• Bec

How late can you leave it to order a cake?


"Is there any chance you could do a cake for this weekend?"

I've received messages similar to this many times, the record being someone asking to order a cake for the very next day! There are many reasons why people need cakes at the last minute: sometimes another cake maker has let them down, sometimes a family member promised to make one and then got too nervous; or maybe they just forgot to organise it in time. Here I'll talk you through why it's generally a good idea to order a cake in good time, but also how sometimes I can wave my magic cake wand and come up with the goods. I end with 5 tips on how to order a last-minute cake!

(All the pictures in this article are of cakes I whipped up in record time!)

Why it takes 4-6 weeks to make a cake

I generally have a 4-6 week lead time these days. Any closer than this to the date of your celebration, and it's likely there will be many other orders in the diary already that I have to work around, reducing the chances of me being able to fit your bake in. The earlier the better to order a cake (I already have cakes in the diary for 2019 and wedding cakes can be booked for 2020 now), but generally there's a fairly good chance I can fit a celebration cake in if it's ordered within a couple of months of the party.

Decoration-dependent

If you message me for a chocolate cake covered in white fondant with a few daisies on it, there's a good chance I can fit it in last-minute. If, however, you want a cake shaped as the bar at a pub with a figurine of your son holding a pint for the next weekend (yes, I did receive this request from one very sweet enquirer), there is pretty much no way I can achieve this. Most decorations like figures and sugar flowers need several days of drying time, and are often made in stages over a few days while parts of them harden up enough to support the rest. They also tend to be time consuming and need to be made at times in my schedule when I am not trying to bake lots of cakes, ganache and cover as well.

Supply & demand

I need to ensure that I have a constant supply of cake boxes, drums, dowels, greaseproof paper... and the rest. These are the basics. But a lot of cakes, being completely tailor-made for each and every client, require specific ingredients or tools that I have to order especially. A specific food colouring, a lustre dust, a cutter or a mould - I'm usually looking ahead in my diary at the start of each month to see what I need to include in my order from the big suppliers. Unsurprisingly, I don't want to have to pay for next day delivery if I can avoid it, and as the client, neither do you... so, the more I can plan ahead and incorporate supplies into my schedule, the more I can keep my, and therefore your, costs down.

I'm on a tight schedule - in life!

My business is run part-time around my family, church, friends, social life and other commitments. As you'll all know, there are a lot of plates to juggle in life, and although there is a certain degree of leeway, sometimes things won't budge, or won't squeeze any more than you've squeezed them already to make them fit. This all means that on the whole, I don't have a whole lot of wiggle room to fit unforeseen extras in.

I'm on a tight schedule - with cakes!

My cake schedule is generally packed pretty tight, and each week is planned meticulously to fit everything in. Making ganache, buttercream, baking the cakes, whizzing up macarons, preparing decorations, covering cake boards - the list is endless, and each task is allocated to a time that makes sense for it and is most efficient. I can't make ganache on the same day the cake needs to be covered with it, because it has to set and harden overnight before being used. I can't make a sugar rose in one day because the bud has to dry out for at least 3 days beforehand so it doesn't tear. I have to fill my cakes with buttercream at least 4 hours before they're covered in ganache so they don't sink or bulge in the middle. Everything is planned, planned, planned, which doesn't leave much room for manoeuvre with last minute requests.

But... It's ALWAYS worth a try

Despite all this, I have managed to pull some cakey miracles out of the bag a few times. Sometimes I am able to double up on things and fit in an extra bake. It helps if you, as the client, are willing to be flexible - perhaps I'm doing a Victoria sponge and chocolate cake already, so you have the limited choice of Victoria, lemon or chocolate - perhaps you can lose some of the more complicated decoration you wanted and we can replace it with something simpler but still effective. If you're willing to compromise a bit, more is possible.

Late fees

Sometimes late fees will be applicable to a cake that's ordered at very short notice. As you've seen, the way my business works is to make it as efficient as possible. If I have to spend extra time making an extra trip to the supermarket for an ingredient or making another batch of ganache instead of making a double batch in one go, that cost of time and materials has to be added on to the cake. In the same vein, collection times may be far more limited if a request is urgent.

So how do you order a last-minute cake?! 5 tips:

- Be polite when you make your request and acknowledge that it's short notice

- Be willing to be flexible on flavour and design

- Be prepared that there may be an extra cost involved

- Be understanding about collection times

- Put your next celebration cake order in the diary at least 6 weeks before you need it!

To order a cake, whether last-minute or for December 2019, for West Yorkshire (Keighley, Bingley, Bradford, Saltaire, Skipton, Ilkley, Menston, Guiseley, Silsden & beyond!) visit:

www.threelittlebirdsbakery.co.uk


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© 2020 by Rebecca Severs. Photos by Andrew King Photography (http://www.andrewkingphotography.co.uk/) and Rebecca Severs.