How much does a wedding cake cost?

Wedding cakes are one of the prettiest, tastiest, and most beloved wedding traditions. Most couples choose to serve cake at their wedding, even if they also offer other dessert, simply because a wedding cake is a lovely addition to the reception: the cake itself serves as a decorative element in the room, most people love eating cake, and the act of cutting and eating your first bite of sweetness together as a married couple is a time-honored tradition. But when it planning out your wedding budget, how much does a wedding cake actually cost? While the price of a wedding cake will depend on the cake’s size, shape, and decorative elements, the average cost of a wedding cake in the U.S. is around $500. Most couples spend somewhere in the $300 - $700 range for their wedding cake, although in bigger cities, or for very large and elaborate cakes, cake prices closer to $1000 - $1200 are not uncommon.

How to Estimate The Cost Of A Wedding Cake

One important thing to know when trying to budget for your wedding cake is how cakes are priced: cake bakers price wedding cakes by the slice, not by the entire cake. The average price of a slice of cake is around $4 for buttercream and $5 for fondant.

To point out the obvious, the more slices of cake you’ll need, the more expensive your total wedding cake costs will be. Luckily we have some tips (see below) for ways you can cut down on your wedding cake expenses, including serving your guests “half-servings,” i.e. budgeting for ½ slice of cake per person.

Estimating cake sizes is just a matter of figuring out how many slices you need, and working backwards from there. Here are the general measurements for the number of slices you'll get from different cake sizes:

  • 6” tier = 14 slices
  • 8” tier = 26 slices
  • 10” tier = 40 slices
  • 12” tier = 56 slices
  • 14” tier = 78 slices
  • 16” tier = 100 slices

Factors That Affect Wedding Cake Costs

1. Cake Size: The larger the cake, the more expensive it is. “Size” here refers to both the general dimensions of the cake and the number of tiers.

2. Cake Shape: Round or square cakes are simpler to make and easier to bake in standard pans. Cakes in complex forms, like hexagons or unusual shapes, will require more labor or special equipment, and hence will cost more.

3. Cake Details: Since wedding cakes are priced based largely on their labor, the more handmade details a cake has, the pricier it will be. This includes decorative elements like fondant flowers, geodes, and other embellishments, metallic foil, and intricate icing designs.

4. Cake Frosting: There are two options when it comes to wedding cake frosting: buttercream or fondant. Buttercream is made from sugar and butter, costs less, and is considered tastier. Fondant is a sugar paste that costs more, but is more versatile when it comes to decorations. Fondant also won’t melt in warmer temperatures.

5. Cake Ingredients: If you want a special flavor or unusual ingredient in your cake, like out-of-season fruit, a fancy liqueur, or exotic nuts or spices, these kinds of custom ingredients could come with an additional charge. (And if you think going with more traditional ingredients means sacrificing flavor, you've never had a truly excellent chocolate cake!)

What’s included in the cost of a wedding cake?

Every wedding cake baker will offer slightly different packages and pricing for their cakes, so it’s a good idea to talk to several local bakers to get a sense of their offerings and compare prices. In general, most wedding cake bakers will include the following in the cost of a cake:

  1. A design consultation
  2. A cake tasting
  3. The cake itself
  4. Delivery and set up

These items may be included in the cost of your cake, or they may be extra line items you can add on to your wedding cake bill. Some bakers may not provide these at all, so be sure to check!

  1. A cake stand or display
  2. Cake toppers
  3. Cutting utensils (a cake knife and server)
  4. An extra top tier, or small anniversary cake, to be eaten on your 1-year anniversary

How To Save Money On Your Wedding Cake

When it comes to your wedding dreams versus your wedding budget, compromises always have to be made. Luckily there are some easy ways to save money on your wedding cake without sacrificing much in the way of style or presentation. Here are our best money-saving cake tips:

1. Opt for buttercream frosting. Buttercream not only tastes better to most people than fondant, but it’s cheaper—sometimes up to a $1.00 less per slice. If you’re trimming dollars, buttercream is a win-win for both taste and price point.

2. Serve “half-servings” instead of full slices. Since guests often only eat a few bites of their cake, opt to serve half-servings (a.k.a. smaller slices). Thus if you’re having 200 guests, you’ll only need to order a cake that serves 100. This is an especially great option if you’re serving an additional dessert alongside the wedding cake.

3. Combine a display cake + sheet cake. Display a petite version of your dream cake, complete with metallic paint and fondant roses, for your guests to ooh and ahh over. This will be your cake for photographing and cutting. Then order sheet cakes in the same flavor to be cut and served from the kitchen, which will save you big bucks.

4. Go for a less complex shape and design. Wedding cake prices are largely based on labor, so the harder a cake is to make, the more expensive it will be. Lower your costs by choosing a cake in a simple design, such as square or round, and minimizing the extravagant details that require a lot of time and technical skill.

5. Simplify your flavors. Check with your local baker, but often basic flavors like vanilla and chocolate will cost less than complex flavors like carrot cake or espresso.

6. DIY your wedding cake. While there are serious pros and cons to consider when choosing to DIY your wedding cake (or having a close friend or family member bake it for you), it can save you a lot of cash.

Finding the perfect wedding cake for your guests - one that's beautiful, delicious, and affordable - can be intimidating. But try not to worry. With a little planning and creativity, you can create a wedding cake order that makes a truly stunning contribution to your wedding reception. And fortunately, with a smart choice of cake sizes, shapes, and ingredients, a beautifully decorated and presented wedding cake won't break the bank.

From the cake cutting to the last delicious morsels, this is one aspect of your wedding reception you'll be glad you lavished a little extra care on. After all, the wedding cake is not just a delectable dessert - it's a time-honored tradition, and a memorable start to your new married life together.