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Declining cake beyond ones skill level?

post #1 of 17
Thread Starter 
Hi,
I am curious to find out how others handle a situation where someone requests a cake to be replicated from a picture that you clearly know is beyond your skill level. I am not referring to the etiquette that comes with putting your own twist on another's design in order to make it your own. I mean if you know that even if you change colors etc that your skill level will just not enable you to deliver a cake up to the standards of what the person is looking for in the picture they give you.
Do you decline completely? Tell them your skills arent there?

My situation is that I am fairly new to cake decorating (less than 25 cakes that I have done for family and friends). On my personal facebook page I have posted pictures of cakes I have done and have gotten great reviews (from friends and family of course, lol). My cousin posted a cake i did for her daughter on pinterest and it got almost 500 repins in less than 24 hours and while I thought that was so cool, I am extremely critical of my work and am never satisfied with my cakes. I know that I have a lot to learn and practice so I think being hyper-critical vs overconfident at this point can only help me. I would never want to present someone with a cake that looks like a super crappy version of what they had in mind. While do I think that for only having done the small number of cakes that I've done that i really have a knack for it I know that some of the seemingly simple yet hardest things are what I really need to work on (super crisp corners, perfect fondant work, piping, etc).

So with that said, I agreed to make a cake for an engagemnt party for friends of my husband. They have seen my work and know (or at least i thought they knew) my skill level, however when sending me pics of cakes they want for the party they are from world renowned cake artists. Cakes that probably seem simple to someone who might not make cakes but are quite difficult to achieve the high quality look. Those simply decorate yet perfectly executed cakes. Even though i'd be doing the cake as a favor and to get more practice i do not feel that my skills are up to that level. Can anyone help me with how I can go about saying this?
post #2 of 17
Hi there,

I would definitely tell them that I have not done a cake like that before and I cannot guarantee it would look like that. I would say that I have very high standards for myself and I can't do that type of cake at this time. What if you send them some alternate pictures similiar to what they want of something you think you could do so they know where you are coming from.

Better to tell them no than to be up at 12 midnight realizing the cake isn't coming out. icon_eek.gif
Good luck!
post #3 of 17
^^ I agree. I'd thank them for believing so much in my abilities but be honest and let them know I am still new at this. If they suggest something within my skill set, I'd go ahead and do the cake. Either way, the second they're out of my way I would be all over that picture until I GET IT RIGHT icon_lol.gif

If you have the time, begin practicing on that cake. Who knows you might be good enough at it to land their wedding cake icon_smile.gif
post #4 of 17
You are really lucky to have this possibility. Get a couple of dummies and try a similar design they requested if you have enough time. You'll see how quickly and how precisely you can do it. If you are satisfied with your work, accept.

I'd be so happy to get any requests like that. I'm getting requests mostly for stupid overloaded birthday cakes and some old-fashioned (white cake with diamond pattern on the side with sugar pearls and pink roses on the top - ugghh no, please!) or kitsch wedding cakes (the last one was four tier white cake with again diamond pattern + sugar pearls + sunflower cascade AND the best: two gumpaste figures of German bride and groom on the top, dressed in traditional costumes. Blonde girl with braids and both drinking beer.) Disgusting, no way. I usually show them other photos (not necessarily mine) if they would like to see some alternatives, something more contemporary, fresh, elegant or even traditional in the similar style but different, but most of the people here are really conservative or tasteless.

The only thing I'd probably refuse to do is some technique I've never done (pulled sugar, very detailed and realistic flowers...). But if I feel I'm not good enough to do a particular design, I have no problem to tell them. It's not a shame.
Paula
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Paula
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post #5 of 17
Quote:
Originally Posted by Alwayzmakincake

Hi there,

I would definitely tell them that I have not done a cake like that before and I cannot guarantee it would look like that. I would say that I have very high standards for myself and I can't do that type of cake at this time. What if you send them some alternate pictures similiar to what they want of something you think you could do so they know where you are coming from.

Better to tell them no than to be up at 12 midnight realizing the cake isn't coming out. icon_eek.gif
Good luck!



That's me,plus they wouldn't want to pay what it really costs anyway,they might want a $3000 cake for $200, which I won't be ready to do. See what works best for you.
Judge the character of a man by how he treats those who can do nothing for him.
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Judge the character of a man by how he treats those who can do nothing for him.
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post #6 of 17
I would definitely try the design before saying no. I was asked to do brush embroidery many years ago--thought it was waaaay too hard. After a test run,I found it's avery easy technique. I did an awesome job (if I may say so).
How will we learn new stuff if you don't push ourselves...
post #7 of 17
Since you haven't posted any pictures its hard to tell where your skill level is and if you are just being hard on yourself. What exactly is it about the cake they want that you feel uncomfortable trying?

Breaking it down into elements can sometimes take away the daunting factor. Fondant. Are you cool with that? Stacking tiers. Are they wanting a different stacked look...have you done that? Have you ever baked that large a cake? Topsy-turvy, Etc. Just breaking it all down, you'll probably have more yes's than no's and see that perhaps it's really not that big of a problem and you can concentrate on learning a new skill in the one or two areas you feel uncomfortable with.

That being said, sometimes if it actually IS too much for where you are, just be honest and tell them that you are still perfecting your design work and their cake is more than you would feel comfortable producing, given the importance of the event.

Remind them that even other decorators who take on the project probably won't be able to produce the exact image...there will always be differences because a different person is producing something someone else did. Good luck!

If I am ever on life support, unplug me...

Then plug me back in.  See if that works!

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If I am ever on life support, unplug me...

Then plug me back in.  See if that works!

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post #8 of 17
I thought that's how we all learn. Confidently say OH SURE, then practice, practice, practice until you feel confident with the design. Just happened to me today. I took a cake order I'm scared stiff about BUT, have already thought of a couple easier ways of accomplishing it. and yes, I plan on practicing like crazy.
post #9 of 17
I would definately tell them what you can or can't do. I have people send me pictures from very well know bakeries, and want me to do that! Thats great! BUT I do this after my real, very real, full time job! Plus what if I quoted that person what the real bakery charged? Do you think they would still get it? I have made some, changing things here or there to make my own, but for the most part If I can't do it I state it up front. I currently have someone who wants a celtic design to go all the way around 2 tiers, again another pro known bakery, and I can't do it. So she may have to change the design some, because I don;t want to make myself crazy trying to get it to look like the picture. Believe me its no fun.
The worst critic is yourself.
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The worst critic is yourself.
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post #10 of 17
Quote:
Originally Posted by DeniseNH

I thought that's how we all learn. Confidently say OH SURE, then practice, practice, practice until you feel confident with the design. Just happened to me today. I took a cake order I'm scared stiff about BUT, have already thought of a couple easier ways of accomplishing it. and yes, I plan on practicing like crazy.



Well I believe that you already have to be at a certain skill level to be able to pull that off. By the looks of your gallery you obviously are...but we don't really know about the OP's. It's one thing to practice one new skill and learn as you go...it's another to not have the overall level where it needs to be before embarking on a brand-new technique too! Maybe on a friend's birthday cake or something like that...but if the cake is to be the centerpiece....ummmm I'd have to think long and hard before committing if I weren't confident in every other area.

If I am ever on life support, unplug me...

Then plug me back in.  See if that works!

Reply

If I am ever on life support, unplug me...

Then plug me back in.  See if that works!

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post #11 of 17
I just tell them the truth, that I'm not sure I can do it. I then refer them to another bakery that specializes in that type of cake. I never tell someone I can do it when I haven't tried. I will tell them I'll test it if I'm pretty sure I can do it and then I get back to them asap.

I do all of the wedding cakes in my family for free. They let me stretch my limits. But I'm giving them four tier cakes for free. If I need to change something, I can. My husband pays for all pans, cutters, and ingredients in the cake. I usually plan a flavor that has a new pricey ingredient only found on the web and that way I can experiment with the flavors for free too. We give the cakes as our gift. We have a large family with quite a few weddings, so I get plenty of practice. We also do all graduation, new baby, and other special occasions.
post #12 of 17
Thread Starter 
Thanks you all for your responses, I definitely appreciate all of the advice. Up until now all of the cakes I have done have been either birthday cakes or baby shower cakes. While I've followed the general theme of the parties I've pretty much had more creative control of the cakes thus being able to switch things up if a problem arose. While I've generally liked the cakes I've done I know that I need to work on not having rounded edges, cleaner fondant work, piping, etc. To my friends and family who don't decorate cakes they are thrilled but for a person looking for a high end cake for a fairly expensive event they are definitely no where near that level.

With the cake for this party they want a very specific design and as soon as I saw the picture I just felt I could not make a cake as nice as what they'd be expecting. The pictures of the cake they want had very crisp corners, super cleanly executed, professional level for sure. The top tier has a very detailed design with some paisley and scrollwork but i can't quite make out the technique used. It either looks like the design is hand painted on (but i dont think so) or a technique where it looks like one seamless piece of fondant vs the usual tier covered in fondant with the design elements then attached if that makes sense. Unlike for example, a zebra print where one can take the stripes, lay them atop a rolled out piece of fondant, roll them together and get the appearance a seamless piece of zebra print fondant this design was too detailed for that to have been the technique (I think?). I think what it all boils down to is that the cake they want is so well executed and obviously someone elses artistic vision and I don't think I could recreate that at this stage in my decorating.
My husband tells me I am just over thinking it and that if I looked at the cake step by step it wouldn't be that hard but I don't know.
post #13 of 17
"I appreciate you thinking of me. I would love to make a cake for (insert event here). Since I haven't been decorating long there are still many decorating skills that I have not developed yet. I must be honest with you and tell you the picture of the cake that you sent me is one that is above my skill level at this time. I know that the cake that I am able to produce just wouldn't resemble the picture and I would not want you to be disappointed in it."

At this point you can either send her pictures of cakes that you are able to do or recommend a bakery that can make the cake she wants.

I want to add that you really should figure out how to deal with this situation. Because you are making these cakes for FREE people are going to come crawling out of the woodwork begging for you to make their cake. And it's totally fine IF they give you free range with the design so that you can develop your skills. The problem is going to be when you don't say "no" to something that you know is above your skill level because someone begged you to make the cake and said they don't care that's it's not exactly like the picture. Then when they are upset that they cake isn't exactly like the picture you will have a whole mess to deal with.

And speaking from experience...you really shouldn't agree to do a cake that has a technique that you don't know how to do until you have actually attempted the technique. Try it first BEFORE agreeing to make the cake. Otherwise it can really come back to bite you in the a$$ thumbs_up.gif
Tact is telling someone where to go so nicely they can't wait to take the trip!
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Tact is telling someone where to go so nicely they can't wait to take the trip!
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post #14 of 17
Thread Starter 
Thank you all again for your advice, I actually did send an an email this morning similar to what cakesbycathy just posted. He wrote back and said that he is totally fine with my changing around whatever I wanted, that the pic was just for me to use as an inspiration. It is more the color scheme they would like and overall feel but that if the cake turns out same quality as my other cakes they are totally fine with that knowing that I'm not a pro by any means yet and they like what they have seen me do so far. I will take the advice offered here and will definitely practice to be sure whatever I end up putting on the cake can be well executed. Thanks again!
post #15 of 17
See, somethimes we get all caught up in trying to reprocate something and don't fimnd out what exactly is expectedicon_smile.gif
Now start practicing and GO FOR IT icon_smile.gif
You CAN do it. Your skills will grow and you will be very proud icon_smile.gif
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