I once received an email from someone I had never heard of, asking me for some cake instructions. Actually, it went something like "Send me detailed instructions on how to make your pirate ship cake. Thanks in advance."
Are you serious? Needless to say, I did not send said instructions, which I would have had to write up from scratch.
Today one of my friends received a similar request for instructions to a very complicated cake that she'd made. The worst part of this request, though, was that the person said that they had a customer who'd placed an order for it, and she needed to know how to make it.
One of the most annoying things that experienced decorators come across in cake forums and emails are the requests for detailed instructions for cakes from people who have already taken an order for said cake.
Don't get me wrong, I get requests for help figuring details out all the time and I don't mind that. It's when it's a "give me all the information that I made no effort to try to figure out on my own and I also need a recipe and I want it NOW" that isn't going to get a response.
Trying out new designs can be fun. However, if you have to ask someone for detailed instructions from start to finish, you might not want to take an order for that design QUITE YET.
"But Kara..." I hear the protests starting..."How will I be able to learn new skills if I can't do new designs? Everyone has to start somewhere!"
That's true, but a cake for a paying customer isn't the place to experiment.
If you can look at a photo of a cake and say "That's piped, that's made with gumpaste, I've seen how to do this tier, I can handle that" then go for it. But if you look at it and think "I've never seen that, is it buttercream or fondant? How do you make that effect on the tiers?" you might want to investigate before booking that particular job.
I did cakes for long enough that I can look at something and figure out how to make it. And I also know whether I'll be able to adapt it to buttercream, or whether it can be done in a less-complicated way, or whether I'll be able to do it at all. Some things can't be done, depending on the design, materials, reception site and setup, and any other number of variables.
If you're not sure, don't take the job.
Before you start experimenting with new designs and end up disappointing someone who will turn you in to Cake Wrecks, wait and investigate first. Google exists for the purpose of searching for answers, so start there. If you research and you're still not sure, pass on the job unless you have time to practice first.
And whatever you do, don't randomly write to people and say "I'll be waiting for the detailed instructions, just write that up for me, and I need them in a couple of days." Because chances are you're still going to be waiting when the couple of days are up.
Kara Buntin owns A Cake To Remember LLC in Richmond VA, and cake supplies online at www.acaketoremember.com and www.acaketoremember.etsy.com