Great (Cake) Expectations


I’ve been thinking about wedding cakes recently. We want something to put our cake toppers on, and we want something cheap, but that’s about as far as we’ve gotten. According to the Bridal Association of America, the average wedding cake and cutting cost was $543 in 2006, and I doubt that number has gone down since then. We are NOT spending more than a quarter of our budget on cake. Luckily, there are a lot of options out there.

Cake

Cake is, of course, the most traditional wedding dessert option. It can also be the most expensive. Wedding cakes are priced by the slice, and those prices vary by city and bakery.Wedding cake slices are not the same as, say, birthday cake slices. The typical slice of a wedding cake is 2″ deep by 1″ wide. In other words, pretty damn small. Most wedding guests will partake of cake during a reception and some may want a bit more. I’ve read that you should order one extra slice of cake per every 10 guests. Of course, if you’re having an afternoon tea or just heavy hors d’oeuvres you might want to count of people eating a bit more cake. Also, if you’re planning on keeping the entire top tier of your cake for your first anniversary, take that into account too.

In my area, most of the wedding cake bakeries start at $4.25-4.75/slice for iced cakes and $5-5.75/slice for fondant. Most of the beautiful, intricate cakes you see in wedding magazines and on The Knot are made with fondant. Personally, I’m not a fan of fondant because it doesn’t taste that great and it’s more expensive. However, if you have your heart set on a cake like the one above, you’re pretty much stuck with it.

Before anyone starts celebrating their small guest list, keep in mind that many bakeries have minimum charges for wedding cakes, usually $200-300, regardless of how many guests you have. Also, the starting prices are for the bakery’s most basic, minimally decorated cakes. Those beautiful fondant flowers are tedious to make, so they really add to the cost. One way to work around that if you want flowers on your cake, but don’t want to add a lot to the cost is to supply your own real flowers for the baker to decorate with. Not all bakeries will let you supply the flowers though, so ask before you settle on anyone.

There are also cheaper wedding cakes out there, though they’re less likely to have listings on The Knot or The Wedding Wire. The best way to find out about these places is to ask around. A family friend of ours recommended a really great local bakery. I had no idea they did wedding cakes (they don’t say anything about it on their website), but I contacted them and found out that most of their wedding cakes are $2.25/slice. Of course, they only use natural ingredients and don’t work with fondant, but I see both of those as a plus.

Really? This is from Publix?

Cheaper wedding cakes are also available at some grocery chains like Publix and Walmart. Prices vary based on location, so call your local store to find out more. Don’t assume that just because it’s from a grocery store that it’s automatically going to be the cheapest option.  A cake from Walmart was only going to be slightly (about $20) cheaper than the one from the local bakery for us and would have far fewer options (white, chocolate, or marble cake), and the one from Publix would have been rather more expensive (though still cheaper than the bakeries that specialized in wedding cakes).

The cheapest option is to not get a “wedding” cake at all. While there are some legitimate reasons for tiered cakes to be more expensive, part of the price of wedding cakes is simply the “wedding tax.” If you aren’t stuck on having a tiered cake, you can always get a “special occasion” cake from a bakery at a fraction of the cost. Of course, if you have a lot of guests, you’ll have to get several separate cakes, but the extras can either be kept behind the scenes until they’re needed or you can offer different flavors.

Of course, if you really want the “wedding” cake, but don’t want to pay $5/slice for your 100+ guests, another good option is to get a pretty wedding cake to have on display during the reception and to bring out sheet cakes in the same flavor when the first cake is finished. That way you get the beautiful wedding cake for your pictures and have a lovely cake to cut, but you also feed all of your guests without breaking the bank.

Check out the video below for a hilarious look at the cost of wedding cakes.

Cupcakes

Cupcakes are becoming a popular alternative to the traditional wedding cake. They’re usually cheaper than the traditional wedding cakes, though cupcakes with more decoration or in specialty flavors can cost as much as a basic cake. Another advantage of serving cupcakes is that you can serve a wide variety of flavors.

My issue with getting cupcakes is the size of most cupcakes. We’re having dinner at the reception and I don’t think that people are going to want to eat a huge, sugary cupcake afterward. Most people want to have a bit of the cake or whatever other dessert at a wedding, even if they don’t want much, so I thought having regular sized cupcakes would create a lot of waste. Then I went to a bridal expo and was served mini cupcakes. They were the perfect size – about two bites each. The place that was serving them there only served them as samples, but my mom told me about a new cupcake place in Hendersonville. Their mini cupcakes are only $0.88 each! Of course a lot of people will want more than one, but it would still be cheaper than a cake.

Now the issue is which option we’re going to go with. I’m considering getting a small wedding cake from the local bakery so we have something to put our cake toppers on and cut, then supplementing it with mini cupcakes. What will/did you do for your wedding dessert?

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10 thoughts on “Great (Cake) Expectations

    1. That’s awesome! I think that guests would probably appreciate a delicious cake that wasn’t very fancy much more than one of those gorgeous cakes on wedding websites that doesn’t taste all that great.

  1. We did American sized petit fours. About the size of the average cupcake, more like a cake, comes with the option of different flavors, so much less expensive and no cutting fee. Worked out great and everyone really liked them.

    1. Hooray for talented family members! While I wouldn’t trust my mom to bake my wedding cake (no offense mom, but using a smoke alarm as a timer isn’t the best way to bake), she’s been great for her connections since she knows everyone in the freaking county. I agree that having cool cake toppers definitely makes up for having a plainer cake (in appearance at least, not in taste).

  2. One of my first posts ever was about the ridiculousness of wedding cake (http://frugallywed.wordpress.com/2011/07/30/a-philosophy-of-wedding-cake/#comments). Cupcakes sounds like a perfect idea!

    I was toying with the idea of making my own cupcakes for ours, but the place we’ll be staying at doesn’t have an oven. Still might make them in advance and freeze them, though. Meanwhile fiancé is saying he wants an ice-cream cake – good luck working the logistics of that for an outside bbq in a hot weather!

    So far, I’ve just been avoiding finalizing anything about the cake. We might not even have one.

    1. At the last wedding I went to, they cut the cake then immediately had the first dance. I believe the idea was that everyone would watch the first dance then go back to their seats where the cake had been set out. Only people started dancing almost immediately, and the servers took the cake away before anyone who danced could get any. And you know what – no one minded that much. Except probably the bride’s parents who paid a ridiculous amount of money for it.

      I love ice cream cakes, but I have to admit that keeping one frozen throughout a wedding and dinner at an outdoor bbq would be a challenge. Making your own cupcakes would be great if you froze them beforehand.

      1. It’s interesting. At the last wedding I went to, they did the cake cutting and handing out immediately after the ceremony. I think the idea was to actually appreciate the cake, seeing as it cost so much. I still don’t think it could have been worth the price though – I really think wedding guests just dont care very much about the cake.

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