Wedding Cake Woes

My daughter gets married soon. I’m SUPER excited. Yet I’ll confess that all this planning, envisioning, entertaining, decorating is beyond my comfort level. I will be glad when this is all over and I can relax…and write.

One of the last things we crossed off our list was getting a wedding cake. That seemed easy enough—and I was looking forward to something being a little more affordable…and cakes are simple, right?

Wrong!

Imagine my chagrin when my daughter calls to tell me she can’t get a cake with the budget I set for her. It’s impossible. Wah, wah, wah…and so it goes. When she tells me the price of the cake she wants, I about had a heart attack.

“What is in that cake?” I asked her. “Gold dust!”

Seriously! Or diamonds. Something expensive, because I know how much flour, eggs, sugar and oil cost. I’ve made cakes before. Granted, my cakes don’t turn out like this:

Or this:

They look more like this.

courtesy of: MyCookingwithAbandon.blogspot (this girl is like me with cakes)

Yet, the same basic ingredients are in both, and I’m sure if I took my time and tried SUPER hard, I might get closer to looking like the first few pictures. But I’m usually in a rush and just care that it tastes good (and it always does; sugar helps with that).

If I charged someone for a cake, I’d feel bad charging them $10, thinking I was ripping them off. But I’m hear to tell you that Wedding Cake Makers (or chefs, or whatever you want to call them) don’t charge $10 for a cake. They don’t even charge $50 or $100 for their cakes. Wedding cakes cost anywhere from a ‘cheap’ (and I say that very sarcastically) $200 for a smaller one to $800 or more.

Can I hear a YIKES! from the audience?

Thank you.

Does anyone besides me think that is a little ridiculous? The ingredients in a cake are very simple and can be bought in any random Walmart. All I have to say about the price of wedding cakes is Holy Moly.

But I have learned a valuable lesson from all this craziness.

Forget college. Forget encouraging your kids to get a higher education so they can be a lawyer, doctor, or engineer. That is money and time wasted as far as I’m concerned now. Invest in a cake decorating course instead. Have your kids (or yourself) learn how to make sugar flowers.

These pretty puppies can cost $40 a piece to be made for a wedding cake. ***We will NOT be having any sugary flowers on my daughter’s cake. Real flowers are much less expensive. And that is just insane!

But seriously…invest in learning the fine art of wedding cake decorating and your child (or you) will be making more dough (no pun intended) than the lawyers and doctors you meet who carry around a college loan as high or higher than their mortgage.

Just saying. In fact, I’ve been tempted to learn how to decorate cakes myself. But it’s too late for this wedding.  Dang! And I’m afraid I would just eat all the sugar flowers I made if I learned how to do that. Maybe cake decorating–as lucrative as it seems to be–wouldn’t be a good fit for me. I like sugar too much and it would be hard to give away sugary, yummy creations–even for $800. (Well, maybe it wouldn’t be THAT hard. Hee hee)

Have a good day…and dream of cakes made out of gold dust! I know I am.

Char Signature

59 thoughts on “Wedding Cake Woes

  1. It is crazy! But some of these cake-makers are artists in a sense and I think they charge, not based on ingredients, but on skill and time involved. I once watched a program where they made so many different people tastes cakes. Nearly everyone chose the Betty Crocker box cake mix over the hugely expensive ones!

    There’s so many baking realty shows on now, Char which makes that profession even more popular and in demand. You should take a class and become one yourself! Good luck with finding a cake though! I’m sure you can find a beautiful one a little less stressful on the budget.

    • I know. I feel like George from Father of the Bride–the cheap skate who has a hard time appreciating all the high priced wedding things you have to do. It will be nice, and I know I will enjoy that cake that night (and you can bet we’re eating it. I’m not paying all this money just for it to sit there doing nothing!)

  2. Some cost thousands you know! In fairness, when you see some of the wedding cake creators at work, they are highly skilled and it really is an art. A wedding cake maker might say – well how hard is writing a book? It’s just stringing lots of words together right? While I do agree that wedding cakes are expensive, I personally wouldn’t devalue the skill and craft involved. This is why some people choose cheaper alternatives like muffins arranged in tiered circles. I’m generally pretty shocked by how much people pay for weddings overall, the cake is just an element of that!

    • You’re right. I can see that lots of people could think writing a book is super easy. But I’m not selling my book for $300 so someone can read it. So in that sense, people who buy an author’s book are getting a kicker of a deal compared to buying a cake (even if you sell your book for $15). I spent a year on my book; a cake person spends maybe a day or so at most. Money wise, they are ahead of us poor authors. I guess they can’t sell the same cake to a bunch of people on the internet though. Hmmmm.

      • Yes that’s the thing there, you write the book once, but people can keep buying it lots of times, but they can only sell each cake they make once. I’m not quite sure why I’m being so defensive of wedding cake makers! I think it’s because I’ve watched quite a few of those shows that show the wedding cake makers and I’ve been impressed by their skill and passion for what they do, and the hard work involved. Sorry for being argumentative though, you’ve got enough going on with all the wedding business without me picking a fight ;) I’m sure your daughter’s wedding will be wonderful and worth all the stress leading up to it :)

        • I didn’t feel you were being argumentative. And trust me, if I wasn’t feeling overwhelmed with stupid wedding expenses right now, I would be on your side and think they were wonderful artistic creations. And it didn’t help that our first cake maker flaked on us and we were rushed to find another just weeks away from the wedding. So yeah, I’m a little grouchy about it right now and just trying to blow steam through sarcasm. I love people who use their creative talents. Really, I do.

            • I know it will. That’s what I’m hoping for, because I’m tired of wedding plans. They make me miserable. Once they’re married and life is back to normal, I think I will be happy with all the pricey photographers and cake makers out there. For now, they are keeping me from finishing my backyard.

  3. Fortunately neither of my kids are in a ‘serious’ relationship (or so I’ve been lead to believe) thus no weddings in my imminent future. The cost of a wedding is crazy. I hope at least you’re enjoying this special time with your daughter even with all the sticker shock :-)

    • I sometimes have to bite my tongue, since my husband has pointed out that I tend towards George of Father of the Bride tendencies. I take that as a complement. But yes, I am enjoying this time with her. The only hard thing is we’re 6 hours away, so are doing a lot of this long distance. Ick.

  4. I feel for you Char. The stress of wedding planning is something I haven’t experienced yet. I’m sorry for your wedding cake woes. Weddings are ridiculously expensive. It really is insanity when you think of all the things money can be spent on. I was a professional photographer for many years and took many many weddings. Tuxes, dresses, nail, hair styles, tanning, limos, professional decorators, chocolate fountains, champagne fountains. shoes, and I know some people pay for wedding planners and hall decorators. Then there’s the meal. Oh dear. And yes. The pictures. The main thing is the couple doesn’t miss the forest for the trees. It’s a sacred rite and a holy union. I hope they have a blessed wedding and marriage washed with the grace of God. And peace to you, Char.

    • That’s what I keep trying to remind my daughter of–that the reception is all pretty frivolous. It’s the marriage ceremony that is the important part–where she is sealed to her companion forever. I think she knows that. (She just is very meticulous and likes things to be ‘perfect.’ I don’t think she got that from me)

      • Haha. Well, thank God we’re only young once, huh! It will all be what it will be. Hang in there and keep smiling!! And post pictures when it’s all done.

        • At this point, I’m just hoping the shoes I bought won’t kill my feet walking in them all day. If I’m not limping around, I’ll try to remember to shoot some pictures.

  5. I’ve been thinking of you, Char and wondering how the wedding planning is going. I can’t even imagine the joy, fear, melancholy, etc. that comes from your child getting married. It seems like it will be forever before I face that, but I know it’s not that far in the future. I wish you and your family well with it!

    As for the cakes, it is crazy, isn’t it? I’ve heard of some selling in the thousands, even. Good grief, my entire wedding only cost $2000. Okay, yeah, maybe it was a little tacky, but did people care about that 25 years ago? Seems weddings have morphed into surreal experiences nowadays. Perhaps the only ones who can afford them anymore are those cake decorators. ;)

    • They have gotten a little crazy over the years (probably a lot due to Pinterest and girls spending years collecting ideas for their wedding). Soon it will be over (the mad crazy planning part anyway, and then we can relax a little). Ours is a little crazy because we’re doing the wedding and a reception in Salt Lake (close to where they are both in college since they’re getting married in the middle of a semester…silly kids) and then an open house later in Boise after their semester ends. But the one here will be quite laid back and fun. I’m not letting my daughter plan it at all. I figure she gets the Salt Lake one, I get the one here to be to my taste.

  6. So EXPENSIVE Indeed!!! I got married 9 years ago and it was $6 or $8 per piece per person just for a sheet cake. Then you had the Wedding cake price to add in. We went with a simple, basic 3 tier and added fresh flowers and it was like $150 to $200. Then the hotel we had the reception at had a dessert platter in the food package we purchased, so that made the most sense instead of purchasing 2 to 3 sheet cakes on top of the Wedding cake. Wishing you, your daughter and the family the best in the home stretch to the Big Day:)

    • I’m just thankful she at least found a cake person who does yummy cakes. So many wedding cakes have that nasty frosting that is all smooth and tasteless. Each layer on the one we got is a special flavor (like apple cinnamon, chocolate mint, etc) and so I think I’m going to enjoy tasting it that night.

  7. I feel your pain. Two of my daughters are married and it was kinda like bleeding money–all for one night. Nowadays many parents offer the bride and groom the money they would’ve spent on the wedding. The happy couple can use the money as they see fit. But then they forego the wedding celebration. I have mixed emotions about that. After all, you only get to celebrate your wedding once. But it’s so tempting.
    Sometimes you can find ladies who make cakes in their homes, just as a side business. Some are very talented and don’t charge much. When I do it again for my other children, I’m going this route.
    Good luck with the wedding! You will survive, I promise! Just plan on sleeping for a week when it’s over!

    • Thanks for the advice. My husband asked me one day what he could do to help with the wedding and I said, “Just keep making money.” Seriously. I jokingly offered my daughter the money when she told me she was engaged, but she laughed and told me no. Since I don’t live in Salt Lake where she is doing this, I haven’t been able to know where to find any deals…so that hasn’t helped. At least we’ve made it up in a couple other places for the reception–like flowers and centerpieces. I think those are going to cost me less than I thought. I will be thankful for those little things, I guess.

  8. I am with you on the real flowers – they look so much prettier on wedding cakes and are so much less expensive! The wedding cake business is insane! I remember getting mine and they had about 15 different choices of filling, tons of different frosting types, and many different flavors of cake itself. I think building a house may be easier than choosing a wedding cake!

    • Ha ha. Maybe. But I’ve built a house and think I might go for the cake instead. I never want to be put through that process again.

  9. We had two weddings in two summers…yikes!
    Luckily, my daughter had taken a cake decorating class, and has done several cakes for weddings and showers so she decided to make her own. We thought it was a bit risky considering everything else she needed to be thinking about, but it turned out to be gorgeous!
    (They do take a verrrryyyy long time -about 6 -8 hours per cake so there’s a big part of the cost)

    • Oh my! You are my hero for getting through those 2 summers. And kudos to your daughter for making her own cake. That’s awesome!

  10. Wow that seems crazy. I have a friend who makes wedding cakes on the side and I need to tell her she is waaaay under-charging! :) Best of luck to you, your family and your daughter!!! :)

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  12. I debated about whether I should even bother to reply to this, but I feel like I had to. I do custom wedding cakes, and I can assure you that there’s more to a cake than the ingredients. If that’s all they were you could just go to walmart and buy the ingredients, put them on the cake table and be done. But most people want someone to take those ingredients and make them into a cake, as opposed to eating a bag of flour.

    My expenses to run my business are about 50% of my gross income. So on a $600 cake I’d be netting about $300.

    I work about 20-25 hours on each cake that I make, probably more when you add in all the time I spend shopping, planning, writing contracts and paperwork, answering emails and phone calls, baking, making the flowers and other decorations, actually decorating the cake, then cleaning up. I probably make about $20 an hour on a good cake day. Considering that the woman who cleans my friend’s house makes $50 an hour, that doesn’t seem like I’m raking it in, does it?

    If you don’t value what I do that’s fine, you’re not required to hire me. There will always be someone cheaper no matter what you’re shopping for, and a lot of people who do cakes on the side are probably earning less than minimum wage if they bothered to figure out the time they put into it.

    • Wow! You have opened my eyes, Kara. I had no idea it took that long to make one of those cakes. I was figuring they were taking half a day to do it or something like that. Unlike a lot of people, I have never watched Cake Boss or whatever those chef shows are called, so I will admit I’m naive on the cooking things…and a wee bit stressed and disgruntled doing wedding planning. When certain vendors charge more just because it’s wedding-related, I start feeling like everyone is sucking me dry and taking advantage of me. So thank you for making me feel a little bit better about my cake situation. When you put out the facts like that, I can totally see your side. I’m just hoping I have a few years before I’m in the market for another wedding cake. My savings account needs time to be replenished.

      • I don’t know any vendors who charge more for weddings than for other events. If they do it’s because brides tend to suck more of your time than other clients do. I was at a meeting last night and a couple of catering directors from venues were talking about having to make notes on the revisions of the contracts they had with date and TIME of the revision, because the brides were calling multiple times per day to change things. But the majority of people do not charge more for weddings, a rental fee is a rental fee whether it’s for a wedding, a birthday, or a food fight.

        • I agree. Brides do take more time than other clients. I know I’ve been on the phone a couple times this week changing tablecloths and stuff that I thought we had planned long ago. So as a mom of a bride, I’m sorry.

  13. Wow, I understand those bakers spend a lot of time on their cakes, but give me a break, it’s all about supply and demand. And that demand for expensive cakes is high, so why should they lower their prices? I’d go for a local bakery, mom and pop, who don’t even specialize in wedding cakes but can whip up something super good looking for a fraction of the price. We have a bakery like that here where we get our birthday cakes. They are the most delicious cakes ever and they always look great. Good luck!

    • Demand for expensive cakes isn’t high, demand for expensive cakes at bargain pricing is high, but bakers price their cakes based on experience, general market demand, time and expenses. I can’t afford a Ferrari, so I’ll go buy something cheaper. Doesn’t mean that Ferrari needs to lower their prices because I can’t afford it. Buy what you can afford, but don’t blame the people who have priced their products correctly based on what they have to take into account to do that.

      • Oh, I’m not blaming the bakers. They know exactly what they’re doing. They know there will always be that couple who wants to have that special cake for their wedding and will pay big bucks for it. If nobody was buying those cakes, they wouldn’t be selling at those high prices. But don’t get me started because when I see how much money people blow on their wedding, I cringe. That money could be a home downpayment for many newly married couple.

    • I guess I was blown away because I was very clueless. If I’d been up on the times and watched some of those chef shows, maybe I wouldn’t have been so surprised by the prices.

      • My point, as a baker, is that if we “know exactly what we’re doing” we don’t try to take advantage of people, we price what we make according to what we need to make a decent hourly wage for our skill level, expenses etc etc. I will add that there are a lot of bakers who DON’T know what they’re doing and they end up earning about $4 an hour after their time, work and materials are taken into account. Those are the bargain bakers you’re talking about, and they’re often people who are working from home with no business experience, thinking that they’re earning some money on the side when they’re actually undervaluing themselves.

        I agree that people should buy what they can afford, but we also shouldn’t criticize people who actually WANT to spend money on their weddings. My wedding was a DIY affair and I didn’t spend much on it. I’m not going to criticize someone who wants to spend $50,000 on theirs, though. I wouldn’t do it but to each his own.

        And for your amusement (and possibly horror) look on http://www.cakewrecks.com and check out the “what she ordered/what she got” section, where brides go to cheap bakers and request not-cheap cakes. It shows that you’re nto only paying for the cake, you’re paying for the skill it takes to put it together. http://www.cakewrecks.com/display/Search?moduleId=10924759&searchQuery=wedding

        • Okay, okay, you have me. I’ve looked at your site and seen your amazing cakes and after hearing about all that goes into making one, I can see that when someone gets a super expensive cake, they are getting more than just the ingredients. They are getting a bit of art as well. Good luck with your cake business and dealing with fussy brides.

  14. If Joe and I had been blessed with children, we were going to tell them to get a skill, like cake decorating, and then go to college. I think our cake cost $150 and that was 20 years ago. Blessings to you and your family on this joyous occasion.

    • When I was the bride, I didn’t care for any of the details. I let my mom plan and was happy with whatever she did. So I don’t know how much my cake cost. But from reading different comments, I’m amazed now at what these cake people do. So I guess I don’t begrudge them their money as much now. You’re right though…I should tell my younger daughter to start learning how to decorate cakes…especially the sugar flowers. I will be her sampler (I think all good chefs need one of those, right?)

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  16. I can’t remember how much my wedding cake cost, but I doubt I spent $800.00. More likely 2-300 dollars. Actually, I think my flowers were more expensive. Now, there’s another career opportunity. Being a wedding florist. How fun would that be? And much less fattening.

  17. Congratulations! The crazy thing is no one’s going to care about the cake on the actual day of the wedding. A homemade one like that last photo would be just fine. :) That one looks like the tastiest to me anyway. I always get hungry when I visit here for some reason.

    • Forgive me for that. I hope you’re not on a diet. I think my daughter would care very much about her cake looking like the last one. I know it would taste delicious though. But it must be beautiful and set a theme (or something like that).

  18. Hang in there, Char!
    You should have called me first — bacon donuts. (Remember that for the next wedding.)

    Seriously though, cakes are expensive. I saw that same show as Brigitte–I think it was The Lookout? (Like a 20/20 for consumers.) They priced out wedding options, and even different cake options (homemade box mix, grocery store bakery, top notch NYC wedding cake baker) — the hands down winner? The cake mix. Every time. Everyone said it tasted like home, like comfort, like childhood. The professional cakes were beautiful, no doubt, but interesting how everyone chose memory and comfort over frills and flowers. Nostalgia is priceless, I guess.

    • Yes, bacon doughnuts. Yum! I did see a blog that featured a pizza wedding cake. It made me laugh. Thank goodness for things that make me laugh right now.

  19. I think the costs of wedding cakes are simply following the ever-rising cost of all the other parts of the wedding. My niece had an absolutely gorgeous wedding with all the trimmings this summer, but I cringe at the thought of what her parents (and the groom’s) spent on it!

    I’ll always be happy with the simple outdoor wedding my husband and I had followed by a simple reception. Everyone had a great time, even though the costs weren’t that high, even for the time!

    • I love simple. Your wedding and reception sounds lovely. I think everything in society has inflated in price with the dang cost of living. But don’t get me started on that. It might sweep into politics and I try to avoid that topic at all costs.

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