Yep, we had one of those in the bakery yesterday.
The bakery is blessed with some very talented decorators who love to create. I encourage and empower them but they sometimes make commitments that are not in the bakery's best economic interests.
The relationship between the cost of decorating time and the price of a cake is a difficult one to fully grasp. Hence today's teachable moment.
It began about a week ago when a lady called asking if we could make a "wrestling cake."
We've made wrestling rings before and they are pretty straight-forward. Knowing this, the decorator quoted a price for a simple square cake. Which would have been fine if it stopped there.
The customer wanted more, so she also agreed to create a wrestler to put in the ring. At no additional cost. By hand, out of gum paste. For the uninitiated, that's about an hour's work, just for the figure (lots of small details in several colors of gum paste). We've been making a lot of fondant figures lately, elephants and dogs and cats and people, but they go on larger stacked or carved cakes where the costs of such details are included in the price of the cake. I was a bit concerned the price of the cake would not cover the time needed make the figure, but was assured it would be easy. Okaaaay (I'm trying to delegate more and be less of a control freak).
A couple of days ago, as we were preparing for Rosie's party, we discovered we were low on gum paste. The wrestler (standing up) could not be made from fondant because it's not strong enough, and we didn't have time to order more.
So she called the customer and explained we couldn't make the wrestling figure from gum paste, offering to buy an action toy instead. The customer said OK.
The small square cake was decorated with a hand painted fondant mat, cushioned sides, poles, ropes and a $10 action figure she bought and donated to the cause.
The customer came in to pick it up and the decorator brought out the cake, commenting that it turned out really nice.
The customer replied "not nearly as nice as it would have been with the gum paste wrestler."
She was crushed, having gone above and beyond to try to deliver her promised cake. You can't blame the customer for asking for as much as possible. It's also not the customer's fault we were out of gum paste. It was a lose-lose for all involved. As soon as the customer left, I seized upon the teachable moment, which included managing unreasonable expectations, covering the cost of time-consuming details on small cakes, and inventory management.
Hopefully, the next time someone requests a small cake with 3-d animals or figures, they'll be offered manageable options.