Most cake decorators I know start their business off by offering lots of options for flavours and fillings. We make custom designs so you would think people want custom flavours too.
I’m going to let you in on a secret: no matter how many flavours and fillings you offer, you’ll sell more chocolate cake than anything else. This isn’t because people are inherently boring or don’t want new things (they do) it’s because they are so worried people won’t eat the cake (and they will get stuck with it), or worried they will offend guests (Ehrmagherd! She had a COCONUT cake. Doesn’t she know coconut is against my religion?!) or they are worried people will think badly about them (what the heck was she thinking, having a carrot cake at a WEDDING?! Who does that?!).
Humans are quite resistant to change and afraid of the unknown, so even though they’ve sat there with you and tasted your incredible creations and told you how your caramelised fig and marshmallow cake gives them a mouthgasm … they’ll still order chocolate. It’s comfortable, it’s familiar, they won’t have to listen to Auntie Mabel saying really loudly and inappropriately, “Why does my cake taste like burnt sugar?” and everyone is happy. Win/Win for everyone except you, who is left with ten pounds of toasted Brazilian coconut and fifteen bottles of vanilla-scented unicorn essence sitting on the shelf.
I’m not saying you should only offer chocolate cake and chocolate filling. Having some options is great because then you really are serving the needs of non-chocolate eaters (and there are some) and people do love the idea of having choice even if they are going to end up choosing chocolate. Keep your flavour option list fairly short and well rounded, and if you want to change things up a bit, do that in the fillings. Six or so cake flavours and no more than 6-8 filling flavours is more than enough for most customers. Any more than that and you’ll find yourself getting resentful when someone orders that one very unique flavour that you’re no longer prepared. TOO MUCH choice also leaves people feeling very overwhelmed and so they will avoid making a decision because they are afraid of making the wrong one. You want to make it easy for them to choose and therefore easy for them to give you the deposit.
A well-rounded cake flavour list has: 2-3 classic flavours (chocolate, vanilla, or a more “local” classic like a white chocolate, red velvet, fruit cake or whatever is traditional for your area), 2 fruit options (lemon/coconut/carrot/apple etc) and 2 more ‘exotic’ options. That’s it.
A well rounded filling list is much the same, – 2-3 classics (vanilla buttercream, chocolate ganache, cream cheese icing), 2 fruit (lemon curd or a jam), and 2 more ‘exotic’ options.
Those exotic options will rarely get ordered, so don’t reinvent the wheel with those – either create them by modifying some classics (adding nuts or essences to a ganache, adding essences to a buttercream) or creating it out of things you already keep on hand in your bakery.
An an example, one of my good sellers was a tropical cupcake: lemon cake filled with cream cheese icing, topped with coconut buttercream and rolled in coconut. ALL of those are simple, classic things I had on hand already but together they were a knock out. Another one was a white chocolate and raspberry cake with a rosewater buttercream – again, all just really simple variations on basic things I already used. Nothing truly unique in either of those.
Customers are funny – they want to be offered the super amazing stuff but will almost always order the classics. Your job is to give them the illusion of super amazing stuff on offer then smile on the inside when they order the chocolate because, after all, everyone likes chocolate, right? (Yep. Just like “nobody eats cake.”)