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Pricing Wedding Cakes


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I've never really understood this pricing structure. Unlike plated desserts, wedding cake feeds a range of people. Someone who wants to serve 250 people may actually have the same amount of cake as someone who wants to serve 240 people, yet they pay more. There isn't any more ingredient cost or labor involved, so is it just easier? What if a client wants a specific size or sizes of cake as opposed to number of servings, how are they charged? I know this is the standard pricing in the industry, I was just curious.

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And people also order wedding cake by a certain configuration and that configuration needs to be able to feed X number of people. So what you do is figure out how much batter you will need to use to make that set up. Then determine how many servings that amount of batter will feed when it's all baked off. Then you can price it that way.

And that wiggle room in the amount of servings available that you noted, GB, is why I use the small traditional serving 1X2X4 because I have been served cake sliced so thin you can see through to the pattern on the china plate. So if my client wants to serve a larger portion they order more servings. No one ever does though.

Like I recently had a bride order this way by configuration, a square square petal round round. It was tricky to get the right amount of servings and pivot the cake around the particular sized petal cake pans that I have. I could have sculpted a petal cake or built one but :rolleyes:

Pricing is an art form in itself.

Edited by K8memphis (log)
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Just stabbing in the dark:

I think it might come from the fact that if you just put a price on a cake based on ingredients and labor, people might not understand why it costs so much. "What are you talking about, cake can't cost $500+!!!". But if you put it in terms of per person eating a slice, then people are more likely to pay a little more without questioning it. Like you go to the local patisserie and a croissant costs $1.75-$2.50 and nobody blinks an eye. Calculate that out to 150 guests and that's a lot of money for croissants!

While the price per slice is pretty common across the board, cake decorators will also have sliding scales based on filling choice, cake flavor choice, icing type and exterior decor. So I think there is enough room for people to make a choice that they like without breaking the bank.

And it is enough labor to deal with a crazy bridezilla that the extra cost is warranted.

I don't think it is an unfair practice or misleading. But one still has to be a smart consumer.

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I think that it's probably an extension of the catering world where pricing is per person. You're not paying for the ingredients per se, mostly the labor, and believe me, with the brides, it's a lot of labor, meetings, tastings, etc. to get them to decide. So for an average price of $5./person and most weddings are about 75 people so the cake person gets $375, but that's for almost 10 hours work, and then after that you usually have to spend about 2 hours delivering, at some random time, pay for parking at some really expensive hotel, and hang out for a while at the reception while everybody figures out where the cake has to go, even if you've planned for it, wait for a check, etc. $35.00 seems like a fair hourly rate, but then you subtract operating expenses, ingredient costs, taxes, labor etc and it's starting to not look so great. So, in the grand scheme of things when brides balk at $5.00 a slice for cake, it's not like us bakers are exactly "robbing" them.

Stephanie Crocker

Sugar Bakery + Cafe

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We seem to be an exception. Though we no longer do wedding cakes, when we did, they were priced by the cake, not per person.

3 layer - rectangle is so much

3 layer - round is so much

4 layer - square is . . .

etc.

Then that base price would get tweaked depending on what the customer wanted for decoration. Obviously the more intricate or heavily decorated cakes cost more.

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That's interesting - here in the UK cakes are priced by the finished product, not per portion. I have my own cake decorating business, I have never heard of anyone pricing per portion, unless for cupcakes or mini-cakes. Usually prices over here also reflect the cost of the stand and knife as well.

www.diariesofadomesticatedgoddess.blogspot.com

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I have no qualms about the price of wedding cake. I know what it takes to make these kinds of cake and it can be very labor intensive. My question was about how it was priced.

I wonder why more people don't do it like Pam R. When I make a cake, I don't scale the batter based on the number of people I will be serving, I do it based on the size of pan I will be filling. Also, I have a chart of how many people each cake pan will serve, so I can make sure that there will be enough. However, sometimes in order to make enough cake, you have to make more than enough cake. So my question again is, why is it priced by the slice?

If the idea is to give more catering consistent pricing, why not price by cake size then divide by their number of guests to give a per person cost? Should Bride A pay more than Bride B for the same exact cake? Of course you should account for extras such as specialized fillings, fondant, and more labor intensive or expensive items, but it just seems to make more sense to pay for the amount of cake, not the number of guests.

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Someone who wants to serve 250 people may actually have the same amount of cake as someone who wants to serve 240 people, yet they pay more. There isn't any more ingredient cost or labor involved, so is it just easier? What if a client wants a specific size or sizes of cake as opposed to number of servings, how are they charged? I know this is the standard pricing in the industry, I was just curious.

Most wedding clients don't come in with a serving chart and ask "how much will you charge for this size in this design?"

To open that proverbial can of worms, I can tell a client that a round 13/10/7 configuration will serve 100 people (serving the entire cake) - another baker may say it will serve more people, say 110; while a third will say it serves another number. And if we're charging by the number of servings, the cost can vary across all three bakers because of that number.

And how many it serves depends on who is doing the cutting :wink: My first kitchen was part of a banquet facility and the woman who ran things could cut a 12/9/6 to serve 150 - the fact that you could read the newspaper through the slices notwithstanding!

People are always going to ask "how many does this serve?" so it seems easier to quote by the serving size. If someone wants more or a larger serving size, they can move up to the next size.

What gets me is the whole "let's taste a lot of free cake" during a consultation and "let's have the top tier free too. " It's the expectation that it should be free that gets to me. I don't see caterers or restaurants giving a free meal on your anniversary as a matter of course!

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I have no qualms about the price of wedding cake. I know what it takes to make these kinds of cake and it can be very labor intensive. My question was about how it was priced.

I wonder why more people don't do it like Pam R. When I make a cake, I don't scale the batter based on the number of people I will be serving, I do it based on the size of pan I will be filling. Also, I have a chart of how many people each cake pan will serve, so I can make sure that there will be enough. However, sometimes in order to make enough cake, you have to make more than enough cake. So my question again is, why is it priced by the slice?

If the idea is to give more catering consistent pricing, why not price by cake size then divide by their number of guests to give a per person cost? Should Bride A pay more than Bride B for the same exact cake? Of course you should account for extras such as specialized fillings, fondant, and more labor intensive or expensive items, but it just seems to make more sense to pay for the amount of cake, not the number of guests.

I'm not sure I understand the reason for the question now. I mean the obvious reason is, if I order a three tier cake, I could get one that could feed any amount of people. How big is a 3-tier cake anyway? How big is a wedding reception??? Umm, if there are any variables or vagaries there then one needs to be more specific somehow. That's ok if there are no plans to cut and serve it to the expected number of guests attending but I mean that's why it's done that way. So there's enough cake for everybody. No?

When you do any kind of custom work, you have to have a common denominator for making sure there will be enough cake. The size pan doesn't work because what if you do a one layer tier. The amount of batter is the common denominator because then you can portion that amount out into your configuration successfully. Size of pan is too constricting.

"Should Bride A pay more than Bride B for the same exact cake?" Hell friggin yes if that's the way the cookie crumbles. There are a 1000 variables in doing cakes. However, if one has an establishment that has certain certain sizes only and certain certain decor only, then one can price all those production cakes exactly alike, a range of servings is provided and away you go. But I promise some brides who need 100 servings will get the same cake as one who needs 87 servings. So there's wiggle room there but if you customize cakes for brides then yes for dang sure the same cake can be priced differently for two different brides. From bakery to bakery from sea to shining sea say for example you want a cake for 100 people, you can get vastly different sizes of 3-tier cakes to feed 100 people.

Is that what you mean, GB??

Edited by K8memphis (log)
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A 3-tier cake is as big as you make it. So if someone wants a 6", 8" and 10" round cake, which serves about 53, and someone else wants to serve 50 people with the same exact kind of cake (which would be 6", 8" and 10" rounds), why the price difference? When I was talking about Bride A and Bride B, I was assuming that they were getting the same exact cake (size, flavor, frosting, etc.), with one serving 120 people and the other 130. At a cost of $5.00 per slice Bride A would pay less (according to my size calculations) than Bride B for the same amount of cake.

Actually, it does make sense to charge per slice if you calculate all of the cake components (batter, filling, icing, fondant, etc.) per person, but I wonder if most people do it this way. Somehow you do have to account for pan size, don't you? I do scale the batter for the size of the pan, with a certain amount of batter per pan, but not per person.

It just seems weird, like charging for a pizza not by the size, but by the number of people who will be eating it.

I realize that most people don't order wedding cake by the cake size or sizes, but most wedding cake sizes are pretty standard.

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A 3-tier cake is as big as you make it. So if someone wants a 6", 8" and 10" round cake, which serves about 53, and someone else wants to serve 50 people with the same exact kind of cake (which would be 6", 8" and 10" rounds), why the price difference? When I was talking about Bride A and Bride B, I was assuming that they were getting the  same exact cake (size, flavor, frosting, etc.), with one serving 120 people and the other 130. At a cost of $5.00 per slice Bride A would pay less (according to my size calculations) than Bride B for the same amount of cake.

Actually, it does make sense to charge per slice if you calculate all of the cake components (batter, filling, icing, fondant, etc.) per person, but I wonder if most people do it this way. Somehow you do have to account for pan size, don't you? I do scale the batter for the size of the pan, with a certain amount of batter per pan, but not per person.

It just seems weird, like charging for a pizza not by the size, but by the number of people who will be eating it.

I realize that most people don't order wedding cake by the cake size or sizes, but most wedding cake sizes are pretty standard.

I gotcha now. Because for one reason, a lot of people would not have a clue about what size of cakes to order. And even back 30 years ago brides would get a picture of what they wanted and need it thus & such size with satellites or no satellites, delete the bottom tier, add a middle tier, or whatever. The math can blow the ears off the side of your head. You get it all figured out and then they call & add 32 servings or oh no I do want four satellites. Ever the more so now with the internet and wedding cakes being popular enough to have tv shows about 'em & stuff.

I guess we have to draw a line between standardized cakes and cakes to order though.

In a bakery with standard cakes in standard decor format it's not a problem. With the tiniest bit of customization it's a possible nightmare. I've never used standard cakes in my business. I've almost always used standard cakes & decor when working for others. Standard cakes are a snap time-wise. Customized cakes can eat time like marauding garbage trucks.

But I mean because how else would we do it? For customized stuff that is. And myself, I don't see the sizes being standard myself. They're not even standard from bakery to bakery. There's too many variables I think. I mean if someone is doing small medium large cakes with fresh flowers or something like that, yeah, no worries.

I worked for this one person who only knew 6x8x10x12x14x16 inch measurments. They could only do a 2 inch graduation in tiers. Using an odd sized pan never occured to them. Neither did a four inch gradiation between tiers. And this person would blow a gasket if the cake we baked did not look exactly like the picture (like for a 50th anniversary).There's no way a 2 inch graduation in tiers will result in the same silhouette of a cake with a 4 inch graduation in tiers. Hello-o. There's just so many details. Nobody knows the truffles I've seen. :laugh:

But actually I have someone wanting to order a "three tier cake". I said, how many servings? If she doesn't come up with a number then it's gonna be $50 per tier. Very small tiers. I'm flexible. :biggrin:

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There shouldn't be a difference.

Using your example above, the 6-8-10 configuration, I figure it at 64 (10-22-32) servings (again, we all use different charts-ranging from 53 to 78 servings for the same size), then the cake is charged at 64 servings. If the client needs 70 servings they're still charged for the 64 and if they only need 60, then they're still charged for 64. I give them the option of making a larger/smaller cake (changing the tier sizes) or paying for the larger/smaller cake. For me, in a basic flavor, basic design, they'd be looking at $192.00.

I suppose technically, you could also charge it by the tier (based on the numbers mentioned above) but people are so used to the per person price that they don't even think about it any other way. To split it out, it'd be $30.00 for the 6" tier, $66.00 for the 8" tier, and $96.00 for the 10" tier, totalling the same $192.00.

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  • 9 months later...

Generally wedding cakes are priced partly on the ingredients used, but most of what drives

the price up is the complexity of the decorating and construction of it.

If the cake is simply decorated with just a buttercream finish and a border, then yeah, about

$3.75 per serving is the average rate. If there is fondant, modeling chocolate, or ganache or

marzipan finishes involved, the price goes up. If the decorating is intricate or labor intensive,

your price goes up yet again. Then there's also delivery and set up fees to think about too.

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Those two links DO help: thank you very much!

Does $3.75 per serving sound about right? I know the ingredients (nuts, chocolate) will run up the price, and carrot cake is heavy, so there will be more work constructing the thing.

That's a very good price. But, as another poster pointed out, depending on your choice of icing and decor, don't raise your eyebrows if the price jumps to $5 to $8 a person. Anything beyond that and that cake had better be something extra-ordinary.

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Around here, in the expensive Bay Area, decent mid-upper tier wedding cakes are about $4.50+ a slice--regardless of flavor. The most famous bakeries around here start at about $10 a slice.

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  • 5 months later...

I'm a little at odds as to go about doing this. I've collaborated with a local high-end chocolate shop to take orders for bespoke celebration and wedding cakes. This shop is strictly retail and is not a pastry shop, however the owner wants to expand the business to include custom made cake orders as she gets a lot of enquiries for cakes. She wants a 25% cut on all orders that come through the shop. I make the cakes at home. How should I go about pricing in order to make a fair profit for myself? Any suggestions would be most appreciated.

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I'll leave pricing for the cakers, but what stands out to me is that you're doing this in your home kitchen. This feels like you're ramping up from serious hobbyist to pro, and that carries with it a commercially coded kitchen, licensing, insurance, etc. Just some thoughts to consider (if you haven't already).

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Around here, in the expensive Bay Area, decent mid-upper tier wedding cakes are about $4.50+ a slice--regardless of flavor. The most famous bakeries around here start at about $10 a slice.

You need to check with your local health department and see if they will clear your home kitchen. Where I live now, Phoenix, this would be illegal. (There's a law on the books prohibiting home-made goods from being sold in/from businesses.) Where I used to live, Santa Fe, would only approve you if you did no personal cooking whatsoever in your home kitchen and everything was stainless steel. (no laminate counters, no wooden cupboards, no wood at all in the kitchen)

You also need the delivery vehicle approved, depending on your county's health code.

Then, there's always local certification for each person using the kitchen with a food handler's card of some sort. If you are already ServSafe certified, you may be able to use that certification in lieu of a separate test.

Pricing is based on the cake & icing itself, props, and other materials. -Plus estimates on time for: multiple meetings, sketches, making special props, sugar flowers, creating cutting diagrams, and delivery. As pointed out above, delivery can take hours all by itself. -And many places will not accept a cake without a cutting diagram.

Making these sorts of cakes is expensive and time consuming. If you don't work your cost cards carefully, you can easily wind up in the red on one.

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I'm a little at odds as to go about doing this. I've collaborated with a local high-end chocolate shop to take orders for bespoke celebration and wedding cakes. This shop is strictly retail and is not a pastry shop, however the owner wants to expand the business to include custom made cake orders as she gets a lot of enquiries for cakes. She wants a 25% cut on all orders that come through the shop. I make the cakes at home. How should I go about pricing in order to make a fair profit for myself? Any suggestions would be most appreciated.

In addition to what the others have said about working from home, you also need to consider that a lot of reception venues won't even allow you to deliver a cake these days without health dept. certification in hand. They could lose their insurance over that.

Having said that, I've participated in discussions over many years on other boards regarding this same issue, and while I've never accepted referrals from vendors who expect to be paid for the referral, the general consensus among many others that do was that 15% is the absolute maximum commission that's reasonable for that sort of thing. Then there are other variables.... will the customer be meeting directly with you or will you just be given the order to deliver to the shop, who will then deal with delivery? How will you be paid and who will pay you? You have to factor in your administrative time in dealing with these things as part of your overall cost. The general consensus, as I remember, was that the whole thing is generally a bad deal overall. Too time consuming, poor communication, too much stress...

At the end of the day, IF you do it, you should charge your regular price to the shop, then the shop marks up the cake price to the customer, in this case with my above example, 15%. If they mark the cakes up too high then they can't sell them, so they'll have to lower their markup. Don't lower your own price..... wholesale one item at a time and you'll soon go broke.

Hope that helps.

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  • 7 months later...

:raz: Hi All. I've started expanding my baking business into wedding cakes and I'm wondering how others have gone about pricing their wedding cakes. I have a basic starting price per serving, but am kind of lost on how to price such things as gumpaste flowers and decorations, fondant, chocolate modeling clay decorations, etc.

Any insight or help would be greatly appreciated.

Thanks!

Erin

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