Friday, April 5, 2013

Wedding Cakes Revisited: Pricing and Expectations

I won't do wedding cakes.  I've mentioned this before.  I don't have the time, nor the space, nor the guts to do them.  On one of the most important days of a woman's life, I will not be the cause of someone's high expectations gone to pot.

I've made exactly one wedding cake; my sister's.  It was slightly tilted, but she helped and still loved it.  She can overlook flaws. That's what sisters are for.  And it was free to boot.

I recently got asked if I would help someone out to" save money" on a wedding cake for 450 guests.  Four hundred and fifty guests, and they came to me to see if I could help cut costs.  The average is anywhere between 100-200 guests.

I was shocked.  And not at the same time.  People really just do not understand cake pricing at all, so I can't blame them.  At the same time though, I am taken aback that someone thinks I am o.k. helping someone else I don't know save money by spending easily 20 hours (for a cake for 450!)  of my personal time to do this.  I have a full-time job.  Prepping would take weeks, because it would have to be done on my nights and weekends.  My personal time.

When I bake, I am baking out of pure love for the people I am helping.  I bake and create these fun cakes just to see their faces.  Makes me so proud and so happy.   I LOVE seeing my sister's, my friends', my co-workers', my nieces'/nephews' faces when I present them with this bit of my love in cake form.

I know that I am not a professional baker.  My many, MANY mistakes and failures that I publicly post on this blog are proof. I'm not scared to show you all I'm human.  What I am not is someone that will do something for free or cheap, just because I am *not* a professional,  because guess what? For every failure, I have 5-6 successes that I am SO proud of.  I have skilllllzzzz.

So let me educate ya'll on wedding cake pricing, okay?

EVERY baker will quote differently.  Buddy from Carlo's  (I love your skills and your show, Buddy)  is going to charge WAY more than the local bakery down the street.

What we do quote the same, though, is a "per slice" price.  Bakers range from anywhere in the $1.50 to $3/per slice range for plain old vanilla cake with butter cream frosting and maybe  some sugar flowers to $4-$10 per slice for fondant, custom figures, custom shapes etc.

PER SLICE PRICE for 450 people.  Do the math.  This is a really big wedding.  The average is anywhere between 100-200 guests.  This is 450.  This is not your average wedding. This is way above average.

Buttercream Cakes:
$1.50 (SUPER CHEAP)  x 450 = $675
$3.00 x 450 people = $1,350  ( and this is my "rate", and mine are with fondant!! Fondant pricing below.)

Special cakes (fondant, gumpaste, figures, unique designs, labor intensive):

$4.00 x 450 = $1,800
$5.00 x 450 = $2,250

etc. etc.

You're seeing these prices, yes?  Know what we hear?  "What? I can get a cake at Walmart for $50!"  (not a wedding cake, you can't.  Also, Publix's wedding cakes will run you about $200-$300 to serve 100-200 people, and that's buttercream.)  The reply?   Well then you, ma'am, will have a Walmart cake at your wedding.  You will not have a custom-made cake that someone spent 10, 15, 20 hours on.  You will save money and have yourself a nice cake.  What you won't have is what you're hoping for and see on tv and in bridal magazines.  Hey, I'm not knocking Walmart cakes, or Publix cakes (and I LOVE ME some Publix cakes) but if you want something spectacular, you're going to have to pay for it.

I seriously doubt 450-people wedding couple are going to want to spend $1350.  Heck, even if I was uber-crazy and said "I will make you a small fondant cake. Then I will make you tons of sheet cakes you can hide in the kitchen and I will do this for $675 (the $1.50 a slice rate that's crazy-cheap)," I doubt they would do that. They're calling me to save money.  I cannot help them. What I can do is prepare them for the shock they're about to meet up with.

Let's look at cake serving sizes now.  We are not talking a big ole pie wedge here.  If you don't know this, now you do.  Wedding cake servings are small.

Two inches by two inches!  Tiny pieces!

If I am reading this one right, these servings are even smaller
than the picture above this picture.  They want 450 servings!
 Look at # 9.  That's not even half the guest list!

Here's someone's pricing chart I found.  $990 for 180 people for a 3 tiered
fondant cake.

The cake would have to be a tower.  This is not realistic.  Your best bet is to have a nice small 2 or 3 tiered cake (4", 6", 8".  It's small.  About 26 to 46 servings, depending on how you cut it. Teeny teeeny to get 46 out of that) or any of the permutations in the second picture, remembering that the bigger you go, the more $$ you're spending.  Then have several flat sheet cakes in the kitchen ready to be cut. The baker could probably give you a better per-slice rate for those.  You're still looking at a little over $600 for all this.

OR, you bake your own flat sheet cakes and then spend about $150-$200 on a small, pretty decorated cake made by your decorator.

Just a little education so you understand why cakes are so darned expensive.  You're not paying just for the flour, eggs, butter and sugar, the cake boards and the dowels.  You're paying for that expensive fondant, the gumpaste and most importantly, the decorator's time and skill.


Kristin aka Trekkie Gal said...

Yikes! Pricing cakes was one thing I did not have to do when I got married because my (now) ex-mother-in-law made the cake (and transported it from Indiana to Wisconsin) for free. If we had had to pay for a cake, I probably would have ended up with the store bakery cake. :)

Big Sis said...

People always want stuff for free. They aren't stupid. They just act stupid to see if you will fall for it.
oh and by the way...........yes I loved my cake. I need a divorce cake now. lol

Amber said...

I absolutely, 100% agree with you! Around here, I am the "cheap" one as I only charge $2.50 per slice (and up) for a basic buttercream cake, as most other I have found start at $3. You forgot to add that many bakeries also charge a stacking fee (they do around here) if you want a tiered cake! And I think you were way underestimating the time you would have spent on a cake for 450... 20 hours? Maybe if all you did was ice and stack. Even then, with all the baking and clean-up, I am betting you are looking at more like 30 hours, more if they actually wanted some decorations. Wow...

Niki said...

You know i helped Matt do his wedding cake and even without any decoration (they did ribbon and live flowers) it took DAYS to finish. It is true that people who have never tried to do something sometimes thinks that it is easy because professionals make it look easy.
Way to stick to your guns.