Friday, March 03, 2017

Let Them Eat Cake!

Written by  David Egan

Wedding Cake Costs 101

Wedding cakes can come from a variety of sources, including grocery stores, free-standing bakeries that specialize in wedding cakes, and specialty cake bakeries for whom decor is the thing. We have the full range in the Baltimore market, including Charm City Cakes, whose founder, Duff Goldman, is widely known for his television show, “Ace of Cakes.” They all produce cakes that taste good. Some make cakes that taste great.

Wedding cakes are typically priced per serving. The classic multi-tiered wedding cake varies in two major ways: the diameter of each tier, typically from six inches in diameter to 14 inches; and the number of tiers, from one to five. A cake for 100 guests might have three tiers of 12 inches, nine inches, and six inches.

Shape, design, and overall complexity all contribute to the cost, including the number of flavors involved. Time is a big factor in cake making. So is precision. Square wedding cakes take longer to produce than round cakes.

Prices can start in the four or even three-dollar range at grocery stores, moving up to start around five dollars per serving at the bakeries that specialize in wedding cakes, to starting at six to ten dollars at a decor-focused bakery like Charm City Cakes. Fully-custom cakes start higher.

Quantity can be your friend. A wedding cake from Patisserie Poupon, for example, that is priced at $7.50 per serving for 75 guests drops to $5.75 per serving for 150 guests.

Frosting matters. Buttercream, which many people prefer for taste, is less expensive than fondant, which sculpts better. The cost difference is a dollar or two per serving.

Naked cakes, a current trend that abandons the exterior frosting, saves some time and materials but calls for greater care in (and often more) layering. Without frosting on the outside, naked cakes need careful attention to maintain their moisture. Transportation, storage, and the time from production to plating – the latter of which is often several hours after your cake has been delivered – has to be carefully coordinated. That can add cost.

Cupcakes are a perfectly fine alternative to a tiered cake. They are often priced by the dozen, and can start as low as $30 per dozen with basic decorating. Fancy decor adds up quickly, since each cupcake needs to be individually decorated. On the plus side, the number of flavors available for a single presentation is substantially greater than a tiered cake, which is limited in flavors to the number of tiers.

Set-up for cupcakes at your venue is more complex, and multi-level display can require a specialized cupcake stand. These are sometimes included in the price of cupcakes, and are sometimes a rental item. Bakeries often bundle delivery, set-up, and stand rental into one price.

Some couples who choose cupcakes also purchase a small, decorative cake for cutting.

If you’re a cost-conscious couple, that same cutting cake can be paired with a less-expensive sheet cake for service, the latter never being seen by your guests before cutting. That’s an excellent way to control cake costs and still have an attractive cake.

Delivery and set-up of your cake or cupcakes can add $50 or more to the cost – usually well worth it. The rental of a cake stand from your caterer or bakery runs around $75. When presentation matters, it can be money well spent. The look of a gorgeous wedding cake on a fancy, elevated cake stand can make the difference between “nice” and “wow!”

Most cake bakeries require a 50% deposit when you order your cake. Your final payment is commonly due two weeks before your wedding.

Wedding cakes take time to make, and bakeries have a limited amount of output for any given date. While you can wait until the last weeks before your wedding to order your cake, some popular bakeries – Sugarbakers Cakes comes to mind – suggest that you order six months ahead.

David Egan is the proprietor and steward of Chase Court, a historic Baltimore wedding and event venue. Visit, and follow ChaseCourtWeddingVenue on Instagram and Facebook! Send your comments and questions to This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it


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