Wedding cakes are an essential part of a bride and groom’s big day, but what may be seen to some as a quick photo op for the couple actually takes me around four days to make.
Before I get anywhere near the oven, I have to make sure that I have accurately calculated the ingredients I need, and for a typical three tier that can involve: around 40 eggs, 80 ounces of sugar, 120 ounces of butter, 100 ounces of flour, and around 40 ounces of icing sugar… you get the idea.
In the cost of the cake, I have to account for the time it takes to buy all this, and the petrol or delivery costs for doing so - yet some people have the cheek to ask me why wedding cakes cost ‘that much’, or tell me that a cake is ‘out of their budget’. Let me explain how frustrating this is.
I have a wedding cake business, and I’m often drawn to magazines and websites that offer wedding day ‘budget advice’ for couples.
I daresay I speak for many wedding industry professionals when I say that ‘get a friend to do it for free’ is counterproductive wedding budget advice.
Yes, I can almost hear the ‘of course you’d say that’ mumblings amongst the cynics amongst you, but the reason I warn against that advice may be surprising.
You see, it’s all about having the ‘perfect day.’ My ultimate aim for all the couples that I provide wedding cakes for, is that after the many months, and sometimes years, of planning, ‘perfect’ is how they will describe their day.
And that means that nothing goes so badly wrong that it crosses the line of ‘we’ll laugh about this’ and into ‘I can’t look at any photos and I cry whenever I think about it’ territory – including the cake.
I don’t want couples to have to worry about whether Aunt Bertha’s attempt at three tiers is going to hold out through the ceremony, nor do I want them to have to cope with all their guests missing most of the party because they’ve been struck down with food poisoning, and I certainly don’t want their abiding memory to be explaining to paramedics how Granny’s fruit cake caused one of their guests to go into anaphylactic shock.
The service a professional baker provides is not just about a delicious and beautiful cake, but also the peace of mind that comes with hiring experience.
I’ve never been told ‘you’re too expensive’… but I have been told ‘that’s out of our budget,’ or more typically not told anything at all, I’ll just not hear from the client again after sending a quote. And after having spent around an hour detailing the quote, a polite ‘no thank you’ would at least recognise the time already spent. The silence is frustrating.
I know of wedding cake bakers who have been confronted by disappointed couples, asking how something that is just ‘eggs and flour’ can possibly cost ‘that much.’ I get the impression that they think us bakers are lounging about by the private swimming pools of 10 bedroomed country mansions, counting huge wads of cash while guffawing evil villain laughs. Er, no.
The reality is that the average three tier wedding cake cost is far more about experience and time than it is about the cost of the eggs and flour. Others agree, judging by the viral ‘It costs that much cos it takes me f***ing hours’ song was shared all over shared all over TikTok by cake professionals.
Let me talk you through it…
The consultation process itself might take a good few emails, phone calls, meetings… with taster boxes being prepared and possible designs being considered.
As I already mentioned, it can take three to four days to create the actual wedding cake, with more hours for planning and preparation.
I need to make sure I have cake boards, boxes and dowels so that I can construct the cake and transport it safely once it’s made.
Then I have to consider any extras: piping bags and nozzles, florist paste for sugar flowers as well as the colourings, dusts, wires, and tapes to create realistic flowers, or modelling paste for cake toppers. That’s to say nothing of the range of tools and equipment that I’ve spent thousands of pounds accumulating over the years.
Once I have everything in stock, I can then start making the cake – taking around five hours of oven time for the average cake. Once cooled, I then assemble, which takes another two or so hours.
I know how to bake a cake that’s firm enough to be stacked but is also moist and won’t resemble sandpaper.
I know how to ensure each tier is level, essential for a stacked multitiered cake – and how to dowel multi tiers, so the cake can sit all day in a wedding venue without collapsing.
I know just how much buttercream or ganache or jam to put in each layer so that it tastes fabulous, but won’t sag, bulge, and collapse because there is too much filling inside.
I know how to apply buttercream or sugarpaste for a flawless finish and how to store the cake, so it stays in top condition.
Then I decorate. This is the part that really determines whether the cost of the cake is a few hundred pounds… or moving towards four figures. A full bloom sugar rose can take up to one hour to make, and that doesn’t include drying time.
If the couple have asked for a cascade of smaller roses swirling down the cake, I’ll allow a good few days to make all the blooms required. All these hours add up and are charged for at a rate that reflects the 12 plus years I’ve spent learning, investing in, and perfecting my craft.
Once it’s done, I have to make sure I have a cake information sheet completed and printed, with all the required allergen and ingredient information. I then spend time arranging the delivery, making sure I can deliver the cake in perfect condition. Slinging it on the backseat and being a bit careful when driving round corners doesn’t cut it, I’m afraid. I know how to do it properly.
And when I get feedback telling me my cake was ‘magnificent,’ and ‘better than we’d imagined’ I know that I’ve done my job well.
I love the customers who recognise they are paying for my experience and expertise, and are happy to remunerate accordingly. They understand that it is belittling to expect any professional with our levels of skill to provide a service for way below the minimum wage.
It’s extremely frustrating when customers assume we are inflating prices ‘because it’s a wedding’, and think we are taking advantage. We aren’t. We are running a business, and at the end of the day we have to make a living too.
So yes, you can ‘ask a friend’ to make your cake, if you so please. But if they’ve little experience in making cakes to serve the number of guests you’re inviting, with the cash you’ve saved, you should stock up on tissues and waterproof mascara for your big day and beyond. You’re going to need it.
You can find out more about Leading Lady Cakes here
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