Blog Archive

Monday, November 11, 2013

Why Does My Custom Cake Cost SO Much?

I've talked about this before. I've outlined what exactly goes into cake, such as the ingredients, the time, the expertise, etc., but still some people think, "It's just cake! We're going to eat it, so why pay so much?"

When you buy a cake from the grocery store, it's not a work of art. It's a frozen piece of blank canvas that came from a factory and has butt-ercream piped on it which took 20 minutes at most.
Ready for an edible image.

So now I bet you're thinking, "How can cake be art? There's molds and cutters for everything, right?"
Yes, there's lots of molds and cutters out there, but what if you want something like this? (Warning, the next image, while delicious, is kind of gruesome.)

Via Sideserf Cake Studio
Um, no. There isn't a mold for severed heads that look exactly like the bride and groom.
Now, this cake is what we like to call a work of art. The detail is fantastic: the hair, the eyes, the skin, the blood. All of it is fantastic. In no way is this "just cake." 

So how much can this possibly cost? Well, let's pretend that this isn't cake. Let's pretend that you're actually paying for two bust sculptures made out of cement, stone, or plaster. Keep in mind that these busts will look like you and your counterpart. Here's the price of one custom made bust:
Via Etsy
Yeah, that's right. Over $5,000 for one bust, made out of stuff that is made to be sculpted with.

Cake, on the other hand, wasn't really made for sculpting. It falls apart if it's too dry. It won't hold it's shape if it's not dense enough, but make it too dense and it's inedible. Covering the sculpture to hide the fact that there is cake underneath is another job in itself. Sure, there's modeling chocolate and different tools to make it easier, but keep in mind that this stuff is perishable. If the cake artist doesn't keep everything fresh while simultaneously creating a masterpiece, then it's all for nothing. Cake artists have an incredible task, especially in today's art-heavy culture.

So no, it's not "just cake" when you want something of that magnitude. There are no molds or stencils when creating something truly unique. A cake artist will spend countless hours to create a masterpiece, so they deserve the appropriate compensation. Custom cake is not meant to be cheap. Correction: custom ARTWORK is not meant to be cheap. 


  1. True. Although I took offense to "When you buy a cake from the grocery store, it's not a work of art. It's a frozen piece of blank canvas that came from a factory and has butt-ercream piped on it which took 20 minutes at most."....
    It might just be a blank canvas, and a mere 20 minutes, but it's still skill, and someone's time. That 1 cake you buy, is just 1 of 40 that some grunt worker like me stood there in 1 spot for 7 hours and made. It might not be a work of art, but someone, a grocery store decorator and at home cake novice, took pride in it.

    1. Yes, it is true that someone took time to make it. But that's not the point of this post. The point is that people think all cake is alike when it clearly is not. Sheet cakes aren't art. They're just another factory item like all the other things in the grocery stores. However, it's also true that piping takes skill which is lost on even some of the best of custom cake artists. Anyway, the reason I wrote this is to bring attention to the amount of time and consideration that goes into a custom cake, not to say that sheet cake makers are any less of bakers/decorators.

  2. Great post! I have the same conversations with my clients and I don't know why it's so hard to get a grip on. Maybe because the day after the event it goes down the toilet, quite literally. But we still have to be paid for that skill, that time, that artistry.

    And by no stretch of the imagination could a grocery store sheet cake be considered art. I guess it does take some sort of skill, but doing 40 cakes in 7 hours (10.5 minutes/cake) is just production work, not art. I'm sure it pays the bills, just like the basic cakes I sell in my shop.

  3. Totally willing to pay for a designer cake, but no cake is real unless it's worth eating. That factor seems lost in the conversation.