8 Reasons why your custom made cake “costs SO much”

I know I am not alone in the cake making community when I say I need to increase my confidence when pricing and quoting for my work.

Although I wasn’t actually charging for most of the cakes I’ve made to date, I know what they should have been priced at for full paying clients. With an eye to the future business I’ve kept a careful record of costs, so over time I’ve built up an increasingly realistic picture of materials, ingredients and time expenditure required for different types and styles of cake.

Despite this, whenever someone asks, as a paying client, about cake costs, I can feel myself wincing a bit inside at the thought of saying the final figure to them (I so much prefer doing it by email!)

Why? Because all too often the response goes something like this:

How much?! It’s only a cake! I can get one from the supermarket for £30!”

And that isn’t a great thing to hear.

Black and White Hat Box Cake with Roses & Pearls
Hat box cake – £85

So, let’s break this down:

  1. It’s not only a cake…it is an edible piece of art, the centrepiece to your table, created just for you, designed to reflect you and the occasion you are celebrating.
Chanel handbag
Chanel handbag cake – £105

You will definitely not be able to find something like this in your local supermarket. Your cake is an individual, one off, piece – just like with clothes, paintings, restaurants and cars, you should expect to pay more for cake exclusivity 😉

Christening cake
Crib Christening cake – £90
  1. Look at the ingredient list on a £30 supermarket cake.  Goes on a bit, doesn’t it?  Lots of nasties.

If you are ordering from a reputable crafts person, with high standards, they will be using just a few ingredients, all of the best quality…organic butter, free range eggs, high cocoa content chocolate, Madagascan vanilla extract…well, you get the picture.  No nasty palm oils, synthetic essences or long lists of preservatives.

A gluten free baker will need to carefully check all baking and decorating ingredients, including sugarpastes and colourings, to ensure the integrity of the gluten free-ness of the cake. Sometimes ingredients need to be specially ordered. That all takes time and effort.

£30 wouldn’t cover the basic cost of ingredients for most custom made cakes, never mind the labour.

Simple vs complex cakes
3D Corset cake – £105
Tangled Tower cake – £170
Pets birthday cake – £65
  1. The larger the cake and the more complex the structure, the more it will cost.

It stands to reason that a single tier, circular cake with a couple of small figures and ‘Happy Birthday’ written on it is going to cost less than multiple tiers and complex shapes. Doesn’t it?

Tangled Tower Birthday Cake - tower creation collage
Planning and building Tangled Tower
  1. A bespoke cake takes time to design, plan and to execute.

Coming up with a final design that you’re happy with may involve several consultations, multiple sketches and the pushing of feasibility boundaries.

Your cake creator wants you to LOVE your cake so will put a lot of time, thought and effort into the design.

Get in the bowl
M&M cake – £85

  1. Each cake is made to a strict time schedule, taking an average of three days, from start to finish, to bake and decorate.

When you break down costs and look at what covers labour, your cake creator is probably just scraping the minimum hourly wage (unless they’re really at the top of their game, in which case why are you even reading this? Their cakes cost so much because they’re so damned good they don’t even need your business!)

Pizza cake
Pizza cake – £65

Your cake creator needs to be paid for the time they spend on your cake, otherwise they can’t make a living and will eventually starve to death, surrounded by cake. Now wouldn’t that be ironic? Do you want to be responsible for that?!

  1. Your cake decorations are hand crafted, many types and styles taking weeks to complete in tiny stages.

    Creating roses takes time! Birdcage cake with roses – £95

Flowers need to be built up over days and weeks, drying in between stages.  Pieces are then hand tinted, lustred and finished. Each one is delicate, easily cracked or chipped – it’s painstaking work.

Just the shoe
High heeled shoe cake – £100

It can take six weeks to make, dry and fully assemble the components of a gumpaste shoe.

MUFC 12th Birthday cake
Football cake – £75
  1. Finishing touches matter – coordinating covered cake boards, ribbons, candles etc. are usually all included in the price.

This may not seem like a big deal but the cost of those things add up, and it can take quite some effort to find the perfect complimentary items.

shoe one year on
Red shoe cake (single tier) – £65
Purple shoe cake (3 tiers) – £130
See how much difference cake size and a year’s extra shoe making experience makes to cost?!
  1. Whether self taught or professionally trained, it will take years for your cake creator to acquire their skills and knowledge.

Your cake creator will be charging according to their current level of skill and capability. That’s probably why Sheila’s daughter, or Enid’s cousin, charges less.

It will also be at least a partial explanation as to why your birthday cake quote is higher this year than it was last.  Cake crafts people deserve to have their increasing skills recognised with increased remuneration, just like in any other profession.

There you have it, 8 reasons why your cake (doesn’t actually) cost SO much 😉

I’m impressed that you’ve read this far – your efforts to improve you quote receiving abilities make you a very desirable client.

Armed with your new found understanding of what a custom made cake entails, you will hopefully be better prepared to hear a seemingly large figure in response to a cake pricing query. Remember, it might well be a lot of money, but that’s what it costs for the cake you’ve said you want.

Xbox cake collage
Xbox controller cake with lights – £110

So, because you’ve bothered to read to this point, I’ll let you into a secret…cake artists love to create. They will often be really excited to make your cake dreams come true, adding bits in at no extra cost and generally going the extra mile just because they love to make it happen. If they like you, they will go an extra ten miles in an effort to give you what you want.

Now I’m trusting that you won’t use this knowledge to do anything devious like try to manipulate or stiff your cake creator; however, you can use this information to your advantage if you really can’t afford the quoted figure.

Do not say:

“HOW much?!”

And definitely do not then put the cake artist’s cakes onto the same level as a mass produced, minimum effort, maximum profit, supermarket cake with questionable ingredients. That will just piss them off.

L'il Josef takes out John Cena
WWF wrestling cake – £90

Instead, endear yourself to your cake creator by saying something like:

“Goodness me my fine fellow, that’s very reasonable considering the ingredients, skill and time required to make a cake of this nature. However, my budget’s a little tight and I was wondering if perchance there was some way of reducing the cost a little?”

It doesn’t have to be exactly that – an approximation, conveying the same sentiments, will do just fine.

Frozen Themed Cake
‘Frozen’ cake with Olaf and Sven – £85

Your freshly appreciated and talent-recognised cake creator will be much more inclined to suggest changes that can be made to reduce the cost whilst maintaining the quality and overall ‘wow!’ factor.

Negotiate fairly, with full appreciation for the effort required to create your cake, and you’ll get to have a fabulous cake within your budget. Your cake artist gets to actually make it and earn an income in the process. It’s win-win!

Now go forth, with new wonder in your cake eating hearts, let your chosen cake artist impress you, and know that it’s worth every penny…

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