i received a phone call last week from a dad attempting to get a custom cake for his twin daughters' sweet sixteen. nothing unusual there. i get inquiries often. this one was a little different because this would be the second set of birthday cakes for his girls. dad explained that the first set was a cake wreck of epic proportions, and he needed to make it up to them. apparently there was a collapsed tier, a very late delivery, and a final product that didn't remotely resemble what was discussed. that cake disaster led me to think about the things i do to prevent misshaps in my kitchen, and what you as clients can do to ensure that you get exactly what your hearts (and tummies) desire. so let's say you're in the market for a house. you go online and look at awesome pictures of beautiful floor plans, and decide which builder you're going to use.
that builder then tells you, "no worries, i've built hundreds of houses. never had one collapse yet! and i don't even use blueprints. i've got it all up here (pointing under his hardhat)!"
you wouldn't use that builder. you wouldn't trust that he could create what you asked for, and make it safe and secure. it's the same with your custom cake. your baker needs a guide or plan, no matter how many years they've made tasty treats.
when i first started making cakes, i would use a picture of another cake as a reference. when i began designing custom cakes, i quickly learned that i needed a sketch in order to ensure that what was in my head came out in buttercream just the way i and my client had envisioned it. in the beginning the sketches were rough and crude, but now, i've honed my drawing skills the same way i've become more adept in sculpting in fondant.
those renderings are more than just a pretty picture. they're a way of communicating between you and me to make sure that we have a shared vision, and that your cake house doesn't come tumbling down!
quick tips for choosing a baker - get a solid referral from someone you know and trust. - ask to see pictures of their most recent work (keep in mind the quality of the pictures can give you insight into the quality of the work. i will not show a client grainy, out of focus, or photobombed images) - even if there is no contract (small cakes, not wedding cakes), make sure you have a description of the cake in writing, or a sketch of what the final product should look like as well as your delivery/pick-up time.