Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Why Do Custom Cakes Cost So Much?

 Why Do Custom Cakes Cost So Much?

What I am posting below may be long, but in light of all these shows on TV that make it look so easy to make cakes without any mention of cost, it's an eye opener to anyone looking to order a custom made cake.
It is just flour, water, sugar, eggs and a little flavoring, right?

Not quite, there is tons more to it than just the basic ingredients.
There are so many different elements that go into creating your custom cake. The ingredients are only a small part of that. Lets go over it more in detail.
In a basic 3 tier cake that serves 120-150 people there at least a dozen or two of eggs depending on the recipe, 5 pounds of flour, half a cup of vanilla, several pounds of butter, and all different types of flavorings be it chocolates, fruit, nuts and much much more. The filling and buttercream icing may contain 3 or 4 or more pounds of butter, another dozen or more of egg whites and several pounds of sugar plus the chocolate or fruit to flavor it. Then if you have fondant add 5-8 more pounds of sugar, and also the flavoring.
Now you must keep in mind the equipment needed to make your custom cake. Yes there are the basics in just about every kitchen such as a mixer, mixing bowl, spoon etc but not every home baker has a set of tiered cake pans in all the different shapes and sizes. When you think about all the different shapes of pans, there are the basic sheet cakes that have 4 different sizes, then there are the round, square, oval, hexagon, heart, flower and paisley pans and just about each shape comes in a 6 in, 8 in, 10 in, 12 in, 14 in, 16 in and 18 in and some even have a 20 in. Now when you think about making a cake, cakes that are not a basic sheet cake require more than one level of cake for each tier. therefore the baker must either spend double the time baking as most only have 1 pan of each size or they must buy atleast 2 of every size and shape pan. Cake baking pans are NOT cheap a basic 10 inch round pan can easily cost over $25 and for the better quality ones even $40 each. Also each cake requires different tools that are needed to decorate the cake. Some require fondant therefore need a large good quality rolling pin, if your cake has buttercream details each detail requires a special tip to make that specific detail. Each color of buttercream requires a piping bag. If you want fondant details then there must be all different kinds of fondant cutters, if you want gumpaste flowers then there is a completely different set of tools for gumpaste. It is not suprising to see a baker spend several thousands of dollars just for tools to make some of the more basic designs of cakes. Then there are all of the spatulas to smooth icing with. Now there are the cake boards that hold your cake. the bigger the cake the thicker and bigger the board the more expensive it is. Also there are boards under each tier that is in a multi tier cake and also a heavy multi tier cake requires some sort of support system just as a 2 story house so there are the dowels used. Then the box to move your cake and keep it covered from dust and dirt in the air.
Carved and sculpted cakes that are cut and shaped to look like an actual shape or item that there is not a special pan to make must use even more ingredients to make a larger cake in order to have enough cake to carve the shape that you want.
There is the bakers time to speak on the phone with your or meet you in person to talk about what type of cake you want.  The bakers time and gas in going to several different stores to buy the products to make your cake so you get a fresh cake and also to different stores to get tools that they make need to buy specially for your cake.
In addition there is the cake decorators time to bake and create your custom designed cake, his or her experience, and possibly tons of money spent in testing and perfecting their recipes so you have a great tasting cake. As well as countless hours taking workshops to learn new techniques.
You are paying for the decorators baking and decorating experience in using recipes that are tasty but can stand up to the weight of a large tier cake, their experience in the structural engineering of your support systems, the artistry of the decorations put into your cake, and sculpting skills in creating toppers, flowers, characters etc to decorate your cake with. Some flowers can take up to 4 hours to create just 1 gumpaste flower.
You are not just paying for the ingredients put into making your cake you are paying for the skills and time of the cake decorator. The decorator may have a family and children just as many of you do but will spend several hours of their day doing very time consuming jobs of making special custom sculpted decorations for your cake.  
Consider also that just the smallest simple cake usually takes 8-10 hours from start to finish or longer and up. The more elaborate cakes or more difficult designs can take 24 to even 48 hours or more to make every detail of your cake. It is a wonder that cakes dont cost more than they do.
Think about it... if you go to buy a wedding dress you can spend a couple hundred on a simple dress that is the lower quality fabric with no designs on it. Or you can buy a more expensive dress that has lace, sequins, silk, bead work etc. the more detailed the dress the more it cost due to the time and things needed to make it. It is the same with a cake.
When you really break down what you are paying for your cake compared to how much the actual food items cost to make your cake. Take the difference that is left for the tools, time shopping for your items, time mixing, baking, cooling, decorating and adding the special details to your cake. many times it isnt even minimum wage when broken down by how many hours was actually spent on your cake. Would you want to do your job and get paid hardly anything for all of the time that you took away from your family to do your job??
Just a thought... if you get together 20 or 25 of your very close friends and family and took them out to a nice restaurant for a special dinner, would you expect to pay any less than $3-$6 per serving for a special desert?  25 people at $5 per desert is $125 and that is for a basic desert that many other people in the restaurant are eating also not a custom decorated desert that is made special for your event.
Just a thought for those that think custom cakes cost too much...

"But I can got to (insert local grocery here), and get a sheet cake for half that price?"  That is fine, you get what you are paying for.  Most grocery bakeries do not bake their cake goods on site, they are ordered in frozen.  Their icing is ordered in pre-made in buckets.  Their decorators are expected to pump so many cakes out per day, making time spent on your order details minimal.  Ordering a custom cake from custom baker means your order is baked fresh, your icing is made fresh, with fresh ingredients (no artificial flavors).  Not to mention the personal attention to your wants and needs. 

I found the above a long time ago and wanted to re-post this. This is one of the most stressful parts of my job, because I know I never charge enough.  I do not consider myself a cake decorator, I am a "cake artist".  My medium is cake and icing.  I have over $1000+ (it keeps growing) invested in my tools and equipment. You can ask my husband, I am typically up until at least 2-3am the day before working on my cakes.  I typically do not charge nearly enough to cover my hours (usually day) of labor (from start to finish of baking a basic cake).  I just recently wrote a check for $180 for classes to take to further learn and hone my skills, and that doesn't include my hotel (they are in Orlando) and food for the two days.  I pour myself into every cake I do, and I beat myself up over every imperfection that the customer never sees.  I lose sleep over whether they are going to like their product.  If you are looking for quantity, then maybe I am not the baker for you.  If you are however looking for quality, then I can help you out.  Just please understand that I am not just making you any cake, I am making you YOUR cake, and YOURS alone.  I am here to make your day special, regardless of the occasion.