The other day I received a call from a potential client for a cake order.  After talking in detail with her about what she wanted, I told her I would get back to her within two days with a quote.  I emailed her quote along with a description of her cake and her response was “What?!?!? Why is it so expensive??”

My response was “Expensive compared to what?”

I came to the realization that people really do not know or understand all that goes into creating a custom or wedding cake.  So, I decided to take a few minutes to explain to the best of my ability.

You can’t get custom / wedding cakes for grocery store prices – Many people are accustomed to “picking” up their cake order from Safeway, Walmart or Costco.  These chains can afford to charge lower prices for their products because they are mass produced! And, when you look at their available designs, these same designs are available to EVERY customer! You definitely will not get a one of a kind piece created just for you.  Their employees are trained to create the same designs over & over & over again….no creativity is ever required.  It’s sort of like colors by numbers…..same ol’ same ol’.

It’s JUST flour & butter – Actually… isn’t.  In a standard 3-tier cake which serves 120-150 people, there can be as many as a dozen eggs, 5 pounds of pastry flour, half a cup of real vanilla, several pounds of unsalted butter, several bars of premium chocolate, large quantities of fresh fruit or nuts and more! The filling and buttercream may contain 3 or 4 more pounds of unsalted butter, another dozen or more egg whites, and several pounds of sugar plus the chocolate or fruit to flavor it. If you have a fondant covering, add about 5-8 more pounds of sugar and butter.  Do you see how this can add up?

And then there is equipment…pans, mixers, basic cutters and quite possibly molds might be required to create your masterpiece.  Then, how will your cake be presented? Well, it definitely will need to be placed on a board, sometimes even a custom made board to carry the weight.  Now, if structural elements are required, there’s a trip to the hardware store.  Just a few more dollars added to the cost of your cake.

In addition to the basic elements needed for your design, there is the cake artist’s time to bake and create your masterpiece, her/his experience, and potentially thousands of dollars and countless hours in workshops, training courses, and conferences spent improving upon her/his craft.  You are paying for her/his baking experience in using recipes that are tasty but can stand up under the weight of being stacked and shaped, artistry in decorating, and sculpting skills in creating a topper or flowers (some flowers can take up to 4 hours each to create).

Know this – some designs can take eight to ten hours to complete! While other, more elaborate designs can take up to forty hours to complete! Yes…. forty hours!

The best plan for ordering your cake – The first question I ask all potential clients is “What is your budget?” The best thing you can do is be honest with yourself, while being completely realistic! If you know for a fact that your wedding cake budget is $300.00 to feed 125 guests, then you might have to consider purchasing a mock cake and serving sheet cakes to your guests, or you might need to revisit your over-all budget and make some adjustments.  You definitely will not get all the bells and whistles you desire at that price.  Your two most expensive ticket items for a wedding will be….your dress and your cake.  Do you research….check out the bakeries in your area to see how they price out their cakes and make sure you don’t sacrifice quality for price.  If you don’t believe me, then take a few moments to check out the disaster stories posted on Cake Wrecks. ! Also, understand that you can’t expect to get a custom cake for the same price as a retail cake.  It’s just not going to happen


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