I received a Facebook message from a friend who had had a 4 tier cake collapse. She was understandably upset and was seeking advice. As I read posts on Facebook from other friends, I realized that numerous people were having a really rough cake weekend. I wanted to let each of you know that you are not alone and that cake-tastrophes rarely define your career.
What would I know about it? More than you could imagine. I am going to be very honest with you and share a couple of the worst day of my life. Well, what I thought at the time were the worst days of my life.
One day a bride had called in her credit card number for final payment on her cake. I took down the number and handed the file to an employee to ring up. Long story short, the employee never rang up the charges and at some point tossed the file on my desk with a bunch of other papers, where it became buried. If you can connect the dots, you know that means that the bride’s wedding day came and went with no cake from us. I came in the next day to find the most hateful, awful phone messages. I nearly vomited on the spot.
I found the file buried on my desk, after a frantic search to figure out how we missed a cake. I did the only thing I could do. I called the mother and apologized. I wrote a letter to the bride. I paid her for the cake…not a refund since we never charged her…I gave her what it would have cost. I gave her gift certificates for a two tier cake and an anniversary topper. And you know what? I survived. The family saw how distraught I was and saw that I was trying to make it right. The best part? Her church continued to be a source of many weddings for me. I handled it like a professional and it all worked out in the end.
One of my favorite brides ever had a six tier cake. As I finished setting it up, it was beautiful. My husband Rob, who usually points out any flaws, said “I’m really proud of you…that is a great cake”. I was ecstatic. A few hours later, I received a call at home from the wedding planner. The top two tiers of the cake had ” fallen” off the cake. The cake could still be served, but they needed a dummy cake for the reception.
I couldn’t decide whether to cry, scream or hide under the covers. I took a breath, and ran to my shop to get a dummy cake. I ended up refunding the wedding cake price. To this day, I believe that someone did something to my cake, but the country club denies it. The florist added flowers after I finished, so who knows. There was a prom going on upstairs and every teenager had to pass the cake. I still have no idea how two tiers can jump off, but the rest of the cake is fine.
Even worse, the local high society newspaper mentioned it with their picture of the bride and groom. It cost me most weddings at that country club (high end, two blocks from my shop). All I could do was do my best on every bride’s cake and hope that eventually people would realize that I did nice work. Eventually, my reputation did speak for itself and the wedding planner began to defend me if asked about the incident.
In each case, I thought I was done. That my bakery was done. That I would need to leave town. But the sun rose the next day. People still needed cakes. Life went on. Someone told me that if something won’t matter ten years from now, it doesn’t matter and to move on. The process of moving on takes every bit of courage you have. But you CAN do it!
Sometimes your errors are simple misspellings, learning that you cannot stack cakes that high, that cardboard cake circles absorb moisture and give way or any number of other lessons that are out there waiting for you. In each case, accept responsibility. Try to make it right with the customer. Pray you don’t end up on CakeWrecks. Let the customer yell or cry if they need to – let them release their emotions without getting emotional back.
When I was an attorney, I went to see a judge, who had a quotation on his desk. When days seem too hard to handle, I repeat this quote. It was spoken in a speech by Abraham Lincoln. “And this, too, shall pass away”.
Don’t feel like a loser. Don’t give up. Believe that you are better than what just happened. I promise, this too shall pass. Promise.