How to Budget for Your Wedding Cake

February 11, 2016

Planning a wedding is a tremendous undertaking and, quite frankly, can be overwhelming. Probably the most eye-opening realization is the cost of each vendor’s service. Though we may ‘want it all,’ our budgets tell us otherwise. It’s vital to think about the vendor services that are the most important to you as a couple and then put your money into the best that you can afford.

If a delicious and beautiful custom cake is on your ‘most important’ list (and I hope it is!), here’s some helpful information as you plan for your wedding. As I speak to these suggestions, I exclude the cake that is included in the venue’s meal package. My suggestions are geared to those of you looking to hire a private baker or cake designer for something special (the terms “baker” and “cake designer” are titles used interchangeably in this post):

  • The cost of a wedding cake in New Jersey is varied and, most times, is priced per serving/per person.  Private, experienced cake designers or bakers in New Jersey price custom weddings cakes starting at around $7.00 per serving and can go as high as $15 per serving or more.
  • The price of a cake is accelerated by the labor involved in the design.  Detailed hand piping, hand painting, cutouts, cake carving, extensive amounts of wired sugar flowers, and cut and fit designs, are just a few of the items that may add to the base price of a cake. Adding these details to just one or two of the cake tiers, leaving out the carving, and using fewer or less labor-intensive sugar flowers will cut down on the added cost
  • The price of a cake can also be accelerated by the flavor of the cake. This is especially true when it comes to cakes or fillings made with nuts, exotic fruits or added extras such as pralines or dacquoise (meringue disc). You can help keep the cost down by choosing classic flavors that are always a crowd pleaser.
  • There are several ways to work the number of servings you need for your guests: if your reception venue includes some other desserts (i.e., sundae bar, plated desserts such as mousse, panna cotta, tiramisu, etc.), you may not need the full guest count in servings. However, if the cake is the only dessert for your guests, don’t cut back on the servings. After all, how do you determine who can enjoy cake and who can’t? When you have a stunningly beautiful wedding cake as a presentation, people always want to try it.
  • Consider a smaller cake and add a dessert table. This is also nice because it adds variety. Seek out a baker or designer who does both cakes and desserts as often this can help with cost (and it’s one less delivery fee!)
  • Consider a smaller cake with kitchen cakes (or sheet cakes). Sheet cakes are priced at a lower per serving cost because they’re undecorated. Make sure you confirm with your designer that the sheet cakes are exactly as the formal cake, that is, the same number of cake layers, so the slices all look the same on the plates.
  • If you’re not keen on the idea of kitchen cakes and your wedding is a more casual style, you can add a cake pop display. If it’s more formal, individual petit fours are a great way to go.
  • Consider a lower height or depth of each cake tier. If the tier height or depth of the designer’s cake tier is typically 5″, ask if there’s a price consideration if the depth/height of the tier is 4″.  There is somewhat less labor and material per cake tier, which can add up.
  • Adding a faux tier will add to the height and formality of your cake. Remember, though, that there are still labor and materials used to decorate those faux tiers. Pricing for faux tiers will be dependent on the baker or designer.
  • Communication is vital. When you communicate with a wedding cake baker, include your budget. While asking for pricing is a good start, letting the baker know your budget upfront will greatly lessen the frustration of finding out at a consultation that the designer is not able to work with your budget.
  • Understand the value.  The lowest price is not always the best price, and it’s never just cake.   Factor into your quote the company’s experience, quality/taste of the products, client service and your overall experience, consultation/cake tasting (their time and materials), and a bakery’s reputation.  Cheap pricing lacks excellence and value.  Allow a quality bakery to help you find ways to meet a reasonable budget.

The most important thing I believe you can do is retain the services of an experienced, professional baker or designer. The very last thing you want to spend your money on is a cheap cake. Once the cake is delivered, there’s not much, if anything, that can be done to the cake’s finish or structure. Assuming you have set a reasonable budget for your cake, an experienced, professional baker or designer can help you achieve what you’re looking for so you stay at or close to budget. An experienced, professional baker or cake designer knows how to properly structure a cake and handle issues that arise. A professional baker or cake designer also operates within the food and zoning laws of the state and carries liability insurance.

So don’t be afraid to seek out that beautiful and delicious cake. I am of the firm belief that you can have your cake and eat it, too!