If you think about the sweetest thing you can have on your wedding day, it is literally none other than the wedding cake. In Ancient Rome, feasting on a wedding dessert used to be as simple as breaking a loaf of bread over the bride’s head to appeal for divine blessings of fertility. Apply that archaic tradition today and it only costs you $1.30 per pound!
Today, a groom slices a piece from a $582-worth 12-inch high sugary block and serves it on his bride’s plate. Yes, that’s the average wedding cake cost in the United States – accounting for nearly 5% of the overall wedding budget.
The exact price may either rise or drop from the national benchmark figure depending on these following factors:
1. Cake Size
The actual size of the wedding cake is always dictated by the number of servings required. A single slice (serving) is anywhere between $1.5 and $12. Multiply that by the number of guests you wish to share your cake with, then you’ll have up to $1,632-worth of wedding cake for 136 guests.
Around 28% of all weddings in the United States include a dessert bar in their catering – for a smart reason. Couples can significantly cut down the price by efficiently ‘downsizing’ the ceremonial dessert. A California-based bakery called Sweet As Bliss has a $348 custom dessert bar that already includes 3 dozen fruit tarts, 5 dozen cupcakes, and 4 dozen gourmet pretzel rods – enough to cater to the bride, the groom, and the rest of the 172 guests.
2. Cake Layers
Another factor that contributes to the prices of wedding cake is the number of layers. The cost of a single layer is dictated by its diameter. A North Carolina-based bakery called Sweets of Lake Lure demonstrates a practical price chart relative to the size and number of layers. Here’s how their ‘dummy cakes pricing’ looks like:
- 4×6 inches: $42
- 4×8 inches: $60
- 4×10 inches: $70
- 4×12 inches: $80
- 4×14 inches: $110
- 4×16 inches: $120
For a basic two-tiered square cake worth $102, you can serve a total of up to 50 guests. At the very least, you know that it only costs less than $150 to serve cakes to all the average number of expected guests in a destination wedding (around 48 people). This estimate may already include the starting rate of a cake stand rental ($25).
3. Icing & Filling
There are two major aspects that (literally) put color and flavor into your wedding cake. The icing pertains to the tasty cake exterior. The sumptuous substance inside the dough, oftentimes arranged in the middle of each cake layer, is called the filling.
You have two basic icing types – the fondant and the buttercream. Between these choices, the former is expected to yield a bigger wedding cake price due to its denser texture. A confectionary in Alaska called Midnight Sun Cakery compares the price of two cake varieties: with $7 per serving for buttercream and $8.25 per serving for fondant.
For determining price variety which choosing a filling type, you can choose between standard and premium – with a generally pricier quote for the latter. It makes little to no difference whether your cake is filled with lemon, strawberry, chocolate, or vanilla since you can have either main category for each flavor. An Iowa-based store called Candle Ready Cakes sets roughly $10 of the price difference between standard and premium fillings for wedding cakes.
Regardless of how much a bakery charges a cake tasting fee, you should take advantage of this part of the consultation package. This can give you a better grasp of the ‘real difference’ between standard and premium fillings when assessing their value in terms of flavor.
4. Design Complexity
Bakers (or a team of bakers) generally calculate fees according to the equipment, ingredients, and effort required to finish the wedding cake. All three of these factors can easily swell with a flamboyant cake design. Hence, the more elaborate it is, the more expensive it can get.
For example, the New York-based Sugarkiss Bakeshop charges around $5 to $25 per stem of handmade sugar flower. They also create custom fondant cake toppers that cost between $25 and $100. Higher prices are determined by the intricacy and detail of the cake decorations.
Prices greatly vary in terms of design when it comes down to choosing between archetypal layered cakes and custom sculpted ones. Sculpted cakes require more work hours (twice that for a less experienced designer), not to mention a minimum head start of several weeks for the preparation alone. A California-based supplier called Sweet Cheeks Co. sells a 3D-sculpted wedding cake for an average cost of up to $1,500.
Anyone looking for budget wedding cakes knows that choosing sculpted varieties is a wrong decision. A low-cost quality craftsmanship can come in a form of a two-tiered square cake, piped with simple buttercream accents and scrollwork, and a peripheral arrangement of fresh flowers. A good-looking cake shouldn’t be too costly if it has a subpar flavor.
5. Logistics Complexity
When it comes to the overall cost of the wedding cake, most couples tend to overlook the delivery fees. This part of the budget can run between $50 and $150. The most important thing to take note when it comes to the ‘delivery fee inflation’ is its relationship with the reception venue.
First of all, most venues will charge a separate fee for a cake that is purchased outside their catering supplier network. If you can’t avoid buying from outsiders, it might be helpful to consider sellers that are in partnership with the venue in order to avail for possible discounts.
The distance between the bakeshop and the venue could also determine the exact delivery fee. If affiliated suppliers are out of the question, you can benefit from providers that are only a few blocks away from the reception place. Every provider has a fixed rate within the inclusive geographic perimeter. They often start charging an additional token fee per mile beyond their zone.
You may be able to avoid the delivery fee altogether by letting your parents or one of your close relatives pick up the wedding cake. Unfortunately, the absence of professional handling may be too risky a gamble – especially if you have to consider the driving distance, the flight of stairs for heavy-lifting, and the strict schedule for setting it up perfectly on the cake stand.