Recently I've had some enquiries for cakes orders where my quotes for the cake requested have been met with a bit of surprise at the price. Now, everyone has a budget in their mind when they ask for a quote for anything, and as a cake baker, it's easier to understand that budget first when quoting. The reason being is I can give options/suggestions that are more in line with the budget for the cake. You might not end up with a cake that is what you had in mind but if price is your driver then knowing the budget beforehand is great.
Sometimes, I will be sent a picture of a 3 tier birthday cake with complex details on each tier and then individual figurines and there will be an expectation that it can be done within the region of say £50 when it will cost double that or more to make.
So I thought I would write a blog and be transparent about why cakes cost what they do and why whether it's a home based business or a shop front, the price of a bespoke cake will be near enough the same. And also to explain why bakers can't match the prices of a bulk, factory processed cake you would get from a supermarket.
The best ingredients are used and the freshest ingredients are used, meaning for every order, the produce can be traced back to the supplier. This means they cost a bit more to ensure the cake tastes as fresh and as good as it possibly can.
Whether being baked in a shop or a home based business, gas, electricity and water are all used to produce the ordered cake. Sometimes the oven can be on for hours depending on the size of the cake and the number of tins that can fit in the oven. Big industrial kitchens will have industrial sized ovens meaning less time is needed as cakes can be baked in one round. Efficiencies can be made in these scenarios. In a home based kitchen this isn't possible.
The use of equipment such as baking tins, bowls, mixers, palette knives, sieves and all the other utensils needed to make a cake will have wear and tear costs within the order. In addition, if bespoke, new tools are needed to create a specific effect for a cake order, the cost of these utensils will also be added in to the order. When you think of a restaurant, wear and tear on their plates and utensils will be included in their meals prices so they can replace equipment when needs be over time. This is a very small percentage of the quote.
4. Packaging and cake toppers
People often forget about the cake board and box that the cake comes packaged in for ease of transport and to be protected from outside aspects such as dust when travelling with the cake. This is also a requirement from a health and safety perspective. These costs have to be covered in the quote.
Acrylic cake toppers have become really popular over the last 18 months and these are quite expensive to buy in and also need to be included in the cake quote. Sometimes they can't be sourced from in this country so there will also be a delivery charge.
Then there's the time it takes to make a cake. Depending on complexity, these times can vary and this will mean cake prices will vary. If you think about the time it takes to make one cake and then a 3 tier is wanted, the time will be three times what it took to make the one cake. Most bakers don't even charge themselves a minimum hourly wage as they try to keep the cost down. However, when you think the time spent on one order means it's time not spent on another order as you can't physically work on more than one cake at a time. Let's take fondant flowers for example, they look beautiful on a cake but the time to make just one of those, a rose or peony for example will take about an hour and a half to make one flower.
I hope this gives an understanding of why bespoke, homemade cakes cost what they do and if you think about it when you order from a baker, you are getting a cake that is completely unique and special to you or the person it is for. A lot of work goes into creating that cake and it's not a cake you would ever be able to get from a supermarket.
If you do have a budget though, there are alternative options that can be suggested to try and accommodate the budget you have, but sometimes this won't be possible based on expectation.
When I chat to people about what their favourite cake is, I'm always so shocked to hear that a simple vanilla sponge comes out top every time. Now don't get me wrong, I fall into that category as I love vanilla sponge with a simple vanilla buttercream - YUM! But I think I thought with all the different flavours out there such as red velvet, salted caramel etc, vanilla would lose out to some more innovative flavours. But it just goes to show 'old skool' is the best!
With that being said I thought I would share my super simple vanilla sponge recipe that is fool proof. Anyone can make it and then once it's baked you can fill it, cover it with whatever filling or topping you fancy.
The below recipe makes either two thick layers of sponge or for an impressive 4 layered cake, cut each baked sponge in half. If you want to make an 8 inch cake, just double the recipe.