How Much?!! "But it's only a cake! I can buy one for £20 in Costalittle!"
You'd be surprised at how many first time customers are shocked at the cost of a custom made wedding cake, birthday cake, christening cake or any celebration cake for that matter. Designing, baking and decorating a celebration cake or wedding cake (as you'll know if you've ever tried) is not a minimum wage job. It is highly skilled task to get both the desired finish and an amazing taste!
Ask yourself this; would those customers trust a hairdresser who charged £10 an hour for a hair restyle? Would they trust a plumber or a car mechanic who charged £10 an hour to repair their boiler or brakes? I'm sure you'll agree with me that it is just too risky.
Think of your last special meal out. How much did you pay? I'm guessing that, if the food was delicious and the service was excellent, it was worth every penny! Don’t ever feel guilty because a special occasion meal creates memories and deserves you splashing out.
To me, buying a custom made wedding cake or birthday cake designed especially for that special day and comparing it to a "Costalittle" cake that has been on the shelf for a while is like comparing Michel Roux to a Hot Dog Stand. Each make perfectly edible products but you can eat a hotdog any old time.
Believe me, when you commission a cake artist or cake designer, it is not "just a cake" you are selecting. You are investing in an experience, you are making memories and your fabulous wedding cake or birthday cake will be the talking point of your special celebration.
I understand that a handmade bespoke celebration cake, in particular a wedding cake, is probably the most expensive baked good you will ever buy and I want to explain exactly why it will be worth every penny.
I'll start by describing what exactly goes into a wedding cake or other celebration cake (apart from the flour, eggs, sugar.........)
I think that expertise and experience counts.
Before the inspiration even begins your cake artist will have spent years perfecting their art. They will have paid to learn the techniques and skills it takes to produce a fabulous wedding cake or celebration cake and they will have invested time and money in practising these skills long before they ever set up their business.
Overheads have to be considered. You may think that because your baker works from home that the overheads are minimal but insurance, accounts, website, gas, electricity, water, telephone, internet, fuel, stock and the numerous items of equipment that have to be purchased, stored and maintained are still applicable. The stringent cleaning regimes, food storage and scrupulous training records and record keeping that needs to be adhered to in order to maintain a 5 star hygiene rating all take time and money.
For me, inspiration comes next. Cake artists are never off duty. Inspiration can be found everywhere. You'll see them out and about, always with a sketch book in their bag. If a customer has asked for a specific wedding cake, research may need to be carried out to perfect a new technique. Then the sketching and design will begin. This can take an hour or so before even thinking about the bake.
I believe the raw ingredients are so important. I would always ask a baker what ingredients they use. Why? Because, personally, I use quality branded products, fresh local produce and the finest fondant on the market. This does cost three times as much as other products but that is how I roll. I want my customers to have the best. You can shop around for a less expensive baker but you may lose the quality of the product.
Can I just mention that I realise there are also talented bakers out there who make wedding cakes or celebration cakes as a hobby and will just charge you for the ingredients. However, for the majority of cake artists this is their job, it is what pays their bills. You wouldn't expect a painter and decorator to paint your house for just the cost of the paint, so how can a professional cake artist produce a cake for just the price of the ingredients?
Now we get to the actual baking. Weighing, mixing baking the cakes and fillings.
Then it's time to level and fill. This stage is the foundation of a fabulous finished product. Each layer of cake has to be painstakingly levelled, filled, stacked and crumbcoated. This will go into a fridge to chill before the final coat of ganache or buttercream is applied and smoothed to perfection.
Are you still with me? Good - because at last the final decoration begins. It may be that the ganache or buttercream is the final coat or perhaps the cake will now be wrapped in fondant. If you've been watching Celebrity Bake Off then you will see what a difficult task this can be to perfect. Cakes with sharp contemporary edges are more time consuming but so worth it.
Depending on the final design, sugar or wafer paper flowers, models, isomalt structures, macrame, textured finishes, gold leaf, piping, airbrushing etc., etc. may need to be designed, modelled and applied. These elements take time and skill to make. Decorating a wedding cake can take anything from a several hours to several days.
We can't forget the cake board! Many amateurs do and it can let the whole centrepiece down. The base for the cake will need to be covered in fondant, decorated and ribbon applied before the cake stacked and finished.
The cake is now hopefully ready to be boxed up and ready to be delivered or collected.
The washing up and cleaning of all of the kitchen and utensils can now begin as well as a stock take and reorder of any ingredients for the next cake. All paperwork needs to be filled in and invoices raised.
I hope these steps convey that, all in all, designing, baking and decorating a bespoke celebration cake, birthday cake or wedding cake is a fabulous job and it's an absolute privilege to play a part in such wonderful celebrations.
Now that you're au fait with the elements of this highly skilled job, I'm sure you'll give some thought to working on a realistic budget, the next time you ask a cake artist to make a celebration cake. £50 will probably not even cover the ingredients and accessories required and undervalues the skill and time it takes to produce a one of a kind custom made cake.
For anyone working to a tight budget, supermarkets make mass produced cakes for everyday occasions. However, if you are looking for an unprocessed, one of a kind, hand baked, high quality wedding cake or birthday cake then contact your local cake designer.
So what will you choose for your next party - a Hotdog or Dinner at The Ivy?
Please get in touch if you have any questions. I'd love to chat cakes with you.
Love Lisa x