The Cost of a Wedding Cake
When many prospective clients contact me, many of them actually don’t have a realistic idea of how much a wedding cake or any custom cake costs. This really doesn’t surprise me, having been a bride once. I, too, was astounded by the prices quoted me when I planned for my own wedding years ago. I hear a lot of budgets in the $100-$300 range and more often than not, it’s for an amount of servings that far exceeds the cost and for a very labor intensive design.
What goes into the cost of a wedding cake?
Ingredients: If you are selecting a high quality cake designer/baker, they are going to be using the best ingredients which are not cheap. These include eggs, butter, milk, cake flour, vanilla beans, imported chocolate, fondant, marzipan, nuts, cream, and fruits. Of course, this can include a list of much more exotic ingredients depending on your choice of flavors. Bakers are not magicians with prices. You don’t get a pound of butter for 50 cents and neither do they. Why go through this trouble? You will taste the difference. You certainly don’t want to order a cake from a place that is going to be using fillers and substitutes like “hi-ratio shortening”. The bakers that do use these substitutes are the very same ones who gave wedding cakes a bad name to begin with. Cake can be sinfully delicious if made with the right ingredients in the right way. It’s worth splurging on.
Labor: Cake decorators and designers spend countless hours consulting, designing, baking, fabricating, assembling and decorating. It’s remarkable and overwhelming when I think about all the planning and steps necessary to put together a perfect cake. One of the most difficult steps is designing and working with the client to envision the perfect cake. This can take countless steps and conversations. Tons of planning goes into the cake once the design is set. Timing is everything: from preparing all solid decorations weeks in advance to having all the materials at hand and baking the cake. Designers may even have to prepare templates and patterns ahead of time to apply to cake or trouble shoot on gravity-defying structures. Just assembling the cake in itself is a feat. First, the cake needs to be trimmed, attached to a board, torted, brushed with syrup and filled with frosting or buttercream. This step will be repeated a number of times per tier and then finally coated with a crumb coating of buttercream and refrigerated before any fondant or final coat of buttercream is applied. This step is not even the hardest part and it is very time-consuming.
It’s also worth considering that you are purchasing a person’s or team’s amazing talents/skills and unique approach to aesthetic and flavor as well as their experience. As a bride, even though I had a budget wedding, I decided that I really wanted someone skilled to make my wedding cake. I didn’t want one of those badly cliched cakes with the grecian columns and spongy cake with strawberry and pineapple filling, which I had tasted at numerous weddings. I did end up going with someone notable but who was on the lower end price-wise. I went with simple, having fresh flowers arranged on my cake. My guests were very pleased and there many people going for seconds (for a wedding cake!).
Here’s some figures for realistic price ranges for wedding cakes in general from various cake designers. These prices do not include tax and delivery charges:
-For 100 ppl., you should expect to pay from $500-$750 for a simple lower priced cake, and from $800-$1,200 for a higher end design.
-For 150 ppl., you can expect to pay from $750-$1,125 for the simple cakes, and from $1,200-$1,800 for the higher end.
-For 200 ppl., you can expect to pay from $1,000-$1,400 for the simple cakes, and from about $1,500-$2,100 for the higher end.
Ordering cupcakes instead might lower your costs a little, but not by too much. You will also need to order extra cupcakes for servings. Also important to remember is that some cake designers have a minimum of anywhere from $500-$1,000.