This Favor Takes The Cake

by admin on October 25, 2012

About a month ago, my DIL called me for a favor. Her brother was getting married in a week, and their baker had cancelled on them and they would have no wedding cake! I decorate cakes as a hobby, mostly for family and friends, and have ten year’s experience. I made the cake for my DIL and son’s wedding. DIL had shown an interest in learning, and I had given her ONE lesson so far. She was asking to borrow my pans and supplies and was going to try to make their wedding cake herself.

I saw that as an impending disaster, so having some free time, I volunteered to make it as long as they provided the ingredients. She said, “Oh! I was hoping you’d say that!” I let DIL know that we (she was ‘helping’) would need two days, Thursday and Friday, to bake and decorate. I also gave her a list of everything that was needed.

On Wednesday, I called DIL to double-check what time she would be arriving at my house on Thursday. I was informed that she couldn’t make it Thursday, and that she hoped it wouldn’t be too much trouble to do it all on Friday. For whatever reason, she couldn’t even bring the ingredients so that I could start baking on Thursday without her.

On Friday morning, DIL arrives, and is missing some ingredients. My daughter is called and agrees to run by MOG’s house to pick up missing items. She arrives, and I find one ingredient on my list had been overlooked and not purchased at all. DIL has to run to the store. We finally get to work, and finish the three tiers about 9 pm. I also had to figure out a way to make the topper work on top of the cake. I go with her on Saturday morning to the venue to set up the cake, since she knows nothing about delivering, stacking tiers, etc.

The cake turned out very nicely, and looked just like the photo I was given of the cake they liked. Here’s my issue: I’ve not heard a word of thanks since. I know one should not be expecting thank-yous, but a wedding cake is kind of a big deal, and I don’t know how they would have had one without my help. Am I wrong to feel that way? 1017-12

If the wedding was just a month ago, I’d give it a little more time before completely writing off your DIL’s family as crass and ungrateful.

That said, if I were the recipient of such a favor, you better believe I would have sent the most gushingly grateful letter of appreciation along with a gift to compensate you as quickly as possible.  Unfortunately we live in a culture where people have an expectation that they are owed other people’s time, talent and money based simply on the merits of being engaged to marry.   Next time, treat “favors” as business transactions where a price is determined for the labor being sought.

{ 41 comments… read them below or add one }

Cat October 25, 2012 at 1:10 pm

You had every right to explain thanks, if not some token payment, for all your hard work. I have made tiered wedding cakes too, and it’s a major investment of time, labor and nerves.
If it’s not dead level, there’s every chance the happy couple will arrive at the reception to find the cake on the floor. You can run out and buy a replacement birthday cake, but, if it’s a wedding cake, it cannot be replaced on short notice. I can’t imagine trying to make one in one day.
If they want an anniversary cake, quote them a price.

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Sarah Jane October 25, 2012 at 1:21 pm

This doesn’t excuse everything, but is there a chance her family isn’t aware that you were involved? She may have initially told them she would do it after the baker cancelled, then neglected to follow up with the explanation that you contributed greatly. Were they present when you guys were setting up the cake?

DIL might not have purposely omitted giving you credit…some folks are just flakey that way.

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June First November 8, 2012 at 1:51 pm

I was also wondering where the bride and groom were during this. If I were the OP (who is very gracious and came to the rescue) I’d want to at least get clarification directly from the couple about their expectations.

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ferretrick October 25, 2012 at 1:37 pm

Given her original expression of an intent to do it herself, I wouldn’t discount the possibility that DIL hogged all the credit. The bride and groom might not even know how much work you really did.

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Audra October 25, 2012 at 2:01 pm

OP, you do realize that your DIL laid a trap for you and you “fell” in it, right? Since most women want to be helpful and nice, your DIL knew you would offer to do the cake and even though she offered to “help”, she had no intention to, except on her terms and time schedule,even though this was her brother’s wedding. Is there a possibly that the TY went to your DIL? That maybe the HC thought *she* was the one who made the cake for them?

I understand how you feel. You did do the HC a huge favor and it seems as though they were not appreciative. Had it been me, I would have thanked you profusely the day of and yours would be the first TY note I wrote and I would have sent you a gift of some kind to make sure you knew how much I appreciated your generous favor.

Admin is so right (as usual :) ) about people thinking if you have time or a talent that they can use or benefit from, they expect you to do for them because they are getting MAAARRRIED!!Jeez, thousands of people get married all the time without exploiting the talents of others. If someone does you a favor, take a few minutes to thank them, face-to-face and/or in writing.

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WillyNilly October 25, 2012 at 3:35 pm

Of course you should be thanked! But its only been a month – do they have your address? Between their honeymoon, and putting away gifts, and changing names and all sorts of stuff they might have legitimately written you a thank you but not had a chance to get in touch with DIL to get your address. I know for me, not having a mailing address can be a huge delay just because in my mind the card was written so its ticked off in my mental “to-do” list as done.

If you suspect your DIL claimed the effort as her own, if you have any way of getting in touch with them (Facebook?) you could send a little note asking for a photo of the cake cutting for your cake album. This would be a totally legitimate request as many artisans have albums of their work (especially consumable or temporary things that can’t be seen ‘for real’ years later because they are long gone), and a gentle reminder of ‘hey I did you a huge favor.’

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Kate October 26, 2012 at 1:56 am

Oh, I like this idea. Even if they are aware that OP was responsible, they might have accidentally overlooked her in the thank-you process and this message may serve as a reminder.

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June First November 8, 2012 at 1:52 pm

I like this idea, too!

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Bint October 25, 2012 at 2:53 pm

This is one where, after a longer period elapsed with no thank-you, I would get hold of DIL and say, “I have to say I’m rather hurt nobody even thanked me for that wedding cake.”

Get it out in the open. You did a huge favour for the couple and DIL. It is not right to ignore this. Point it out. Or tell your son to tell his wife. In fact, where is he in this? My husband would be on my back in that situation to make sure his mother knew how much her efforts were appreciated.

To be honest, your DIL sounds a right slack user though, so I don’t think you’ll see much from her if you don’t speak up.

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StephM October 25, 2012 at 3:01 pm

I can’t help but feel that DIL’s brother probably has no idea that you made the cake. Maybe DIL didn’t purposefully take all/most of the credit, but I’m willing to bet she did.

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wallaby October 25, 2012 at 8:37 pm

Just what I was thinking! I suspect DIL’s brother thinks DIL made the cake, and DIL has been lavished with praise and thanks accordingly.

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AIP October 25, 2012 at 4:47 pm

Ah here, they know how much tiered wedding cakes are worth considering that they were apparently going to purchase one! And for a wedding that you weren’t even attending ?!
Whatever about the happy couple not thanking you, their darling sister certainly should have more manners as she not only dragged the OP AND her daughter into this silliness. Either find a “favour” that she can reciprocate or tell her that you’re disappointed in not receiving a thank you card.

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hanna October 25, 2012 at 4:54 pm

Well of course you should have gotten a thank you.

But since you posted your story, and gave a lot of background on DIL, there must be more of a story here.

Do you feel taken advantage of? I can’t say for sure you were since you offered to do it. I think you may feel more strongly about not being thanked because of the way DIL treated you to begin with, and it sounds like you need a heart toheart with her first. Then maybe you can forget the disrespectful way her famiy treated you –if they even knew you had done this to begin with (I’m leaning towards that theory myself. You can’t be thanked for something nobody knew you did.)

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Rae October 25, 2012 at 5:13 pm

My mom used to make wedding cakes on a regular basis so I know how you feel OP. I would give the TY a little more time, but I would not be surprised if your DIL took the credit for your work, which is very sad.

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Drawberry October 25, 2012 at 5:52 pm

I am a bit bothered by the idea that we should not expect a thank you for our efforts. We’re taught as children to say thank-you, and I see nothing wrong with feeling off-put if we go to great efforts to do something and receive no indication it was appreciated. It’s not that you are doing something with the expectation of being fawned over hand and foot, but when we go out of our way for someone or put great effort into a task and receive no hint of appreciation it’s going to feel pretty crummy.

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Hemi October 28, 2012 at 6:32 pm

Here, here!

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Pam October 25, 2012 at 10:28 pm

I’m wondering if they haven’t sent a Thank You note because they’re expecting a bill? Even though they supplied the ingredients, I would think they’d expect to pay you for your time. I am going with the assumption that they were planning on paying the original baker…

If I thought I’d hired someone, I wouldn’t send a Thank You… I’d send payment! And if I had to hire someone at the last minute, I’d send a thank you with the check!

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Mary October 26, 2012 at 12:28 am

I love Willy Nilly’s suggestion!

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Kate October 26, 2012 at 1:58 am

If this were my wedding, I’d be giving OP a handwritten thank you note as well as monetary payment, as I would any other supplier of goods. However, it does sound possible that DIL claimed credit for OP’s work.

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Ginger October 26, 2012 at 3:42 am

Absolutely you should have been thanked! Did they not even give you a verbal thanks when they set it up”? Perhaps they expected that DIL would thank you on their behalf and that would be enough? It may be that they haven’t gotten around to it yet. I would hesitate to jump to the conclusion that DIL has taken the credit for herself. It will only serve to hurt you if you think that and it isn’t true. If she’s never done one before, it’s unlikely anyone in her family would believe for a second she pulled it off without help. In my experience, some people just assume that family realise they’re grateful for the contributions and forget to thank them. My brother and his wife are like this. They also have a weird expectation that the family should just go out of their way to help when it’s needed, irrespective of how much they inconvenience you and you should just understand that they are grateful. They feel that way because they would do it for the rest of us.

And for my best friend’s wedding, I helped her out with everything – we made just about everything ourselves to save costs and I organised for my family to help out too. At the reception she thanked everyone but me. I thought maybe I’d get a nice thank you letter later but I never did. She just clean forgot to do it and probably is of the belief that she did thank me. Not only that, she would assume that I realise just how grateful she was for all I gave her and did for her. But she is an exceptionally generous girl who has always been there for me and comes through time and time again. It’s disappointing that she overlooked it, but sometimes it accidentally happens.

I’d take the advice and just mention to your DIL or son that you are a little disappointed that they haven’t thank you.

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Stacey Frith-Smith October 26, 2012 at 4:07 am

A helper who couldn’t be bothered to show up on time and with ingredients in hand for her project? I’d have canceled out of hand. Thank you card? Don’t hold your breath. Contact the happy couple and find out how they liked the cake that you were able to make for them in a single day. Their answer should be enlightening. On high visibility signage write “I will no longer do exceptional favors for those who make their convenience a higher priority than my own.” View signage before considering any future requests. Add any other take-aways or stipulations you feel this situation merits.

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--Lia October 26, 2012 at 5:40 am

Of course you should have been thanked, but the way I read this, the problem is that you were manipulated. I’ve fallen into this trap too, and I can still feel miffed about it. It goes like this.

B asks C for a favor.
C agrees but with a few contingencies.
B agrees to meet terms on everything.
B reneges on everything.
C ends up doing a much larger favor than what she actually agreed.
B acts put upon for having to have done anything at all.

If this weren’t family, I’d have suggested that from the first moment your DIL said that she wouldn’t be bringing the ingredients on the day you asked, you might have said “Oh, it’s like I said at first. I can’t possibly do it all on one day. You’ll have to make other arrangements.” Failing that, when she shows up without all the ingredients, you say “Gosh, I can’t make a cake without x. I don’t know what you’re going to do.”

At this point, B usually steps in with a suggestion on how you might solve what she’s now reframed as your problem. She says “why don’t you just substitute y” or “just do it in one day instead of 2.” The smart thing to do is to put it in terms of your basic honesty. “No, when I said the task took 2 days, I was telling the truth.” “No, when I said I’d need x, I was telling the truth. I can’t make do with y.”

Instead, she got you to do far more work than you agreed to and on her schedule. I’d be a lot angrier about that than about the thank-you.

But here’s where the real etiquette comes in. This is your daughter-in-law, someone you’re going to know for a long long time. Instead of insisting on a thank-you, I’d go to her and point out that you went the extra mile for her, that you know she was under pressure but that it still wasn’t nothing, and that you expect to be able to call on to come through for you some day. Then give her a big hug and let it go.

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Margaret October 29, 2012 at 7:22 pm

Excellent responses to the failure to show up or to bring all the ingredients. I have a cake hobby as well, and I think it’s a miracle that you could bake AND decorate the wedding cake in one day.

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Heather March 23, 2013 at 11:13 am

Yes, this is really good advice. I’ve seen manipulative people (and just plain dependent I-can’t-do-anything-I-need-someone-to-take-care-of-me people) pull this dodge time and time again: they approach you with their problem and as soon as you take any interest at all they act as if it is now your problem. What they need is repeated gentle, firm reminders that it is in fact their problem. The most genius phrase in Lia’s post is “I don’t know what you’re going to do.” What a GREAT reminder of who it is that has the problem here!

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Shoegal October 26, 2012 at 8:58 am

You should have been thanked – profusely by everyone including DIL. In fact, the DIL sounds rather lame in this story. She asks a favor – and you agree to make the whole thing with her help – but she can’t invest the time or the supplies!! I would have been beyond grateful for my MIL’s help and done just about anything to accomodate her.

I agree that you should wait a little longer – but eventually I would not hestitate to say something to your DIL. “I’m quite surprised that I didn’t receive a thank you from your brother and his new wife for all the work I did on the cake.”

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Lo October 26, 2012 at 9:03 am

For me the most glaring oversight in this is that they didn’t offer to pay you. That’s HUGE.

This is not the same as paying for the ingredients. One of my family members did a huge amount of work for our wedding (designed invitations, baking the centerpiece, etc) and we offered to pay for each service rendered, to buy ingredients, to pay for time, to come and assist in any way needed.

All of this was refused because the person intended to do so as a wedding gift for us. We did not expect this, nor did we make the offer as a “gesture” it was well and truly meant, she had to continue to refuse us every step of the way.

It’s good of a family member to supply the gift her of experience, hard work, and dedication to a project. It is completely unacceptable not to offer to compensate for this from the start. You don’t take advantage of your family that way. You always ALWAYS pay for services rendered when the service in question is one that you would otherwise be paying for. It is up to the one performing the service to graciously decline or accept a token payment, or however else they feel is best.

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Lola October 26, 2012 at 10:10 am

I doubt you’ll get thanks you expect (and deserve) and here’s why. Your post states, “I volunteered to make [the cake]” — there’s your problem. Your DIL didn’t ask you — you volunteered. In my experience, people like you (those who go out of their way to help others even if not asked, putting in tons of effort while the beneficiaries of their generosity do not come close to matching it) are usually disappointed with the extent of gratitude their tireless work garners. Normally, I’d say limit your contact with people who do not appreciate you. But since this involves close family, after all, I’d make an effort to let my DIL know how you feel and patch things up instead of quietly resenting her.

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SPB October 26, 2012 at 3:30 pm

“She was asking to borrow my pans and supplies and was going to try to make their wedding cake herself….
I saw that as an impending disaster, so having some free time, I volunteered to make it as long as they provided the ingredients.** She said, “Oh! I was hoping you’d say that!”** I let DIL know that we (she was ‘helping’) would need two days, Thursday and Friday, to bake and decorate. I also gave her a list of everything that was needed.”

DIL KNEW that OP would offer to do the cake. That’s why she called asking to “borrow” pans and supplies. DIL had no intention of helping until she got good and ready and that made time very tight. Not only could she not be bothered to show up with the ingredients on the day agreed upon, she could not even be bothered to drop off the ingredients so OP could get started or get all the ingredients.

I think DIL should have taken a moment to introduce OP to B & G and say something to the effect of “This is my MIL, the one who rushed to bake the lovely wedding cake so your wedding would perfect”. I would not be surprised one bit if DIL took credit for the cake.

It burns me up when someone does something incredibly nice for someone else and they a) do not bother to thank them, personally and in writing or b) take so long to thank them it really takes the sincerity of out of it or c) does not thank them until someone mentions it and then they act all innocent “oh, I didn’t have your address”; “I was SO busy with my wedding I forgot, hehe”.

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Margaret October 29, 2012 at 7:25 pm

DIL probably did not expect to have to help at all.

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Angel October 26, 2012 at 4:29 pm

I agree with this wholeheartedly. And think twice before offering in the future.

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Cat October 26, 2012 at 3:57 pm

I just thought-why not ask the bride if you could have a photo of the cake as you “forgot” to take one? There’s always a photo taken of the bride and groom cutting the cake. You could mention that, having put so much work into the cake you made, you’d like to have a photo of it. That’s a gentle way of checking to see if she knows who actually made the cake.

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mpk October 26, 2012 at 8:46 pm

If dil did take credit for making the cake, what is she going to do the next time someone asks her to reproduce the beautiful cake from her brothers wedding? If you would be asked again (and you hadn’t been thanked for this one), then you should absolutely not have time to accomodate her. You don’t have to be nasty – you just don’t have time. Or make sure you get paid for your work.

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Angel October 28, 2012 at 1:14 pm

I hadn’t even thought about this–someone asking DIL to reproduce the cake. I would tell her she is SOL :)

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mpk October 26, 2012 at 9:12 pm

@bint – her husband might not even know how much work his mother did on the cake. His wife could have said that his mother just helped a bit.
Next time just give her the pans to use.

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Margaret October 29, 2012 at 7:26 pm

Pans are expensive and can be ruined if not cared for properly. I think it’s an awfully big favour just to ask for use of your stuff.

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Angel October 26, 2012 at 9:15 pm

And also I want to add, OP, please don’t sell yourself short! 10 years experience baking and decorating cakes is very valuable, not something that most people have and it is worth $. If you are going to offer to do something like this in the future make sure that you have a photo book/portfolio of cakes at the ready so you can show examples of your good work, and if I were you I would say, I would be happy to do this for a nominal fee (insert fee here)–plus cost of materials. Give me the $ for the materials up front so I can get them myself. This way, there is an agreement in place and you can start on your own timetable. And at the very least, you have $ for materials. My wedding cake was included with the venue, but wedding cakes from that particular bakery ran from $200-$500. That’s WAY more than the cost of materials. What your DIL did to you was unacceptable. I would have told her when she didn’t show up on the day you needed to start, I’m really sorry but to make the kind of cake you want, takes 2 days. Either make other arrangements for the cake, or I can do a basic sheet cake.

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Margaret October 29, 2012 at 7:29 pm

What many people seem to be unaware of is that in most states and provinces, it is ILLEGAL to sell food prepared in a non-licenced kitchen. Where I am from, your home kitchen cannot be licenced — it has to be a seperate commercial kitchen. Odds are the OP would be in violation of the law to ask to be paid, unless she actually works out of a commercial kitchen.

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Angel October 30, 2012 at 6:10 pm

Margaret, unless the happy couple reports the OP (which I doubt that they would, since they apparently are too cheap to pay for a commercially baked cake LOL) then this shouldn’t even be an issue. At the very least, she should have been given the $ for materials so she could purchase them herself. And not have to depend upon her DIL to deliver the goods. Truth be told the OP should never have offered to bake this cake at all–especially since it took a couple days to do and a home kitchen is not the ideal set up for baking cakes like this–licensing and health issues aside.

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Lucky October 31, 2012 at 11:22 am

One, I’m glad I know enough about baking to know you shouldn’t try to pull off a wedding cake at the last minute but, even so: Anyone who did this for me would get a thank you . . . accompanied by flowers, chocolates, whatever thank-you gift her tastes recommended, and an offer to pay for the cake as though it had not been called in as a favor.

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Enna November 7, 2012 at 12:48 pm

I agree with admin, give DIL a bit longer, you never know that her thank you letter got lost in the post. If she thanks you in front of others verbally, in private or in the telephone e.g. “My MIL save my day with the cake” then you know you have been appricated.

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Daisy November 14, 2012 at 11:05 am

I’m having a hard time understanding the bride and groom. They would have paid for a commercially baked cake, correct? They would have budgeted a certain amount of money for it. The proper thing for them to do was to contact OP directly after she agreed to make the cake, and insist on paying her what they’d budgeted for the commercial cake. They should also have mentioned the lovely favour in one of their toasts, with effusive thanks. That no mention was made of OP at all makes me smell a rat, and it’s wearing DIL’s clothes. I’ll bet a slice of stale wedding cake that the B&G think DIL was the baker.

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