Although we are seeing some couples forgo the traditional wedding cake entirely in favor of unique alternatives, like towers of cheese and pie stations, most weddings in the U.S. still include a wedding cake. The cake, after all, is one of the most time-honored wedding traditions in existence, right up there with the dress, the venue, the ceremony, the flowers, etc. That said, figuring out what cake is right for you and your budget is no easy task when there are many factors that impact wedding cake pricing.
Meet the Expert
“Cake price is determined by the intricacy of the finished design, the complexity of cake flavor, (i.e. white cake with white buttercream filling and frosting versus white cake with Bavarian cream and fresh strawberry filling and buttercream frosting, the latter is about 30 percent more in price), and, of course, how many tiers (the more tiers the harder to transport and the more to decorate) and hand delivery to the venue,” says Melissa Redell of The Solvang Bakery in Solvang, California.
Here, the full scoop on all the elements that play into cake pricing to help you figure out exactly what cake is right for your special day.
How Much Does the Average Wedding Cake Cost?
The average U.S. wedding cake costs around $350, according to Thumbtack, an online service that matches customers with local professionals. On the lower end, couples spend around $125 and on the higher end, they typically spend upward of $700—often over $1,000!—on their wedding cake.
Cake Pricing Factors
Just like calculating the costs with all of your other wedding vendors, wedding cake pricing depends on a multitude of factors. Below, a breakdown of what determines the cost.
- Ingredients (Exotic ingredients or specialty cakes that are vegan or gluten-free will typically cost more.)
- Size of the cake and number of tiers
- Level of intricacy with designs, colors, and style (For example, if the cake has an edible gold leaf or ombre frosting, it may increase the price.)
- Type of frosting (Typically, a fondant or gum paste cake are both more expensive than buttercream.)
- Delivery fees
- Add-ons such as cake stands/toppers (You can buy or rent these!)
How to Estimate Costs
To estimate wedding cake costs, the first thing you need to figure out is how many people and slices you'll be serving. If you are doing a seated dinner with a dessert course and the wedding cake is the dessert you will be serving, you will need a slice for every single guest. (This will drive your cake cost up because the size will inevitably increase.) However, if you are doing a whole dessert station or family-style desserts, it’s safe to say that not every guest will have a slice so you are going to need less cake.
It’s important to keep in mind that most wedding cakes are priced out by the slice. Typically, they run around $2.50 to $8 per slice in the U.S., according to Bake My Day Baking in Dallas, but they often get closer to $12 per size with some of the more labor-intensive designs and specialty ingredients.
“We have a minimum starting point and then add price based on time to execute the design, not so much by the slice,” says Jamaica Crist of Top Tier Treats in Los Angeles. “The price on any two-tiered or larger cake does tend to average between $7 to $9 per slice, as a base point. It can go way over that depending on the intricacy involved.”
A good rule of thumb is the more specialty the cake, the more expensive it’s going to be. Think: crazy, elaborate shapes, custom sugar flower detailing, fondant frosting...all of these are going to drive up the price because they are either more labor-intensive or require more expensive materials and ingredients, or both. For example, at The Solvang Bakery, fondant designs are around $10 per slice while other frosting finishes are around $6.
How to Estimate the Right Cake Size
To help you figure out the right size of cake for your big day, Thumbtack shared this helpful serving size breakdown for a classic round-tiered cake, below.
- 5-inch round: 8 servings
- 6-inch round: 12 servings
- 7-inch round: 16 servings
- 8-inch round: 24 servings
- 9-inch round: 32 servings
- 10-inch round: 38 servings
- 11-inch round: 47 servings
- 12-inch round: 56 servings
- 13-inch round: 67 servings
- 14-inch round: 78 servings
- 15-inch round: 89 servings
What’s Included and What’s Additional
You should work directly with your wedding planner and cake designer to find out exactly what’s included in your cake price because it varies by cake designer. In general, the price will include the below.
- A design consultation
- A cake tasting
- The actual cake (of course!)
Things that might not be included in the estimate you receive are items like a cake stand or display, cutting utensils, cake toppers, or an extra top tier (to save and eat on your 1-year anniversary, if that’s your thing). Ask your venue/caterer if they are able to provide the cake stand and cutting utensils to potentially help cut down on costs.
You should review and clarify all of this with your cake designer before signing the contract and proposal to make sure there are no surprise, costly additions to your budget.
5 Ways to Cut Wedding Cake Costs, According to Pro Bakers
If the dollar signs on wedding cakes are threatening your budget and you are looking for ways to cut costs, there are plenty of ways to do so in the cake department.
- Serve Half Servings: A popular, easy fix is to serve half-servings, meaning smaller cake slices. For example, if you are trying to serve 200 guests, you only need a cake that serves 100 people. The reality is that most people only eat a bite if that!
- Have a "Display" Cake: This is an entirely fake cake these days for photos and “cutting” and then a separate sheet cake to serve to your guests (For comparison, sheet cake slices from The Solvang Bakery, for example, are around $2.75 per person.)
- Choose Buttercream: On the frosting front, opt for something that’s more affordable like buttercream instead of fondant, which is a more expensive frosting option. It could save your multiple dollars per slice to do buttercream instead of fondant.
- Simplify the Design: Instead of that multi-tier, sculptural cake with gold foil all over it that you had in mind, go for one or two tiers, and more basic flavors like chocolate or vanilla instead of the earl grey with orange cream cheese.
- DIY the Cake: If your venue/caterer allows it, bake it yourself. Either do it yourself if you feel up to the challenge or have a friend who is strong in the cake department make it for you. You could order a basic cake from your favorite bakery and top it with some gorgeous fresh flowers and it will be stunning! Keep in mind that DIY-ing your own wedding cake could add a whole other level of stress you might not need on your big day and it might not be worth the dollars saved.
Most importantly, know that you don’t have to spend a fortune to have a delicious, gorgeous wedding cake. You can have your beautiful wedding cake and eat it too.