Custom Cakes: What makes them so fancy (and expensive)?

So have you ever wondered what’s involved in creating a bespoke cake?  Well, it’s your lucky day, because I’m about to explain how it all works!  And here’s a clue - there’s a lot more to it than picking the style that you like and locking in your favourite cake flavour!

When you contact a Cake Artist for a quote on a custom cake, there is some basic information that we require first, to allow us to calculate an accurate quote, and enable us to design a product that suits your special event…

The most important information that we require is:

  • The DATE of your event - so that we can check if we have availability for your booking… there is absolutely no point spending time calculating a quote, only to find out that we are unavailable on your requested date, so to avoid wasting your (and my) time, let’s first establish that our schedules align…
  • The LOCATION of your event - whether you require delivery & setup (I recommend that the transport of any cake larger than a single tier should be left up to the professionals), or whether you plan on picking up the cake, it’s helpful to advise us of the location, so that we can calculate the delivery fee, or if pick up is requested, we can advise whether it is safe to self transport the cake… Remember, we have set up hundreds of cakes at zillions of venues, and accordingly, we are well equipped to advise on the best ways to plan your special cake…
  • The NUMBER OF SERVINGS required, and whether you plan on serving the cake as the Dessert course at your celebration, or smaller servings (we call them “Coffee” servings, but some refer to them as “Cocktail” or “Canape” servings)…
  • Any SPECIAL DIETARY REQUIREMENTS that you or your guests may have - your Cake Artist will be able to advise whether they are capable of catering for this, and also make recommendations on set-up, because substituting key ingredients like gluten, dairy & egg can adversely affect the stability of your cake…
  • The DESIGN or THEME of your event - tell us all about your style!  Do you have a colour theme in mind?  Do you dream of a super tall cake, embellished with fresh blooms and gold leaf?  Or a decadent loaded cake with all of the treats piled up on top?  Do you have some inspiration photos to work from (please note that we will not imitate a design exactly, but there’s a whole other blog to explain that - watch this space)? Tell us what you like (and don’t like if you wish), as this helps us to design something that you’ll love!

The more information that you can provide to your Cake Artist, the better - so if we have been told that you require a wedding cake, for 70 guests as the dessert course, at a heritage listed reception venue, in October, with a classic gold & ivory theme, and you’d love a tall 2 tier cake with fresh flowers - we can then make the best recommendations for:

  • The cake design - keeping in mind the style of the venue that it will be showcased within
  • Styling - including cake stand hire if required, size - calculated as close to the guest numbers as possible, without over-catering
  • Flowers - to match your bouquets and decor
  • Logistics of set-up, including the time of day for delivery and whether cold room storage will be required at your event venue.

There is a lot of thought (and time) that goes into quoting, designing, invoicing & scheduling your cake.  And that is just the beginning of the process! There are hours and hours of work in constructing a custom cake, and we need to plan our schedules ahead of time to allow for this.  Like a lot of other Cake Artists, I juggle my cake business with shifts in my day job (I still work in a Clinical role in addition to running my business), so my time is split into “before work” and “after work” tasks. This is why we usually need a minimum of 2 weeks lead time for any booking (and that’s if we still have availability when you book this close to your event), so that we can ensure that we have everything covered before we go ahead and create your masterpiece!

Before we even set foot in the kitchen, we need to source or make the embellishments, including custom cake toppers, macarons, gold leaf, fruit, fresh flowers, sugar flowers, sprinkles, figurines, stencils, specialty chocolates and edible lace.  We need to make sure we have all of these items on hand, so that we are ready to work on your cake!

We also need to stock up on all of the premium ingredients required to make the cake flavours of your choice - including deluxe chocolate, free range eggs, vanilla bean paste, fresh berries - and then there are hours of time working in the kitchen, in the mixing & baking of the cake layers, so that they can be wrapped & cooled, ready to be stacked & decorated.

Your cake artist will create everything from scratch, making buttercream, ganache, salted caramel sauce, citrus curds and coulis, so that when your cakes are stacked, they are filled with the most amazing flavours.  There’s always a good chance that your Cake Artist was up way past your bedtime, creating all of those components that make your cake so special and delicious (and of course putting it all together too)!

Then there’s the styling… This is something that we have learned how to finesse over many years.  We have spent A LOT of time learning how colour palettes work, how to place embellishments “effortlessly”, and how to finish the cake perfectly. Do you see those gorgeous fresh flowers that are styled on those fancy wedding cakes?  Well, it’s not as easy as just cutting the stems and sticking them straight into the cake - they need to be wired & taped, and there are hours of work in cleaning & preparing the blooms so that they can be safely styled on your cake.

If you have requested sugar flowers, there SO MANY HOURS of work in these - as they are hand crafted, with exceptional skill and care. Not everyone has the skills to make realistic sugar flowers, and it takes years to learn how to make realistic looking flowers.

In the case of a loaded cake, the treats don’t just land themselves magically in place - there is a lot of time spent behind the scenes, with us artfully styling & finessing items on your cake - it’s certainly not as easy as it looks! Please remember that if you want a bespoke cake, it will also have a bespoke price tag - there are many hours of work that go into each of our creations.

And your Cake Artist has spent many hours of many years refining and perfecting their skills to be able to do all of this for you!

We each have the capacity to create a handful of perfect and unique cakes every week - there is absolutely nothing mass-produced, and we can’t slap together 20 cakes at once like a commercial bakery.  If your budget doesn’t allow for a custom cake (and that’s totally ok by the way), your Cake Artist will usually be able to suggest a number of fabulous local bakeries that are able to cater to your requirements...  So, are you ready to talk cake now?