When taking a cake order, there are so many things you need to know and having a cake order questionnaire, plus other tips on what information to get is so helpful.
Here are the things you need to find out from your customer and the order in which it’s most helpful. Getting the answers to these questions is so important in getting the cake order correct and having a happy customer.
In this post, I’m going to go through what worked best for me when I was selling cakes from home. Now, I never owned a huge bakery, so I don’t know how it works running one.
But I did have a small home-based cake business that I worked part-time at home for several years until I started this blog.
These are the things that I learned…some of them the hard way, but I hope they’ll be helpful to you.
At the bottom of this post, I’m also including a printable with all these questions listed out for you. You can simply print off the cake questionnaire for free and go down the list with your client. (And feel free to add anything you think needs to be added.)
So, something that will help you learn how to take a cake order is that you want to ask questions in a certain order. When I sold cakes, I didn’t necessarily ask all of these questions upfront.
But asking certain questions asked upfront will allow you to weed out a lot of customers who aren’t willing to pay the price of a custom cake and those who want you to make it at a discounted rate. It’ll also help you to not waste your time if you’re already booked for a certain day.
By the way, if you want even more information with details and tips on how to actually start selling cakes from home, you can see that post here.
Ok, let’s get to the questions to ask a cake client and the order I like to ask them.
The Order of Questions is Important:
Sometimes you don’t actually schedule a cake consultation. You can, but not every order needs to be that formal.
There are a lot of times I would just get a random text or Facebook message with a pic of a cake and the text would just say ‘how much?‘, or ‘can you make this cake?‘. Well, you need more information than that in order to answer that question.
Now, the customer doesn’t realize this and that’s okay…they just don’t know and maybe they’ve never ordered a custom cake. So, at that point, it’s time to start asking a few questions.
First I would usually respond with something like this: “Thanks for reaching out. In order to answer that question, I need a bit more information.” Then I would ask this: “When do you need this cake and how many people will it need to serve?“
If they need the cake on a date you’re unavailable, well then the conversation is over. You just can’t do it. (Although you definitely want to be nice in your response to them about it.)
Now, if the date is do-abe, then the next question about serving size is really important. People don’t know how many servings a certain size of cake will make. They may actually need a bigger cake, or perhaps one that’s not so big. You need to find this out upfront because you’ll have to know what size of cake it’ll be before giving them a proper quote.
Now, if you have a minimum price, this is also the time that I would let them know. “My cakes start at $150…, but I will need to get more information from you before I can give you a quote for this design“. You’ll use your own minimum order price there of course and personally I recommend having a minimum order price. (We’ll talk more about that below.)
This will save you a lot of time because if the person cannot pay the minimum price, then you won’t be able to make the cake for them and you haven’t spent a ton of time designing a cake and getting a quote out to them.
After those first areas are hashed out, then you can move on to the other questions, which we’ll get into below.
Ok, so, let’s slow down a bit and talk about each of these questions in a little bit more detail.
First and foremost, you need to find out the date of the event, or at least when the customer wants the cake. That will tell you right off if you can do it for them. (See above for verbiage you can use to respond to the customer.)
If you’re unavailable for that date, then you don’t have to go back and forth with the customer getting all the details about the cake…you’ll know you can’t do it for them.
The Serving Amount Needed:
Just like we talked about earlier, you’ve got to know how many people they need to serve. People just don’t know what size cakes to order and you can’t give them a quote until you know what size the cake will be.
The person may think they know how big a cake they need, but many times they don’t realize how much or how little a certain size cake will serve. You need to ask specifically how many people it needs to serve.
Another thing you want to ask in regards to servings is if this will be a wedding cake, will the bride and groom keep the top tier to freeze for an anniversary cake?
In some areas, it’s tradition to save and freeze the top tier of the wedding cake and eat a bit of it on the first anniversary. Yeah, it’s gross, but people like tradition.
Anyway, if they’re wanting to do that, then you can’t count the top tier in the number of servings because they won’t be serving that tier. Make sense?
The Minimum Order Price (If you have one):
Early on, you can also let them know you have a minimum order amount. It took me a while to start doing this, but once I did, it saved me a lot of time.
You’ll feel like you’re losing a ton of potential clients, but really you’re not. You’re just saving yourself tons of time going back and forth with quotes and changes and then the customer saying no. It’s better to just state upfront what your minimum is.
So, maybe your minimum order amount is $150 and that’s the minimum you’ll do, then let them know that. If someone wants 6 cupcakes and your minimum order is two dozen, then let them know that. That’s not mean, that’s just setting boundaries on what you’re willing to turn your oven on for.
Time is money too and so you have to factor that in and if it takes an hour to bake and quickly decorate cupcakes and you’ve only made 6-12, then you may end up working for less than minimum wage. That’s not worth it.
Just know that if the customer is just trying to get a cheap cake, by telling them upfront what your minimum is, then they will know the bottom line right then without you having to go through a ton of questions.
If they’re okay with your minimum order, then you can move on to giving them a more specific quote.
Ask the potential customer where the event will be held. That may not be important if they’ll just be picking up the cake from you, but if you’re going to be delivering it, you need to know if you can get to the venue and how far away it is, etc.
Will it be a two-tiered cake and you have to drive it up the side of a mountain? Is it down a dirt or rocky road? You need to be prepared for these things.
You might want to know this information before giving them a quote, since you may need to charge a transportation fee. That’s up to you.
You also need to know if it’s an outdoor event. This is important. Frankly, if it was an outdoor wedding and the cake would have nowhere to sit other than in the direct hot sunlight, I would just decline the order.
There’s just nothing you can do to make a cake stand up to high heat like that and you’re sure to get an unhappy bride. Even if you tell them all that and they swear they still want to take a chance, my answer was always no. It will always come back on the cake maker.
Personally, I just did not want to take a chance on having a client take me to court for a refund for something like that when I knew it would not stand up to the heat.
Now, not all outdoor events are like that…it’s just the middle of the summer ones and the ones where there is no other place to keep the cake cool until it’s time to cut it.
If you’re curious about what happens to a cake in direct heat and sunlight like that and how long it actually takes to collapse (it’s not long), I’ve linked a YouTube video below that shows that.
And this video isn’t filmed in a weird weather region either. This bakery is in Dallas, Texas which is about an hour and a half road trip from where I live.
Cake, Type, Design & Flavors:
Next up, you want to ask about all the details of the cake and what type of cake they’ll need. Is this a birthday cake? A wedding cake? What type of event?
You can also get more into the details here and ask them what design they want. Many times, they’ve already sent you a picture of what they want though.
You’ll just want to ask them any questions you have about that design and colors and what flavors of cake/filling and icing they want. Do they want fondant? Buttercream? Ganache?
Make sure to ask them about any additional items like flowers, allergy information etc. Do they want gumpaste flowers? Fresh flowers? Silk flowers?
There are a few more details I like to get, especially for wedding cakes. They are things like: Do you want me to provide the flowers? Real or Silk? If the florist is providing them, do you want the florist to add them to the cake, or will the florist just leave them for me to add?
Will you be adding a cake topper to the cake? What is the size of that topper? Is the topper heavy? (You need to know this so you know if the top cake tier is going to be big enough. and if you need to add support for a heavy topper to sit on it. )
Is there a certain cake base display you want to use? This is important because they need to know the size of that bottom cake tier, so if they’re wanting to use their own base, then it’ll be an appropriate size.
Obviously, you’ll put the cake on a sturdy cake base already, but some people like to use large wood slices, large wooden bases, or even large cake pedestals. You need to know this upfront and communicate to them why you need to know it.
Ok, so this isn’t exactly a question you’ll ask them, but more like the next step. (I guess you really could actually consider this a question though because you’ll have given them something to respond to.)
Once you feel confident you’ve gotten all the information you need, you can give them a proper quote.
Some people are okay with doing a rough sketch of the design at this point and some cakers say to wait until the quote is accepted before doing that. I say, do what you’re comfortable doing. Just don’t spend a ton of time on a fancy sketch before giving a quote. You could be wasting hours of your time.
So, give them the quote with confidence and then let them respond. Don’t feel guilty about what you quoted. Don’t go and lower it because they’re quiet, or maybe don’t respond to you right away.
When you give the quote, you also want to let them know about the deposit, how much it’ll be and when it’ll be due. Also that you do require a contract to be signed and what the refund policy is. (We’ll get to the contract below.)
This can just be a short couple sentences like this: “The quote for this cake design is $____. I do require a deposit of 50%, which works out to $___ and that would be due before I’m able to put the order on my schedule. The remaining 50% would be due _.) You don’t have to use my percentages here, or exact wording…just go with what your business policies are.
If they come back and they’re hesitant about the price, you can always offer different options…if that is what you want to do.
Also not technically a question, but you do need to ‘ask’ them to sign a contract.
So, if the customer says yes to your quote, then great! You’re still not done yet though. You need to write up the contract and send it to them and re-explain that you’ll need them to sign it and get the deposit. It’s good to go over the contract with them as well.
Make sure they know that their cake order isn’t official and doesn’t get scheduled until the contract is signed and the deposit is paid.
If someone keeps putting you off over and over, but keeps saying they want the cake, then give them a deadline. You don’t want to harass them or anything, but you do want to check in a couple of times.
Just say you’ll need to have the contract signed and the deposit paid by ____ date in order for you to have enough time to prepare and to hold it on your calendar.
If they do not respond, then they don’t want the cake and you have to let it go…as long as you have been upfront about what you need to hold that date for them and then they did not comply.
Do NOT squeeze yourself into a tight jam if someone will not commit until the last second, then you’re caught rushing around…unless you just like working under a time crunch…which I absolutely hate. I do know some people who actually like it, so whatever floats your boat. 🙂
A note about the contract: I do have a sample contract that I wrote up when taking orders and you’re welcome to use it.
Here’s my disclaimer though: I am NOT an attorney and I am not giving you legal advice by providing a sample of the contract I used. Use it at your own risk and if you are really concerned about what a contract needs to say, then have a lawyer look at it for you.
Download the contract below, but make sure to read my disclaimer above and use it at your own risk as I am not a lawyer and this is not legal advice:
Ok, now that that’s all done…the fun part begins! All the baking and decorating!
I do have a handy cake questionnaire that you can print out below where I’ve listed all these questions.
Just click the graphic below or the link under it and it’ll download automatically. You may find you don’t need all those questions, or you might want to add in your own questions, which is totally fine too.
You can either print this out and hand write on it, or you can type in the answer fields…those fields are editable.
I hope this post was helpful to you in figuring out what questions to ask when someone wants to order a cake and that you get some use out of the sample contract and cake questionnaire!
Happy caking and best of luck to you and your cake business!