Wedding Cake Cost: Figuring Out How to Make it Work with Your Budget

wedding cake cost and other expenses

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How Much Should You Spend on Your Wedding Cake?

Figuring out how much you should spend on a wedding cake is not an easy answer, and quite honestly, people tend to think they should pay less than what a wedding cake costs.

There are a lot of things that go into pricing a wedding cake from the baker’s perspective, and you have to know what those are to understand what you’re getting and why you’re paying a premium price for a beautiful cake.

After all, wedding cakes are more than just dessert. They’re table centerpieces that become visual focal points for your reception, so don’t skimp on it just because it’s cake.

Decide on a Budget

Yes, having a budget makes a huge difference in what you’re going to get and what you can expect from your baker. It’s easier for a baker to work within a given budget than to give you a price quote for something that you select.

As an example, let’s say you want a beautiful vanilla crème cake with custom colored buttercream icing, elaborate ribbon decorations, and real flowers. The vision is entirely realistic for any baker worth their cake, but what you see and what your baker can design for you may or may not work for the budget you have in mind.

So, the question remains, how do you figure out what you should expect to pay for a quality wedding cake? A good rule of thumb is to expect around $4 to $6 per wedding serving for a basic flavor. If you want a customized flavor like cherry amaretto or sea salt caramel, you can expect to pay up to a few dollars more per serving because flavors like that are often considered gourmet.

If you want to pay a lesser price for your cake, then you’re going to be better off getting a cake from a big box store like your local grocery store or a place like Sam’s or Costco.

With all of that in mind, look at your guest list and figure out how many people you’re going to be expecting to attend. Order a cake that corresponds with the total guests that RSVP back to you and then subtract about 20% because not everyone will want cake.

Keep in mind that while the above amount is a good starting point for a basic cake, the price will fluctuate with the overall design and features that you’d like to see.

Selecting Your Bakery

Established bakeries and even most home bakers will be more likely to bake their cakes from scratch to meet your personal preference. They will use the highest quality ingredients which will naturally cost more. You need to know that picking the baker and the cake is entirely a situation where you will get what you pay for.

When you start calling around to different bakeries, you can ask them questions to find out what their process is. As an example, ask them what their base price is for a wedding serving size to give you a rough idea of what you can expect.

Buttercream tends to be less expensive than fondant, but depending on the cake that you want, buttercream may not work for your design. Those really intricate designs that look like luxuriously quilted sides or that have a marbleized or hand-painted design – those are typically made with fondant.

If you’re in the market for something that is a little more rustic complete with ruffles or swirls, then you will be looking at a buttercream covered cake. Keep in mind that the more intricate the designs are with either buttercream or fondant, the higher the price will go.

Compare serving prices and reputations for the bakery to have a good idea of what you’re going to get. Also, ask if they will offer tastings for the cake you have in mind. Some offer free tastings as part of the service while others charge a small fee per flavor to minimally cover the cost of ingredients and the baker’s time.

How Can You Save Money?

You may only need maybe a hundred servings, but you want an extra tier for the “wow” factor. You may be wondering if it would be possible to not have to pay as much if you have a fake foam tier as opposed to a cake tier.

The short answer is not always. The reason is that the cost of the foam on the inside is roughly equal to the cost of the supplies required to bake that section of the cake if you were going to have cake instead of a fake tier. What you’re paying for is the time and the design of the cake. You’re still going to need to pay for the time and effort that goes into creating the design even if it is on a fake tier.

Consider whether or not you’re going to want that added to the final wedding cake cost. The only way to get around the cost of designing on a fake tier is to use a glittery food-grade fabric to cover the foam tier to give the effect of a larger cake without the icing decorations.

That doesn’t mean you don’t have any way to save some money as you get your cake ordered. You can also request a sheet cake for extra servings if you need 250 servings. You may consider ordering a tiered wedding cake that will serve 100 people and an extra sheet cake to feed the remaining 150 people.

Sheet cakes aren’t typically displayed like your primary wedding cake and are instead cut in the kitchen by the catering staff. They’re never seen by your guests and cost less than ordering a tiered cake. You pay less, and everyone still eats cake. It’s a win-win.

Which Decorations are More Expensive?

flower designed wedding cake

Image: Public Domain US, Leon Brooks, via Wikimedia Commons.

Decorations will hands-down influence the total price that you can expect to pay for your cake. Your idea of a simple design and a baker’s perspective on that same design might be completely different. With all of the different pictures that you can pull from Pinterest on wedding cakes, unless you know what goes into baking and decorating a cake, it can be hard to accurately gauge how much a cake is going to cost.

As an example, fresh flowers are much less expensive than sugar flowers. Realistic sugar flowers are even more expensive because they take a tremendous amount of time to create. Each one is created individually, layer by layer, and the hand-painting is time-consuming.

Add things like edible gold flaking and lacey accents, and you’ve got servings that can easily increase in price to be as high as $20 per serving. It sounds really high, but the reality is that cake decorating can be a painstaking effort on behalf of a baker.

It takes hours and hours to decorate highly detailed cakes. In fact, it’s not unusual for a baker to spend as much as 40 or 50 hours on a single cake. More than that is not unheard of, especially if you’re looking at a sculpted cake as opposed to a traditional tiered cake.

Other Expenses You Need to Know

The wedding cake cost is not limited to the cake, decorations, and the baker’s time to decorate your cake. You’re also looking at the cost for having your cake delivered to your reception’s venue. The further your distance is from the bakery the more your delivery charge can be.

You may be asking why delivery fees can cost as much as $50 to more than $100 to deliver a cake. Delivering a cake is more than getting it from point A to point B. It’s also having supplies on-hand to take with you to the delivery site.

If your cake is on the larger side, it may also require final assembly on-site, which again takes time. If a baker has to go through significant amounts of heat to get the cake delivered, then there may be some final repairs that need to be done at the venue as well because icing of any kind melts when it gets hot.

Bakers do not arrive at delivery fees arbitrarily. They take into account the need for repair that may need to take place once the cake is delivered. They also consider how heavy the cake is and whether or not multiple people need to be used to carry it inside.

Finalizing Wedding Cake Costs

There are other factors beyond the distance that can sometimes go into your final wedding cake cost, too. When in doubt, ask the bakery any and every question you can to figure out where you might be able to cut costs.

Bakers don’t mind helping you come up with a workable design, too, but it’s helpful if you have a budget in mind along with an estimated guest list. Together, you and the baker can come up with a cake that is uniquely perfect for your wedding.

(kw: wedding cake cost)

Featured Image: Public Domain US, Ralph Daily, via Wikimedia Commons.

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