Lovin Oven Cakery in Round Lake Beach, IL, is no stranger to inspired customer requests.

Sometimes customers will bring in a photograph, such as with this golf club cake, where they were able to take artistic license and create a cake inspired from the photo. But with the tractor cake, created for a customer who grew up on a farm, they were able to create based on their own intrepretation of the client's instruction.

Most of the time, a draft or sketch isn't necessary. "We keep a book of current work in both stores, and that gives the customer confidence that we will interpret their vision correctly," says Matt Slove, owner of Lovin Oven. "We have found that in most situations, it's more about managing expectations than the design, and that is best done with visual aids of work in the past.

With that said, though, there are those rare occasions when Slove finds it's best to do a sketch or draft first, such as with this Eiffel Tower cake. He has a manager who is responsible for taking all the wedding cake and special event orders, among other duties. "She sat with this customer for about an hour and designed the cake with them over a sketch. The top portion was cereal treats, as there were quite a few kids at the party, and we had to work that into the design."

Watch for January's print edition of Baking Buyer, where we look further into the challenges decorators face when marrying artistic interpretation with a customer's vision.