What is the average cost of a wedding cake (UK)?

Pink Chocolate Semi Naked Cake - Farnborough, Hampshire - Love from Lila

There are plenty of options available to you as a couple when it comes to your wedding cake. You may have a family member or friend who has offered to make your cake. You might have considered ordering a wedding cake from one of the big high street names (M&S, Tesco, Waitrose). Or if you’re here, you’re probably leaning towards the final option, a bespoke wedding cake designed and created by a professional wedding cake artist.

People often ask what the average wedding cake cost is, and annoyingly, there isn’t one answer to that question. Every cake I make is unique and therefore the cost will be completely unique to you as a couple – how many people you need to serve, the design you pick, the distance I have to travel to deliver and a few other factors. So how can you start to narrow down budget? Firstly Bridebook, the wedding planning app, compiles data every year about the wedding industry, trends and budgets. According to their 2020 annual wedding report, the average wedding cake cost in 2019 was £290. Although this is compiled from thousands of couples’ weddings making it more reliable, we don’t know which option these couples chose (friend/family, high street, bespoke) so we still need to do some extra thinking! Let’s start by looking at how the cost of a wedding cake is calculated…

How is the cost of a wedding cake calculated?

Quite simply, the cost of a wedding cake is based on how much it costs to buy all of the ingredients and materials required + the time it takes to turn those materials into a beautiful cake + some contribution to business costs. There are no secrets and no ‘hidden wedding taxes’. Here is a breakdown of how I calculate the cost of your wedding cake:

  • Cost of ingredients – butter, sugar, eggs, flour, icing sugar, jam etc.
  • Cost of materials – cake boards, dowels, parchment paper, tin foil
  • Time required to source the materials, bake the cake and turn the layers into fully stacked wedding cakes
  • Cost of decorations – fresh flowers, fruit, sugar flower materials
  • Time required to source and make the decorations
  • Mileage cost to venue
  • Time required to drive to venue and set up cake
  • Admin time to cover communicating with couples, preparing handover notes for venue, liaising with venue or other suppliers for setup, and generally managing the booking (ensuring payment arrives on time, ordering materials, managing diary, planning when and how to make the cake)
  • Additional margin to cover ‘the cost of doing business’ and leave some profit for the future – buy new or replace old equipment, pay business costs like insurance/website/LTD company fees, pay for training incl. H&S, pay for my time to run the business like respond to enquiries/quote for cakes/manage social media and website/manage accounts/develop new ideas/apply for awards/take part in styled shoots/fulfil my legal obligations, and ultimately create a professional business with sustainable cash flow for the future

You’ll already know that the cost of a wedding cake can vary greatly, from less than £100 to over £1000. The biggest factors affecting the cost are number of servings, the designer and the design.

The more the designer operates like a traditional business (and therefore charges all of the above, and perhaps additional items too like the cost of running a physical store), the higher the price will be. The less the cake maker operates like a business, the less costs and time they will need, and therefore the lower the price will be.

In both cases, the more elaborate the design, the more it will cost. There are advantages and disadvantages to working with different types of cake maker/designer, which I will go into on a future blog post, but as a general rule, the higher the price, the higher the quality and service you will receive.

It’s helpful to remember that every tier of cake represents a good chunk of budget. At the middle of the bespoke market, the average cost of a wedding cake tier is £150. However, there it will be more expensive per tier when you only have a few tiers. So a smaller 1 or 2 tier cake will feel quite expensive because it’s only small and doesn’t serve too many people. Whereas a larger 5 tier cake will feel less expensive because it will look much bigger and serve lots of people. This is because the cost of design and delivery doesn’t change much between a smaller and larger cake and therefore the same design/delivery cost is spread across the # of tiers/servings. When you think about the cost per person, this drops dramatically as the number of servings increases. Therefore, I would always recommend reducing the number of tiers you have if budget is a concern.

So what is the average cost of a wedding cake, by option?

When most people think of the ‘average wedding cake’, it’s typically 3 tiers tall and serves about 80 people. So how much will that cost?

Well if a friend or family member is making your cake, the cost of ingredients and materials will be in the region of £40-70 and it could take them 12-24 hours to make your cake depending on the design. It will cost even more if they need to buy new tins and other special equipment. If you have a family friend who makes cakes for customers, but is making your cake as a favour (or a similar situation) then a very approximate cost would be £125 to £200. Once you start looking at high street cakes, the average wedding cake cost shifts to £200-250.

Realistically, if you are ordering a bespoke wedding cake from a luxury designer for around 80 people, you can expect to pay anywhere from £450 to £750. For a bespoke wedding cake from a standard cake maker, you might find prices to be in the region of £250 to £550. To put that all into perspective, an off-the-shelf 3 tier wedding cake to serve 95 people from one of the most well-known wedding cake designers in the UK will cost you upwards of £800 excl. delivery. Just to try their cake, you are looking at a £75 consultation cost, which would be put towards your cake if you book, but lost if you choose not to book.

Semi Naked Cake with Fresh Flowers - Rivervale Barn, Yateley, Farnham, Surrey - Love from Lila

If we want a bespoke wedding cake, how much should we budget for?

So how can you figure out your own wedding cake budget, if the average wedding cake cost is between £250 and £750?

Here are my top tips for narrowing down your budget.

  1. What are you looking for in a wedding cake? Do you want something that you can show off to your friends? Do you just want something tasty that everyone will enjoy? Do you just want a beautiful statement piece, that doesn’t necessarily need to be eaten?

I think that cakes should look as beautiful as they taste, so both of these elements go hand-in-hand for me. This isn’t the same for every cake designer, so you will find some who focus more on design and others who focus more on flavour. Generally the more showstopping you want your cake to be (i.e. heavily decorated, sugar flowers, fondant finish, tall/lots of tiers) the more expensive it will be. This is partly because it will take more time to make, and partly because you should be looking at the higher end designers to ensure a quality finish. If you look at lower end designers, it will obviously cost less, but it will mean compromising on something that’s truly showstopping. Most fondant finishes will be in the £450 to £750 bracket. Semi naked finishes tend to be towards the lower end of the range, so £250 to £500. If you then factor in choosing a luxury designer who will ensure taste (and sustainability of ingredients) are ‘showstopping’, you will need to add an additional £100 (semi naked) to £200 (fondant) to your budget. If taste is just as important to you as appearance, but you’re worried that this will push the budget too far away from your plan, you might look at ordering a smaller main cake + topping up servings with cupcakes. If looks aren’t important but taste is, then you will be able to shop around for a cheaper cake maker whose finish may not be as high.

  1. What design are you looking for?

You will probably already know roughly how you want your wedding cake to look, so either a smooth white finish (like buttercream or fondant) or a more relaxed naked finish. From here, it’s a case of thinking about how complicated you want the design to be. If you look at more simple designs, you can narrow your budget down to the lower half of the ranges above. A more simple design means less elements. So just one variety of sugar flower with fillers, or fresh flowers from one source, or a few varieties of British berries. If you look at more complicated designs, you can expect your budget to be in the upper half of the ranges above. A more complicated design means more different elements and/or more work to create those elements. So you might have 3 or 4 ‘main’ varieties of sugar flower + fillers, or a combination of fresh edible flowers and harder to source tropical fruits. Alternatively, instead of using fresh fruit, you may opt for dehydrated fruits or flowers which would take your designer more time to create.

  1. Is designer or design more important to you?

You may have been lusting after the work of a particular cake designer whilst planning your wedding. They probably have a very specific style and therefore have honed their skills accordingly. If you’re looking for the work of a specific designer, they will spend the time to design something which is truly unique to you as a couple. That attention to detail in design is also often matched by a very personal and luxury service, from consultation to finished cake. However, it’s very unlikely that they are the closest designer to your venue, so it will cost a little more in delivery fees. You’re essentially buying an edible piece of art designed especially for you and that will push the price to the higher end of the ranges (if not above them). Other couples may like the work of a few different designers, and when they step back, realise that there are actually some themes in the cake designs they have picked. And it’s the design theme which is important to them, not necessarily the designers themselves. In this case, you will be able to shop around a little more to find a designer within your budget.

  1. How much are you willing to pay?

It sounds like a really silly thing to ask yourself, but you do have to sit down as a couple and consider what you believe to be reasonable. You can work through this post and pull together a budget of £400 or £550 or £700 but if you think that is too expensive, you will never be satisfied with the cake you order at that price. However, when you shift your budget down, you have to recognise that the quality will drop. You can buy a pair of look-a-like Christian Louboutin shoes for 20% of the price, but they are not the same. They aren’t packaged the same, they aren’t made with the same materials. You don’t feel the same when you open the box and you certainly don’t feel the same when you wear them.

You will hear lots of wedding suppliers talk about prioritising your budget. If the cake is important to you, put aside more budget so that you can have your dream cake. If it isn’t important, set aside less budget and be more flexible as to what can be achieved within that. You are making an investment into a part of your wedding celebration and it is worth every penny if you pick the right cake designer. There is nothing like the feeling of walking into your wedding breakfast to see the most beautiful edible creation, and having all of your family and friends tell you it’s the most beautiful thing they’ve ever seen and best cake they’ve ever tasted.

We’ve had a quote for a wedding cake, but it’s more than we had planned for. What can we do to reduce the price?

If your chosen designer’s price comes in significantly over your budget, here is some general advice to help you understand why the price of a cake may be higher or lower than expected, and therefore how you may be able to bring that down. In any case, a professional cake designer should be able to guide you in bringing your quote closer to budget:

  • The finish (or icing) you choose for your decoration will affect the price, starting with fondant at the higher end through to ganached, buttercreamed and then (semi) naked cakes (in that order)
  • Sometimes bakers will also adjust their pricing slightly for different flavours. It varies by baker as each person will use a different recipe, but vanilla and fruity flavours often cost more than chocolate ones
  • The more detailed your design, the higher the cost will be. So a fondant covered cake with lots of sugar flowers will be at the complete opposite end price-wise to a semi-naked cake decorated with fruit
  • The more elements to your design, the higher the cost will be. So if your semi-naked cake is decorated with fresh fruit, and flowers, and gold leaf, and a fruit sauce drip and dehydrated fruit slices it will take lots more work to prepare for and create than a semi-naked cake that is just decorated with fruit
  • The more time consuming your design, the higher the cost will be. Standard ruffles can take 8-12 hours to add to a cake. There are cheat’s ruffles using things like wafer paper which take 1/3 of the time, but that will still add on a good chunk of budget. Instead of thinking ‘I want a ruffle tier’, being more flexible and saying ‘I want a heavily textured tier’ would enable you to flex the budget more
  • Your choice of decoration will also affect pricing. Fresh fruit would be cheaper and easier to source. Flowers will differ, but if you are sourcing specialist flowers as you should be (read more here) then these will add a little more to the price. Other handmade decorations like sugar flowers, dehydrated fruit or pralines will cost even more
  • There’s a common misconception that if you use dummy tiers and cutting cakes, rather than edible tiers, you will save yourself money. For a small 2-3 tier wedding cake, swapping real tiers for dummies rarely saves you much money. Typically only 20-30% of costs. The designer still has to buy dummy tiers (which don’t differ much in price from the ingredients for an edible tier) and decorate them (to the same level they would an edible tier). However, dummy tiers are great for increasing the size of your 3 tier cake to make it look more dramatic without the edible price tag and food waste. For time consuming designs like ruffles, adding these to dummy cakes is likely to cost slightly less than they would on an edible tier as the designer can build up the design over a matter of weeks, rather than having to do 12 hours worth of ruffle work in 1 day before the wedding
  • The further the designer has to go to deliver your cake, the higher the price will be. If you choose a baker that is based 100 miles from your venue, that will cost more than someone based 10 miles from your venue (assuming a similar level of quality)
  • If you really want to save yourself some money, you can ask a friend or family member to collect the cake instead of the cake designer delivering it to your venue. This will only be possible with some designs, and not every designer will offer this option. But if you can trust a friend to drive slowly and carefully, then it will save you some money! Or another way to think about it, it’s budget that you could spend on a more luxurious design
  • For some bakers, date may impact price. Some designers may have a minimum order value for particularly popular wedding dates, and/or add a premium on for those dates. They should be honest if that is the case. If they do have a minimum order value and therefore have rounded your price up, there’s nothing to stop you adding on some edible favours or additional cupcakes in order to get the most out of your budget. There’s no point paying for nothing!
  • If you are willing to go for a smaller cake (e.g. 2 tier) with a cutting cake or cupcakes to top up the servings, this will typically cost less than all of your servings coming from cake (which takes more time to bake, stack and decorate)

There are very few suppliers out there who are trying to scam you, and there is no industry ‘conspiracy’ to increase the price when someone says ‘wedding’. Most wedding cake designers are authentic, reliable professionals who want you to have your dream wedding cake, at a fair price. A fair price means that they receive a fair hourly wage for the considerable amount of time they put into making your dream cake, that’s all. Hopefully this post has given you a realistic insight into the average cost of a wedding cake, and will help you budget for that dream cake. I have a page dedicated to my wedding cake pricing which you can read, or just get in touch directly. I’d love to chat to you and show you what I can do for your budget.

Good luck and happy planning!

With love from lila xx