The story of this cake has a disastrous end, but I believe there’s an important lesson to be learned.
I made Piper’s first birthday cake as well, but it was nothing special. This year her grandmother wanted to do something different, but she didn’t know what she wanted. She sent me 3 images, two of fondant shaped cakes with birdhouses, and one of a bird shaped cookie. She called the day before the cake was due and still didn’t know what she wanted, so I set out to design a cake over the phone. She wanted a birdhouse, no fondant, no pink, and a realistic look instead of a fantastical look so that her granddaughter would grow up with a strong understanding of nature. We first designed a garden cake with little rows of veggies and tiny chocolate signs, but she told me to scrap the whole thing. We then came up with a birdhouse cake with “no flowers and no pink.” She still wanted there to be color, so I suggested cardinals and blue jays because they’re naturally bright colored.
Another thing to note about this cake is that they ordered an Old Fashioned Apple cake with maple brown sugar cream cheese icing, which is naturally light tan in color. Since they had already banned pink I was afraid to use purple, as well. I thought it would be nice winter touch to stick the birds on pine tree branches, and did a mock aluminum siding for the birdhouse surrounded with more pine tree branches to mask the rough icing edges and red huckleberry bunches for color. The bird feather was a stretch but I didn’t like the blank spot on the top of the cake. The birdhouse is made out of cake with a solid chocolate post sticking out of it, which I made by pouring chocolate into rolled up wax paper.
The tragic end to this story…they hated it. The grandmother called up and demanded they call me in long after I had left work for the day. First she complained that the cake was the wrong flavor (she meant to order a Caramel Apple cake, not what she put in her email), then she claimed I made a Christmas cake, and she absolutely didn’t want a Christmas cake. The cake was so awful that she couldn’t take it to the party, and her poor granddaughter would not have a cake for her 2nd birthday. Since this cake had already cost me so much overtime, we were forced to give her her money back rather than waste more money making her a whole new cake.
Part of being a cake decorator is being an artist, and in every art field it is your job to fill in the gaps in your clients instructions and sometimes straight up guess at what they want. I really dread a client who asks me to tell them what their cake should look like for their event. You can’t please everyone, even if you were a mind reader, and you will have to give people their money back once in a while (hopefully a long while).