I often get asked this question, especially by people who want to stay within a tight budget (say $50). I found this great article posted on her blog by "Truly Custom Cakery". She relates it to trying to ask a Mercedes dealer to lower his price because you have to have a Mercedes. The same applies for cakes or any other sculpted art. Read on to see what I mean......
Setting a Budget for your Custom Cake...
Sometimes I get a phone call or an e-mail from a potential client inquiring on a cake. They have very specific ideas about what they want and have the cake designed in their head from top to bottom. They know the colors, accent pieces, sculpted pieces, flavors, and they know what they want to pay.
So when my client calls I have some questions that need answered so we can get down to business.
- What is the date of your event?
- How many servings of cake will you need?
- Do you have a design in mind?
- Do you require delivery?
- What is your budget?
I want to elaborate on this one. Some people think it's a trick question. But it's not. There are many techniques and materials that can be used to get from raw cake and filling to finished piece of edible art. I need to know how much money you want to spend so I can choose which methods to use to get to your finished product. I need to know how much detail to include, if I can use fancier techniques like poured sugar, hand sculpted pieces, or possibly even purchasing special tools for your project. Do I need to employ a carpenter to build a frame for your cake? It's all going to play into your quote and that is why your answer is so important.
So, when you tell me you want a cake to serve 60 people and you want it to defy gravity, you want specific detail pieces (about 30 of them), you want sparkle, you want your guests to go "WOW", and you only want to spend $300.00. I need to know, HOW did you arrive at that number?
Let's get the facts.
Those shops you see on TV have a minimum order for custom cakes. One has a minimum of $1,000. And it doesn't matter if you only want to feed 25 guests. One charges $100.00 just to sit down, taste some cake, and talk to them about your design. No finished cake included in that price. And the per serving cost of a fondant decorated cake usually STARTS at about $8.00 a serving. But more likely will cost you about $12.00 - $14.00 per serving because we already know you want WOW factor.
So let's break it down. 60 servings of cake. WOW FACTOR. Budget of $300.00. That's $5.00 per serving. Which is the base price at my shop for a fondant cake. You know, where we start. (Remember those TV guys start at about $8.00) So HOW did you determine your budget of $300.00?
Did you research what custom cakes cost before you got that number? Or, is it how much you have to spend, it's a number that "sounds good", and really, it's just Cake and Icing! Right?! Let's nip this one in the bud. If it was JUST Cake and Icing, you'd have gone to the Warehouse store and picked up a sheet cake. You don't want cake and icing. You want mouthwatering edible art! There's a difference. And creating a custom sculpted/carved/designed piece of art work, requires talent, experience, time, materials, and skill. And that cost money.
So before you "decide" on your budget. Do a little research. Make sure that your budget makes sense. Make sure you account for what you are asking for. And be honest with your cake designer when they want to know your budget.
You see, you might not be able to afford a Carved 3-D cake of your fiance's dog. BUT you could afford a smaller tiered cake with a sculpted topper that looks like his dog, Rusty. There's a difference of about $300.00 or more in those two cakes. So keep that in mind. If your budget isn't reasonable for what you requested, ask your designer HOW you can still match your theme but get closer to the budget. And don't be offended if they tell you that you can't afford a custom cake. It's okay. I know I can't afford a Mercedes. I just buy the car I can afford. I don't try to tell the Mercedes dealer that he HAS to change the price of the car because I only have $15,000 to spend. He'd laugh at me.
So when you figure out your budget, make sure it is backed by a little research. AND make sure that the shop you choose has a gallery of photos that show they can pull of what you are asking. Don't be disappointed in the end because you didn't research in the beginning.
And have fun with it! Custom Cakes can truly be the centerpiece of your event. And considering it's art that you are paying for, they should be!