The wedding cake is often the aspect of the wedding that is second in command of attention to the bride. Lately, the design aspect of this age-old tradition has gone from all dressed in white to full technicolor and detail. Sadly, though, this comes at a hefty price. High-end wedding cakes can start-yes, start– at $600. So, what’s a bride to do when images of Sylvia Weinstock and Ron Ben-Israel creations are dancing in her head? How do you keep the price down and still have an extraordinary wedding cake? Here are a few tips:

Fake ‘Em Out: This is a tried and true method to fool the guests and save some green. Have your baker decorate dummy tiers for height and grandeur, have one cake that is real to cut into, and serve guests sheet cakes cut in the back by the caterer. None will be the wiser and they shouldn’t complain-after all, you and your guests will have the cake and eat it too and your baker won’t eat a hole into your wallet.

Hip To Be Square: Yes, square tiers make for a trendy design element to your cake, but that’s not the only reason why they have taken off. Square cake tiers simply feed more people. According to Baking911.com, a fourteen inch round will feed 75-80 guests while a square tier of the same size could feed 80-100. Less tiers equals more money in your pocket. Delicious!

What’s Your Flavor? : Naturally, if you have tiers of different flavored cakes, the price will go up since the baker has to put in labor to bake the cakes and make the fillings for each tier, thus giving them merit to charge more. To save some cash, pick one flavor and one filling for the entire cake. This may be where compromise comes into play, but who can go wrong with vanilla?

Up To Bat for Buttercream: As we have seen from the plethora of wedding cake shows out there, fondant is a favorite when it comes to high-end cake design. After all, its porcelain finish is magic. However, fondant is also much more expensive. Also, let me tell you a little secret: it doesn’t even taste good! I can’t tell you how many times I’ve peeled back the fondant on a cake to get to the good stuff, i.e., the buttercream. So, just cut out the middle man (and some dollars to boot) and go with buttercream frosting for the entire cake. Rest assured that your baker and cake decorators can smooth it out so well that it will look just as fabulous as fondant-and, it will taste much better.

Keep It Simple, Stupid: Unless you’re a die-hard minimalist, a plain frosted cake won’t cut it for the wedding. You may want flowers, ribbons, bling, hand-painted scroll work…but, hold it there. Such labor intensive details can drive the cost of your cake through the roof. So, forgo the 24 karat gold accents and mountains of flowers and go for chic piping and borders of buttercream. As for flowers, there are a couple of options. You could either opt for one huge standout gum paste bloom instead of many smaller buds (very Carrie Bradshaw, non?), you could go for classing buttercream roses, or you could use the real thing (just make sure that no pesticides are on the flowers-not a great ingredient for wedding cake). Same goes for bling,-just find some inexpensive brooches to give to the baker to use as cake toppers or to hold ribbon bands together or use rock candy for the same effect.

I hope these cost-effective tips help make the trip to the cake designer a bit easier for you to swallow. Sweet dreams!

A cake like this won't send your baker laughing to the bank. (Photo taken from Brides.com)

With a little tweaking (nixing the gold and going for buttercream) a cake like this won't send your baker laughing to the bank. (Photo taken from Brides.com)

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