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Why are bespoke cakes so expensive?

Updated: Jan 8, 2023

Here is a question that is like a white elephant in the room. It's a fair question to ask if you don't know what goes into the making of a bespoke cake. I feel the following article would apply to many artists and small businesses, as there is more to it than just the final product!

I have to say that all our clients are very respectful of the work and time that goes into our creations. It is apparent when they see their cake for the first time, to when they finally get to taste it!

However, all cake businesses get potential clients who don't understand how we can justify our prices and that is ok! We don't have time to go through the ways we price up our work every time this happens, so here I have outlined some major contributing factors which I think could make an interesting read for anybody who has considered buying hand crafted products.

There is a difference between buying a supermarket birthday cake and ordering a custom made cake. The supermarket churns out simple mass produced cakes that you cannot customise. They are not concerned with small details or a perfect finish. You cannot choose the flavour or the size, they are as they are.

A cake maker makes a cake specifically for you with exactly what you want on it for the price that you agree to.

The first thing I say to people is that you are not just 'buying a cake'. You are hiring an artist to create something to your exact requirements, it just happens to be edible art made of cake.

It's the same as if you were to have a wedding dress custom made, it isn't 'off the rack'. You are hiring a designer to put the time into designing your dream dress, sourcing the materials and then making it. You are paying for their time spent on your order, the materials, overheads and, of course, profit.

You are also paying for their expertise. In the same way you go to a hair salon, you will pay a premium for the most experienced stylist in there and a lower rate for a junior stylist. You cannot expect to pay the same price for a cake made by a novice baker and a cake from a highly established luxury cake company.

More experienced artists will have spent time, money and energy on training, classes and tutorials to improve their skills and this will eventually be reflected in their pricing.

I've been told many times that it's just sugar, butter, eggs and flour and therefore cannot be that expensive. This is true if all you want is the sponge and you're going to make it yourself. But in addition to the cost of labour, there's the buttercream, curds or jams, chocolate ganache, fondant, modelling pastes, flowers pastes, lustres, food colours, sprinkles, macarons, meringues, gold leaf... the list can be endless. Not to mention all the non cake elements that are included within that cost price, such as cake boards, dowels, boxes, branded labels and equipment.

Further still, even if your cake maker is home-based, like us, they still have overheads. These can be anything from utilities, fuel, web hosting, software subscriptions and other boring admin costs!

When it comes to cake pricing, not all cake makers will price their products the same. For example, some novice bakers may not pay themselves a wage whilst they gain experience. Experienced cake designers will pay themselves an hourly rate which will be in accordance with how much they value their time or their skills.

If an artist is high demand, you will pay a premium to secure their precious time.

All art is specific to the artist and not one is the same as another. If you send one cake design to two bakers, they will execute them very differently! We've been asked to 'price match' on occasion, as if we're Currys PC World. Sadly, in the world of bespoke products, it is not the same as choosing where to buy a particular model of laptop.

If the cake maker is keen for your business, they may well agree to lower their price but in our experience as employees as well as business owners, this request is rarely well received. If anybody was asked by their employer to take a pay cut because someone else can do it for less, I'm sure they'd feel very insulted!

Getting a custom made cake is definitely a luxury these days and it is important to understand what you can get for your preferred price range. There are cake makers to suit every budget but if you are keen to book an artist who costs a bit more than you're hoping to pay, you will definitely need to be open to the idea of simplifying your request or perhaps even asking the artist what they could create for your budget.

We are grateful for every order we get and flattered when clients come to us and ask what we can create for them. It means they value our work and trust us to design something for them that works for both of us.

It is ok not to go ahead with an order if it's more than you'd like to spend, perhaps you can ask for a recommendation for other bakers who might be within your price range. I certainly don't mind when clients ask me this.

Another idea would be how to put together your own cake on a budget, and this will be anther blog post for another time!

I hope this helps to explain some of the mysteries behind ordering a bespoke cake and if anyone thinks I have missed anything, do let me know.

If anyone would like to share this blog post, please feel free to do so but please credit me as the author and put a link to our website!

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