Here is a scenario for you. You have decided you would like to have a wedding cake for your special day. You message a couple of cake designers you like the look of who promptly send back some quotes. Good gravy.... how much?
Which poses the question. What makes a wedding cake so expensive?
Wedding cakes made by a fully licenced, expert in their field cake designer are not going to come cheap. They have spent years honing their craft and it is likely their sole income. They take the cake planning stress away and you know that on one of the most important days of your life, the most expensive cake you are likely to every buy is going to be blooming fabulous.
You will find there are big differences when it comes to pricing, so hopefully I can give a bit of a background as to why it can vary so massively in the cake world and also which could be the best option for you both.
Image by Michelle Ley Photography
Types of cake makers! There are 4 main wedding cake categories which can shift cake pricing.
Hobby baker - Will likely be the cheapest and will be making cakes to build up a portfolio. Everyone has to start somewhere and like myself, end up gifting or charging very little while they develop their skills. Possible risk factor as they may not have made something similar to what you are hoping for or haven’t encountered certain situations you learn with time and practice i.e thinking on your feet when the weather doesn't play ball or the delivery goes wrong.
Cake maker - Will copy a pre existing design and make small changes. Less custom, but still beautiful. Likely a little cheaper than a designer. May take on multiple cakes a day/weekend including celebration cakes which means attention to detail and time may not be quite as high as a designer.
Cake baker - May work in a bakery or from home. More focus on the taste of the cake as opposed to the look. Perfect for very homely looking and rustic cakes.
Cake designer - Custom design service. Has perfected both design and taste but will likely charge the higher prices.
I think of myself as a designer as opposed to a baker, with some cake maker elements in the respect of adapting my own existing designs and tweaking details such as colour and florals.
Typically you will pay more for a designer as you are not only paying for your beautiful wedding cake, you are also paying for a completely bespoke service where your cake can be designed entirely around both you and your special day. I also only take on 1-2 weddings per week and only one per day.
Cake makers/designers will also charge more depending on where they work and their overheads.
You tend to find a lot of cake designers and makers work from home studios and kitchens as store overheads would be insane and in turn make cake prices rise further.
Why is it handy to have a budget in mind?
Now why do I ask for a budget? It’s certainly not to trick you or overcharge for your cake and although it may feel a little forceful or an odd thing to answer, I promise you, it does make sense.
Here are some reasons your cake designer will want to know.
If you and your cake designer are miles apart with how much you would like to spend on your cake and what they are able to offer, it can make for an uncomfortable conversation further down the line. It could also mean you waste your time with numerous messages when you may be able to find your perfect match elsewhere.
When it comes to the design, your cake maker isn’t going to show you cake ideas vastly above your budget, especially if you have let them know it mustn’t go above this. No one wants to be shown the cake of their dreams only to be told it isn’t achievable on their budget.
You may find that your cake maker/designer has a minimum order value, particularly at certain times of the year. If you are completely unsure about where to begin with budget, ask if there is a minimum order value or a starting price for particular cakes.
Image by Big Bouquet Wedding
What’s in your cake?
Has it ever made you wonder what on earth goes into store bought cakes which enables them to be eaten weeks after they have been opened and months after they have been made.
I won’t pretend to know exactly what’s in them, but If a fresh cake with fresh ingredients has a shelf life of a week or less from the point of baking, I dread to think.
As an example and after a bit of research, a supermarket brand chocolate cake contains 31 ingredients. My rich chocolate cake contains 10.
I also use the best quality ingredients. Callebaut Belgian chocolate, British dairy, seasonal fruit and free range eggs as well as making the majority of our fillings from scratch.
The cost of ingredients has increased hugely over the past year and I doubt will come down any time soon.
What do you want from your cake?
It’s a really good idea to think about what a cake means to you and how it will fit in with your day.
Ask yourself these questions and see what you come up with -
How important is the cake for your day? If the answer is not very - Cake maker or give a hobbyist a go! Help them with their portfolio!
Will the cake be an extension of the wedding décor? - Cake designer
Are you excited about planning your wedding cake? - Cake designer
Are you on a tight budget? - Cake maker/baker.
Is the flavour of your cake really important? - Cake maker/Cake designer/Cake Designer
Can I still have the cake of my dreams?
The last thing I want if for anyone to read this and feel they are not able to have the cake of their dreams.
Most cake designers are able to accommodate a range of budgets.
Here are some ideas of how a beautiful cake can be achieved on a tighter budget.
Opt for a semi naked or ganache cake. Beautiful in most settings and can be decorated with anything from pressed flowers to fruit. (Not suitable in certain situations however, including Summer marquee and outdoor weddings. Unless you want to drink your cake that is!)
Seasonal or dried flowers generally speaking are more cost effective. Utilise the seasons.
You don’t necessarily have to cater for all your guests. Why not opt for a smaller cake with additional desserts.
A cake stand can make all the difference. Having a wonderful cake stand with a plainer cake will always make it look more lavish.
How is a cake priced?
Everyone is different, but here is how I cost my cakes -
Ingredients - I only use high quality ingredients. For every cake, no matter the flavour.
Time - Baking, filling, icing, stacking, decorating are just some of the things included and the parts you see. This doesn’t include the email communication, ingredient shopping, delivering, consultations, tastings, cleaning, keeping upto date with training etc.
Sundries - boards, boxes, ribbons, edible prints, colours etc
Overheads - Even home bakers have a fair few. Energy, fuel, advertising, branding etc. obviously this isn’t something that just one order takes on, but a percentage will for every business.
It’s a fair bit when you look at it isn’t it.
What elements make a cake more expensive?
This again will differ for each cake designer. Here are some of the things for me which add on extra £
Sugar flowers - Sugar flowers take blooming ages! Arrangements with hundreds of petals and fine detail are worth every penny, but if your budget doesn’t stretch to it, maybe opt for the majority being fresh and in season and have your cake designer make the odd few out of sugar.
Ruffles - I no longer make them. Life is too short for ruffling. A 10” will easily take me 5rs+ excluding the price of the gumpaste. No thank you sir!
Hand painting - Very detailed hand painting can take hours. It takes planning and research, but having a small amount can add wonderful dimension and interest to a cake.
Square cakes - I have a love hate relationship with square cakes. I love the way they look, but hate how long it takes to get those sharp edges.
Out of season flowers - I personally love working with the seasons and utilising mother natures beauty. It’s something I am confident in and love using. Buying roses out of season will almost certainly be coming from abroad and will likely come with a surcharge.
What have we learnt?
To summarise, the best thing you can do is work out how important having a wedding cake is to you. If it’s high up the list of things that you want for your day, make sure to enquire with as much notice as possible.
If you love the look of a particular cake designers style, check out their website first to see if they have a minimum spend for certain months or if they have a price guide and then pop them over an enquiry.
If you love one of their pre existing cakes or you like a couple of different styles, most cake makers will be more than happy to give you a ballpark quote for a similar type of cake.
If you love my style of cake, are having a wedding in the Dorset/Devon/Somerset/Hampshire area and are interested in getting in touch, you can do so here -
And to help get an idea of how much I charge for a custom, sustainably made wedding cake, click here for some pricing info.
There are also some price examples in our wedding gallery. Have a browse and hover for more information. Happy cake planning folks! Give me a follow on Instagram for more wedding planning tips! Tash X