“Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery” – Discuss….
Making cakes for a living is a pretty wonderful job!
For starters we are almost always dealing with customers who have something to celebrate. This generally makes for an easy start to any cake consultation – What is your special event? Congratulations!! Do you have anything particular in mind? Which is often the point when customers will whip out their phones to display images of cakes that they have seen online and liked or perhaps they might even produce a scrapbook of cuttings or some printed photocopies of cakes.
At this point cake decorators have a choice to make – to copy or not to copy… I’m really clear on where I stand when it comes to copying someone else’s designs, I just won’t do it. And in my experience most good cake decorators won’t do it either because let’s face it if they are good at their job they should be able to come up with an original design and not just carbon copy someone else’s hard work.
Our process goes something like this – we will ask our customer what elements of the cakes they have shown us they particularly like and then we start to discuss ways to incorporate those elements into a bespoke design for them. In our experience most people like the idea of having a cake that is as original and unique as they are.
There is a but though….
What if the cake decorator doesn’t know they are copying?
Over the years we have had many customers who have come in with hand drawn sketches of the cakes they would like us to make. This is always a joy as so much thought and effort has already gone into the design concept even before we start to discuss their cake. Often customers come in to the shop with really clear and specific ideas about what they would like their cake to look like. Fantastic! We do have to trust that these are original ideas and it rarely crosses our minds when we take these orders that they are not. That’s not to say we haven’t been or won’t be caught out – we await a call from the cake police to inform us if and when this happens….
I’m lucky to know many cake decorators who work locally who put a huge amount of time and effort (not to mention hours of sketching random ideas in their notebooks – you know who you are!) into creating their cake designs. I have huge respect for the patient work that has gone into their many stunning creations and share their disappointment when their work and mine is blatantly copied for someone else’s profit.
If a cake design is clearly a copy of someone else’s work then the decent thing to do is to contact the designer and ask their permission or, at the very least, credit the original design when the cake image is published.