Let Them Not Eat Cake

by admin on July 15, 2013

By marriage, my family has become connected to a woman who bakes novelty cakes. They are really beautiful or funny to look at, depending on the occasion, but they taste HORRIBLE.

The icings are hard and crusty and the cake itself is very dense and dry. I assume she has to add things to the mixes to make them keep their shapes.

This wouldn’t be a problem if she only baked cakes when asked, but the family assumption is that she will provide the cake for any event to which she is invited. Whenever she gets an invitation to something, she will phone and inquire about the theme and then announce that she will bring a cake shaped like a bulldozer or whatever.

I am already dreading an event I am hosting in November–I’d like my guests to enjoy eating the cake, not just looking at it. Guests always rave about the designs, but I have noticed that no one ever finishes eating their cake.

There is nothing I can do, is there? When she phones me, how do you say “No, DON’T make a cake please.” If you tell me I must smile and suck it up, I will do so. 0715-13

When she calls next, just decline saying,  “No, thank you.  I decided on serving a fruit dessert.  Maybe next time but thanks for the offer!”

{ 88 comments… read them below or add one }

Jill July 15, 2013 at 10:27 pm

Yes, but what if you want to have cake? It is an awkward situation. If you’d like to make something yourself, that seems fairly straightforward: “Thank you so much, but I’d actually like to try to bake something myself this time. It won’t be as pretty as yours, but they can’t all be!” Or something. If you want to purchase a cake elsewhere, that would be more awkward and I’m not sure how to proceed. In either case, though, it is neither impolite nor bad etiquette to want to serve the dessert of your choice at your event.

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KB July 15, 2013 at 10:27 pm

If you’d really like to serve cake, you can also try saying that you’ve been inspired to take up baking, or someone else who is coming to the party is a baking enthusiast and requested a turn to be the cake-bringer for the event.

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catherine July 15, 2013 at 10:38 pm

We have a friend who likes making special occasion cakes, but she also smokes like a fiend while she is decorating them. We went to a wedding where she baked and decorated the cake, and it was being served as the dessert. The icing tasted kind of funny (it was Italian meringue) Like burnt marshmallows. Not a real appetizing flavor. That’s when it occurred to us why. It was cigarette smoke that had been absorbed by the icing. The cake itself tasted great, but the nasty taste of the icing ruined the flavor and we couldn’t finish it.

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pinkiu July 15, 2013 at 11:11 pm

If you are paying her, you can go to her with a few recipes that you like and request that they be used. If it’s her icing (I’m not a fan of fondant) suggest a buttercream instead of royal. Also some icings have so much butter you almost feel like you are eating a stick of it. Having cream cheese added and having it whipped helps a lot.

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Jelaza July 15, 2013 at 11:14 pm

Or more generically, just “I have the dessert taken care of.” Might be an idea to serve non-cake dessert if you don’t want hurt feelings, whether it’s a fruit dessert as suggested by Admin, or pie, cheesecake, etc.

Or “I’ve already ordered a cake.” or “I was inspired by your decorating skills and will be designing and baking a cake myself. Thank you so much for inspiring me to take that first step.” if the cake is the thing.

If she brings a cake anyway, am I very very bad/rude to consider suggesting “accidentally” messing it up somehow? Letting a child “smush” the decorations or something? Perhaps Admin will comment on that? (I would say “forgetting” to put it out, but the baker will most likely remind you. )

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Asharah July 15, 2013 at 11:15 pm

Would it be wrong for OP to bluntly inform her that her cakes taste horrible and she does not want one for upcoming event because of this?
Can’t the offending cake simply be used as a centerpiece and another cake served as the actual desert?
Is cake person aware her cakes are inedible or has she failed to notice?
When there is a cake at an event, I want to be able to eat it, not just look at it.

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Jade July 15, 2013 at 11:45 pm

The problem with admin’s suggestion about the fruit dessert is that then the hostess is backed into a corner where she cannot serve cake at her party because the cake-maker will realize it wasn’t that they didn’t want cake, they just didn’t want HER cake, and feelings will be hurt. If the hostess wants her guests to have their cake and eat it too (pun intended) she can either tell the truth to the cake maker about how beautiful her cakes are but that they perhaps taste a little bland, or they can say ‘Oh “guest of honor/close family member had their heart set on a black forest cake from (insert name of bakery) so we’ve already ordered it, but thank you for the kind offer.”

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HonorH July 16, 2013 at 12:53 am

Yeah, just have a different dessert planned. If she insists on bringing a cake, at least the guests will have a dessert they can eat.

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NostalgicGal July 16, 2013 at 1:02 am

Or two cakes. Centerpiece hers and have the sheet cake with the nummy frosting to hand out. Tell her that her cake is such a work of art you hate to cut it. I do mean centerpiece her cake, pedestal it and put a few small spots on it if needed.

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Kirsten July 16, 2013 at 3:02 am

Maybe she offers because she feels she has to? The family assumes she’ll make the cake, but that’s an awful lot of work. I mean, it would be nice to see a tiny bit of gratitude in this post for how much work this woman does here, and for her generosity in offering, even if they do taste foul.

I would say to her that she was really kind to offer, but that someone else has arranged it (that someone else being you), so it will be lovely to see her, and thank her so much.

I just found that saying ‘ if I must smile and suck it up’ about someone offering to put in a lot of work, time and talent (for the design if not the taste) comes across as quite graceless.

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Lex July 16, 2013 at 3:20 am

I have a similar situation – my Great Aunt decorates cakes as a hobby and when my sisters wedding cake turned out so horribly she made a point of saying to LeBoyfriend and I that when we eventually get married she would like to do our cake.

There are 2 issues with this:

1) Her cakes are dry and overcooked and she uses too much peel in her fruit cakes and not enough ‘feeding’.

2) I do not believe she is able to do the finish I want for my cake – I have a very specific technique in mind whereby a stencil is used with a contrasting colour of fondant icing to create a ‘Damask’ type effect – I do not believe she is able to do this as I have never seen her do anything but criss-cross piping and sugar flowers.

After the dreadful debacle of my sisters wedding cake I fully plan to purchase my cake from Marks & Spencer Foodhall (a high end supermarket brand in the UK linked to the M&S Clothing store brand) – their cakes are always wonderful – moist, fruity (where applicable), icing isn’t too thick, well finished. I then plan to decorate it very simply using theme-colour ribbon and fresh flowers (my theme is Lavender so I have a lovely spray in mind). I plan to practice the stencil technique myself and apply it to the cake personally – I’m a bit of a control freak and don’t mind if it goes a little wrong if I’ve done it myself but if someone else does it my nerves get frazzled and I go a bit nuts. This gets around the ghastly dry cake situation.

As a guest at my wedding I would be mortified if she overheard people criticising the cake – if they hate the M&S one (they won’t – I know from experience that they won’t, but if they are) no-one is hurt, no-one is offended.

Just because this person ‘assumes’ she is providing the cake doesn’t mean she has to and you shouldn’t feel bad about sourcing it elsewhere.

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Another Sarah July 16, 2013 at 5:27 am

Admin’s suggestion works as long as you don’t want to serve cake. If she showed up at a party you told her you didn’t want a cake for and you’d made one yourself, that would be a huge slap in the face.

I’d probably phone her up directly to apologise and say “I really did want to speak to you because I know it’s tradition for you to bring your amazing cakes. But I have a recipe I really want to try so please don’t be offended if I ask you not to bring one” or rather than ask her not to, “If I make the cake would you decorate it?” to make her feel like her contribution is valued.

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Annie July 16, 2013 at 5:43 am

I used to make those kind of cakes at the request of my family who loved the taste of fondant. I agree, they taste horrible and are purely decorative even when you are a great baker and the cake underneath is moist. Just tell this woman that her cakes are beautiful but you would prefer a more sophisticated tasting cake for your event. If she insists, just ask her to make a small decorative cake for the table and serve the other cake to your guests.

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Anonymous July 16, 2013 at 5:53 am

I’d leave out the “maybe next time” part, but I agree–you don’t say what you don’t want; you say what you DO want. Since it’s summer (unless you live in Australia or New Zealand), that’s a perfect excuse to say that the reason why you don’t want cake is because you’re making something more summery, like, say, watermelon, fruit salad, Popsicles, or do-it-yourself ice cream sundaes or s’mores.

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Anonymous July 16, 2013 at 6:23 am

@Asharah–I wouldn’t tell this woman, “your cakes taste horrible,” but yeah, it might be okay to say, “your cakes are more a feast for the eyes than for the mouth,” or something like that. Make it clear that you know it’s not her fault, but with complicated “work of art” cakes (and her cakes are certainly works of art), you often have to sacrifice taste for structural integrity. One question–has she ever actually tasted her own cake? Maybe she hasn’t, because after spending time baking and decorating in the kitchen, she no longer wants cake–sort of like how the person who cooks Thanksgiving dinner often ends up not wanting turkey upon sitting down at the table, after having been surrounded by the sight and smell of it all day long. But, my point is, while you’re bringing up the “bad taste” thing, be sure to also play up the “pretty” thing, and the “we know you must work really hard on them” thing, and then maybe the message won’t hurt quite so much. If saying, “No thanks, we don’t want X, we’re doing Y” doesn’t work (and, it’s a limited solution, because at some point, people are going to want X, but made by someone else–like, on the next birthday), then yeah, telling the truth (nicely) might be necessary.

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Molly July 16, 2013 at 6:29 am

What if she just told the relative “I’m going to make/buy a cake myself, so it’s not necessary for you to bring one, but thank you so much!” Then, if the relative brings a cake anyway, who cares? It will look pretty and the guests will have a choice of cake.

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Kimberly July 16, 2013 at 6:45 am

I think someone needs to be the first person to say, “Why thank you! That is so nice of you to offer, but we already have the cake covered”.

You say you family has come into this woman by marriage. So, it might be that your family has a different way of doing things. It does not mean that you have to this person make every cake for every event that you ever have.

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ladyclaire July 16, 2013 at 6:49 am

When my BIL got married, his sister and mother made the cakes for the wedding. Because a few people in the family are diabetic, they decided to make the frosting with Splenda and substituted other ingredients in the cake for sugar-free options. They did not make a different kind of cake that used actual sugar.

The trash cans at the wedding reception were filled with slices of cake that had exactly one bite taken out of them. Those cakes were awful. They tasted weird and the texture of the frosting was gritty and stiff. Even the diabetics, for whom the cakes had been made, took one bite and tossed the rest.

When DH and I got married, MIL declared that she and SIL would make the cake. We declined.

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The Elf July 16, 2013 at 6:58 am

There’s art and then there’s food. Rarely do they meet.

I like Jelaza’s wording “I have the dessert taken care of.” Don’t vary from the firm refusal. You can complement her cakes, just say that you’re planning something else and thank you for the offer.

If she shows up with one anyway, compliment it, put it on the table for others to admire. Then serve your dessert. Serve that one too if you like, or you can just say it was too pretty to cut. Or let guests pick their own dessert.

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The Elf July 16, 2013 at 7:05 am

I have to be honest – I’m not a cake fan. I love pretty much every kind of food under the sun, and I have a sweet tooth, but most cake leaves me cold. The cakes I hate the most are the ones whose icing – especially that nasty pre-made fondant – overwhelms the cake flavor so all I get is sugar taste. I almost always end up leaving the icing on the plate. Now that I’m really watching my carbs and sugar, if I’m going to indulge in cake I’m going to make sure it’s worth the indulgence! If you really want to make art, just use fondant as your medium and styrofoam as your base. Then make a real cake.

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Cat July 16, 2013 at 7:09 am

If you want cake, but not her cake, serve cupcakes in those tiers that are becoming popular for wedding receptions. You can serve various flavors with different toppings.
The cake baker can be told that you don’t want to trouble her to do something that won’t bring her creative skills into play and simply order what you want.

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--Lia July 16, 2013 at 7:34 am

She sounds like a nice lady. Would it be so horrible to be gently honest? Nothing in the original letter suggests that this is someone who would take offense. For all we know, she doesn’t want to keep bringing the cakes, feels taken advantage of, but doesn’t know how to stop for fear that she’ll cause offense. Why not “You’re such a dear to offer, but to tell you the truth, everyone loves seeing your beautiful designs, but few people enjoy eating the cake itself. They could be on diets, or they might not like the taste. I’ve noticed they rarely finish what’s served. If you like, maybe you could bring a tiny cake we can all admire that doesn’t amount to more than 2 servings.”

If you like her otherwise as a friend, offer to have her come over and help bake using your own recipe. (I may be weird in this. I love getting together with a friend and just cooking or baking together.)

If that’s difficult for you, go ahead and plan your own dessert whether that’s a home baked cake of your own or something else. When it’s time to serve dessert, let the guests serve themselves, choose one or the other, or take a bit of both. They can continue to leave the unappealing cake on the plate uneaten.

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Not Amused July 16, 2013 at 7:40 am

I think I would let her know how much we appreciate the effort she puts into these cakes, but that we don’t want her to feel obligated to make one for every party, and we would love to have her just come and be our guest and not worry about having to provide something so elaborate and just enjoy herself.
If she insisted after that, I would let her know that we had had dessert planned, but that her cake would be welcome on the dessert table. I would make much of her beautiful cake and even give it a central place at the party. That way, we would have her pretty cake and still be able to offer our guests something yummy to eat.
If it is so important to her to make a cake for us, we would find a way to graciously accept her gift. I think I would rather find a way to be loving when someone if trying so hard to do me a kindness than make a stand against unappetizing cake.

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Cherry July 16, 2013 at 7:50 am

If she rings you, you could respond that you’ve already paid for a professionally done cake. That way you aren’t forced to operate under a cake embargo.

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arudolph74 July 16, 2013 at 7:56 am

If she were to call me, I would just say thank you so much for the offer, but I have the desserts covered already, and you would like for her to enjoy being a guest without have to work for it. Then just direct the conversation to something else. That way you are not backed into serving any specific dessert.

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MichelleP July 16, 2013 at 8:10 am

@Asharah, yes it would be very wrong to tell her that. It’s rude, unnecessary, and will do nothing but hurt her feelings.

Admin’s suggestion is perfect. Say you’re providing the dessert and change the subject. Other posters’ suggestions about bringing something yourself but not rejecting hers is fine. It allows her to display the cake but still having a dessert people will enjoy.

I have an aunt who bakes cookies for me and our family every Christmas. She mails them as we live several hours apart. They are awful. I don’t care for the type of cookie to begin with, and after 25 years anything loses its charm. Every year we talk to her Christmas Day, and we tell her thank you for them and we enjoyed them. It’s the truth; we do appreciate the fact that she thought enough to make a homemade gift and take the time and trouble to mail it. I take them to work, where they are enjoyed by staff who have to work on Christmas.

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admin July 16, 2013 at 8:45 am

For those people stuck in an annual tradition of giving a specific food gift because someone, perhaps eons ago, raved about it, it might be a good idea to not give that gift one year and see what happens. If everyone raises a ruckus that they missed getting it, it’s a gift worth continuing to give. But if there is silence, it’s best to move on to a different gift to give.

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Jinx July 16, 2013 at 8:28 am

Technically, I think if she does choose to bring a cake, you’re not obligated to put it out for everyone. Like, the cake would actually be a host gift if she brought it, and under the host’s discretion of what to do with it.

I think that’s an old etiquette law that most people would probably think you were a jerk for doing, though. I agree that it would be easier to avoid her bringing something you don’t want in the first place.

On one hand, it’s nice that she always brings something and she’s clearly proud of her cakes and it’s not a big deal. On the other hand, it’s annoying that she always brings a cake without clearly asking the host if they would like one (saying “I’m bringing a cake” doesn’t leave as much no thank you room as “would you like me to bring a cake”)

Not only would I say that dessert has been taken care of, but then quickly segue into, “but it’s so kind of you to offer to bring something, we would really appreciate it if you bring XXX”

If you as her to bring something else in addition, I think your chances of avoiding the cake increase.

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JC July 16, 2013 at 8:33 am

“Would it be wrong for OP to bluntly inform her that her cakes taste horrible and she does not want one for upcoming event because of this?”

Yes, it would be completely wrong to go out of your way to deliberately say something hurtful towards someone who put in the time and effort, no matter the outcome. If she asked for an honest opinion, however, then gently-phrased criticism wouldn’t be out of line in my opinion, although with a family member I’d think REALLY hard about the right way to say it, if asked.

Also, telling someone you’d “prefer a more sophisticated tasting cake” has the potential to come across a bit hurtful, I think. Just say dessert is taken care of, for whatever reason (fruit dessert, already made a dessert, want to try my hand making dessert herself, mortified at guests paying for any part of a party). If she pushes, keep refusing while gushing about how thoughtful she is.

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CaffeineKatie July 16, 2013 at 8:45 am

So the assumption seems to be that it is more polite to let the woman bake horrible cakes and have people talk about her behind her back than it is to tell her to her face that you don’t like the taste of her cakes and give her a chance to correct it after she gets over feeling hurt?!? I’m not sure I agree with that; seems like it would be kinder to tell her, as nicely as possible and in private, why you don’t want her cake. Although, as a cook/baker myself, I always peek in the trash and check plates when I bring something, since the feedback from what, if anything, people don’t eat tells me more than all the comments.

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Tracy July 16, 2013 at 8:57 am

As others have pointed out, the Admin’s suggestion only works if you’re really willing to forgo cake. Instead, I’d tell her that you have a specific cake picked out (favorite recipe, family tradition, or whatever) and ask that she provide a small cake to decorate the table.

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MichelleP July 16, 2013 at 9:03 am

@Jelaza, yes, it would be “very very bad” to destroy someone’s property, especially one that is homemade and took a lot of work. That’s passive aggressive and cruel, and defeats the purpose of getting her to not bring the cake in the first place.

I have a somewhat similar problem, only I’m the cake provider in this one. Every year I give gifts of food for holidays. I love to bake and everyone has always said how good they are. What I’ve come across is lack of appreciation, especially people saying “Oh, we don’t need that! We’re on diets!” I took the hint and stopped giving to those people. I thought at first that maybe what I made wasn’t that good, that maybe people were just being nice when they raved about it. Nope, I asked my sister, who is always honest with me, and she assured me I was the best baker she knew. Later, the same people complained when I didn’t give them the goodies! I calmly stated that they had told me they didn’t need it, so I didn’t give it. What should I do?

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Rap July 16, 2013 at 9:18 am

“There is nothing I can do, is there? When she phones me, how do you say “No, DON’T make a cake please.” ”

Its pretty easy, unless she offends easy.

“Jane, I don’t want you to go to any trouble. I already have a desert planned. You know, for a change why don’t you take a break and let me do the work and you can have a good time with everyone?”

Like someone else said, she might feel relieved. Sometimes its hard to break out of a cycle of expectation.

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Magicdomino July 16, 2013 at 9:20 am

I think the closest you can politely get to saying that the woman’s cakes are awful is to reluctantly admit that a particular aspect isn’t to your taste. For instance, it is well known that a lot of people hate fondant frosting and royal icing, so you can get away with admiting that you really prefer the buttercream recipe on the confectioner’s sugar box, even if the cake isn’t as pretty. Unfortunately, dryness in the cake itself isn’t as easily addressed.

I’d start by stating that you don’t want to take advantage or take her cakes for granted. If she insists on bringing a fancy cake, you can ask for a small one as there will be other desserts as well. Then you can use NostalgicGal’s suggestion of using the cake as a decorative centerpiece.

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Lynne July 16, 2013 at 9:21 am

Maybe you could try, “Oh, that is so much work, I wouldn’t DREAM of putting you out like that! This time why don’t you just relax and enjoy the party rather than working so hard to get ready for it? Let the professionals do all the work this time!”

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Gee July 16, 2013 at 9:25 am

If you really want to serve cake, I like the suggestions of, “Your cake is so beautiful, it seems a shame to cut into it!” Make her cake the centerpiece, and serve a plain sheet cake for dessert.

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wren July 16, 2013 at 9:26 am

When she phones, be ready with phrases (write them down and keep them by the phone!) that people have already suggested: So kind of you to offer, but I’d really like to try making a cake myself. I’m really excited about trying a recipe I have. I’d like to try something different this time and I have a fruit dessert that I’m dying to make. You’ve done enough all these years, please let me make the cake! No, no, no, I insist on letting you enjoy the gathering and let me make a cake for you this time! I’d really rather you bring just yourself, dessert is taken care of and I am looking forward to seeing you. I know I’m breaking tradition but I’d like to start a new tradition in my household so I hope you will understand that I would like to make the cake/dessert.

And be ready for her to bring a cake anyway. Let it be admired but serve your own dessert. Be ready to say, “Oh, Cakemaker, you shouldn’t have! It’s lovely but I made a dessert to serve. I hope you won’t mind if I serve the dessert I made for today. Remember how I said I had a special recipe I wanted to try? I’m so sorry for the misunderstanding, Cakemaker. I didn’t want you to have to go to any trouble. Please set your cake over here where we can admire it!”

I also advise that you definitely not discuss this situation with any family members. It could get back to her. The only thing she should be aware of is what you tell her yourself, that you are full of gratitude but want to do it yourself this time.

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Roslyn July 16, 2013 at 9:33 am

Wow. This one is tough. I’m a cake lady. I’ve been baking for 40 years, and I’ve been doing decorated cakes of all kinds for 25 years. However, my cakes are beautiful, and drop dead delicious. I usually have a large head if I attend the occasion where my cakes are served from the compliments.

I have no idea how to gently approach this lady. She is obviously stuck in her life as the cake maker, and that is how she shows her love and affection for her family. They show their love and affection by saying nothing about the taste, and raving about the design.

The OP mentioned marrying into this family, so you are the outsider. Honestly I would go along with the family and not be the meanie who is making waves and hurting Aunty Cake Maker’s feelings.

If you are having the party and she is making a cake, then have another dessert to serve along side. Something complimentary, if her cakes are vanilla, then offer chocolate cupcakes or a chocolate fudge dessert. If her cakes are chocolate, then offer a berry, whipped cream and vanilla cake dessert. Have the other desserts pre-cut and plated so that they don’t overshine the sculpted decorated cake. I would NOT have another decorated cake there for the occasion. THAT would be a slap in her face. Accept her gift of love, time and energy with a grateful smile on your face. That is what the rest of the family is doing and unless you want to make waves I think it’s the best route to go.

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Ginger G July 16, 2013 at 9:34 am

Admin – “For those people stuck in an annual tradition of giving a specific food gift because someone, perhaps eons ago, raved about it, it might be a good idea to not give that gift one year and see what happens. If everyone raises a ruckus that they missed getting it, it’s a gift worth continuing to give. But if there is silence, it’s best to move on to a different gift to give.”

That reminds me of the debacle this past Christmas with my annual food item. Every Christmas for many years, I’ve been making my “special cheese wafers”. I would give one tine to my mother, one to my aunt T who is crazy about them, and one tin to my two great-aunts who lived together. I always got the impression that my great-aunts were never that thrilled to received them. Well actually one of them seemed to like them somewhat, but the other one would all but roll her eyes when I would hand them the container. So the great-aunt that was somewhat thankful for my cheese wafers passed away last fall. Christmas time rolls around, and I seriously debated not making them this year as they are a pain and quite time-consuming. I reconsidered because I know my aunt T is crazy for them and would be upset. So I made a smaller batch and gave some to mother and some to aunt T. I did not make a big deal about it and did not give them theirs right in front of my great-aunt. It got back to me later that she was extremely upset about not getting any cheese wafers, she also claimed I did not thank her for her gift, which was COMPLETELY untrue, I had thanked her quite profusely actually. So, I guess I will be making cheese wafers for everyone again this year!

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Jessica Taylor July 16, 2013 at 9:35 am

I think I would just say “Thankyou so much for the offer, but _____ is taking care of the cake this year!”. I don’t think telling her her cakes were terrible would be very kind – and the previous poster Lia’s suggestion seemed very harsh to me

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Gloria Shiner July 16, 2013 at 9:40 am

“Thanks, but I am already planning on making a cake myself. You’re welcome to bring one, too, if you want, but it really isn’t necessary.”

Then if she does bring one: “Oh, this is too pretty to cut.”, and serve your cake.

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Mae July 16, 2013 at 9:42 am

I really don’t have anything new to add, just wanted to say that I agree with the comments saying if she offers, say you have it taken care of and she should just come enjoy herself . I also like @Jinx’s ideal- if she insists, suggest a different item she can bring.

At some point, someone should have a conversation with her regarding the cakes. I’m not sure when, who or how that conversation should go, but I think it needs to be done. It could be surprising- maybe she doesn’t want to do the cakes all the time but because of people raving and providing the info each time, she feels she has to in order not to disappoint. She maybe relieved she doesn’t have to bake.

If she really thinks her cakes are the greatest and tries to insists, for the next few parties, each host can politely refuse her offers and maybe she will take the hint. If she shows up with a cake, use the hostess gift excuse for not putting it out.

Unfortunately, subtle hints do not always work and you have to employ the clue by four method.

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Wowsers July 16, 2013 at 9:49 am

I think proper etiquette tells us not to make someone feel awkward, embarrassed, or hurt–especially in these kinds of situation. I would never tell her how horrible her cakes are, and if she wanted to bring one, let her—people will either eat it or not. I just wouldn’t plan on that being my main item for the get-together—just there on the table as an offering of love. I would go ahead and do exactly as I wanted to, providing whatever wondering dishes and desserts I chose. If I was afraid someone would think I had made the cake and I was that terrible of a baker, :-) I would probably at some point say, “and a big thank you to Aunt Harriet who made and brought the cake!” so the group knows. :-)

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MollyMonster July 16, 2013 at 9:59 am

If you really do like her work, you might try asking if a different recipe for the cake could be used. Say you saw one on TV or in a magazine or had some at a recent party and were wondering if the cake decorator could use that one instead. And provide the recipe. If she says that no, she only uses the one recipe because of physics requirements, you could thank her and say that you really had your heart set on this pumpkin one (or whatever) and will try making it yourself (or hire it out).

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ShinyFun July 16, 2013 at 10:00 am

Well, personally, I’d avoid her calls between the time the invitations are sent out and the day of the event if you didn’t think you could tell her “Thanks, but we’ve got everything under control. We’re just looking forward to see you there. Bye!”

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Lo July 16, 2013 at 10:06 am

I like Molly’s suggestion a lot.

You don’t have to explain why you want the cake you want at your party, just that you’ve got your heart set on a certain dessert and so there’s no need to trouble her.

This really does solve the problem if she brings one anyway. People also have an honest excuse not to eat it (“looks so pretty, don’t want to mess it up”)

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Sarah Jane July 16, 2013 at 10:11 am

I confess to being a cake snob. I always decline cake that has clearly come from a chain-grocery-store bakery, and especially cringe at those overly decorated, brightly-colored kiddie cupcakes that come out of a large, noisy plastic container. To me, they taste like chemicals and are simply not worth the calories. However, give me a homemade cake, or one baked at a competitive bakery that uses fresh ingredients (with quality buttercream icing, please) and I’ll make a fool of myself.

I agree with those who suggest that you simply order/arrange for the dessert you want, even if it is a decorated cake. If she calls to ask, tell her it’s already taken care of, but thank her profusely for offering. If she insists, or if she shows up with a “surprise” cake in hand, put it on the table with the other dessert. You can never have too many desserts, in my opinion.

And you never know…there may be other relatives who would like to trump the “family assumption.” Perhaps you will pave the way.

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Elizabeth July 16, 2013 at 10:18 am

Say ‘no thanks, I’m thinking of having …. a pie, a tart, a cookie tray, something else that isn’t a cake. And she may appreciate the break from always having to provide dessert at every family event.

And it is sad that she doesn’t seem to notice that her cakes do not get eaten. Surely she can see this; you’ve noticed yourself.

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Lauren July 16, 2013 at 10:46 am

I have a mother who insists on homemade (dry, horrible and overly sweet) birthday cakes. I choke this down every year, even though I watch calories carefully and would give anything for an excuse for a slice of bakery cake. I have even requested a bakery cake when asked, but she and my sister insist that cakes made with love mean more and that is what I will get. I have told them both directly that I do not like their horrible cakes (I am laughing right now typing this…I was much more diplomatic to their faces!) but this got me nowhere. They’re pretty normal about most things, but the sacred and holy birthday cake debate is a fight I lose every year, so I just live with it…and it’s put a huge damper on my life! (kidding!)

I tried the direct approach, but it didn’t work. If I were you, I would just nicely tell her that the cake is all set. Unless she is crazy, like my family, she will probably not think twice about it.

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Ashley July 16, 2013 at 10:58 am

I used to have to deal with someone who was a lousy baker. She was the most wonderful woman in every other way but whenever she baked it came out dry and she used weird canned frosting…I used to deliberately fill myself up on dinner, then when dessert rolled around I could always say “Oh the potatoes were too good, I don’t think I’m quite ready for dessert!” and then I’d take a small plate of cookies or a couple slices of cake home for show.

In the OP’s case, could you just say something like “You always work so hard bringing a cake for every party, we’d really love to give you a chance to relax and just enjoy yourself as a guest”? That shows an appreciation for her hard work (Because even if the cake doesn’t taste good, decorating can still be quite the task) AND it offers her an out if she has been looking for one. For all we know she may feel like she MUST bring something and that’s why she calls and offers.

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Livvy17 July 16, 2013 at 11:10 am

It’s also possible that over the years, the baker has felt that she is expected to make a cake, whether she likes it or not.

In addition to the other suggestions, if she calls, perhaps you could just say, “I know how much work goes into making those masterpieces, but I don’t want you to think I’m just inviting you for your cake. I’d rather you just relaxed and leave the dessert to me this time.”

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