I would occasionally get a cake request from someone who wanted a detailed design, but didn't have the budget for it. They'd occasionally ask if I could do a "worse" version of it to keep their costs down.
I generally decline that kind of thing, for a couple of reasons.
First of all, I know myself, and I know that I CAN'T do a crappier version of something if I know that a better version was what we originally discussed. I'll put too much time into it anyway, and that will eat into my profits.
Second, if the customer has a mental image of what they think the cake will look like, it's probably not going to change much, even if they agree to allow you to dumb-down the design. When you deliver a less-elaborate version of their mental image, they're going to be disappointed.
If you're willing to drop your level of detail and/or quality of work to meet a customer's budget, you also need to be aware that your slacker cake will be working as an advertisement of the level of work that your business produces. You know that you dropped the normal level of detail, your customer knows that you dropped it, but the people at the party don't. They'll just think that you do that level of detail all the time.
I've quoted a couple of cakes that would have been replicas of extremely detailed buildings lately, and neither customer wanted to pay for them. Based on the architecture, though, I knew that trying to do a "basic" version of them would have looked stupid, so I declined to lower the price to do less detailing.
Well, as it happened, one of the customers went to another baker who agreed to do a dumbed-down version of the design. and sure enough, it looked less than excellent. The baker posted it on their facebook page so I got an eyeful and boy, was I glad that I'd passed on that. I have no doubt that the customer wasn't 100% excited about it, based on the level of detail that they had been requesting to begin with.
It's up to you to decide whether to take on requests like this, but if you do you need to make sure that the customer will know EXACTLY what they're going to be getting. Don't overpromise, because that will only get you complaints in the end.
Kara Buntin owns A Cake To Remember LLC, custom wedding cakes in Richmond VA, and cake supplies online at www.acaketoremember.biz and www.acaketoremember.etsy.com