How much does a wedding cake cost? Well, how long is a piece of string? That depends on many factors including size, quality of ingredients, how elaborate the design is and how experienced your cake designer is. Let's take a look at some of the questions you might want to consider before deciding on your cake designer and what you want for your actual cake.
How large does it need to be?
This is the first thing to think about. If you need help working out what size of cake you need, head to our previous wedding guide blog post discussing what factors to consider when choosing what size of cake you need. Obviously, the larger the cake is the more you will have to budget for your cake For a cake to feed 60 you are looking at £200 plus for a simply decorated naked cake, while a three-tier to feed 120 of the same style will be upwards of £350 at least. For an idea of starting prices for our cakes head to our wedding portion & price guide or head to the bottom of the page for our run-through of what to expect for your budget!
What flavours do I want? Do I want something interesting and different?
What's inside your cake will impact the price. A simple Victoria sponge with raspberry conserve would be at the lower end of the price spectrum, as you head for more elaborate flavours or cakes that have more expensive ingredients, such as nuts and good quality chocolate, the price will go up. A Prosecco drizzle may use an entire bottle of prosecco or more, just to get the flavour to carry through. Some flavours may involve significant prep work, and time is the most expensive factor when it comes to the cost of wedding cakes. An infused butter for a green tea sponge or a homemade curd takes time to make. If your cake is vegan or gluten-free this may mean more expensive ingredients or it may take more time to make.
Do I want ethically and sustainably sourced ingredients?
Does your cake designer bake their cakes using quality organic, fair trade, rain forest allianced and locally sourced ingredients? They might not. They may use marg, not organic butter. They may use basic white caster sugar or they may use fair-trade golden caster sugar and muscovado. Perhaps they buy cheaper eggs or they buy local free-range and organic from a local farm. Do they think about whether they buy products with palm oil, if they do is it sustainable? Do they use plastics as all, or do they only use biodegradable and compostable packaging? Do they offer vegan, and if they do does that just mean no meat, eggs and dairy or do they actually think about whether their ingredients are ethical? As just because something is vegan, it does not make it good for the environment! Eco weddings are a growing trend in just the last year or two. How important are these things to you? But also doesn't it just taste so much better when it's made with good quality ingredients?
How far will my cake designer need to travel to deliver my cake?
This is another important thing to think about. Most cake designers charge for delivery. £0.50 per mile for a round trip is about the norm. So if the cake designer that you love is 100 miles away from your venue, that's £100 minimum before you've even started. You might find that because your cake designer can only deliver a certain number of cakes on a busy Saturday in the summer, they may not able to make and deliver your cake if the venue is far away, or they may have a minimum spend if they do, as long deliveries limits how much they can earn in a week.
Do I want my cake to be naked, semi-naked or fully iced?
Naked cakes are by far the cheapest option, but because they are so exposed to the elements they have a tendency to start to dry out when left sitting at a venue all day. The gap between a naked and a semi-naked wedding cake tends to be a bit bigger than the gap between a semi-naked and a fully iced. That's because, in order to create a pristine finish on a semi-naked wedding cake, much more buttercream or ganache needs to be put on the cake to get a clean finish when taking it off, so there is more waste. When you fully ice a cake, you ice over a semi-naked finish known as the crumb coat, this, however, can be done with a lot less icing and doesn't have to be anywhere near as neat as there is still one more coat to go.
Buttercream or fondant?
Now you might think buttercream is always a cheaper option, and sometimes it is. But there are different kinds of buttercream. The meringue-based buttercreams are the ones best suited to wedding cakes, they take a lot longer to make, but they are well worth the extra effort over an American style buttercream. For one they are a lot less sweet and have a much more delicate flavour and texture. They also are much more stable, particularly Italian meringue buttercream, and this is very important for buttercream wedding cakes. Wedding cakes often have to endure very warm weather, even in Britain sometimes. Meringue buttercreams have more stability when at room temperature and hold their shape much better. This means that as your cake warms up, so long as it's on a level table, it's not going anywhere. American buttercream is not so kind, as it warms the buttercream starts to ooze and if you are unlucky, over it may go! A good buttercream wedding cake by a buttercream specialist would be the same price as a fondant cake, as there's little difference in the time and patience that it takes to get a pristine finish on either type of cake.
How do I want my cake to be decorated?
This is the major factor affecting how much you'll need to budget for your cake. Decoration takes time, and the more elaborate a cake the more time it takes, Some wedding cakes may take a week or more to create, that's a lot of man-hours. For buttercream cakes, I can't take a week to decorate it, as the cake needs to be as fresh as possible. That just means that week of work needs to fit into much longer days! It's important to think about decoration when you are budgeting for a cake and try to factor this in when you are looking at the starting costs for each cake size. Decoration may take anything from a few extra hours to tens or even hundreds depending on the detail involved. Fruit is a great option for a more economic design, fresh edible flowers tend to be more expensive, as these need to be grown by your cake designer, which takes time, or they need to be ordered from an organic grower or florist who deals with food-safe flowers. Please don't consider flowers from other sources it's not worth the risk to your health or your guests.
How skilled is my cake designer?
Not all cake designers will charge the same for their cakes, and they shouldn't. Sometimes what you are paying for is experience and talent. The more experienced a cake designer the more expensive their hourly rate, as with anything. Opting for a less experienced cake designer will likely bring the cost down, but you run the risk of not getting what it is that you wanted. After all, you pay for what you get. Some cake designers are specialists in certain styles, such as chocolate work, handpainted designs, modelling and sugar flowers, buttercream or patisserie. If you choose a cake designer who doesn't specialise in the style that you have chosen the finished cake won't be as spectacular as if you went to a designer who specialises in that style. Hint: don't come to me for fondant - I'm way too rusty.
Do I want a tiered cake or a trio of single-tiered cakes?
Stacked cakes do cost more than unstacked cakes. It takes time to dowel and assemble your cake, and if it's a fully iced buttercream cake then that would require a central dowel all the way through, to support it during transport. Yes, that's right, some of these beasts have to be transported fully stacked. Oh, the joy of being a buttercream wedding cake designer! That in itself adds to the difficulty of delivering your cake. I'm sure you can imaging carrying a 15kg+ wedding cake that must stay level at all times is not a task for the fainthearted! A trio of single-tier wedding cakes can look just as impressive as a stacked cake. Also, as the cakes don't have to be stacked, you can have them all the same size if you like, allowing you to have the same amount of cake of each flavour!
What can I expect for my budget with Red Robin Pantry?
£100 to £200
For this price bracket, you are really looking at a single tier cake to feed either 20 or perhaps 40 if you go for an 8inch cake that is. At the lower end of this, you'll be looking at naked and semi-naked cakes with simple fruit decoration. Edible flowers will be a little more expensive than fruit, how much so depends on which flowers you go for. Annuals such as violas, cornflowers and primroses won't set you back much as roses and peonies, expect to pay a lot more for these. At the top end of the budget would be a fully iced single tier cake, perhaps a painted buttercream cake depending on the detail involved.
£200 - £400
At £200 you are looking at a simple naked two-tier to feed 60 guests, with fruit decoration. A semi-naked wedding cake with edible flowers adorning the entire cake would take you closer to £300 especially if you choose flavours that are more time consuming or expansive to make. At the top end of this budget, fully iced and painted 2/3 tier wedding cake to feed 60 or 70 guests, or a semi-naked 2-tier to feed 100 with edible flower / a semi-naked 3-tier to feed 120 with fruit decoration.
At this point, we reach the more elaborate small 2/3 tier cakes to feed 60-70 guests. This would involve a design that includes lots of fine detail, lots of edible gold leaf perhaps. Within this budget, simple painted medium 2/3 tier cakes to feed 100-120 guests, becoming a little more elaborate at the top end of the budget. Larger 3/4 tier cakes begin in this price bracket. A medium 4-tier to feed 130 guests in a naked finish with fruit would be at the lower end of the budget, with edible flowers you'd be looking closer to £450 depending on variety and style of cake. This would be the starting price for the next size of cake, a large 3-tier to feed 190 guests, expect a naked cake with fruit, you'd be pushing over £500 at least for edible flowers, more if you go for a semi-naked finish, you may be pushing closer to £600 for this. At the higher end of the budget, you might get a simply decorated fully iced buttercream wedding cake or a painted medium 4-tier depending on detail.
At this point, you are looking at medium-sized cakes and above, a minimum of 100 guests. The medium 2/3/4-tier cakes to feed 100-130 with more fine detail, gold leaf and perhaps if you choose more expansive flowers for your cake in addition to a fully iced painted style. The larger 3/4-tier cakes to feed 190-210 guests in a fully iced finish begin in this category, you might expect some simple decoration and painting at this point, particularly for the 3-tier. Naked 5-tiers start at the top end of this price range, this size would feed approx 220 guests, you are looking at fruit mostly in the lower end of this price range. At a massive 30-inches (76cm) tall, that's a real showstopper! Semi-naked cakes of this size also start in this price range with edible flowers at the top end of the budget. Fully iced buttercream cakes start at the upper end of this price range, but this would still be a simple design.
£800 - £1000
At this point, you are looking at larger 3/4/5-tier cakes. But you might still see a few of the smaller cakes, with very detailed painting and edible flowers, gold leaf, if you decide to choose a design with lots of fine detail or even handmade wafer paper flowers. The larger 3/4 tier cakes will now have more fine detail, as with the smaller cakes in the bracket below. 5-tier semi-naked cakes with more expensive edible flower would be in the price range depending on the style you go for. Fully iced painted 5-tier cake start in this price range.
£1000 and above.
Mostly this is larger 3/4/5-tier cakes these cakes are becoming much more elaborate, but a few fine detailed smaller tiered cakes may make it into this price range. 3/4 tier cakes would have intricate painting styles and other elaborate decoration. Most 5-tier cakes with any degree of painting or detail will be in this price range and would most likely be well above £1000. These cakes are the true showstoppers!
I'm just going to finish off with a few words about dessert tables. Dessert tables usually start at around £850 which would feed 50 or so guests. For this, you'd be looking at 2 desserts each and smaller treats such as macarons, truffles or marshmallows, and a simple 2/3-tier naked/semi-naked or perhaps even a fully iced depending on decoration style.
If however, all you really want is a few marshmallows and chocolates to go with your cake instead, this is an option too!