A few months back I wrote an article about there being no shame in outsourcing (you can read it here.) I was referring to times when you need to buy something in like a figurine or a flower because you do not have those skills, not when you need to buy in something bigger like cake. I’ve recently read a few people get torn to shreds on social media because they – gasp! – admitted to buying in their cakes. There are several reasons why you may not bake your own cakes – lack of time, your oven has broken down, you don’t enjoy it, or you cannot get Council approval to bake in your home kitchen but they will allow decorating. I think we should establish first that the reason for doing it doesn’t really matter – it’s actually more about managing your client’s expectations and your reputation than anything else. The question here really should be what the best way is to tell your clients that you do not bake your own cakes, or even if you should tell them at all. You are in business FOR YOUR CLIENTS, so they are the people that matter.
As I see it, there are a few different ways to handle this situation:
Option 1: Lie about it.
Don’t do this. Ever. Seriously. It’s not worth it.
Option 2: Say nothing about it until they ask.
I actually don’t have a problem with this option and I’d recommend it. You don’t need to put out a big sign which says, “I don’t bake my own cakes!” because there would be no point at all in doing that. If you are using a good quality, tastes great, purchased product which you are happy with and you know your customer will be too, then I really don’t see a need to announce it.
I don’t announce that I buy in my fondant, do I? I’d consider that a pretty essential part of the cake making process, but I still don’t announce it. (By the way, I DO buy in my fondant. I made it from scratch once, and that was really more than enough for me.) I also don’t announce what brand scraper I use, the brand of cream I use for my ganache, or anything else which ultimately is not really a selling point.
If a customer asks you outright (and it’s inevitable that some will), be honest about it, but remember there are a few different ways to go about answering them. You can use your circumstances as the reason, eg “my local Council won’t approve my kitchen for baking, only for decorating,” or “my oven is just too small to fit in the larger cakes.” Alternatively (and I prefer this one), don’t talk DOWN the fact that you are buying in your cakes, talk UP the benefits! “I actually prefer buying in my cakes as it gives me more time to decorate, which is what I really love doing,” or “It’s win win because I get to decorate more and I’m also supporting another local business,” or “This way I get a consistent product every time, rather than depend on my domestic oven which can be a little temperamental,” and so on. I really don’t think you need to justify it much further than that. Acknowledge that you don’t bake, give a positive reason why that is, and move on to all the reasons why they should order from you.
There are plenty of very talented cake decorators who are either buying in their cakes OR baking them at home from a box mix. Does this make them any less talented? It really makes no difference as long as your customer is getting the product they want AND are happy with. If you’re buying in your cake, and it’s a good quality, nice tasting cake, then you’re giving your customer both LOOKS AND FLAVOUR…and it’s the combination of those two things which will bring them back to you a second time.
I always aim to give customers products which both taste great AND look great, and frankly if in order to achieve that I’ve got to buy in my cakes or my fondant (or anything else), well, so be it.
I think as a community we have become so hung up on people who bake versus those who don’t, and people who use box mix versus those who don’t, couveture chocolate versus compound, marshmallow fondant versus traditional, swiss meringue buttercream versus American buttercream and so on and so forth. It’s honestly a little ridiculous. Let us ALL remember who we are in business for: our clients and ourselves. That’s it. Those are the ONLY people we need to please with our choices of ingredients or methods.
Oh, and if you’re one of those cake makers who needs to talk down your competitors to either other competitors or your clients, “Oh my gawd, did you know she uses BOX MIX?! And plain old Cadbury chocolate!?” – I invite you to leave this blog. Your time is better spent somewhere else. Here, we work on our businesses. We work on lifting ourselves and others up, not on bringing them down. If you bake your own cakes, from ingredients imported from far-flung mysterious lands, and your chocolate comes from virginal cacao trees looked after by fairies – by all means, talk that up to your clients because they are definite selling points. Just don’t talk shit about the woman down the road because she has not chosen to do the same.
Different strokes for different folks, yes?