One of the most common underlying questions in the cake business is why DO wedding cakes cost more than birthday or christening cakes? Here I'll cover some of the various differences between my birthday and wedding cakes, and why you SHOULD expect to pay more for your wedding cake.
When you order a birthday cake, I'll usually ask you a few questions, take a few details, take a deposit, make your cake, decorate it, and you pay me and leave happy. So when you order a wedding cake, should you expect the same treatment? Well, no, not quite! There's a much longer process to making a wedding cake, so lets start at the beginning.
First contact and consultations
When you first contact me, we'll run through some details such as how many portions you'd need, how many tiers you want and what sort of style you would like. Sometimes, brides have very little idea of what sort of cake they would like, so I will help pick out some details from the wedding, and start putting together a cake that will fit perfectly with the theme. Other brides have very exact ideas of what they like, and so my job is to make sure it's feasible to fit everything on the cake (and in the budget!).
During this process, I will usually book you in for a consultation, which lasts around 30 minutes to an hour, so that you can meet me to go over all the details of the order and you can take some samples to try in the comfort of your own home. Samples come freshly baked and presented in a pretty box. I will usually do a simple sketch so you can get an idea of how your cake will look. So far on average, I will have spent between 2-4 hours on your order already, and we haven't even cracked an egg yet!
I'll sometimes invite you to another final consultation a couple of weeks before the date, especially if it's been a while since your first consultation, just to whizz over the details and to also make sure I've got the right venue address, delivery times, etc. That's another 30 minutes to an hour, notwithstanding any changes that might be made to the design at this point.
Baking and putting the cake together
Now we've got all the details sorted, and your date is almost here! I'll start making any extras for your wedding cake, so if you've chosen a pretty cascade of flowers for the front of your four-tier cake, that's going to take about 6-8 hours, depending on numbers and size. Are you having a handmade sugar bride and groom on top? That's another 2-4 hours.
Now we come to baking your cakes. Each tier is going to be 6-7" deep compared to standard 4" deep celebration cakes, so that's double bake time, and extra mixing for each tier - for a four tier cake, that's about 10-12 hours, not counting the cooling time. I use premium ingredients for your wedding cakes too, so they cost more, and sometimes take more sourcing.
Your cakes have cooled and are ready to be filled and stacked. Each tier HAS to be level, otherwise your cake will develop a lean! This can take twice as long per tier as putting a single tier celebration cake together. They are left to set up a bit, so they become more sturdy, and then they are covered with fondant. In total, filling and stacking your cake will take 2-3 hours.
Once your cake tiers are set, I will then start decorating. Some décor can be completed before I stack the cake, other décor cannot be completed until the tiers are stacked, and some cakes cannot be transported fully stacked, they have to be stacked on site at your venue.
Decorations can vary from a simple shimmer which takes about half an hour to complete, to large tiers fully covered in tiny ruffles. To break it down, each ruffle is made from thinly rolled out fondant, cut into 1" circles, the edges are smoothed, then the circle is folded into quarters and attached to the cake. This takes between 4-6 hours depending on the size of the tier. Stencilled or piped pattern on one of your layers? Another 2 hours work.
Delivering and setting up your cake
Your cake is as finished as it can be at my home studio and now it's time to load it up and get it to your venue. Loading has to be done carefully and methodically to ensure everything is safe and secure, and I usually have to enlist the help of Mr Cakes to lift the cakes - those bottom tiers are very heavy, especially now they're stacked. And then I drive like a little old lady to your venue!
Once at the venue, I go and check where the cake is to be situated, and then we start bringing everything in. If the tiers need stacking and decorations need finishing off, this is where it happens, which can take 1-2 hours.
My final step is to photograph your cake looking beautiful in its place, and find a member of staff to check over the cake, sign it off and take the allergens list for their records.
So that's why your wedding cake costs more!
Some bakers will protest that their wedding cakes cost no more to make than their celebration cakes. I do not! When you break it down as above, and look at how much time goes into the various components of the cake, surely you would want your wedding cake maker to be earning more than a cleaner, dustbin man or glass collector would earn, for example? (No offence intended to any!) Making a wedding cake is a highly skilled job, and takes many more hours from start to finish than a birthday cake. In the example above, I've just spent 30-40 hours on one cake, and my hourly rate is supposed to be £20 an hour. I'll leave you to work it out, don't forget costs and overheads!
In finishing, I will say that there is a baker for everyone's budget, but do your research, check reviews, and be prepared to spend proper money on your wedding cake.