While it maybe the quieter time of the year for wedding suppliers and venues, lots of couples who are getting married next year and beyond will be cranking up their research over the cost of their wedding day and putting together a budget maybe based around what they have found as the average wedding cake price.
In addition to looking at the cost of wedding venues, photographers, videographers, florists, wedding dress designers and caterers, the wedding cake will also be an important aspect for a lot of couples, but it can become a bit of juggling act across the various components in order to stay within the wedding budget. If you're into baking or a big lover of cake and want the wedding cake to be more of a feature of the day then a greater proportion of your wedding budget will be allocated to the cake.
So how much does a wedding cake cost? Lots of websites will show their wedding cake with prices. What is the price for a 2 tier wedding cake? What is the price for a 3 tier wedding cake? How much is a wedding cake for 100 guests? How much is a wedding cake for 50 guests? How much the price vary if I wanted to serve the wedding cake as a dessert or after the wedding breakfast?
To put it simply, how long is a piece of string?
For a lot of couples, their previous experience of buying a cake may only extend to buying a Colin The Caterpillar or something from a farmer's market, and so will have no idea what the cost is of a wedding cake made by a skilled artisan professional. The same will probably apply to the wedding flowers, dress and stationary, so bear this in mind too.
As with all businesses, there are numerous factors that contribute to the cost of a product, and a well run wedding cake business is no different.
Forgive me if I get a little by 'accountanty' - it was my previous job after all - but let's have a look at what goes into to determining the cost of any product:
direct costs+direct labour+ indirect costs+profit=cost of product
Directs costs are the expenses that can be specifically linked to the wedding cake. For example, the costs of the ingredients and decorative elements, cake board, dowels etc used to build the cake (and the cost of ordering them), gas and electricity costs to bake, washing up and cleaning, the delivery costs (hire car, congestion charge, fuel)
Direct Labour is the cost of the time associated with making the specific cake. As well as the time taken to bake and assemble the cake and all of the decorative items, there's also the time taken to research designs, consult with clients, suppliers and the venue, order/collect ingredients and other decorative elements, washing up and tidying and preparing the cake for transporting.
Indirect costs are all of the other costs that go into running my business which aren't attributable to a specific cake but need to be apportioned out. These include marketing costs (Google/Facebook ads etc, website listings costs, magazine features), accounting costs (time taken to enter data and tax submissions, accountancy software costs), utilities, premises costs, mobile and broadband, professional courses and learning, kitchen equipment, office supplies and equipment
As you can see, there's a lot going running a small business!
It's easy to think that the cost of the wedding cake consists of just the cost of the ingredients, the time it takes to make the cake and then a percentage markup in order to make a bit of profit. This will be true for a hobby baker who might be making cakes as a bit of a side hustle, but there's no way I would be able to carry on making cakes if this was case.
Considering, all of these costs, what determines the cost of your wedding cake, and how might the price vary from one designer to another?
The size of the wedding cake will probably be the biggest determinant of final price. How many portions do you want it serve, and what is the size of the portion - will you be serving it as a dessert or after the wedding breakfast with coffee? Larger cakes with more tiers will require more ingredients and time to create.
Complexity of the design - what is the cost of these extra features and how long will they take to make? Do you want fresh, silk artificial or wafer paper flowers made?
Quality of the ingredients use - does the cake maker use butter or vegetable spread, couverture chocolate or cheaper compound, organic vs non-organic.
Flavours chosen - a simple buttercream and fruit conserve filling will be a take less time to prepare and cost less than, roasting fruits, and preparing curds and pralines, for example. You can see examples of flavours that I make here
Type of business. A high street bakery producing a large number of cakes will benefit from economies of scale when buying ingredients and other overheads. Your cake may also be made by a member of staff who may not have the same level skill or pay the same attention to the finish of the cake as sole trader. (and might only get paid a living wage).
Level of experience of the cake designer and their unique selling point/style. As in a lot of professions, the more your specialise, the more you get paid or charge for your services, which is a reflection of extra training undertaken.
Social media presence/number of followers - if a cake designer has a large social media following they may be inclined to charge more if they think that clients will want to pay to have a 'celebrity' cake designer.
Seasonality - cake designers may give a discount for wedding cakes booked in the quieter months in order to secure a booking.
Location - overheads and cost of living varies from region to region, and this can affect the cost of the wedding cake. Distance from the venue will also affect the cost of delivery and set up.
Overall, it is the time spent on your cake and running the business which is the biggest contributor to costs. Time is not a free commodity, although a lot of people think that the only chargeable time should relate to making the cake. Think about your own job - are there parts of it that you don't earn a salary for?
Taking all of these factors into consideration, you can see using the average cost of a wedding cake to base your decision on what to spend becomes a bit meaningless.
A lot of websites out there state what the average cost of the wedding cake is but they don't state where the information is sourced from or the make up of the sample size.
Using these figures as a way to choose between designers can be quite unhelpful. Is the average cost they're stating for a wedding cake serving 50 finger portions, 50 dessert portions (which can be twice the size), 100 portions, a 2 tier wedding cake, a 3 tier wedding cake, a semi naked wedding cake, a fondant wedding cake? Does this figure include DIY wedding cakes? I think you get the idea?
So while using these figures in the very initial stages of putting together a wedding budget maybe useful, you shouldn't use them as a reason to go choose one cake designer over another, unless cost is the absolute number one consideration.
The wedding cake can be a large investment, and ultimately you have to decide how important a part you want the cake to play on your wedding day. If you have found a cake designer you have fallen in love with, who can make you a delicious bespoke piece of edible art that perfectly compliments your day and will make you and your guests say 'wow!' then I would advise you to ignore all of those websites that tell you a three tier wedding cake should cost £X and go with your heart. The wedding cake can be one of the key visual elements of day and will be on display for all to see and comment on. For the sake of a few pounds for a once in a lifetime purchase choose the absolute best quality you can, otherwise you could be left feeling disappointed if the wedding cake doesn't live up to your expectations.
How to reduce costs if you working to a tighter budget?
Rememember that there is always a wedding cake designer out there for you, and finding a less experienced person who doesn't charge as much is a great option, as long as you're willing to compromise of course on the overall finish of the cake or other decorative features. Often, hobby bakers or those still honing their skills will charge less in order to attract customers in order to build up their portfolio of cakes, and they might not have the confidence to charge what the cake is actually worth.
If you have look around and found a cake designer that you really want to make your cake, what can you do to reduce costs?
do you really have to cater for all of your guests? How many times have you been to wedding and seen half of the cake left at the end of night? Obviously that would never happen with the delicious cakes that I make, but nevertheless, I always suggest that couples cater for 70-80% of the number of guests at the end. Few portions means a smaller caker and less cost
if you do want to cater for all of the guests, then how about a smaller portion size or perhaps a smaller main cake with a separate cutting cake to make up the numbers.
reducing the number of tiers - creating additional tiers takes extra time and cost, and it's normally possible to get the same number of portions from a two tier wedding cake as it is a three tier wedding cake.
choose less complex flavours.
be upfront with the cake designer over what your budget is. Most of the time they will try hard to work with you and suggest alternatives to fit with what you want to spend.
Finally I think it's worth addressing the thought that lots of couples have that as soon as you mention the word 'wedding' a few extra zeros are added on to the cost of the cake. While some designers may do this, I charge the same for my time, ingredients, equipment and overheads whether it be a celebration cake or wedding cake.
The difference between most celebration cakes and wedding cakes is not only the size and additional time they take to make, but the time spent consulting with couples, emailing back and forth, drawing up designs and tweaking them, liaising with other suppliers, the venue etc. All of this takes alot of time, which is a cost added on the final price.
In conclusion, there are so many factors that contribute to overall price of wedding cake. You should look at it as you were buying a car or a piece of clothing - would you base your decision of the average cost of these, or more around the features and quality you wanted? The cake should form part of an unforgettable day
Simon's Bakery is located in Tooting, south London, and I deliver across London, Surrey, Sussex, Buckinghamshire, Hertfordshire, Bedfordshire and beyond. I design luxury modern bespoke buttercream and ganache wedding cakes and event cakes, characterised by a using abstract colour, a clean precise finish with sharp edges, and other modern cake design techniques to create interesting textures and shapes.
I draw on my years of cooking and baking experience to cakes that not only look stunning, but also taste amazing, experimenting with flavours and texture combinations to create a memorable taste sensation.