Sugar flowers, tall tiers and intricate piping can quickly jack up the price of your cake. That’s because most cake bakers price their work by “touch time,” which is the amount of labor and number of hours spent designing the cake. (There’s a lot that goes into this confection—it’s way more than just flour and eggs!) So when it comes to choosing your cake style, look for designs you love that don’t include any over-the-top add-ons.
Another way to save money on your cake is to skip an outer layer of frosting. Naked cakes are not only gorgeous to look at, they’re actually pretty practical too. They’re a lot less expensive because they use less buttercream and take less time—it’s as simple as that. To make up for the lack of frosting on the outside, up the wow factor on the inside by experimenting with unique flavors and fillings, like lemon curd, champagne buttercream or chocolate ganache with toasted almonds.
Here’s a fun idea: Instead of spending extra on your favors, have slices of your cake packaged in to-go boxes so your guests get their dessert as a take-home on their way out the door. You could also serve your cake first and use cake slices or cupcakes decorated with everyone’s names and table assignments as escort cards.
Ask your baker to make a one- or two-tier cake for display and cutting, and supplement with sheet cake in the back to serve the rest of the party. This can actually save you around 20 percent per slice. And have fun with your table. Have a one-tier wedding cake surrounded by loads of cupcakes, macarons, doughnuts, cookies or a souped-up candy bar.
There’s nothing quite as special as a showstopping wedding cake —but we get it, every budget has its limits. And if the price per slice of wedding cake is giving you budget anxiety, don’t feel like you need to nix the idea altogether. Instead, speak openly with your cake baker, tap into your creativity and use these straightforward tips so you don’t have sacrifice this sweet detail.
Consider scaling back on cake slices and see if your caterer can also include a round of sweets to supplement (think: passed chocolate-covered strawberries, assorted cookies or mini truffles). Let your caterer know they should cut tasting portions to about three quarters of the usual amount, and plan to plate your cake slices with the other desserts. Ask your caterer to place slices on a buffet or cake table instead of serving a plate at every place setting—or have the staff bring bite-size pieces right to your guests on the dance floor so they can enjoy cake while getting down.
In the world of frosting, there are two big hitters: buttercream and fondant, and there are pros and cons to each—including cost. Buttercream is typically less expensive. Fondant, on the other hand, requires extra steps and materials, and can be difficult to work with, making it more expensive. But do your due diligence regardless and don’t assume your cake will be less expensive with buttercream: You might want a smooth, seemingly simple appliqué finish on a buttercream cake, when in reality, this pristine style requires precision and time. Long story short, you may not save as much as you’d hoped. And some bakers may charge you extra for fondant, especially if you’re requesting a lace appliqué or a detailed pattern design, so it’s good to ask your baker these questions up front.
Some couples go all out buying or renting elaborate cake stands, which are pretty, but not really necessary. Besides, most bakers will provide a decorated base board you can place right on the table. Once you have your cake display, focus on adding to the space around it—choose a fun linen from home, lush greenery, old family wedding photos, candles or flowers to bring some life to the table.
You might not get tons of tiers, intricate patterns or realistic-looking sugar flowers, but if you love your local bakery, ask if they’d be willing to make your wedding cake. Because they’re not a wedding-specific bakery, you may have more limited design choices—but the savings can be big. Otherwise, ask your caterer if they include cakes in their packages. Sometimes if you order your cake from your caterer, the overall cost will be lower. Some caterers even require you to use them, and if you don’t, they’ll charge a fee for bringing in another baker. So do a little cost comparison to snag the best deal.
Want to save money on your wedding cake without sacrificing on style and taste? Here are 9 wedding cake budget tips you need to know.
There are many beautiful and unique ways to top your cake. If you have an heirloom piece—especially a fine porcelain antique—work with your baker to integrate it into the cake’s design. It can double as your “something old.” Other alternatives include a bouquet of sugar flowers, a cascade of icing ribbons or even a sugar block carved to reveal your new monogram. Look to your locale as well. A cluster of coral can look stunning for a beachside celebration, or try a fondant snowflake for a winter wedding. Or don’t use one at all—some designs look great without a topper.
Besides being a showpiece, your cake should taste amazing too. When you meet with prospective bakers, taste lots of flavors. Don’t be afraid to stray from vanilla and chocolate. And don’t forget to sample fillings too—many bakers are working with complex flavorings, like guava and mango or hazelnut and mocha.
Whether a wedding cake is the least of your worries or high on the “must-obsess-over” list, our guide to getting the perfect cake has got you covered. From budgeting to picking out your flavors, we’re going to answer all of your questions—before you even have any.
Cake delivery takes coordination (and usually a refrigerated van), so give yourself peace of mind and opt to have your cake delivered. Complex cakes may not necessarily arrive in final form, so allow time and space for assembly. And make sure that once the masterpiece is delivered, it has a place at the venue (especially if it requires refrigeration). Bottom line: Discuss all the delivery details with your baker before signing the contract.
Generally, three tiers will serve 50 to 100, and you’ll likely need five layers for 200 or more guests. Your cake should fit the space too—if your reception is in a grand ballroom, consider increasing the cake’s stature with columns between the tiers, or opting for a faux Styrofoam layer (no one will know!) to add height.
If you’re having an outdoor wedding in a hot climate, stay away from whipped cream, meringue and buttercream (they melt). Ask your baker about summer icing options or opt for a fondant-covered cake, which holds up much better against the heat.
Couples often don’t get a chance to eat their own wedding cake (besides the bite you feed each other). Ask your caterer to save some extra for you. Share it with your new spouse postwedding for a late-night snack or as postwedding brunch dessert.
Buttercream or fondant? Buttercream is often much more delicious. But if you love the smooth, almost surreal-like look of fondant, consider frosting the cake in buttercream first and then adding a layer of fondant over the entire confection. Whatever type of icing you choose, stick to colors your guests will want to eat. If your wedding hues are blue and green, opt for a white cake with subtle green-frosted accents.
Even if you take the most painstaking packaging measures, eating the top tier of your cake on your first anniversary sounds far better than it tastes. Think about indulging on your two-week or one-month anniversary, and treat yourself to a fresh cake in the same flavor when you’ve hit the one-year mark. If you must adhere to tradition, tightly wrap the cake in plastic wrap, then place it in an airtight baggie.
Make sure your first meeting with a cake baker goes right by reading our insider’s guide for the best wedding cake tips.