The sweetest part of any wedding reception is, of course, the cake. But budgeting for the centerpiece dessert isn’t quite as delightful. To help, we asked Lauren Kitchens of Fancy Cakes by Lauren to create two cakes—both with the same couple in mind and for 135 servings, but at price points that are poles apart—and explain which factors affected the cost.
Budget 1: $1,215*
1. Keep it Real
Adorning this cake with real flowers rather than sugar flowers cut down on decorating time. “Most flowers provided by your florist are completely safe to come in contact with food,” says Lauren.
2. Go Faux
Mixing fake tiers with layers of real cake reduces costs. Because there are fewer servings, the price will be lower but the finished product will still look impressive in size. Taking this cake down to 80 servings brings the price to $680.
Lauren used buttercream frosting to create the cake’s watercolor marble effect, a technique that’s faster than working with elaborate fondant designs. “You’re not paying for cake,” she notes. “You’re paying for time.”
4. A Simple Plan
Using piped buttercream for the ruffles was a quick and effective way to re-create the look of similar ruffles made from modeling chocolate, which is a more expensive product.
Budget 2: $2,275*
1. Refined Design
To create the subtle marbleized look of this cake, Lauren used fondant icing in three soft hues. “It’s an old-fashioned candy-making technique that we can do with fondant when we marble in different colors,” she says. “It literally looks like polished stone.”
2. All in the Details
Each flower—handmade using a sugar product called gum paste—was sculpted petal by petal.
3. Premium Ingredients
Lauren opted for Swiss-imported fondant, a pricier choice than buttercream icing.
4. Flavor Variety
Even though all of Lauren’s flavors are equal in price, incorporating a different flavor for each tier will increase the cost of the cake. “Again, it’s time,” she says. “Making multiple flavors slows us down in the kitchen.”
5. Every Hour Counts
Crafting each ruffle from white modeling chocolate was a time-intensive process that upped the cost of this cake.
6. Special Requests
Gluten-free, vegan, and vegetarian cakes will come with a higher price tag because the recipes require special ingredients.