Questions and answers from two professional chefs, The Austin Wedding Cake Lady and Chef Andrew Neide of Wedding Cakes by Design.
Q – What are the average wedding cake prices? How to price a wedding cake? What can I expect to spend per slice?
A – Chef Neide – Wedding cake prices, depending on your location, can be all over the place. Most start at about $3.25 – $5 per slice for vanilla pound cake. Rolled fondant is usually about 1.00 additional.
Austin Cake Lady – Average wedding cake prices in Austin, Texas are running about $3.50/serving. Rolled fondant cakes are normally more expensive and can run as high as $10-$12; however, not very many Austinite cake budgets are in the $1,000-and-up range. Our cakes are homemade, and they average between $2 and $2.50/serving. Larger cakes are typically cheaper than smaller cakes.
Q- When should I order my wedding cake?
A – Chef Neide – Start to think about styles, designs and flavors about 6 months to one year in advance, if possible.
Q- How do I know what size cake I should order?
A – Austin Cake Lady – It’s important to know what size cake to order because I found that this varies from vendor to vendor. We use the internationally standardized figures by Wilton, the biggest cake decorating company in the world. They suggest the equivalent of a 2″ cube of sheetcake to equal one serving. I’ve found over the years that we always come out just about right with their figures. Some vendors will suggest a piece of both bride’s and groom’s cake for each guest. I don’t. That’s way too much cake, unless the vendor is making serving sizes a little smaller. Over the years I have found that those who want a piece of each cake are offset equally by those who want no cake at all. A few extra servings is great when you order–and don’t forget to count your photographer, DJ, catering staff and others in attendance who usually have some cake after the guests have been served.
Q – What kinds of cakes are popular? What’s new and different this year?
A – Austin Cake Lady – One of the hottest wedding cake designs right now is the square cake, both offset and straight versions Scrollwork designs are really the ‘in’ thing, with considerably more embellishment than we’ve seen the past couple of years, even in Martha’s new books!. Magazines and brides’ orders are reflecting a new popularity for gold or silver dragees (edible beads) inset into the frosting.
Chef Neide – I’m getting many brides asking me to recreate the look of their gown and incorporate the lace, beading and style of that gown into the design. It’s a lot of work but the end result is worth it.
Q- What shape is better; round or square?
A – Chef Neide – You’ll get more cake slices out of a square or rectangle (it will feed more guests) than you will out of a round cake. So, for large weddings I always suggest square or rectangular shapes.
Q- What is rolled fondant? Does it taste good?
A – Chef Neide – Fondant is a sweet, thick, creamy sugar paste used in candies and icings. It traditionally has a vanilla taste and should be about 1/8 – 1/16th of an inch thick. Personally, I love the taste but it is very sweet so you should definitely try it.
Austin Cake Lady – The smooth look of rolled fondant which originated in Europe is popular, but buttercream frosting can also be smoothed to look like fondant without the chewy, gummy, waxy taste that some folks dislike in fondant. The cost of buttercream will also keep your budget smiling and your cake will taste much better.
Q – Can I have real flowers on my cake? If using real flowers, does the baker place these or do I need to ask the florist?
A – Chef Neide – Yes! First buy the suggested flowers from your flower shop and then have your pastry chef place them on your cake. Check with your wedding cake designer since there may be a cost to do this.
Q- What is a groom’s cake and how is it incorporated into the reception?
A – Chef Neide – The groom’s cake is an old southern tradition; usually a fruit cake or chocolate cake, but cheesecake and red velvet cake have become a popular choice. The style and flavor can be selected by the groom but should be smaller than, and not as grand as, the wedding cake so as not to be in competition. Model the design of the cake after the groom’s interests or hobbies. Cake can be served at the wedding rehearsal dinner, at the reception or boxed and given to guests to take home.
Q- Can I taste samples of wedding cakes? How long does it take to do a cake tasting?
A – Chef Neide – Yes, I would suggest that everyone have a cake tasting. Some bakers do charge a fee for the tasting sessions though. Please ask in advance so there are no surprises.
Q – Will my chef deliver my wedding cake or will I have to pick it up?
A – Chef Neide – Some bakeries and cake designers do not deliver, but some will. Some charge for delivery. The cost could be as much as $50 per half hour. So, be sure to inquire.
Austin Cake Lady – The most important question that any bride can ask a cake vendor is, surprisingly enough, not whether or not the cake is frozen (we never freeze our cakes!) but how and by whom the cake will be delivered. Will it be delivered by an experienced decorator who can repair any ‘box bump’ or ‘oopsie’ that sometimes happens as a result of the vibrations during delivery? Or will it be delivered by a $10/hour driver who sometimes delivers the wrong cake or even a frozen cake to your wedding reception?
We never deliver a cake already stacked. Each tier is in a separate box with a non-skid mat underneath the cake. We transport cakes on 4″ foam ‘beds’ with more non-skid rubber on top of the foam. Those are our ‘babies’ and we treat them as such!
Q – I’d like to know how to cut a wedding cake. Is there a proper way?
Andrew Neide – First, be sure to have a good cake knife set. You need to cut the cake 3 inches long by 2 inch high, based on a cake that feeds 100. It’s harder to cut a round cake then a square cake; you get more slices out of square.
Q- What are the best cake toppers? Are there special toppers for use on different types of cakes?
A – Austin Cake Lady – Fresh flowers for a topper still outrank any other kind of toppers and the boy-girl-type toppers are being sporadically used to set on mirrors in front of the cake instead of on top. Popularity of the monogram toppers are on the rise. Still, some couples choose figures depicting their hobbies or lifestyles.
Q – If I have a wedding cake picture, can I ask to have a wedding cake design using the photo as an example?
A – Chef Neide – Yes, most chefs will design a cake based on a photograph. However, some really enjoy the challenge of creating something unique, just for you.
Austin Cake Lady – I’ve published 1,000 wedding cake pictures online and each has a price per serving and a complete description of that cake. Feel free to browse and enjoy whether or not we’re your vendor of choice. We love what we do and hope that it shows.
Q – I have heard a lot about cupcake wedding cakes. What are these and are they elegant enough for even the most formal wedding?
A – Austin Cake Lady – I don’t do wedding cupcakes, but a few brides like them and I’ve seen some very pretty and elegant versions that are good enough for the best of venues. However, the starting price is normally higher than a slice of great wedding cake if they’re truly good-quality ‘miniature cakes’ and can run as high as $10 each or more. There’s something about a huge wedding cake that makes it the focal point of any reception. I don’t recommend “sheetcakes in the back” for the classy venues because guests normally look forward to a piece of “THAT” big cake!
Final words of caution from the Austin Cake Lady — when you’re choosing your cake designer (or any vendor for that matter) choose only those who invite you into their shops or their homes. If they don’t have a shop and can’t invite you into their homes, there is usually a reason. We actually had one vendor who had filed Chapter 11 who was still selling cakes and collecting money from brides and NOT delivering the cakes. Stick with experienced vendors who have been around for several years at least. I have noticed over past decades that about 80% of new vendors are usually out of the business within the first two years, and only the hardy survive long term. We truly don’t have ‘magic wands’ that make magnificent cakes appear–the cake business requires passion and dedication, not to mention hard work!