Good question. At the Most Curious Wedding Fair in Shoreditch a couple of weeks ago we were asked how much each display cake would cost over and over again. Conventionally, cake designers are reticent about prices. There are so many variables that come into play that it can be difficult to estimate how much a particular design would cost if it was, for example, made in chocolate rather than Madeira sponge, or with an extra tier.
Anyway. I’ve been sending a little price guide to interested couples, just a few images of recent cakes and how much they cost. This is mainly because I have had long consultations with lovely couples and created sketches for them, buoyed along by their enthusiasm and engagement, to discover weeks later that their budget won’t stretch to their ambition.
So. Here are some things that will help you work out how much your wedding cake will cost:
How big will it be? Generally, I recommend a three tier cake with tiers measuring 6in, 8in and 10in in diameter to feed 100. My tiers, in fact most tiers these days, are around 6in tall. A finger portion of cake measures 1in by 1in and is cut from the top to the bottom of the tier. This is a decent portion of cake. Especially after a large meal. If you have more guests you may need a 12in base tier to feed them all. this would take your yield up to 135-150. Remember some people won’t want any.
Also consider the proportions of the space. An historic urban venue may be Georgian or early Victorian, with high ceilings, huge fireplaces and windows and sweeping staircases. For your cake to have any presence, it will need to have height. Consider a dummy tier if you don’t have that many mouths to feed, but don’t expect it to come that much cheaper than a real tier: most of the work in creating your cake will be in the decoration, not in the cake itself, and dummies aren’t that cheap.
VERY generally speaking, you can expect to pay at least £150 per tier. My least expensive three tier design is a rustic finish buttercream cake dressed with fresh flowers, which will cost £410 in Madeira and more in another flavour (most couples have each tier a different flavour). Plus flowers. I don’t charge to dress the cake but I have to do it myself to ensure food safety. The gold leaf would be extra, but really makes the cake photogenic, especially in artificial light.
A lot of the supermarkets are selling buttercream wedding and celebration cakes now, but if you look at the sell-by date on them you'll see that they don't contain very much butter. It's also very important to dress a cake in a food safe way, so whatever you do, don't get a supermarket cake and ask your florist to stick flowers in it willy nilly.
What type of cake will you choose? Generally speaking again, a buttercream cake will be cheaper than a fondant cake. The realistic sugar flowers that you see on a fondant cake are modelled by hand with gumpaste, wired, dried and coloured. It’s a skilled and lengthy process. Covering a tall cake in fondant is difficult without tearing and achieving a smooth finish takes years of experience. A buttercream cake still has to be completely level and smooth to ensure a professional finish, but the detail is piped (still by hand) so it’s often quicker to achieve a full design.
What about decoration? I can only talk about buttercream cakes here as my fondant experience is very limited. Obviously the more intricate the detail, the more expensive the cake. Delicate lace (particularly if following a specific pattern rather than freestyle) and embroidery finishes are time-consuming. A three tier cake in the size already discussed with a lace background and piped flower cascade will cost around £750. This will be significantly less if the cake is to be placed against a wall or in a corner, so it has a definite front.
Our signature piped flowers can be used to cover an entire cake, or they can be piped in cascades against a smooth or rustic background.
A rustic standard three tier cake with a simple single cascade of flowers in the same colour would be £445.
Introducing colour, a simple palette of four or five colours piped in abundant cascades, would take the price to £510.
Lots of customers opt to have a cake smothered with flowers. This can be in one colour, an ombre effect or multi-coloured. The last option is the most expensive, at £665.
So there you go. Obviously many of the cakes we sell are bespoke and combine the techniques shown here, but this guide gives an idea of what to expect pricewise. There's a cake for any budget at the end of the day.