For home bakers and little cake shops, it's not only about money; it's also about time. Many ask customers to inquire two weeks ahead of time, sometimes a month, and even several months. This is very different than going to a grocery store the day before and asking them for a simple phrase piped onto a sheet cake with a few balloons on it, and most people don't understand why.
Cake artists usually start off by scheduling appointments with their customers. To the customer, an hour or hour-and-a-half appointment may not be much, but the to the artist, all time is valuable. They could use that hour to finish the details on a cake being delivered tomorrow, or to bake some cake for the rest of the week. Instead, they're sitting with the customer, drawing out their vision in hopes of making their event as special as possible.
After the design is set, flavors decided on, and all the details are sorted out, they have to go shopping for supplies if they don't have a bakery stocked with stuff. That's probably another hour out of their lives, not including things that may be special order, like "bling" or molds. Special ordering may also take time, apart from ordering it, like the time it takes to get from the supplier to the baker (1-4 weeks).
|This is a 7 quart KitchenAid mixer.|
It holds 28 cups of stuff, but you
definitely don't want to overfill it.
Picture via Love From The Oven.
Box mixes make approximately 2 1/2 cups of batter, enough for a two-layer 8" cake (12 servings, according to the box, but it can feed more, really). If a customer ordered a three-tiered cake (6-8-10), they'd need 23 cups of batter. TWENTY-THREE CUPS. And that's if the baker makes tiers with two layers. Some make their tiers with three layers. That's THIRTY-FOUR AND ONE-HALF CUPS OF BATTER. (That's nearly 14 boxes of cake mix, by the way.) Not only will it take a while to make all the batter, but a home oven can probably only fit four pans at a time. My guess is that it will take an entire day of baking, if the baker has no distractions, such as everyday life.
Now we make the frosting/filling! American buttercream is pretty easy to make: cream everything together but the sugar, and then add powdered sugar a cup at a time. Other frostings take more time, though. Swiss meringue and Italian meringue buttercreams involve heating egg whites, and whipping the buttercream until it becomes super silky, which can take up to 15 minutes, depending on the amount. Other fillings, such as fruit filling or fresh fruit will also take time, whether it be just cutting up the fruit, or mashing/blending the fruit and boiling it down until it becomes a compote. The frosting may not take TOO long, but it'll take longer than opening a can of pre-made frosting, that's for sure.
Filling the cake takes time because the baker needs to keep the layers even and keep things consistent. When fruit is involved, or any filling that could potentially leak out, certain techniques are used that are more time-consuming than just slapping on frosting. Then the baker will crumb coat everything to keep crumbs from showing up in the outer layer. Many bakers will fridge the cake between steps for stability, which does take up more time, but definitely helps the baker turn out a better cake.
There is no one way to cover the cake in its final layer. Whether the cake is going to be covered in fondant or not, it still needs to be super clean and have nice, sharp edges, which mean it can't look like this:
|This actually looks yummy, but not what you're looking for from a professional. Via Cooking With Abandon.|
|Look at those beautiful edges, the smoothness of the sides, and the wonderful speckling from the vanilla.|
Via Yuma Couture Cakes.
I think it's sort of common sense that any decorations will take LOTS of time. A cascade of gumpaste flowers can take DAYS to cut, mold, form, dry, paint/dust, and assemble. A figure, such as a person or animal, can take hours to mold, days to dry, and a couple more hours to paint.
Custom cakes take time. Lots of time. Professional home bakers don't sit at their computers or phones waiting for people to order from them. They don't have cakes ready to go in the freezer, or cans of pre-made frosting waiting to be slapped onto a cake. For a quality cake, made with care and consideration, order weeks ahead of time. You'll be glad you did.
|No, a cake like this cannot be recreated in a day. Don't even think about asking your local cake artist that question.|
Via Kara's Couture Cakes.