I shine a light on the costs of making your bespoke, one-of-a-kind, wedding cake. I do this by going behind the scenes and giving a breakdown of all the aspects of running a professional, fully insured, wedding cake business.
It can be hard to glean the true cost of a bespoke wedding cake. It is not helpful to compare custom-made items with generic or store-bought products or a cake that Auntie Sally made for last week’s charity bake sale. Every business is different and has different costs and overheads. However, running a professional wedding cake business will always come with additional costs, especially when compared to a casual home baker or mass production bakery.
In this post, I break down the elements of my own, bespoke, wedding cake process. From consulting, research, booking, design, baking and decorating. I lay out the costs so that you can see how much your wedding cake really costs to make professionally.
The number one factor in the cost of your wedding cake is time!
The overall time it takes to make your wedding cake will be the determining factor in how much your wedding cake costs.
A bespoke cake made especially for you…
I make bespoke wedding cakes to your personal specifications. Each wedding cake is a one-of-a-kind creation. Weddings are a once-in-a-lifetime experience that should reflect your personality and style. A significant part of your wedding cake booking is your consultation, the research and the final cake design. All of this personalisation adds to the overall cost of your wedding cake because each step takes knowledge, time and skill. If you have ever had a custom made piece of furniture or clothing tailored might see that your wedding cake maker is also a skilled industry professional and will charge accordingly for their bespoke craftmanship.
Wedding Cake Consultations:
Once I have the basic information from you via my enquiry form I suggest that we have a free, no obligation, 30-minute phone consultation. This can give me an indication of what is important to you in your wedding cake. Some people know exactly what they want for their wedding cake before we speak and come clients need advise and guidance.
If we have enough information in the initial consultation then I would follow this up with a summary of everything we speak about and an initial quote.
Research and Cake Design:
If I need more information about you and your day, I will do some research based on the information I gleaned from our initial consultation and start to come up with some ideas for your cake design.
I then summarise everything we have spoken about in an email, along with example images and wedding cake design ideas.
I do not charge for wedding cake consultations or to generate wedding cake quotes. However, consultations are time consuming and I will usually spend around 6 hours in total from initial consultation to cake design, ordering from my suppliers and liaising with other vendors involved in the wedding I am working on.
Admin time spent on this can take up roughly 20% – 40% of my time running the business. This includes consultations, emails back and forth, accounts, managing subscriptions, ordering, shopping, outreach and networking, marketing and social media and liaising with vendors and venues regarding delivery and set-up logistics. We also have to stay compliant with new rules and regulations around food production and food hygiene as well as keeping up to date with allergens legislation and documentation.
Admin is a huge part of running a small food business and one huge reason why you cannot compare a wedding cake to a cake that you make at home as a hobby.
Now let’s break down the cost of your wedding cake
There are many necessary costs to running a professional business in order to stay both legal and maintain the high standards we set ourselves.
Here are some indirect costs of running a wedding cake business:
- Public Liability Insurance with coverage to 5 million
- Business insurance, building and equipment insurance, and car insurance for my business (yes, I cannot use my vehicle for my business without the proper insurance policy). (variable £)
- Rent (variable £)
- Bills – Energy bills and communication bills (internet, phone etc) (variable £)
- Vehicle costs, including offsetting CO2 emissions (variable £)
- Vehicle maintenance (variable £)
- Tools and equipment – replacements and for new (one-off) designs (variable £)
- Depreciation on equipment and vehicles (variable £)
- Maintenance and replacement of equipment (variable £)
- Storage costs (£200 p/y)
- Accounting fees (£200 p/y)
- Website maintenance and website design fees (£300p/y)
- Wedding fayre (£300p/y)
- Branding fees (£400-£2K)
- Advertising and marketing (print, social media, blog posts, SEO, Google Ads etc) (£300p/y)
- Training cost; keeping food hygiene certificates up to date and taking business and cake decorating courses and classes to improve skills (£60-£200 p/y)
The indirect costs of running my small business add up to roughly £5-7k per year.
This is all before turning on the oven…
One of the most significant expenses when making a high-end wedding cake with sustainable products is the cost of ingredients. A high-end wedding cake requires high-quality ingredients. The cost of ingredients will mainly depend on the size of the cake.
For example, a three-tiered high-end wedding cake with 100 finger portions requires upwards of £85 of high-end ingredients and this does not include chocolate ganache covering. Then there are cake boards, dowels and drums (roughly £20). This does not include extras and embellishments on the final cake design.
I finish most of my cakes in a white chocolate ganache covering. A three-tier cake requires roughly 2.5 kilos of chocolate and 600ml of cream (£30) for a crumb coat and final finish.
Add fondant to the covering and we are looking at another £15 – £20 in ingredients.
This brings the total cost of ingredients to more than £150.00 for a small three-tiered wedding cake. But the ingredients are still by no means the most expensive part of making a wedding cake or running a wedding cake business.
Paying for your baker’s time. A breakdown of labour and wages:
It takes roughly 4 days to consult, research, design, bake, and decorate a simple three-tier wedding cake with 100 servings. With a minimum of 15 hours of direct, hands-on, time over those days. This usually includes time on research and emails etc, but this part often adds up to more.
I aim to pay myself £15 per hour*. Wedding cake making is a highly skilled job that I have over 10 years of experience doing. The minimum wage for an unskilled worker is £10.42 per hour. A labourer usually charges £15-£18 per hour and this also goes up or down depending on your area. So, that’s £225 in wages baking and decorating + 40% admin time. This equals £315 for fair wages for an average three-tier cake.
This does not take into consideration paying tax, National Insurance, pensions, holiday pay, sick pay (not paid/covered) and low season wages when there are fewer wedding bookings (November – May).
It is my opinion that most wedding cake makers underestimate the cost of running a business and the time each order takes from start to finish. And the reason why so many people in the industry suffer from burnout and have to close their businesses. Undercharging for the amount of time, skill and materials it takes to fully realise a beautifully designed and constructed wedding cake is not sustainable in the long run.
Side note on sustainability:
I use sustainable here to mean a business that can continue to be viable year to year. To warrant the time and work involved, and to pay the cake maker fairly for their time whilst surviving financially. All of this is before considering “sustainability” in terms of going the extra mile for the environment, sourcing ingredients responsibly and being involved in carbon offsetting schemes so that our impact on the environment is lessened,
Calculations for a three-tier wedding cake with 100 servings:
With ingredients and wages, the price of your 3-tier cake for 100 guests is already £375. And this does not include any unique handmade decorations or the indirect costs of running my business. It is also before making any profit or paying taxes.
So, given these breakdowns, my three-tier wedding cakes with 105 servings cost around £675. + design extras because once we add the time and materials for added details, such as palette painting, colour matching or expensive floristry flowers, we are looking at another £70-£100 in labour and materials.
Let’s talk about tax baby! (and profits)…
What does it mean to run a profitable business? Profits are what I have left to put back into my business after I have paid for the ingredients, covered my indirect costs and paid myself a fair wage for the work involved. Profits are not used to pay wages but for unforeseeable costs such as a broken mixer, fridge or computer. If any of my essential tools or machinery are broken I need to replace them immediately otherwise I cannot continue to run my business. All these payments should come from my profits and not my personal wage. Because my wage, much like yours, is reserved for living costs such as my personal rent, bills and cost of living. As a small business, I pay 20% tax on any ‘profits’ which includes my wages.
Therefore, for example, if your wedding cake cost is £675 then a rough tax calculation is as follows:
- £675 is the price for a ganache covered wedding cake for 105 guests:
- Minus ingredients = 23% : £150
- Minus indirect (running) costs = 20% : £155
- Minus variable running costs = 8% : £54
- Expenses = £359
- Wages = 15 hours @ £15 = £225
- Total to make the cake (including business running costs and wages: £584)
- 20% tax on £91 ‘profit’ (£18.2): £72.80
- (There’s still national insurance and any pensions etc that need to come off any self-employed earnings)
- In 2022 I was able to make an average 2% profit margin over the year. This is considered ‘low’ according to most financial advisories putting around 10% profits as the average for all businesses.
I am always happy to discuss the cake options for any size or budget. I have written a helpful size and serving guide with tips on catering for 90%, 80% or as little as 70% of guests to help stick to a budget. And my pricing guide has different options for less expensive coverings and designs in a bid to help you reduce your wedding cake cost.
If you have a modest budget and are planning an intimate, small, wedding there are options for you to have an elegant and delicious cake and a magical cake cutting ceremony.
Photo Credit: Sarah Martins Photography
However, if you are enquiring about a cake for 150 guests then you are looking at pricing for a 4-5 tier cake. This will inevitably cost more than a simple wedding cake for 50 people.
Photo Credit: Stephanie and Nicole
Suppose you are planning an elaborate affair for hundreds of guests, and are looking for an intricate design with expensive materials to match. In that case, you may have to adjust either your budget or expectations accordingly. But I am always happy to advise and guide you whilst providing a clear and detailed pricing breakdown.
Download my Pricing Guide:
If you want to take a look at our price guide to get an idea of the size required for your wedding cake, with both dessert and finger portions and guide prices, you can download the PDF here:
*Prices are true as of writing this article and are subject to change at any time due to changing costs without due notice.
Most cake makers, including myself, are obsessively passionate about their craft. And most will go above and beyond once they have a cake to design and deliver. But this does mean that I have to charge for my time and skills.
How long does it take to make a wedding cake?
I am often asked; ‘How long does it take to make a wedding cake?’ This is tricky to answer as each wedding cake is made bespoke. However, I can say that a simple 3-tier wedding cake can take 3 days to bake and decorate. Then it’s usually a couple of half days of admin for consultations, design, ordering and liaison with suppliers, plus delivery. Philippa Rose Cake Design goes into some detail on a timeline for how long it takes to make a wedding cake here.
Love From Luisa x