Wednesday, April 1, 2009

"Simple" , Pt. 1

Out of the blue, Rick asked me "What is the one word a client will use when they are inquiring about a difficult cake?" Hmm ... I thought about it. I said "elaborate?" ... "No."... "Complex?" ... "No." Then he said "Simple." I thought about it some more and he was absolutely right. After four years and hundreds of cakes our company has made, it never fails, some of our "simple" cake requests have also been the most difficult and time consuming to make in part because people don't realize just how time consuming some of the cake designs they are requesting are. Rick explained that at every cake place he's worked at, anytime something is time consuming or difficult to make, it is often described as "simple". Even if the exact word "simple" isn't always part of the request, inevitably some of our craziest cake requests have come from people who have no concept just how long it would take to make what they are requesting.

At this point I should say that we rarely receive a cake request we can't make, it's more about the amount of lead time we are given to make said request and whether or not the client can afford it. Often times these "simple" requests are also last minute requests and we're already booked.

Some of the design requests we've received that weren't quite as simple as the client may have thought.

Let's start with the John Force "Funny car". We were recently asked to make this. Forget the fact that this unusually shaped car has about a thousand sponsorship stickers on it and every one of them is important (they always are), it also comes with a high price tag which the client didn't realize.

Another not-so-simple request came from a client who wanted an Alice in Wonderland themed birthday cake. No problem. We can handle that. He wanted the cake to be a sculpted masterpiece of the tea party in session complete with Alice, the Mad Hatter, White Rabbit, Cheshire cat (in a tree, 'natch), and they would be each sitting in their appropriate chair enjoying an afternoon of tea. We were already too booked at the time to accept this request and tried to explain that this wasn't exactly a simple design and that we needed more advance notice.

And another one. With less than a month's notice during a weekend that was nearly fully booked, we received a request for a big sculpted cake composition with several books, an apple with a worm in it, a softball, a dog and a cellphone, all piled up on top of each other.

One of the more interesting requests. A lifesize version of a father's baby daughter for her first birthday party. He gave us a week's notice and the budget wasn't anywhere near what it would take to sculpt a human out of cake.

I could go on and on...

Then there are the cupcake requests. This desert scene complete with gila monsters, cactus, snakes and a bird of which name I can't recall was a lot less simple than we were expecting. It was our first year in business and we agreed to make 200 of these cupcakes.

and of course there was the Harry Potter characters on each cupcake request, which we promptly turned down, and the several foot tall sculpted Optimus Prime from the Transformers cake request for 2 weeks down the road -- also turned down.

I'm sure many of you have your own "simple" stories. Join us back here tomorrow as we share more of these stories with you. We'd love to hear some of yours as well.

Aloha, til next time!


emzeegee & the hungry three said...

Hello Sasha and Rick!

I've been a huge admirer of your work for ages - and I love reading the blog so thank you for sharing. It's always amusing to read posts like this and realise that "simple" requests are not unique to my business...other cake designers are out there getting the same sorts of requests!

I think for me the word I hear more often is "basic" "I want a 'basic' car [which is a vintage 1920's XYZ]" "I want a 'basic' farm scene [with all the animals anatomically correct]" and so on and so forth. We almost always end up spending the most time on the "basic" things...and then wish we had charged double!

Worst of all are those who call at 5pm the night before wanting something, or call on the day asking for something delivered within the hour. When we can service these requests, we do...but then most of the time the person ordering then wants something super difficult or time consuming. Frankly, if you're giving me less than 8 hours, you're getting what you get!

...and then there are the ones who get a quote, agree to the price, but then ask you continually to just "put a few more stars on" or "can you just add a plaque" and so on and so forth...and wonder why you tell them that the cake they have just re-designed will need to be re-quoted. "But it's just a few stars!" [and a plaque and more glitter and an extra tier and two more fillings...]

What can I say, people are people, right?!


cakelava said...

Hi M!

Thank you for weighing in here. We're glad you are enjoying reading the blog. "Basic" -- YES!! How true it is that we spend the most time on the "basic" requests. "Basic" and "simple" seem to be words that are used when people approach us late in the game and when they find out we're booked, they say "but I'm only looking for a basic (or simple ... or even "small" XYZ design. When we inquire by what they mean by that we hear responses like "just a small, simple Batman themed cake" or "I only want the heads of the Transformers on each cupcake."

All the best!

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