enjoy the wedding (my fiancé was best man).  The difference was it was a simple white cake with butterflies on it, stacked indoor in a typical british Summer...i.e no more than 20 degrees and raining!

The problem you have is time.  You have time to practice BUT if you then decide it is too much, the Bride does not have time to make other arrangements.  If you are a guest at the wedding, I would be very cautious.

Few tips to start you off...

- I would stack on site.  Make sure you have a good stacker system and work out a way of covering any joins.  Beading, buttercream etc.  Delivery is (in my view) the most terrifying part of making wedding cake.  I have transported 4-tiers before and it is not fun. A 4-tier BC cake would always be transported either in 2 pieces or in separate tiers for me.

- Research and practice levelling, filling and stacking.  This is vital and MUST Be done properly.  I think that the SPS system is the most popular in the US so have a look at that.

- Keep everything with your current level of ability in terms of decorations.  Then at least the only 'new' thing is the tiers.  If they want other stuff, explain your situation and suggest they look elsewhere.  You want to be able to enjoy your first wedding cake and have confidence in it.

- Make sure you take a BIG apron if you are delivering and attending the wedding.  Buttercream makes a mess!  Also take a good repair kit with spares of everything and a piping bag of buttercream.

- I think chilling the cakes is the norm in the hotter climes? I can't advice on bringing it outside for cutting but I suspect that if it is just for a short time, it would be ok providing it was properly doweled and stacked.

- As for the Hessian (burlap), look at an edible burlap lace mould.  Same effect but edible and you don't have to worry about grease or hairy bits.  These mats are expensive though so, if you buy one, make sure the cost is covered.

- I can't tell from your post if you have the legal paperwork in place to bake from your home and sell them (and I certainly don't want to start that whole discussion here) but, if you don't and are just doing it for your colleague as a friend, have you/they checked that the venue will allow the cake to be served?  I know some venues insist on you being a registered company etc for health and safety with it being a food product.

Personally, I would think very very hard about doing this.  It sounds like there will be a lot of things which you have not dealt with before and, I know I would not want that sort of stress. 

Good luck and I hope you reach a decision you are happy with. xx

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Webake2gether Posted 6 Jan 2016 , 5:35pm
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@Snowflakebunny23  we just did a cake that while we have practiced stacked cakes this one was riddled with problems. It started off fun and exciting and the more we did with it the more I began hating the whole thing. If I could go back there are soooo many things I would've done differently. So even with quite a bit of cake experience and some stacking practice this cake about killed me I'm sure I took a couple of years off my life with the stress. So I learned the hard way even though we may have done a few doesn't mean we've got it down. the customer loved the cake said it was perfect I can't help but feel like it wasn't worth it. Funny part is my husband did a majority of the work involved so why I was stressed out so bad I don't know lol. You made some very valid points and some really great suggestions so I second what you said :)

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Gingerlocks Posted 6 Jan 2016 , 6:47pm
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I agree with a lot of what's been said. It's better to come out and say "this cake is just over my head and I would rather disappoint you now than risk an even bigger disappointment on the wedding day", and hopefully they will understand that.

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SweetNeddy Posted 6 Jan 2016 , 7:03pm
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I agree... never take on a paid cake  - especially for something as important as a wedding - if you feel it's over your head. This is no time to practice! If you're comfortable with smaller cakes and cupcakes, maybe suggest a cupcake display (these can have the buttercream rosettes) and a small cake for cutting. You can easily tri, or cover,  the display stand with burlap, too. Cupcakes are easy to manage for the venue as well - no cutting.

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whitleyjean Posted 6 Jan 2016 , 8:13pm
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Thank you for your replies! @Webake2gether, that is exactly where I am at...more questions than answers! I am comfortable telling random customers no for projects that are above my level (or that I don't see as a good fit for me, creatively or otherwise). But, I am having a hard time telling her no because I know her. Her daughter has babysat for me, and she herself is a coworker. They both know I do this only as a hobby, and have seen/sampled my work. I have to wonder if she is asking me because she thinks it might be cheaper, she can't find a professional baker locally that is available for that date, or if she just really likes my cakes. I immediately told  her I was nervous, but that I would look at what she wanted. The next conversation was when I brought up my lack of knowledge again (on wedding cakes) and asked for details & expectations. We briefly reviwed serving charts and pictures. She took notes and was going to talk with her daughter about the final look. I haven't heard anything yet, which is why I think it would be a good time to give her the bad news. @Snowflakebunny23, I too think delivery is terrifying which is why I don't do it. I should clarify, I did do a very simple 2 tier wedding cake this summer for my brother, and it turned out fine, but I was a nervous wreck. I would be comfortable doing hers, if it were only 2 tiers. (I said I had made 2 layer cakes before, I meant 2 tiers--layered & filled--for family only & my brother's wedding cake was the only one I have ever done or delivered). Stacking 4 tiers is brand new to me. The only decoration would be wrapping the burlap around. And, that is the other thing...depending on what size tiers they want...I don't know that I even have enough fridge space to chill it all. Good point about the venue requiring registration. I hadn't thought to ask that question. I think the overall feeling I have had is too many questions, stress & investment involved for a product I am not 100% sure I woud be satisfied providing. And I don't want to ruin anyone's wedding day for sure!  

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Webake2gether Posted 6 Jan 2016 , 9:04pm
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@whitleyjean  I can understand not wanting to tell them you can't do it but my gut says you'll be doing yourself a favor not doing it. Honestly you'll have to take your feelings out of the equation or you'll likely find yourself feeling worse if it didn't turn out right or they weren't satisfied. And just bc you'd be doing it cheaper doesn't mean they wouldn't complain and it could potentially ruin the coworker relationship you have with the mother. 

Im a business and as cold and impersonal as this may sound if my grandma wanted a cake she would be treated as a stranger not a family member business and personal don't mix. Even when people I know place an order and share good news I don't react on a personal level when I'm operating as a business I'm a business my feelings can't be a factor. 

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whitleyjean Posted 7 Jan 2016 , 12:59am
post #9 of 15

Thank you for the feedback! :-)

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reginaherrin Posted 7 Jan 2016 , 11:19pm
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I agree with everyone else, if you are worried about it its better to tell then no now so they can find someone else.  I know you feel bad about saying no but think of it this way, what is something happened to the cake and you either damaged it during delivery or it fell down when you stacked it.  Would totally ruin her wedding.  It took me over a year to start doing wedding cakes because I was so afraid of ruining a brides big day.  And it will be a big cake, to feed that many people you would have to do an 8",10",12", 14" (which I hate doing anything bigger then a 6" topper).  I too am in Texas so very familiar with our heat and I advise all my customers to do fondant during summer.  Most people already want fondant but some are very against it but I don't want my cakes melting.  Also, on burlap, I never put it on buttercream because it sheds so much and will pull off your buttercream.  If you do end up doing the cake I would suggest doing the tiers with the burlap in fondant, stacking the bottom 2 tiers before you deliver it and stack the other 2 when you get there and chilling all the cakes very well so they hold up better when delivering.  I would also not advise the cake to be moved once you stack it, moving a tiered cake can cause it to fall and is just not a smart move.

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costumeczar Posted 8 Jan 2016 , 3:48am
post #11 of 15

I'm with everyone else on,no,no,no,no,no,no. This sounds like pure stress for you, it's not worth it.

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remnant3333 Posted 8 Jan 2016 , 5:36am
post #12 of 15

Everyone here has good advice!!! I am very much in agreement with it not being smart to move a tiered cake once it has already been stacked!! I have heard some horror stories of cakes falling!!  Good luck and let us know what you decide to do. 

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Apti Posted 8 Jan 2016 , 6:29am
post #13 of 15

Although my cakes were simple buttercream cakes just like the one you are planning, I was AMAZED at the time, effort, angst, worry, lack of sleep, etc. involved in this effort!  My BFF came over the day before and spent about 12 hours being my "assistant".  Yes--it WAS worth every minute and every cent--but it was also a gift of love and if it had failed, they would have been understanding and still loved me for trying. 

I strongly advise you to accept everyone's advice above and decline this project.  Choose a phrase, write it down, memorize it, and politely tell her no.   The fact that she is a co-worker is a HUGE reason to say no (think dating at work then breaking up and coming to work the following Monday--not pretty...). 

Sample phrase:  "Thank you for the enormous compliment you've offered by asking me to provide a quote to make and deliver your daughter's wedding cake, but after a great deal of research I feel this is beyond my current capabilities.  I am declining the opportunity now to give you time to order  a wedding cake from a professional bakery for the busy wedding season in June 2016."

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-K8memphis Posted 8 Jan 2016 , 6:44pm
post #14 of 15

apti -- i love your post -- very good stuff -- grandma's are very important people and need all the tlc one can supply -- and i said this before but i love your cake magnum opus  -- it's a beautiful thing to be able to supply for sucha momentous sweet family occasion -- even though some of the chicks gave you a bumpy ride serving it didn't they? they wanted lemon before you were ready to slice it or something? oh the joys huh -- occupational hazard of making/serving different flavors facepunch.png nice to have sucha bff as yours --


and to op --  good for you for not being pushed into something beyond your personal boundaries -- 

then just generally speaking:

wedding cake making is certainly not for the timid -- you do have to have pinpoint accuracy with so many factors coming into play like setting up dominoes on end in 10,000 loopdeedoos for days/weeks in advance where at just the right moment with everything perfectly balanced you step away from the cake table and in so doing knock the first domino and it all falls* into place --  it's a do or die no second chance -- but you need to have a back up plan for that too hahahaha

*shouldn't say 'falls' shudder

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Apti Posted 8 Jan 2016 , 7:11pm
post #15 of 15

K8memphis~~yes, it was the lemon lady that gave me fits.  All my large cakes since that opus have been one flavor, lol...

Your description of the pinpoint accuracy with so many factors and 10,000 loopdeedoos for weeks in advance is SO true! 

"But it's just cake"  ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha

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