I have been approached by a couple who would like me to create their dream wedding cake. However, the bride’s elderly relative, Aunty Doris, loves to bake (but doesn’t have the confidence to decorate). Should I decorate someone else’s cake?
This is a great question – and I can guarantee you’ll be asked it at some stage.
On the one hand, you want to be seen as flexible and co-operative: It’s lovely that the Aunty Doris wants to get involved, and there’s nothing more personal than making something by hand for the wedding.
However, I would strongly recommend graciously saying “No”, and here’s why –
Scenario 1: The cake arrives, and it’s as flat as a pancake!
This is something that happened to me at the beginning of my Cake Career.
I was approached by a Mum at the school gate asking me if I would decorate a cake for her parents’ anniversary. She wanted to buy the cake from a reputable (and premium) supermarket chain, and I would then add a bespoke design around the sides along with a handmade cake topper.
I can still, to this day, remember the sinking feeling on opening that cake box! In my naivety, I’d assumed all cakes were 3 or 4 inches tall and so that’s what I’d designed for. Nope, not 4 inches.. not 3 inches.. not even 2 inches… this cake resembled a pancake: It was 1.5 inches tall.
So, the design I’d spent hours mulling over and sketching was useless. It just wouldn’t work. In a mad panic, I had to completely change the design… costing me more time (and time is money!).
Scenario 2: The cake arrives, and it’s undercooked or overbaked.
Oh Lordy! This doesn’t just open a can of worms, but the whole cannery!
Firstly – Reputation!
You’ve worked really hard to gain a reputation for producing delicious cakes, beautifully decorated. And in one foul swoop, Aunty Doris has brought this crashing down. At best, guests will think the cake is a bit dry. At worse, you could have guests rushing from their rooms with upset stomachs!
All it would take would be one or two scathing reviews on Social Media, and you can kiss goodbye to your good name.
And whilst I’m not an expert on the ins-and-outs of insurance policy small print, I’d hazard a guess that you would be liable for any compensation (you were the last person to handle the cake), your insurance company would refuse to cover you, and you’d lose any Healthy & Hygiene certification you had.
Aunty Doris isn’t looking quite the sweet old lady now, is she?
Scenario 3: The cake doesn’t arrive at all!
Aunty Doris’ angina flared up at the last minute and she wasn’t able to make the cake… but that’s ok, it’s only cake. Surely you can whip up 3-tiers in no time.
Looks like you’re going to see 12am.. and 1am.. and 2am.. and 3am.. and 4am.. but if you’re lucky you’ll drag yourself into bed, fully-clothed, for 90 minutes sleep, just after Five.
Saying “No” Politely
Consider a polite, but firm no.
You would love to be more flexible, really you would, but sadly you are obliged, by law, to adhere to certain Health & Hygiene rule (and you’ll know those depending on which country or state you live in). If you don’t adhere to those rules your insurance will be invalid and you risk losing your license.
It’s out of your hands.
Perhaps Aunty Doris might like to bake cookies for the favours instead?
Perhaps Aunty Doris might like to make and decorate the cake. You could point her in the direction of some fabulous courses which will give her the confidence to try.
Have your say..
Have you ever been asked to decorate someone else’s cake? Did you do it? What happened? Add your comments below…