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How do you conduct your cake tastings?

post #1 of 88
Thread Starter 
I've been thinking about this off and on for a while now, and the other question about cake tastings posted today got me thinking about it again. I've done several tastings and each one has proceeded a little differently. I just can't seem to find a process/pattern/flow/whatever that feels right to me. So, how do you gals and guys conduct your tastings?

I tried having the customer(s) eat first then talk about cake stuff then look at pics, talk first then look at pics then eat, eat and talk at the same time then look at pics, and blah blah blah...you get the idea. icon_rolleyes.gif I feel weird just sitting there with them while they eat, so I end up talking. But, they don't want to be rude, so they stop eatting while I'm talking, which defeats the purpose of my nervous chatter. icon_redface.gificon_rolleyes.gif

I want to figure out a set method that I use each time so that I feel better prepared and more confident, and so my customers feel comfortable and recognize me as a professional at what I do. Any suggestions or experiences you want to share?

Thanks so much! icon_biggrin.gif
Sugar, spice, and everything nice;
That's what cakes are made of!


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Sugar, spice, and everything nice;
That's what cakes are made of!


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post #2 of 88
I'll share mine here if you'd like...

-I book off one Sunday (or two if I'm not booked for weddings!) per month to hold the consultations throughout the day

-I make a timetable from 10am to 7pm and fill it in with appointments each hour

-one week before the appointment dates, I email the client to re-confirm their scheduled time/give them driving directions and tell them what to bring to the appointment (i.e. fabric swatches, invites, photos from magazines, photos off my website they liked)

-the night before/morning of the consultations, I bake all my samples fresh and ice them only that day. I want the client to taste exactly how fresh their wedding cake will be, so I NEVER freeze samples!

-I greet each couple personally and sit across from them in my studio

-I introduce myself and tell them a bit about my experience, my style and how long I've been doing this (always a question because I look about 25, but I'm 32!)

-I then ask them to tell me about their wedding/theme/feel of the day/colours/flowers/guest count and I write EVERTHING down

-I ask if they want their cake to feed everyone a main dessert slice, or is it to be on a buffet table later in the evening after the meal? (great for guessing sizes/numbers they'll need)

-they show me the materials they have brought and for each item I ask what it is that they like/dislike about it (this is the BEST question, you learn so much quickly!)

-I then show examples from my portfolio of cakes that seem similar to what they are asking for and see what sketch we can come up with on the spot. I personalize their cake to exactly what colours/design/feel they are going for.

-when that is roughly decided, I bring out the freshly-baked cupcake samples with big swirls of matching buttercream on top (which are the 5 main cake flavours that I offer) though I tell them everything is personalized, so if they can think it up...I can probably make it! I do leave the room at this point so they can honestly and privately say which ones they like/don't like to each other.

(I go to my kitchen where I pack a little box of samples and wait for 5 minutes for them to eat privately.)

-after about 5 minutes, I return and they have usually chosen a flavour or flavours.

-I give them a little box of extra cupcake samples to take home to let other friends/family try it out. THEY OOOOH AND AHHHH at this every time! It costs about $2 to give them 5 extra samples packaged in a gorgeous little box, tied with a ribbon with my business card on top...and it really makes the sale!

-I always walk them to my door and shake their hands again, letting them know it was nice to have finally met them face to face and that I will email them their information package within the next 2 weeks (IF YOU SAY 2 WEEKS...THEN MAKE SURE YOU ONLY TAKE 2 WEEKS!!! THIS IS YOUR FIRST PROMISE AND YOU ARE JUDGED ON WHETHER OR NOT YOU MEET YOUR DEADLINE!!!!)

-within 10 days/2 weeks, I type up their cake quote with a great colour sketch and email it to them. They either send their deposit cheque to confirm their booking, or pass. I'd say my ratio of booking to not booking is about 12:1 and I credit it to the little things like private consultations, fresh big samples, beautiful boxes of yummy cupcakes to take home and a fun sketch of their potential wedding cake.


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post #3 of 88
Thread Starter 
Wow! Thank you so much for such a detailed reply!! I could give you a big hug right now icon_biggrin.gif That's exactly the kind of info I was needing. I've never worked in this industry for anyone else (and haven't gotten married yet, myself), so I sometimes feel like I'm stumbling around in the dark trying to figure out how other people do these kinds of things.

Honestly, after reading your reply, it all kind of clicked in my head finally. I had never thought to leave the room to let them eat privately (of course, I'm saying duh to myself now icon_rolleyes.gif ), and I have this horrible habit of spitting a quote out of my mouth just based on the number of servings (without really thinking about any extra work it may take), but I'm getting better about taking my time and calling later that week.

I love the idea of sketching a design right there with them. I'll have to practice that with some friends or family. I draw a lot, but I've never liked having people watch me. icon_rolleyes.gif And the suggestion to pack some extras in a cute box is a great one too. I've sent leftovers home with brides before, but I didn't take the time to make it look nice...what I did was more like sending them home with a doggy bag. icon_redface.gif Live and learn! thumbs_up.gif

Thank you again!!! It is much appreciated! icon_biggrin.gificon_biggrin.gif
Sugar, spice, and everything nice;
That's what cakes are made of!


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Sugar, spice, and everything nice;
That's what cakes are made of!


Reply
post #4 of 88
You are very welcome!

I posted my templates here last week, but they are very useful for consultations. You don't want to waste time drawing out a cake shape freehand while all eyes are on you...even MY hand shakes when they watch!! So just draw out a basic 3-tier in round and 3-tier in square and photocopy a bunch to use for sketches.

All you have to do with these is write in the size/flavour of each tier and draw in the details (bows/stripes/dots/swags). I often staple any swatches or ribbons they bring me right ONTO this paper, so they are never lost and I can refer back to them when it comes time to baking & piping.

You can jot down simple notes & colour indications beside your sketch and re-do it in a nice colour format later to scan and email to them....
LL
LL
post #5 of 88
Thread Starter 
That's a great idea to have some basic sketches ready ahead of time. Thanks for posting your templates again; I didn't see them earlier. You're so helpful! I can't thank you enough!! icon_biggrin.gif
Sugar, spice, and everything nice;
That's what cakes are made of!


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Sugar, spice, and everything nice;
That's what cakes are made of!


Reply
post #6 of 88
I basically do the same as Astonia. But I don't leave the room. I like to outline everything b/4 they taste.
post #7 of 88
Please, leave the room even for just a minute. It is very awkward to discuss a person while they are sitting right in front of you. icon_smile.gif
Sleep deprived
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Sleep deprived
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post #8 of 88
Quote:
Quote:

-when that is roughly decided, I bring out the freshly-baked cupcake samples with big swirls of matching buttercream on top (which are the 5 main cake flavours that I offer)



I am curious about this topic as well and Antonia you gave us great information. thumbs_up.gif My question is how do you do five different kinds of cake the night before? That's awful lot of baking for me. .. Plus add making the buttercream. Can you share your process for this? Do you make the buttercream ahead of time? Also, can you share the flavours that you make? Are the flavours just a variation of the same batter? ( I don't know if I'm making sense but pls. bear with me!)

Thanks!
post #9 of 88
Thanks for the great tips! I learned so much already. I'm curious about baking, too - how do you manage to bake 5 different flavors? What was the most popular flavor?
H.R. Pufnstuf who's your friend when things get rough
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H.R. Pufnstuf who's your friend when things get rough
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post #10 of 88
Antonia74 does this for a living... with a real bakery & everything (lucky woman!)... I'm sure she is much better organized for multiple bakings that those of us who do this from home!
post #11 of 88
Sorry everyone...I had 16 consultations this weekend, so I'm relaxing with my pj's on today! Didn't have a chance to check CC this weekend much.

Anyway, 2 days before the tasting, I measure out all my ingredients for the dry mix ingredients for each of the 5 cake recipes. (All from scratch, no mixes...THAT would be easier! hahaha) I only do a 1/2 recipe (about 24 cupcakes) for each cake flavour. I put sift the dry ingredients into my buckets and seal and label them. Then I put them aside.

I prep the wet ingredients for each recipe and label them in the fridge. (Don't crack the eggs or mix anything together, just measuring.)

The next day, I make all my buttercream and then divide it by 5...flavouring each differently. I keep this out at room temperature for the next day's tastings.

On the day of the tasting, I'm up at 6am and I can quickly bake off all 5 recipes because they are measured out already. By 11am, the first client is arriving and all my samples are freshly iced and ready to taste.

I have 5 main flavours, but they can mix up the cake/buttercream flavours and add what they'd like:

1- Dark Chocolate Cake with Mocha Chocolate buttercream
2- Tahitian Vanilla Cake with Madagascar Vanilla buttercream
3- Sweet Lemon Cake with Fresh Lemon Zest buttercream
4- Spiced Carrot Cake with Orange Sour Cream Cream Cheese Frosting
5- Banana Buttermilk Cake with Toasted Walnut Buttercream
post #12 of 88
Quote:
Originally Posted by antonia74

1- Dark Chocolate Cake with Mocha Chocolate buttercream
2- Tahitian Vanilla Cake with Madagascar Vanilla buttercream
3- Sweet Lemon Cake with Fresh Lemon Zest buttercream
4- Spiced Carrot Cake with Orange Sour Cream Cream Cheese Frosting
5- Banana Buttermilk Cake with Toasted Walnut Buttercream



You have been so nice to share w/ us your icing recipe and others too...
how about the ones for all these as well?????

they sound so yummy...and intriguing (like just what is the taste difference between Tahitian and Madagascar vanilla? -- and that toasted walnut???)

thanks!
Keep on cakin'!
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Keep on cakin'!
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post #13 of 88
I can't share my actual cake recipes I'm afraid. I made a deal with my partner that any of her/our cake recipes would not be published if I used this chat group. Sorry...I have to keep that promise. icon_wink.gif

But...my icing is all based with Martha Stewart's Italian Meringue Buttercream, then these are added:

mocha chocolate - add 1/2 cup of very dark Dutch cocoa, 6 oz of unsweetened chocolate + 2 Tablespoons of coffee crystals dissolved in just enough hot water to make a thin paste

madagascar vanilla - different from the flowery Tahitian style vanilla, smoother and deeper scent, I add 1 T per recipe (I use the Nielsen-Massey brand. Truly $$$, but come on...it's only a tablespoon! The wedding cake is hundreds of dollars.)

fresh lemon - simple! get a very fine kitchen rasp and grate 2 washed and dried lemons into the buttercream, I use 3 or 4 drops of the Boyajian brand lemon oil as well

cream cheese frosting - any regular recipe + 1/3 cup of full-fat sour cream and the zest from one orange

walnut - toast about 2/3 cup of walnuts in the oven until you can smell them (about 8 min at 350), cool and chop by hand as small as you can get the pieces (or food processor for about 10 seconds), mix into buttercream
post #14 of 88
Thread Starter 
WOW! You've been busy; you deserve a day in your pj's!! thumbs_up.gif Curious...how many of those 16 do you expect will end up ordering?

That's a great idea to premeasure everything; that would definitely speed things up when it came time to make the cakes. (do you think that could be done even a month in advance as long as the ingredients are kept in a very tightly covered container?) I can't do that right now (not enough room, lol), but I'm just a few drafts away from having a final purchase agreement to sign for a building to turn into my very own custom cake shop!! icon_biggrin.gificon_biggrin.gificon_biggrin.gif Woohoo! And believe me, I am soaking up all the great advice you have to offer! thumbs_up.gif

PS, those cake and icing flavors sound deee-lish! Makes my mouth water just thinking of them icon_lol.gif
Sugar, spice, and everything nice;
That's what cakes are made of!


Reply
Sugar, spice, and everything nice;
That's what cakes are made of!


Reply
post #15 of 88
I'd say my rate for first inquiries (email/phone) versus coming in for a tasting consultation is about 75%, sometimes I'm already booked or the price quote is just out of budget I guess.

My rate for consultations vs. actual bookings is about 90-95% It's really rare that they come in, meet, talk, taste samples and then don't book. After meeting with those 16 couples yesterday, there is one couple who I don't believe will book me. You can certainly pick up on that "vibe!" I didn't like their cake photo much, so of course I'm feeling less enthusiastic inside. I try not to let that show of course!!

There are also the very rare occasions when people come in with a photo of a cake that I just can't do, or it's not really my style. I don't use pillars , do ornate sugar flowers, filigree piping, ornate swags or anything like that...so sometimes I have to let clients know that the cake just isn't what I'm used to and I'll suggest a few other bakeries that are more like what they are looking for.
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