I have searched the internet, looking for some simple recommendations, rules, tips and tricks to help make your first wedding cake commissions go off without a hitch. However, I was astonished to find so little information on the subject. There are plenty of how-to’s for the bride- and groom-to-be, but not many for the neophyte home-based baker/decorator. So, I made some up myself based on my own experiences, because I'm awesome like that. This is by no means a comprehensive list, but these are definitely items that you should make your top priority.
How to plan for making a wedding cakeIf you are considering making a wedding cake for a friend or family, and this is your first time at the rodeo, we cannot recommend strongly enough to incorporate these simple rules:
Start with the date the cake is due to be delivered, then brainstorm every major task you need to accomplish for the cake’s completion, and sort in completion order (for example, you can't list the "decorate cake" task on a date before the cake has even been baked!).
Assign "Done By" dates to the major tasks; add the sub-duties and link them to the appropriate major task, then start working in backwards date order, assigning blocks of time to each major and minor task, until you complete the list. That will give you a good start date (don’t forget to add the contingency time throughout your list!).
And when the bride’s not happy, you won’t be happy.
Most importantly, though, is make sure you receive a cheque, cash, or money order for the remainder of the payment by the time you have dropped off and set-up the cake; whatever you do, DO NOT LEAVE THE CAKE WITHOUT YOUR MONEY. Once that cake has been consumed, there is no longer any product to hold for payment, and you will be over a barrel and in small claims court if they decide not to pay you. Sadly, the world being what it is, this is something you need to consider.
There is a reason that wedding cakes are so expensive to purchase from professional bakeries; while some of that perceived “inflated” price is admittedly markup, the true value is usually not that far off the mark. Wedding cakes are considered completely customized and unique to the personalities, needs, and wishes of the prospective bride and groom, and to that end, a ton of research, preparation, and skill goes into each one. These attributes are worth far more than the value of eggs, sugar, flour and butter, and are worth being compensated for.
Note: I *do* hope you are buying your ingredients in bulk when there’s a wicked sale on. Flour lasts a long time, longer if you freeze it, and so does butter, chocolate, cocoa, and baking soda/powder. Sugar and vanilla extract are good for a long time too, and you can always freeze milk or use shelf-stable evaporated milk or skim milk powder.
Ok, back on topic.
There are two very good reasons for this: on the positive side, these pictures should be going into your portfolio to show future prospective clients how awesome your mad skills are. On the negative side….well, not everyone in this world is good. We know this. So, do yourself a HUGE favour and take pictures for evidence that you delivered and set up the cake perfectly and all was well when you left the cake to the mercy of the caterers, restaurant staff, mischievous guests and random Acts of God. The last thing you need is to be refused the remainder of your payment because the cake you left in perfect condition was ruined before the bride and groom got to see it and they blame YOU.
Lastly, but not least, have fun with your budding cake decorating business! Even if you’re only doing it as a hobby, or a once-or-twice-a-year thing for family and friends, it’s important to not lose sight of the reason you said yes to the commission in the first place. Whatever the reason, the less stress you put on yourself, the more fun you will have, and I strongly believe that happy baking means the food tastes better ;o)