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I need some HUGS! Order I worked on all week got terrible feedback =(
Posted: 18 April 2010 04:28 PM   [ Ignore ]
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Hello friends, it is a sad day in the kitchen today. I have been on here all week asking questions, learning to make the chocolate torte from TCB intending it to be used for the largest order I’ve had to date, which is very small compared to the cakes ya’ll do (weddings etc) but never the less, I wanted to make this person very happy!

I made the chocolate butter cake from TCB using the rose factor to accommodate two 10” and two 6” pans…made test cakes, etc until I got it to rise correctly. I am a high altitude baker and always have issues with recipes, dryness, and collapsing. I thought I had fixed those major issues, and was pretty happy once it was all solved. The cake was made into a two tier Mario themed fondant design, baked on Wed/Thurs and served on Sat. They were WELL wrapped, syruped etc.

The cake once finished looked wonderful, and they were very happy. I made sure to tell them what a special recipe I used, and how excited I was for them to try it! I had tasted the test cake and the leveling scraps from her cakes, and thought it was the best chocolate cake I ever tasted. I call today to see how the party went yesterday after I left (assembled on site due to the delicate crumb of this cake) and am horrified to hear the review.

They said the cake crumbled into oblivion when they cut it, and tasted terrible, and was dry. They said I should have saved my trouble and used a Duncan Hines boxed mix, and it would have been an improvement. They said the kids didn’t even want to eat it, it was so crumbly, and she had made cupcakes too to compliment the design and supplement for extra unexpected guests, so they gravitates towards those. Imagine my shock.

Now, I still have scraps of that cake right now, that I accidentally left uncovered overnight (the first night I’ve gotten to sleep in three days!!!) and folks, it is STILL moderately moist. What in the world? I don’t understand =( She said the guests made remarks about how crumbly the cake was too…though one of her guests wrote to me to tell me how incredible the cake was herself yesterday, so I am at a loss. I just feel terrible, after all that work and sleepless nights. After all those test cakes, etc etc. This is one of those moments that makes me not want to do cakes anymore =(... 

Here it is:

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Posted: 18 April 2010 05:27 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
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Obviously, I can’t taste the cake or even see the cut cake, but I think it LOOKS fantastic!  I wonder why your ‘friend’ was so critical of it…. especially as you say it is so moist and another friend says it was so good??  Puzzling, isn’t it? rolleyes

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Posted: 18 April 2010 05:30 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
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I hate to say it, but from the mixed reviews and the way the complaints were expressed, it sounds like somebody wants something for free.  Are these friends of yours?  The cake is adorable.

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Posted: 18 April 2010 06:42 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]
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First, I think your cake looks wonderful and very professional!  Great job! Sometimes there is no accounting for taste, so I wouldn’t beat yourself up over it, although I understand how disappointing it would be the hear that kind of feedback.

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Posted: 18 April 2010 07:54 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]
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Jeanette, I agree!  I spoke to the party guest/person who contacted me just to tell me they had finally tried one of my cakes, and asked them to give me some feedback. They said all four people at their table thought it was moist and delicious though she said she did notice the host/my friend struggling with cutting due to crumbling. The client is a very casual acquaintance I know through my Husband’s workplace.

BakerJD, that is the puzzling thing. I offered to give her a partial refund for her trouble, and she firmly refused a few times as I tried to make sure she was refusing for the right reason (as opposed to being bashful). At the end of the call I offered to make her some comp cupcakes with a denser chocolate recipe, so that she got to eat something she liked for the money. That cake wasn’t cheap, to the tune of about $140 AFTER a military discount.

Matthew, thank you for your encouragement =) I am going over to her home tomorrow to cut opened the layer that never got served. I am going to taste it, cut it up, and observe it’s crumbly symptoms hehe. If it was dry on Saturday, it should be even more so tomorrow. Only then will I feel better. I need to see it and taste it for myself…

Thank you all, I really needed that. My bunny ears are really hanging low today, pardon the phrase.

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Posted: 18 April 2010 08:17 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]
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It’s an amazing cake, Jessica. I know how hard you worked, and I can’t tell you how sorry and mystified I am by the feedback you’ve had.

That particular recipe of Rose’s has led to a dry result for some people. But I don’t believe any of the common culprits could have come into play here. Some people don’t like to syrup, and this cake needs it. You used syrup on the cake layers after they had cooled to room temp? (I learned to my sorrow once that syrup doesn’t penetrate very far into a frozen cake!) Some people forget to put plastic wrap over the cocoa and boiling water, and lose a lot of moisture to evaporation. We covered that issue. You’re weighing ingredients, so you wouldn’t have made the mistake I made 12 years ago when I did a bajillion test cakes for my daughter’s wedding. (Measured the flour by volume, then sifted. Way too much flour added to the cake as a result. Sift first, then measure! Or weigh and no worries.) Last but not least, you did the test cakes that resolved exactly how much extra moisture you had to add re: high altitude baking.

PLUS you tasted the trimmings yourself. Even after being left out overnight, they were moist. The only thing I can think of is that these people wanted the sort of mouthfeel you get with a boxed mix cake that uses oil instead of butter or you add pudding to the mix. A really damp texture that’s almost fudge-like. She should have said. Some of Rose’s other recipes are exactly that texture, but still use quality ingredients. You could have used one of those. Or you could have increased the amount of syrup.

Chalk it up to a learning experience, and don’t let her get away with not paying the agreed price.

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Posted: 18 April 2010 10:22 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]
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Carolita, thank you for your thorough recount and kind remarks about my work; Your memory is impressive! I just had a friend come over between now and when I wrote this taste the left out scraps, and even she said it tasted great and moist. I think you hit the nail in the head when you said “The only thing I can think of is that these people wanted the sort of mouthfeel you get with a boxed mix cake that uses oil “. I agree. The texture of an oil cake is far different than the texture of a butter cake, and without knowing the difference as a consumer, I could see how that mouthfeel could equate to dryness. My crumbs in a tupperware, from that cake (I save them for spackled paste experiments!) even look moist. I think the inexperienced pallete is the culprit behind the perception of dryness, coupled most importantly by my failure to fully interview my client to find her sweet tooth mecca cake wise. I have learned a very valuable lesson here, now I see the ranbow at the end of this gray day. I will use this info next time, and now looking back, cannot believe I didn’t ask more about what textures she likes. That is as important as what flavor of cake do you want! Now I know…

Thank you again for my internet “hug” hehe, you all are truly wonderful to me.

ETA: All of my work is paid for 100% a min of two weeks before the event. No issues there! I am making her a dozen cupcakes sometime in the unspecified future when I find a nice dense choc cake recipe. That is the only resolution she would accept, so I must not be that bad a baker if she chooses more of my goods over a partial refund *wink*

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Posted: 18 April 2010 11:20 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 7 ]
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Your cake is objectively beautiful. There is no question that you have talent for decorating. As for your client’s criticisms about the flavor, I agree with Carolita. There are a lot of people out there whose Platonic ideal of chocolate cake is exactly what Carolita described: Boxed mix, pudding mix added, frosting from a can. In the future, perhaps you can manage your client’s expectations better by describing the texture of your cake ahead of time. Let them know that crumbly does not mean dry, it means super-tender, airy and the epitome of what a butter cake should be. Tell them that you don’t use artificial ingredients, stabilizers and preservatives, so your cakes will not be the same as a box cake, either in texture or in flavor. Don’t tell them it is the “best” cake they will ever eat, because you risk having them compare it to some long-lost recipe from childhood, and you can’t compete with nostalgia. Just let the cake speak for itself, and let them know about other customers who have been thrilled with your work.

As for the children’s reaction, well, most kids are happy with gummy worms and M&Ms;. I can’t tell you how many excellent birthday cakes I have baked, only to have a minority of kids turn their nose up at it and head for the candy dish because they want maximum sugar. Some adults are like this, too. They have uni-dimensional taste buds. Don’t let it discourage you. You just have to find your target audience: People with a more sophisticated palate who want a not-too-sweet cake made from natural, quality ingredients. Those people are out there, and they will be happy to enlist your services.

I also think BakerJD might be onto something. People want the moon and the stars when they pay for things, and when every last little expectation is not met, they want stuff for free.

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Posted: 19 April 2010 12:19 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 8 ]
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Jem,

I hope this experience does not really make you “not want to do cakes anymore”. Sometimes, we can’t please everybody. Rose’s cakes are exceptionally tender, and not everyone is used to this, especially if all they know are boxed cakes. You do beautiful work, we can see that from the photo. And we all know what Rose’s cakes are like—incredible. I know we will hear more from you, with more beautiful cake photos. I look forward to seeing your next cake.

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Posted: 19 April 2010 02:27 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 9 ]
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Have you ever read the story in the Cake Bible about the client who was dissatisfied with Rose’s Torah cake?  A good lesson that there are people out there who will never be quite happy no matter what you do!

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Posted: 19 April 2010 01:59 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 10 ]
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Jem, I wanted to let you know that I looked at your cake blog and your cakes are all adorable!  I’d love to be able to work with fondant and modeling chocolate the way you do, but I’m afraid to even try. Do you make your own fondant as well?

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Posted: 19 April 2010 04:11 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 11 ]
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Hello friends,

I just got back from my visit to my client’s home to see the cake for myself, experience cutting it, and taste it. I took pics.
It cut just fine, my pieces came out clean and in one piece. I could see the moisture on the cake, no need to taste it but I tasted it anyway. It tasted nowhere near as incredible as when it was fresh, but still, not bad at all and not disgusting. The only thing I think I could have done better structurally was to add more filling; I was shy with the filling this time because I have had my last few cakes bulge from the filling seeping out under the fondant’s weight. Even with an icing dam. My cakes usually have a ton of buttercream under the fondant, and in the layers they usually have a ton of ganache but I am less afraid of piling on ganache because it firms up! Being still new to this, it is all a learning experience. Anyhow, I asked her to cut a piece with the same knife she used at the party, she did, and her piece came out crumbled and broken. I can see how she had issues if she attempted to cut the whole cake in that manner. See pics.

She wouldn’t accept any partial refunds as I said, but she asked me to make two dozen cupcakes or one small cake for the little boy’s actual birthday, to take to his class. I wasn’t in a position to say no, as both Husband and Wife were very firm on their opinions and did pay a good amount for the cake. I asked if I could use a boxed mix for their cupcakes, they said it would be fine. They also said they were only used to oil cakes and boxed mixes, walmart cakes etc. I will be the first to say artisan cakes DO taste completely different and might not please everyone, especially if they are used to commercially made cakes that aren’t really cake but chemicals and oils. It still hurts though, I wish I could please everyone and not let it hurt my self-confidence when I can’t.

So, I am going to have to make her a batch of 24 cupcakes for her son’s class in a couple weeks, and take with me a HUUGE learning experience. Ask about texture and density and moisture content, cut my own large cakes at the event, and be prepared for people to differ on flavor preference.

One pic is of my slice (rectangular slice in traditional cutting method)
One pic is of her slice (triangle slice with cake in background illustrating how it came out broken)
Close up of cake slice to show moisture and lack of filling (boo, me! It seems to have soaked into the cake? Where’d it go?)

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Posted: 19 April 2010 04:24 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 12 ]
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Christine S. - 19 April 2010 02:20 AM

Your cake is objectively beautiful. There is no question that you have talent for decorating. As for your client’s criticisms about the flavor, I agree with Carolita. There are a lot of people out there whose Platonic ideal of chocolate cake is exactly what Carolita described: Boxed mix, pudding mix added, frosting from a can. In the future, perhaps you can manage your client’s expectations better by describing the texture of your cake ahead of time. Let them know that crumbly does not mean dry, it means super-tender, airy and the epitome of what a butter cake should be. Tell them that you don’t use artificial ingredients, stabilizers and preservatives, so your cakes will not be the same as a box cake, either in texture or in flavor. Don’t tell them it is the “best” cake they will ever eat, because you risk having them compare it to some long-lost recipe from childhood, and you can’t compete with nostalgia. Just let the cake speak for itself, and let them know about other customers who have been thrilled with your work.

As for the children’s reaction, well, most kids are happy with gummy worms and M&Ms;. I can’t tell you how many excellent birthday cakes I have baked, only to have a minority of kids turn their nose up at it and head for the candy dish because they want maximum sugar. Some adults are like this, too. They have uni-dimensional taste buds. Don’t let it discourage you. You just have to find your target audience: People with a more sophisticated palate who want a not-too-sweet cake made from natural, quality ingredients. Those people are out there, and they will be happy to enlist your services.

I also think BakerJD might be onto something. People want the moon and the stars when they pay for things, and when every last little expectation is not met, they want stuff for free.

Thank you Christine, I really appreciate your words. I agree with what you said about setting myself up for heartache with the cake description, I will take that bit of advice and run with it. Yes, the kids not wanting it hurt! I equate kids not wanting cake with a story from my childhood where a starving feral cat turned down my mother’s meatloaf when offered on the back porch! We all gave her so much hassle about that because we all hated meatloaf as kids! Looking back, shame on us =( I am going to ASK for it next time I am home, poor Mommy!

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Posted: 19 April 2010 04:32 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 13 ]
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Kathleen—Thank you! It does make me second guess my ability to do this, since I do have very thin skin as opposed to thick? LOL I am sensitive and take things to heart, rejection and disappointment haunt me! If I am to keep pressing on intending to sell my work, I need to toughen up or hire someone to handle my PR lol. j/k about the PR LOL

Baker JD—Thank you as well, for your comments and encouragement. I do make my fondant, it has been a long time in the making with regards to getting it just right. I have made MMF and traditional rolled fondant, and for now, prefer MMF. My rolled fondant likes to crack on the corners of my cakes, and I know Rose says to bevel the edges, but I am too afraid to do that! I always imagine it making my edges look uneven. We will see. Perhaps I will be brave and give it another go.

Matthew—Yes! I remember than one! I had to read it twice to get the full effect…poor Rose. At least it tasted good! I don’t know which is worse, to have someone insult the decorating and like the flavor, or love the decorating and hate the flavor. Hmm, conundrums! That should be added to the game “Would you rather” just for the cake decorator/culinary artists of the world!

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Posted: 19 April 2010 08:02 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 14 ]
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Jessie, sorry this comment is late, but I thought the cake is adorable. And sorry to hear about your experience. I suppose it is important to have thick skin, as others have said, there would be someone who would not like it. It would still hurt though.
Anyway, I thought the cake is super beautiful. I used to play mario brothers too so it’s really fun to see all the characters on your cake. They look so real (as real as on the tv screen) and cute.

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Posted: 20 April 2010 12:51 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 15 ]
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Thank you Jenn. I appreciate it =) I did decide that I am not going to make any more cakes (orders) for the time I have left in my current location, we move far FAR away from here (Clovis NM) to Abu Dhabi, UAE in July. So, I will use the time to work on making more of Rose’s cakes, perfecting a couple recipes and getting comfy with them. I think this will end up a blessing in disguise. I seriously was getting lost in all the orders, they never seemed to let up! What a great problem to have, eh? I will soak up my freedom now…

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