Early in my cake making career I really struggled to secure clients. There are a number of factors involved, however, the MOST important factors include a great tasting cake and a promising portfolio. This blog post attempts to address these and other important areas. Please use this input to help you in your quests!
1. The CakeMake sure to perfect your cake flavor and texture. You might be ok here however, for myself (since I don't like to bake! It sure was a challenge LOL). Also, using your home as a 'test kitchen' make sure you know just how to prepare your cake samples ahead of time and preserve them for when it is tasting time. Here is exactly what I did and the cake samples were ALWAYS perfect!!:)
I prepared a batch of cupcakes in the most popular flavors that I offered (if the couple wanted a specific flavor they would request it but mostly I prepared these most popular flavors). For me this was Chocolate, Vanilla, Red Velvet, and Lemon. Then I stored them in a VERY airtight sealed container in my cake-only freezer. I would do this for maybe up to two weeks but much more than that I would worry about dryness (always test it when you are worried). Then I would take out two cupcakes of each flavor and let them come to room temperature in (a different) dry, and clean airtight sealed container. The thawing incorporates amazing moisture!!
Take out the cupcakes a few minutes before the couple arrives along with a plate of the fillings you are offering (I liked preparing the fillings plate with little tasting spoons).
With the cupcakes and fillings given separately, mixing and matching flavors was very easy for the couple!
NOTE: Each tasting lasted mostly about one hour. And whenever possible I tried scheduling them somewhat close to each other in time/day so that I wouldn't have to duplicate as many preparation steps.
2. To Charge or Not to ChargeWhen I first started my cake business I did not charge for cake tastings. If you are just starting out and have yet to build tasting experience and your portfolio this might be a good option:). However, soon after I started booking tastings and cakes much more routinely and I found just how much time tastings involved I began to charge. This is also a way to see if you client is really serious about booking with you.
By the third year of running my business my cake tastings were $40 and if a multi-tiered cake order was placed this fee would apply to their order. If the client wanted a cake tasting, however, a lower cost cake option (this is where I would utilize the 'Just the Cake' rate) then the tasting fee did not apply to the order.
3. Show Off Your Work
My favorite ways of showing off my work included display cakes and digital images. The display cakes that I would take to wedding shows were always around in the room where I held cake tastings. As for digitally I would maintain all of my cake images on my Facebook and Pinterest accounts. During cake tastings I would use a laptop (or my cell phone if I had any technical difficulties) to show clients samples of my cakes as well as research what they were looking for. This saved me a ton of time and money printing images (which is what I originally had done!)
4. The Contract
Simple or more complex, regardless, you should put something in writing. Personally I preferred a very simple contract. With a pre-designed printed template, I drew a very rough image of the cake the couple wanted. In this same document many other details are included such as wedding date and time, delivery time, flavors, fillings, colors, topper(s), stand(s), contact information, etc. Some people put many other clauses but I liked it nice and simple:).
5. Asking For A Deposit & Payment Terms
It is important to ask for a deposit prior to committing to a large cake order (actually this is true whether you do a cake tasting or not!). However, I also found that this way I had so many more details and paperwork to manage! So I also started telling couples that their cake tasting fee acted as a deposit:). If they did not do a cake tasting then I would definitely ask for a deposit. Typically my cake order deposit was a simple $50. I really preferred to keep it simple since it really helped me with the cash flow management:). However, some do half of the cake order or maybe a percentage.
As for payment terms, for large delivered wedding cake orders, I required payment one week prior to their wedding day. Cakes that were picked up were paid for at pick up with balance being the quoted amount minus their deposit. For most bakers that is much too last minute, but for management reasons it was my preference:).
Just do whatever you feel more comfortable with, however, when it comes to payment terms, always remember that you are in this to make money so ensuring you will be compensated for your work is important! I made two cakes that I did not receive any money for and collectively spent money and DAYS preparing (time and effort away from my family for literally NOTHING). The first was someone whom I didn't ask a deposit for (this is when I finally starting asking for a deposit) and the second one was a repeat customer whom always gave me a deposit. Assuming no issues, and before receiving their deposit, and AFTER confirming their order, they never picked up their cake. It really does happen!
And that's a wrap for Cake Tastings!!
Hope these steps help you with executing your next great cake tasting!!