I see these comments on many a wedding forum. “It’s just a glorified birthday cake”, “add the word wedding and it adds £000s” and “how come something made from flour, butter and a few eggs is so expensive?”. Comments like these are enough to make us cake decorators weep into our mixing bowls.
So, I could get angry (and believe me, it is hard not to). But like in my recent Wedding Cake myths blog, there are some common misconceptions and I believe that part of my role as a professional wedding cake supplier is to educate and advise as well as provide cakes.
What is “expensive”
Well, the term expensive is relative. Yes, when compared to a mass produced, shop-bought cake it may seem so. But for a cake made fresh from scratch using quality ingredients (no cake mix here) and to custom specifications, there is no comparison.
Put another way, an average wedding cake to feed 100 will cost around £350. That is £3.50 per slice for something that is bespoke, carefully hand-made and delivered with great care and attention to the venue so that it arrives perfectly to be admired by your guests. A slice of cake in a coffee shop might cost the same amount and whilst it might taste delicious, it is not something that will be remembered much more than 10 minutes after eating it. And yet, thousands of these cake slices are sold every day without a moment’s thought.
I wonder if it tastes as good as my lemon drizzle!!!
A wedding cake is nothing like a birthday cake
Wedding cakes are comparatively more expensive than birthday cakes for a few very simple reasons. Unless you choose a set cake from a portfolio, chances are that your supplier will have provided a number of emails, consultations, sample testing and sketches before the oven is even switched on. You don’t get this for a birthday cake order.
In terms of the cake itself, often higher-quality ingredients such as ganache and superior sugarpaste will be used to provide the perfect finish that a wedding cake demands. Decorations are often much more intricate with sugar flowers and handpainting which all take considerable time to complete.
That said, the requests for more intricate birthday cakes featuring 3D carving and sugar modelling is on the rise. I personally love to make these but unfortunately, some members of the public do not appreciate the amount of time these skills take and then balk at the prices quoted as they compare them to what is available in the supermarkets. A lot of cake makers, including myself, have therefore stopped providing birthday cakes. The return on such cakes and the time taken to field enquiries and provide quotes, only to be endlessly told that you are too expensive is frankly not worth the time, effort or demoralising effect on your morale.
“Wedding” adds £100s to the price
To some degree it does. But this is relative to the increase in service that a wedding cake demands. As stated above, a wedding cake order will have involved countless email exchanges, consultations, sketches to be approved, research, purchasing specialist equipment and materials etc before the cake is even started. There is then cleaning, preparation and baking time, filling/torting, ganaching, icing, internal structure, decoration, appropriate storage, delivery and set-up at the venue (the most stressful part) and the mammoth task of washing-up.
The other unseen aspects of the business are: marketing, advertising, research, continued skill learning, accounts, specific hygiene training and adherence to specific regulations/standards, specialist clothing and equipment, insurance, identifying good suppliers and shopping for ingredients etc etc. Oh and did I mention the cleaning (icing sugar and airbrushing goes everywhere!!!!).
The one thing that cake decorators underestimate and often disregard is their time. A simple 3-tier wedding cake will take around 15-20 hours to complete and this does not always take into account the preparation and consultation time beforehand. So even at the National Living Wage of £7.83, labour will amount to £117-156. I am sure you would agree that making wedding cakes is not a basic skill and therefore deserves to be paid at a higher, professional hourly rate.
The type of supplier you choose will depend on their skills and ability to be able to provide what you want. For example, I love to hand-paint on cakes and create beautifully realistic sugar flowers. Others are experts in delicate piping. These are more highly skilled than simply baking and icing and therefore command a higher wage.
The painting alone on this cake took 10 hours.
So I think that brings me onto a wedding cake supplier’s biggest request – please be realistic about your budget. For most of you, it will be most expensive cake you will ever buy and your first time doing so. You are therefore not expected to know how much it will cost. That is why I include prices on my website to make it easier and transparent for consumers. I don’t know about you but if I can’t find a price readily, I will assume I can’t afford it and look elsewhere for clear pricing. If you can’t find out what you want, please don’t be afraid to ask – it is part of our service.
If you find someone you love but they are out of your price range, there is no harm in asking about discounts but don’t be surprised if they say no. After all, it is like your boss asking you to take a paycut to do the same work. You may need to compromise a little on some design aspects and I have written another blog on Ways to Maximise your Wedding Cake Budget which may give you some tips on how to do this. A good supplier will help you achieve the look you require, at a price that you can afford.