Why do wedding cakes cost so much? From the perspective of a cake artist.

I start my first blog off with the question,

“Why do wedding cakes cost so much?”

When the real question is “Why do these amazing cakes I see everywhere give me sticker shock when I contact my local baker to order one?

 

Yeah, yeah…I know, Pinterest is a black hole that’ll suck you into the world of these amazing, over the top wedding cakes, birthday cakes, edible sculptures, etc.  I mean, it’s absolutely crazy endless. When you have so many options to choose from, it seems so effortless, right? With all these amazing cakes, it’s something simple that can be whipped up in no time.

So why is it so expensive? If you’ve found yourself here reading my take on this question, I’m going to answer to the best of my ability from my perspective as a pro.

This is the question I have to answer with almost every cake quote prepared for my clients. My initial answer is to say, it’s more than “just a cake.”

Well that answers nothing, nor explains anything, so here is a more in-depth look into what it means when it’s more than “just a cake.” Just remember, as you read on, this is completely from my experience as a baker, cake artist, and business owner. I’m not speaking for other cake artists, bakers, and business owners.

Each and everyone of us have found our own paths, and fortunately, my path has been paved with lessons I’ve learned the hard way. Yes, I say fortunately, because by learning the hard way, I can explain the why… why you want me to deliver, why you can’t have cream cheese frosting under fondant, and why these cakes cost so much $$$.

Creating edible works of art takes time, a LOT of time.

It’s not just mixing some batter, popping it in the oven, slapping on some frosting, and voila, here’s your cake!

Every cake I make is from scratch.  There are no cake box mixes, no cutting corners, and it’s all made the old-fashioned way. Even the fondant and modeling chocolate is from scratch.

It just tastes better!

While I feel like everyone can bake, and bake from scratch, not everyone can make a cake look like a dragon or a unicorn. Can you recreate Vincent van Gough’s Starry Night on a cake? – I can…  This is the why.  This is the main reason that any custom cake comes with a higher price tag.

 

“Well, I don’t want all that fancy stuff… just some ruffles, maybe some gold accents, a few flowers, oh! how about that super easy drip?…”

 

Cakin' it Up Cream Cake with three tiersI just want to face palm every time I receive a picture of a beautifully simple elegant cake, and the client says, “I just want something simple, like this…”

I know in their mind, this isn’t “complicated” and therefore, should be more affordable. I dread the awkward conversation that follows with me explaining the time involved, the cost of their choice of flavors, and my value on what I create.

I let the client know that the simple elegance of the cake is deliberate and didn’t just happen.

Most likely this cake took many hours in planning, baking, designing and executing. Now, don’t get me wrong here…I don’t say any of this to make anyone feel guilty for assuming that not a lot goes into every cake. Even my friends and family have said, “Oh I just want a “simple” cake.  Something easy for you.”

 

To them I say, I love you, but no, none of my cakes are “simple,” or “easy.”  Each cake from start to finish takes at least 3 hours. That’s just the time involved in my “simple” cakes and does not include delivery.

 

Still not seeing why these cakes are so expensive?

I get it.  Let me ask you a question.  How much do you make per hour?

If you were working a minimum wage job, you would be making around $7.25 per hour, right?

Now, with that figure, lets do a little math…

 

Cakin' it Up cost for wedding cake

My “easiest” most “simple” cake takes about three hours to bake, ice and clean up after. This would be $21.75 just for my time, if my skill level were at a minimum wage skill level. I’m confident my skills are worth much more… But for the sake of minimalist cost, I’ll pretend I’m okay with being paid minimum wage… Just this once!

Okay, let’s talk about the ingredients. You just want a vanilla cake with vanilla icing. You need it to feed about 20 people… I’ve spent numerous hours breaking down the cost of all my recipes and pricing each and every ingredient.

My go to butter vanilla cake recipe costs about $5 in ingredients. For the frosting (depending on what you chose) American Buttercream is about $7.

At this point we have $21.75 for my time, $12 for the cost of ingredients, and we’re now up to $33.75.

What about delivery?

Let’s say you don’t have time to pick up your cake and you’re located or willing to meet me within ten miles of my studio. This adds at least another hour of my time. Then there’s the gas in my car, the wear and tear on the car…you see where I’m going with this?

We’re now at a figure of $41, and I haven’t even mentioned my business costs!

There’s business insurance, a marketing budget (a necessity, if I want people to order from me) the costs for web services, banking fees, taxes, salary if I have to hire help, and any continuing education.

I like to think I know it all sometimes, but I don’t. So the continuing education is a biggie for me! I strive to be the best at what I do and have zero guilt in the value I place on the edible art I create.

At this point, I’m sure you can totally see where I’m coming from, right?

However, chain store cakes are like $15 to $30 a cake, and you may be wondering how I can compete with them…Simply put, they’re NOT my competition.

There’s no comparison between a scratch made cake, and a mass produced, store bought cake. My cost for ingredients are higher. The taste of my cakes are better, and I’ll always make more than “just a cake.”

So, if you’re wanting “just a cake,” then I’m not the girl for the job.

As for my competition… because I’m not the only edible artist around, they’re the other local cake artists living the same struggles I am. They’re sharing the same stresses I do, and they have the same love for edible art, cakes, and the art of baking as me. I consider these people my community rather than my competition. Each artist has their own unique style. Each baker has their own recipes that wow their clients, and each client is different. I would want the client to pick the artist whose style meets with their vision of what they want and who meets their needs. I wouldn’t want them to pick me or anyone else, just because it’s less expensive.

My final thoughts on this are…

You’re the client that’s hiring me to create something beautiful. You hire me for something edgy and over the top, or something simply elegant that serves as a center piece for your celebration.

Yes, it’s going to be consumed and will no longer exist like a painting would hanging on your wall… but the memory will.  The memory of seeing this creation for the first time and of the deliciousness melting in your mouth, and there will most definitely be pictures in case you forget! While my art isn’t physically hanging on your wall, the pictures last a lifetime, and so does the memory.

This is what’s important.  This is the priceless part of what I do and love. So, why do wedding cakes cost so much you ask? Well, now you know.