Updated: Feb 27, 2020
Sometimes when customers ask me for a quote they can be surprised by the cost (not always but sometimes). I have even had someone say to me "it's only for a bit of cake. I can get one down Tesco for much less!" Well yes, you probably can but I thought I'd write an little blog post about what you get when you buy from a bespoke cake maker and why the pricing is so different from supermarket cakes (in my opinion). And by the way - I TOTALLY get it! I used to be that person comparing bespoke cake makers to Tesco! If you read my first blog post you'll remember that the whole reason I started making cakes was because when I enquired about someone making my daughter's first birthday cake I was blown away by the prices! How much? For a cake? Now I'm on the other side of the mixing bowl I understand. And I wanted to explain ...
So let me tell you about how I make a cake from first enquiry to finished article.
I take pride in being super customer-focused. Without you I wouldn't be in business right? So I want you to be happy with your order of course, but more than that, I want to exceed your expectations every time! So how do I do this? I take time to find out exactly what you like, what you want from your cake, who it is for, what they are into etc. I research, find images, draw sketches, send over ideas, suggest things, take things out, add things in. This could be via email, message, telephone or in person. We go back and forth, back and forth. It doesn't matter how long it takes as long as we get it right! Sometimes it won't take long. Other times it can take several hours - either is fine! I don't charge for this time, but it doesn't really feel like work as I get excited thinking about and planning cake ideas! Especially if the designs are something totally new and different or if I'm given creative licence to do whatever I want (I'll write about that in another post!)
Once the design is sorted I will order any ingredients that I may not currently have in stock and any extra equipment or special items that are needed to fulfil the order. A week or so before the order is due (a month for weddings) I will do a final run through of all details with you, just to make sure we get it totally spot on (unless of course the design is a surprise and then I'll just keep you in the dark!)
When it comes to making the cake, I will line all my tins and weigh, measure and mix the ingredients before baking. This can take several hours in itself. Once out and cooled it is time to cut the cake into layers ensuring each is identical and neat. Then comes stacking, filling the cake with whatever yummy fillings we have agreed on, ensuring the cake is nice and level and trimming if necessary. I wrap the filled cake and allow to set for several hours.
In the meantime i'll mix up my ganache or buttercream and when the cake is ready will apply a crumb coat to seal in those pesky crumbs! Just on a random note here - the more I look at the word 'seal' the more it just looks wrong. I'm starting to think is it even a word!?!
Then once the cake is set again I'll add another layer of ganache or buttercream and allow to set completely. I colour and roll out my premium brand fondant and then cover the cake, working to make the sure the sides are smooth and flat with no wrinkles, creases or air bubbles and the edges are nice and sharp. I position the cake on the cake board and cover the board, finishing the look with a ribbon. If the cake is multi-tiered I would also support and dowel the tiers and stack at this point if appropriate.
Then it's the fun bit - the decorating! Let's be honest - everything up to this point has been the boring, necessary elements. It's dull building a house but it's so much fun planning the interior design - are you with me?!
Decorating cakes can take MANY hours depending on the complexity of the design and what aspects it incorporates, for example figures, flowers, hand painting etc. Rolling florist paste super thin and cutting individual petals, which are then individually curled and individually stuck onto a tier one by one is VERY time consuming - but does look good!
How long do you think the decorating on this cake took?
Image credit: JoanneB Photography
Image credit: D'licious Cakes
When the cake is complete I leave everything to set again (yes there is a lot of waiting in cake making haha!) I get the boxes ready, allergen information, storage and transportation detail etc and then we are about ready to go.
Sometimes I also like to add in little extras or surprises for the customer. Once, when doing a #Superman themed cake for a new dad's birthday, I happened to see some Superman cufflinks whilst out shopping. I had to have them! I wrapped them so they were food safe and inserted them into the middle of the cake so when they cut into it there was a little birthday present from me in there. Obviously I told them to expect a little surprise when cutting so they weren't utterly confused when they cut the cake and hit something hard!
A hidden surprise in this cake.
Image credit: D'licious Cakes
Other times I have added extra details when decorating, made the cake bigger or given the customer some cupcakes to match. This is all free of charge and I don't always do this of course but sometimes I just like to give a little bit extra. It's why I created #randomactofcakeness. It makes me happy to see others happy (as corny as that sounds!)
Anyway, hopefully you can see that cake making isn't a quick and easy process and it's not a case of just buying ingredients. There are the boxes, boards, ribbons, extenders etc too! The above doesn't mention the time and money over the years that cake makers and decorators have put into learning their craft and honing their skills, the electric, gas and water bills involved in baking and decorating (and all the washing up!), the money spent to set up the business (insurance, training and the like), to invest in marketing, advertising, business cards etc or just to buy equipment - my main mixer was over £400 (my husband was not impressed!) and my #Agbay was over £200! Both vitally important pieces of kit in my opinion and I couldn't do without them!
My prices are based on my ingredients, costs and most importantly time. So yes my prices may be more expensive than a supermarket, BUT they are hand-crafted, bespoke and personalised. They are individual and created with you, for you!
I don't want to come across as knocking supermarket or mass-produced cakes. There is definitely a market for them but if you are wanting something a little special or something a little #extra, then a bespoke cake is definitely the way to go. Look at the below picture - two wedding cakes side by side. One from a bespoke cake maker and one from a large chain store. The obvious difference is the height of the cakes. You are definitely getting more for your money with a bespoke cake but also the finish is cleaner and neater on the bespoke cake (probably because they haven't had to make 199 of the same design prior to this one) and just has a bit more WOW factor to it - would you agree?
Image credit: unknown
Now look at these celebration cakes. A unicorn cake from D'licious Cakes and one from a supermarket.
Image credit: D'licious Cakes
Again the finish and height are key factors in the differing price but also the ingredients should be too. Supermarket cakes need to have a longer shelf life than a bespoke cake so they contain a lot more additives and preservatives. Here is a genuine list of ingredients for a standard vanilla birthday cake from a local supermarket:
Stabilisers (Tragacanth Xanthan Gum)
Disphosphates Sodium Bicarbonate
Sodium Stearoyl - 2 Lactylate
Mono and diglycerides of fatty acids
Mono and diacetyl tartaric acid esters of mono and diglycerides of fatty acids
Gelling agent (Pectin)
Acidity regulators (citric acid sodium citrates)
Skimmed milk powder
Dried egg white
Colours (Anthocyanins, Beetroot red, Riboflavin, Curcumin)
That's just for one cake and I don't honestly know what some of those things are! Now compare it to a vanilla celebration cake from D'licious Cakes:
Free range eggs
Oh I feel like I've gone all 'teacher mode' here so I will relax and chill out (maybe have a cup of tea and a piece of cake). I'm not trying to justify my prices. They are what they are. I accept I am more expensive than a supermarket cake (and hopefully have shown why) and I may be more expensive than some other bespoke cake makers, but I will also be cheaper than some other cake makers too and I always aim to deliver the best product and experience I can.
Think of it this way... say you are paying £100 for a cake that feeds 30 people. That's just over £3 per serving. You pay more for that per slice in a cafe but here you are getting a bespoke, personalised and beautifully decorated cake!
Whether you order from me or from another cake maker please keep in mind everything that goes into being a small business owner and all that goes into your cake.The price isn't JUST for a bit of cake!