What to expect from a custom made cake and why are they so 'expensive'?

I have long wanted to write about what most home bakers face in doing their baking and cake decorating business. Thus, I decided to put it all out here for everyone to understand and keep in mind when ordering a custom made cake, online especially. First of all I've often encountered people's (not only clients) shock at when I quote prices of my cakes for them. The most often exclamation is that, "Ooh why is it so expensive for such a small cake?" or I have some clients requesting to bake and decorate at sub-par budgets. Do not get me wrong, I am a considerate person and I understand that people have their own budget and it is good to know your budget when ordering a cake. In fact the first thing I always ask is "What is your budget?" One thing clients must remember is that I am running a business as well. For eg. I can't simply make a fondant cake with 24 pieces of cupcakes for less than Rm 100. It would not even cover the cost.

I also wonder sometimes if the clients understand that my cakes are HOME MADE. They are not the run of the mill Secret Recipe and your local bakery type of cakes which are made exactly the same everytime. Sure those are yummy too but to compare them to home made cakes is like comparing sleeping in a hotel and sleeping in your own warm bed at home. Both might feel good but is essentially different. But you may ask again then, so if the cake is made at home, shouldn't it be cheaper? The answer is a resounding NO. Cakes that are made in bakeries are cakes that have been made with the same design, same recipe EVERYTIME and there is no or limited creative input into the cakes. They are also probably stored in the freezer to maintain their freshness for months and often not freshly made. I've also noticed most store bought cakes are made mostly of cream and less 'cake'.

HOME MADE cakes are baked using tried and tested recipes. Some recipes may have been brought down for generations.They are often baked with the utmost passion and consideration. They are CUSTOM made because they cater to the clients preference in flavour, texture and design. They are expensive for various reasons. First of all,home made cakes only use the best and freshest ingredients. For example a good block of butter may cost Rm 7-9 each, a qualilty tub of fondant runs almost Rm 30 per kg, imported melting chocolate is ard Rm 16 a block.Then flour, sugar etc will add up when making a homemade cake and more if it's multi tiered.What more if you are making specialty cakes like carrot cakes, walnut and fruit cakes. All these are not cheap. We home bakers do not buy in bulk like the commercial bakers do so we cannot afford to lower our prices.

Another contributing factor to the price is the skill that your home baker may have acquired to learn his or her craft.Some baking and cake decorating courses runs for thousands of ringgit/dollars a course, took years and experience to learn. The books that the bakers have invested can be more than Rm 50 and above per book and there are a lot of books and we constantly have to keep updated with the latest trends.You are also paying for the tools, baking equipments like ovens, fridge and heavy duty mixers that a home baker may have invested for their business. Another thing is the amount of electricity used. Imagine running the oven for an hour or more for each cake that we bake every single week.I've had my electricity bills running to almost a thousand ringgit on busy months!

 One more factor and perhaps the most overlooked one is TIME. Baking and decorating often takes time away from my family and what I want to do normally. Some cakes can take hours, days, months to complete especially those involving sugar flowers, figurines and other time consuming decorations. I often do my cakes until the wee hours in the morning just to get it perfect.Time taken also happens when a simple cake consultation is done, be it through emails or face to face. Time is also taken when researching certain designs online and figuring what the clients want exactly.Finally, clean-up. Yes baking and decorating is a real mess. We are dealing with grease from butter,melted chocolate leftovers,flying flour and splatters of batter everywhere once we are done.You will never see a tidy looking baker. You are paying us for the luxury of NOT having to deal with that mess. So you see all these factors contribute to the price of the final product.

Another thing is that most clients probably do not know what exactly goes into baking and decorating a cake.They are often confused by the terms.For eg. they might not necessarily know what fondant is and that there are different types of icings, fillings, cake textures etc.They also choose cakes based on what they have previously tasted in shops and seen on TV that may not necessarily be the same as the homebakers recipe. I'm not saying they are wrong in not knowing, its just that I have to constantly enlighten and educate them on the terms, flavors and what can or cannot be done with certain designs.

I sincerely hope that by reading this post future clients wanting to order from me will understand what we homebakers go through everytime you order a custom made cake from us. My advice is to have an open mind, have some KNOWLEDGE of  what you want (but if you don't we will help you naturally) and in the end you will have a cake that will be beyond your expectation. Thanks for reading!!

I had this great comment  from a customer's point of view from Ms. Carly Shere George on my fb posting of this article :

Great post. at the end of the day, it's really about educating and spreading awareness to the customers and clients on the whys and whats. we had our 3-tiered wedding cake specially made which cost us a leg and an arm... but we fully understand why. It was everything we requested for in terms of design and flavour, and yes quality. mind you, we could have gone bargaining all the way to tomorrow about the exorbitant price but discussing with the cake-maker/ baker and us keeping an open mind makes a whole lotta difference to cater what we need within our budget. Very simply, you can't really compromise on quality and if you do opt for quality stuff, it will cost you, if not substantial at least something reasonable. but not cheap. 

Most consumers/customers think because it's home-made or custom-made, they could exercise their bargaining power to the max (esp when closely acquianted) but at the end of the day, it's business. As a customer, I want my ringgit to stretch as far as it could go when purchasing something. As a business owner, I must educate my customer my products worth and undertand their needs. Awareness and professionalism must be present so middle ground can be met. Being a sweet-tooth, I love my cakes and cookies and pastries. They're the best when the ingrediants are of genuine kind. that's why they're called 'indulgence'. Bottom line, you want quality, you pay have to pay quality. Best of luck to you and your business May. Looking forward to try some of your desserts soon. :)"

1 comment:

  1. May, Sally here. I just wanna inform you tht I have posted this article via my fb page.