I got a call one evening recently from someone saying they'd found me on google, and they had an emergency.
They were in the process of driving from western Virginia to Richmond, and the four tiered cake they were transporting was shifting. Oh, and it was a topsy turvy cake.
Well, of course, being an idiot, I said sure, bring it over and I'll take a look at it and see what, if anything, could be done. She said that she'd send me pictures of it in the meantime so that I could see what it was doing.
Well...The first photo was the one that it was supposed to have been patterned after. I didn't really need that, but whatever. Then she sent some photos of the cake, and it was shifting but it didn't look too tremendously bad. I told her that I'd have to look at it in person because I couldn't tell exactly how it was put together or anything like that just from the pictures.
In the course of the conversation, it became apparent that she wasn't happy with the way that it looked compared to the inspiration cake, which really had nothing to do with the shifting issue. She was asking me what I could do about the design on this tier or that tier, and I realized that she kind of wanted me to redecorate parts of it. Oh, no...I told her I could look to see what it was doing structurally, but the decorations were out of my control.
So about 45 minutes later she called to say thanks anyway, but the entire top tier had slid off and the cake was beyond repair. I didn't see any photos of it, so I can't say what happened. I can, however, use this as an opportunity to offer unsolicited advice about handing cakes to clients who are planning on travelling with them.
1. Giving a client a four tiered cake to transport three hours away is not a good idea.
2. Topsy Turvy cakes shouldn't be handed off unless they're built the "flat" way, and the tilt is an illusion. I don't know how the cake in this story was built, but if it was built flat I don't think it would have shifted so much. Maybe.
3. If you do allow clients to pick their cakes up, have them sign something when they pick it up that says it's what they ordered and they accept delivery of it. The shifting issue aside, I could tell that this lady wasn't happy with the look of the cake, and that the baker was going to get complaints regardless. If you get someone to sign off on the cake before they drive away with it, it will be easier to address their concerns.
4. Cakes in transport should be in a box. This cake wasn't in a box in the photos they sent from inside their car. I don't know if they'd removed it or not, but there was no box in the photos. Boxes are good for protecting cakes from things that might drop on them, rain, leaves, branches, that kind of thing. It probably wouldn't have helped in this situation but I thought I'd mention it.
5. Make sure the cake will be transported in a flat area, not on a slanted seat or held on someone's lap for a long time. If the client insists on putting the cake in their backseat on a slant, make them sign a waiver that explicitly states that you have told them it isn't a good idea, and that any structural damage is not your fault and won't be fixed by you. Unless they pay you $100 an hour plus mileage for a cake repair house call. That might drive the point home.
6. If someone does call you and asks you to repair someone else's cake, do NOT badmouth the other baker. You don't know what the situation was, and the client could have been driving like a maniac and slamming their brakes on the whole trip. If you go in there saying things about the way the cake is built it will just add fuel to the fire.
Any other tips you can think of? Add them in the comments section below.
Kara Buntin owns A Cake To Remember LLC, custom wedding cakes in Richmond VA