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Don't Turn Your Oven On Until You Have a Signed Contract: The Importance of Having a Signed Contract Before Baking Cookies for Customers

If you spend any time talking cookie business with the Countess herself, you’ll find that her cardinal rule is to not even turn the oven on until the customer has paid for their cookie order. She’s like a wise cookie guru. As someone who primarily bakes for friends and family, I know this can be a tough rule to try to enforce. Who wants to tell Great Aunt Nancy to pony up the cash before you’ll make her cookies for her smutty book club? Believe me, I get it. And if you just bake for fun or for practice, then this isn’t directed at you. But if you are trying to make cookies a business, then it pays to have defined terms and even a formal contract, whether you have a storefront or run a home bakery.

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We’ve all been there—someone who ordered cookies suddenly doesn’t need them anymore, or wants to significantly change the due date. Meanwhile, the cookies are finished and drying on your counter, or are even packed up and ready to go. If you were counting on the customer to pay you when you handed the cookies over, then this puts you in a bad situation where you have already done the work and put out the time and money on ingredients and supplies, and now you’re not getting paid. If your customer asks to push the pickup date back a week or two, and IF you have space in your freezer to store cookies, you might be able to salvage the sale with minimal extra work for you. But if they let you know last minute that they no longer want the cookies, then you, my friend, might be well out of luck. So what could you do differently?

Well to start, a simple contract can make life a lot easier, as it puts your terms in black and white and removes any confusion about your requirements. At the minimum, your contract should state the following:

Specify the product being provided with detailed descriptions.

Set a deadline for any changes to the order.

Include pricing per dozen, additional charges, and the final quoted price.

Clearly state the pickup or delivery date, time, and location.

Mention allergen information and ensure the customer acknowledges it.

Define payment terms, including deposit, payment deadlines, and consequences of non-payment.

  • The product being provided (Example: “2 dozen ACOTAR-themed cookies on hexagon plaques with black, white, red, and purple icing; vanilla-almond cookie and icing; inspiration pics sent via Facebook Messenger”). Get as specific with this as you can / want to. The more detail you have nailed down, the less confusion there can be down the road.
  • The date by which any and all changes must be made, after which no changes will be allowed. This might vary depending on if you have to order specific supplies for the order, like cutters or stencils; if I have to order those a few weeks ahead, then that’s the last chance for making changes. I don’t want to get stuck with a really specific cutter I might never use again, and then have the customer say they want something different instead. In the words of wedding officiants everywhere, speak now or forever hold your peace.
  • Your pricing per dozen, any additional charges for hand-painting/fondant/special packaging/etc, and the final quoted price. This is not a blog about pricing, per se, but make sure that you have accounted for everything you’re going to need to complete this order. The contract protects the customer as much as it protects the baker, so if you quote $60 per dozen and then later realize that you forgot to take something into account, you won’t be able to go back and change the price. Of course, if the customer asks to amend the order and add something that you are willing to accommodate, make sure to send a revised contract and have them sign and date it so that it replaces the previous contract.
  • The required pickup or delivery date/time/location. Be as specific as possible to avoid having a customer show up on your porch while you are still in pajamas at the crack of dawn—or trying to put your kids to bed at 8pm. Be very clear about what will happen if the customer has not picked up their order within suchandsuch amount of time; you don’t want to be on the hook for holding onto an order forever, just hoping that the customer will show up one day. At a certain point, you’ll want to be able to donate or discard (or even resell!) the cookies and move on with your life; you don’t want them showing up two weeks later saying they can’t believe you threw their cookies away. And make sure to clarify pickup date versus date of the event! I can’t tell you how many people have given me the date of the wedding or baby shower, when really they need them a day or two before.
  • I always like to include a portion about allergens, since I bake from my home. Although my recipe does not include peanuts or tree nuts, and although I do my best to make sure there is minimal cross-contamination, at the end of the day, I don’t have a nut-free home. I ask that my customers sign off that they have been provided that information and understand and agree to it.
  • Your payment terms—this could be something simple like “payment due 2 weeks before pickup, or the order will be canceled,” or a little more complicated if you want a deposit to hold the date. Many bakers require a 50% deposit to hold the date of the order, and the remaining 50% must be paid two weeks (or whatever you decide) ahead. If the deposit will be non-refundable (if the customer were to back out later on), make sure to state exactly that. If you ultimately decide to refund a deposit because you were able to replace the order with another and not lose any money, then that would be up to you. But your terms should be black and white as to how much must be paid by when, and what the consequences would be if those terms are not met. This would give you a clear-cut leg to stand on if the customer canceled last minute and asked for their deposit back.


These free downloadable templates are provided as basic examples to help you create your own cookie business contract and checklist. They are not intended to serve as definitive guidelines. Please customize these templates to comply with your specific local laws, ordinances, and business requirements. It’s a good idea to consult with a knowledgeable source to ensure that your contract meets all necessary standards and protections for your unique situation.

You don’t have to pay a lawyer to create a contract for you for it to be binding—I have seen Judge Judy rule in someone’s favor when the contract was written on a napkin, since both parties had signed it. The more details you include, the more protected you will be, but at the end of the day, it really comes down to you being willing to enforce the terms of your contract. If you set a clear expectation at the start of your engagement with a customer, there is little reason or room for them to say they didn’t understand the rules. Confrontation can be difficult, but if you won’t stand up for yourself and what you deserve, who else will? And again—a contract protects all parties, so this is a simple way for you to protect your own interests while also providing your customer with peace of mind that they are going to receive the products that they have paid for. Win win!

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