simple wedding cake

How can I save money on my wedding cake?

Ah, the cake. Having a gorgeous and sweet treat to celebrate your wedding day is one of those quintessential things that most brides and grooms are excited about. That is until they figure out how much a wedding cake actually costs.

I’m not going to be around the bush here: a traditional wedding cake is expensive. For a multi-tiered cake from a professional wedding cake baker, you’re looking at prices being $2000 and up. I don’t know about you, but for me, that’s kind of a crazy amount of money to pay for cake (and don’t get me wrong, I LOVE cake).

Well brides and grooms, if you’re with me in thinking that $2k is too much to spend on a wedding cake, it’s time to get smart and find those tiny hacks and secrets to cut costs. Today, I’m going to walk you through how to save money on your wedding cake with these 12 awesome tips. Ready for more budget-friendly knowledge? Read on!

If you’re considering how to save money on a wedding cake, know that you don’t have to sacrifice taste or style remain under budget. Professional cake bakers know all the best tips and tricks to trim costs while still delivering a final product you’ll absolutely love.

When it comes to choosing your wedding cake, there are SO many options to choose from. Do you dress it up in fondant, layer it with buttercream or strip it down and serve it naked? Luckily for us, having so many types of wedding cakes to choose from means you can definitely find a wedding cake that fits within your budget! While you can always opt for wedding cake alternatives such as cupcakes, cake pops or macarons, when it comes to tradition, the wedding cake takes the cake. These tips will help you to find the perfect wedding cake for your budget without sacrificing those super sweet bites.

The key to a beautiful wedding cake without overspending? It all comes down to finding a cake baker who understands your budget limitations and will work to find creative solutions. Whether it looks like simpler design elements or more cost-effective ingredients, there are so many ways to make a budget cake work, and we’ve got the insider ideas to get you started.

Skip elaborate design elements

The most expensive part of a wedding cake? Custom designs, according to Dawn Kappelman of Dawn’s Couture Cakes in Ottumwa, Iowa. “The more elaborate a cake; the more time is spent decorating; hence a higher price,” Kappelman said. Think design elements like multiple tiers, fondant flowers, metallic detailing, hand painting, or unique shapes, which all can contribute to a much steeper price point.

If you have your heart set on a work-of-art wedding cake, make sure to keep expectations in line with your budget and allow your designer to scale back the vision if necessary.

Embrace simplicity

When thinking about how to save money on a wedding cake, take a less is more approach. This can be done by sticking to a smaller-scale buttercream frosted creation or opt for a minimally or unfrosted confection, also known as the “naked cake.” Both options will likely trim back costs significantly compared to a spendier fondant frosted option.

To gussy up your sweet and simple dessert, Kappelman suggests ordering some extra blooms from your florist. “Couples can order a gorgeous simple buttercream iced cake with fresh florals, which is very on-trend,” she said. “They can have their cake and eat it too!”

Nix the groom’s cake

Most popular among Southern weddings, a groom’s cake is an additional wedding cake displayed and served at the reception. Often decorated to express the groom’s favourite colours, interests, or even a sports team, these quirky cakes can add up in costs with their custom theme design elements. While they’re certainly a fun way to honour the man of the hour, feel free to skip this cake tradition if you’re tight on funds and simply focus on one cake instead.

Be savvy with a sheet cake

When considering how to save money on a wedding cake, one of the easiest tricks is to order a small tiered display cake and serve sheet cake to your guests. This genius workaround gives couples the opportunity to have the classic cake cutting moment during the reception without breaking the bank. Worried about the guest experience? Keep in mind those sheet cakes will be tucked back in the kitchen so your guests will only be able to see the plated final product.  

Opt for slimmer slices

Not surprisingly, smaller cake slices will allow your dollar to stretch further. Don’t be afraid to ask your cake baker to serve a standard slice alongside a half or three-quarters slice so you can visually see the difference. Some couples decide slimmer slicing is the way to go—especially if they’re planning on a new dessert bar—and there’s no doubt they’ll save on cake costs in the process.

Consider scaling back on cake slices and see if your caterer can also include a round of sweets to supplement (think: passed chocolate-covered strawberries, assorted cookies or mini truffles). Let your caterer know they should cut tasting portions to about three-quarters of the usual amount, and plan to plate your cake slices with the other desserts. Ask your caterer to place slices on a buffet or cake table instead of serving a plate at every place setting—or have the staff bring bite-size pieces right to your guests on the dance floor so they can enjoy cake while getting down.

Ask about accessories

When interviewing a potential cake baker, make sure to inquire whether they’ll provide all the “extras” like a pretty cake stand, a cake topper, and cutting utensils. All these accessories can quickly add up and should be considered in your overall cake budget. However, even if your baker doesn’t provide them directly, they should be able to suggest where to purchase those accessories at a great price.

Pare down your flowers (or choose real ones)

If your heart’s set on flowers, go with fresh blooms or choose flat designs such as painted flower motifs instead of ornate sugar flowers. Sugar flowers are very labour intensive—it can take anywhere from 30 minutes to two hours to mould and dust one pretty sugar replica. (Now you know why they’re so gorgeous.) To pare down the cost, choose a simple cake with one large stem or a spray of flowers on a single-tier cake. Another trick is to choose sugar flower types that don’t require as much time and detail. For example, skip the cascade of peonies and shoot for hydrangeas or calla lilies. But fresh flowers are one of your best bets for a cost-friendly alternative. Just let your florist in on your plans so they can source pesticide-free and food-safe buds.

More labour for your baker means more cash coming out of your wallet. That means if you’re looking for fancy sugar-spun creations decorating your cake, you’re out of luck on the budget front. However, if you’re a little more flexible with your wedding cake decor, consider using real flowers instead of having your baker make them from frosting.

Not only does this look more stunning (in my humble opinion), it eliminates the guests’ experience of having a weird mouthful of chalky frosting in their mouths when they take a bite of cake. Just make sure you’re decorating with in-season flowers!

Most bakeries and cake decorators will charge by the amount of labour required for the cake design. Elaborate designs (such as those stacked with sugar flowers) will provide the drama you’re after, but will also drive up the cost. If you’re looking to save money on your wedding cake, get a similar effect by simplifying the design. If there’s an ornate or difficult wedding cake design you’re lusting after, consider asking your baker to modify it to help reduce the price. For example, choosing one large statement flower as a focal point can really make an impact. Or, ask for a few larger flowers such as calla lilies or hydrangeas, which will be a less expensive alternative to smaller, time-consuming blooms. These require less work and therefore, less money!

Be resourceful with your cake display

Some couples go all out buying or renting elaborate cake stands, which are pretty, but not really necessary. Besides, most bakers will provide a decorated baseboard you can place right on the table. Once you have your cake display, focus on adding to the space around it—choose fun linen from home, lush greenery, old family wedding photos, candles or flowers to bring some life to the table.

Choose buttercream

In the world of frosting, there are two big hitters: buttercream and fondant, and there are pros and cons to each—including cost. Buttercream is typically less expensive. Fondant, on the other hand, requires extra steps and materials and can be difficult to work with, making it more expensive. But do your due diligence regardless and don’t assume your cake will be less costly with buttercream: You might want a smooth, seemingly simple appliqué finish on a buttercream cake when in reality, this pristine style requires precision and time. Long story short, you may not save as much as you’d hoped. And some bakers may charge you extra for fondant, especially if you’re requesting a lace appliqué or a detailed pattern design, so it’s good to ask your baker these questions upfront.

Go naked

Another way to save money on your cake is to skip an outer layer of frosting. Naked cakes are not only gorgeous to look at, they’re actually pretty practical too. They’re a lot less expensive because they use less buttercream and take less time—it’s as simple as that. To make up for the lack of frosting on the outside, up the wow factor on the inside by experimenting with unique flavours and fillings, like lemon curd, champagne buttercream or chocolate ganache with toasted almonds.

Have your cake pull double-duty

Here’s a fun idea: Instead of spending extra on your favours, have slices of your cake packaged in to-go boxes, so your guests get their dessert as a take-home on their way out the door. You could also serve your cake first and use cake slices or cupcakes decorated with everyone’s names and table assignments as escort cards.

Choose a boutique bakery (or add a cake to your catering package)

You might not get tons of tiers, intricate patterns or realistic-looking sugar flowers, but if you love your local bakery, ask if they’d be willing to make your wedding cake. Because they’re not a wedding-specific bakery, you may have more limited design choices—but the savings can be big. Otherwise, ask your caterer if they include cakes in their packages. Sometimes if you order your cake from your caterer, the overall cost will be lower. Some caterers even require you to use them, and if you don’t, they’ll charge a fee for bringing in another baker. So make a little cost comparison to snag the best deal.

Forget About the Groom’s Cake

If a groom’s cake is a tradition where you live, don’t be afraid just to forgo it. A whole other cake is an extra cost that probably no one will miss. If the groom wants a cake of his own, consider having a talented friend or family member make a cake and serve it at the rehearsal.

Consider an Alternative

It’s more common now than ever to serve something sweet that’s not a wedding cake. Cupcake cakes have been trendy lately, like this one from Aisle Society, and the growing trend is to have something more unique, such as a dessert bar featuring pies, cookies, doughnuts, and just about anything else you can think of.

The guests will be so delighted by something they haven’t seen before, and they won’t even notice that the cake is missing.

Ditch The Cake Altogether

Maybe you’re not a cake person. Or, maybe you decide wedding cakes just aren’t worth it after shopping around for the right price. Well, you’re in luck because there’s no wedding rule book that says you MUST have cake. I’m sure you’ve seen this on Pinterest already, but brides and grooms everywhere are getting creative and finding sweet treats for cake substitutes. Consider getting cupcakes, doughnuts, pies, or even less traditional sweets like pancakes for your wedding cake. Seeing as these aren’t wedding speciality items, you’ll probably be able to pick up enough sweets to feed your guests at a fraction of a wedding cake’s cost.

For example, a dozen doughnuts might set you back by about $15 — if you’re getting enough for your entire reception of 150 people, that’ll set you back a little less than $200. Now that’s a steal!

So there you have it brides — the sweet, sweet ways you can save on that irritatingly expensive wedding cake. I’m lucky enough to have wonderful family members who volunteered to bake the majority of the sweet treats and just have to worry about getting a small cake to cut for the reception.

What are you doing for your wedding desserts? Did you have any tricks for saving dollar bills on your wedding cake? Let us know in the comments!

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