It never fails... week after week I get a call... or two... or three... on Wednesday/Thursday/Friday asking me to make a "small" cake to feed 40-70 people to be picked up in the next 24-72 hrs. Most of the time I am already booked, but every once and a while I have a small opening so I ask them what they are interested in. Nine times out of 10 their "simple cake" turns into a 3-tier cake covered in sugar flowers or some 3-D monstrosity, and I politely tell them that is not possible in such a small timeframe.
I am always asking myself why folks wait so long to order a cake... a simple sheet cake from a full service bakery/grocery store... not a problem, but something custom for a medium to large party? Even one of the large custom shops (employees, commercial ovens, SPACE!!) in my area requires a minimum of a week notice, which I don't think is asking a lot considering invitations were sent out at least 2 weeks in advance.
I think people don't realize things can't be whipped out in a half an hour like they do on TV. The other half of these calls tell me that "the baker" backed out, can't be contacted, etc. While I feel bad for these folks, most of the time I really don't have any room in my schedule for another cake. Even when I do have a little wiggle room, which isn't often, I typically don't feel like disrupting my entire schedule and possibly staying up most of the night to complete a new order. Things can go wrong and I don't like having that tight of a schedule.
So what's the moral of the story? Order your cake when you book your venue, send out your invites, etc., or you might not get the cake from your first or second or third choice.