i just can’t seem to get the user style drop down list to work - plus i only want to give the user access to specific css tags only and to me this seems the best and most efficient way to do this is have sitecake point directly to a custom made css file
You can create specific css file, link properly in your HTML and give instructions to your client to update style just in that file. Usually we create sitecake.css for this purpose.
Regarding your problems in making things work, check if you deleted /sitecake-temp folder from the server after each manual change to HTML. In this way Sitecake parses HTML again from the source, otherwise it will continue working with draft HTML you’ve made last time editing from the /sitecake-temp folder.