Follow-Up: The Cake

After visiting Bittersweet first, and then Sylvia and her mom visiting the other guy at the baking institute, we ended up at an impasse. She wasn’t completely happy with either as Bittersweet seemed too expensive and the baking institute…I’m not really sure about that. There was just something about it that didn’t set well with her and that’s all you really need to not jump right on ordering a wedding cake. Sylvia scheduled an appointment with a third bakery that was highly recommended to us. We went earlier today and it was interesting the kind of perspective that it brought to the whole process.

Our appointment was at noon, so Sylvia and I met her mom, Diane at the shop about 10 minutes early and we sat down at a cute little table. We chatted for a bit and and checked out the storefront a bit until sometime around when our appointment was supposed to start. A clerk from behind the counter brought us some books with photos to look through, which was great. There were a lot of cakes that looked quite nice, but not too many of them were ones that I’d consider wedding cakes really. There were a lot of party cakes for birthdays that were either bottles of booze or animals or…not wedding cakes. It was kind of weird because all of the cake photos at Bittersweet were wedding cakes. You know, the reason you’re there and all. Anyway, I let it go just because it was nice to see the range of stuff they could do.

After we made it through the books, we ended up sort of sitting there for a couple of minutes chatting and at that point I started to think that something was off about this appointment. The owner hadn’t come to introduce herself and we’d barely been acknowledged by the staff. After another minute or so, another staff member brought out some cake selections and a little flier with popular combinations that people had ordered before. They were all laid out in rectangular shapes and the fillings were sort of melon-balled out, everything with it’s own handwritten note as to what it was. It was kind of cute, but my first thought was that the one tray was for all of us, whereas Bittersweet had given each of us our own small plates of cake, with the fillings in a communal setting for us to try. I let that go because the cake was pretty nice for the most part and a few of the fillings were really good and it’s not like you need to eat a boatload of cake at a tasting. However, it was quite difficult trying to figure out what was nice as we didn’t have as much cake to play with though. When you each only get one small piece between three of you, you really have to make your ideas count when you try a combination.

Then we sat. And we sat. As we were sitting there, we talked about what we liked and what notes that Sylvia took down and realized that a lot of the combinations of flavors mentioned in the flier weren’t on the tasting tray that was given to us. We really wanted to try a couple of them too, but I have no idea why they didn’t end up making it to the tasting tray. After a while, we sort of ran out of things to talk about with regards to the cake options at the place and we all slowly slipped into fairly agitated states at varying rates. While we were kind of confused as to what was going on, we realized that there was a woman, who had been standing at the counter for at least 15 or 20 minutes, clearly needing help and being neglected.

Sylvia’s annoyance crested quickest, and understandably so, because why would you want to do business with a place where the owner not only doesn’t acknowledge that you’re even there, especially if they’re potentially going to spend hundreds of dollars. Also, why have you’ve got a customer who clearly needs something and can’t get it for over a quarter of an hour? At least come out and say hello, apologize for the wait and then acknowledge that it’s taking longer than it should for you to be available. At about 12:25 or so, half an hour after our appointment started, all three of us had had enough and Sylvia asked a clerk, “should we come back at a better time?” The clerk seemed like she wasn’t quite sure what to say and said she would find out what was going on. She came back soon after that and said that the owner was in a meeting with the decorator that was running long, which seemed bizarre to me. You’ve got an appointment sitting there just waiting for you to come out and talk through a consultation for a few minutes and the decorator is more important? Yeesh, I didn’t know what to think at that point, but Sylvia and Diane were of the mind that it was basically a lie to try and cover for her, which I could see as well.

Anyway, sometime around 12:30, a couple other people came in and sat down and another lady came out and introduced herself, offered them some water (which we weren’t offered) and said that she’d be right with them. She offered them water, all while ignoring the poor woman who was still standing there. As she was trying to make her way to the back, the woman at the counter piped up and got her attention and made it apparent that there was something she was waiting on. A couple of minutes later, she clearly had enough and went to leave when the owner came out apologizing to the woman and her simple response to the owner was, “I was told that I could pick up my cake at noon.” The owner continued to apologize and went to grab some treats to make it right. The owner then introduced herself to the other couple who came in after us before finally showing up at our table.

I’m not exactly sure where to start and stop with the whole consultation because it was simultaneously confusing and irritating. The first thing she asked was if we needed more cake to taste, which we politely declined because I think we were all just done at that point. There was some discussion about the flavors that we liked and sort of what we were going for and that seemed to be going okay, but Sylvia offhand mentioned that a friend of ours was making a grooms cake, and dear sweet jesus, did she home in on that out of the blue. She started going on about how the venue wouldn’t allow an unprofessional cake to be brought in and that it wasn’t good business to do that and that it could collapse and that they’d only ever had one cake collapse in 5 years. None of us had the heart or interest to correct her that he’s just making a simple sheet cake. Also strange was that she asked Sylvia a couple of times who her wedding planner was, which we finally figured out was basically her way of trying to find someone else to call to try and convince us to buy a grooms cake from her. At one point, Sylvia had enough and said, we don’t really need one, it’s really just because our friend wanted to make one and I think she took the hint.

While talking about amounts of cake and everything, it was decided that we would start smaller on cake amount since you can always go up, but not down. In retrospect, I think that’s probably not true, but I’m not a wedding cake connoisseur, so it’s hard to say. Once we started winding down to price, she asked us what our budget was. Our opening offer was that we were looking around the $1,000 or less price point. Her abruptly response was that the cake would be $1,500 for 150 people because they charge $10 a slice and that delivery would be another $100. I may not be a wedding cake connoisseur, but I knew that was more than ridiculous as I knew that it was a significant amount more than what Bittersweet quoted us. It was also strange because every other quote we’ve gotten took into account what the elements of the cake actually were. It’s more expensive if you want fondant, so your price changes if you do or don’t want it. Same thing with certain fillings. $10 per slice for cake? Unless you’re a highly rated bakery, that’s practically robbery. It was weird from a business standpoint too because why would you counter an initial offer with something so much higher and then give a flat rate per slice with no regard to the actual components of the cake?

Sylvia, Diane and I managed to make our way out of the shop without too much awkwardness and then decided to try and find some lunch and just talk about it. We wandered down the street a few blocks and found this little storefront that said Miko’s Italian Ice, but it also looked like a little bistro. It turns out the restaurant is a bistro in the winter and an Italian ice shop in the summer. We went in and had the most amazing lunch of grilled cheese, tomato soup, and tortilla soup. Talking through it more, the intensity of how bad that the appointment went and the price and everything, we ended up talking more and more about Bittersweet and what we liked about them versus this other place. After lunch, the decision was made that we’d like to go with Bittersweet. Judy was really professional, her work and cakes were great and it turned out that the price was actually pretty reasonable for what we wanted. We also realized that we wouldn’t have to worry about keeping communication open or being on time to deliver the cake versus an operation like the place we checked out today.

I’m hesitant to even mention the name of the bakery because I don’t really want to accidentally give them any business and because Sylvia spent enough time on the Yelp reviews (she actually was a bit obsessed with them for about half an hour) to see a pattern of people being harassed by the owner for writing negative reviews. If anyone actually wants to know the name of the shop, let me know because I’m more than happy to steer people away from them.

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