The Thorny Subject of Cost

Piggy Bank Cake

 

One of the commonest questions I’m asked (other than “Mum, are there any more off-cuts?”), is “Do you have a price list?”. This question comes in various forms (“How much for that one?”, “What would I get for x pounds?”, “What would it cost for a cake to feed 200 guests?”).

 

The short answer to this is: No. But only because the long answer is frequently complex and I hate to see the glazed look on people’s faces just after I start explaining why. Much better then, to leave the long-winded explanation for people to read at their leisure (makes a change from watching cat videos on YouTube, doesn’t it?), when I can’t see their faces.

 

But it’s natural that my customers want to know how much their cake is going to be, especially when they’re working out how much their entire wedding is going to cost.

 

The first reason I don’t have a price list of my cakes, either here on the website or on the various social media, is because it would already have to be several hundred pages long, and get longer each and every time I make a cake – because all my cakes are different. There really is nothing “off-the-shelf” about any of the cakes I have made. Some may be very similar, especially on a superficial level, to others I have done, but the fine detail – the flavours, the colours, will be different. So it would be impossible to calculate in advance how much a cake would be unless I were one of the big bakeries who work to a production line and have a set catalogue of what cakes they produce.

 

As a result of building my business from scratch, I know the bakers out there who do have price lists are more often the ones who will only make a cake from their set list, rather than diversify to provide the exact design a client wants.

 

I’m not a production line. I’m a one-woman baker and sugar craft artist, who (with occasional help from a select circle of trusted friends I call my Cake Angels), designs and crafts edible works of art to a precise brief from my clients.

 

The other thing I frequently hear, more often from a casual browser or visitor to wedding fayres, is an exclamation of disbelief that a cake could cost hundreds of pounds. “It’s only a cake” is the often unspoken (and sometimes spoken) underlying theme to these exclamations. Yes, it is a lot of money to spend on a cake, I will be the first to admit this. But these statements are always made when there is little or no understanding of exactly what goes into making a cake – especially a wedding cake.

 

Just as bread is sold by the loaf and milk is sold by the pint (oops, sorry – litre), cakes are sold by the serving so the bigger they are the more they are going to cost to make. Add to this the time it will take to decorate to a very high standard (a process that can take up to a month to complete), and hopefully you will begin to understand how cakes can cost “so much”. And I pride myself on not charging the highest prices, despite all the overheads my business has to absorb, including professional liability insurance, heating and lighting, marketing costs, ingredients, materials and highly specialised (and therefore expensive) equipment.

 

It’s odd, and a little bit annoying, that I hear this type of comment about cakes, but never about other equally costly pieces of creative art, or indeed anything else associated with a wedding. Somehow everyone expects the dress, the photography, the band to cost hundreds and thousands of pounds, but the cake is never considered worthy of such a price tag. Why? Because it ends up being eaten? So does the wedding breakfast, and to feed the same number of guests this will cost many thousands.

 

I think this is a matter of perception on the part of some potential customers. What they think they are buying is a cake, but what they are actually buying is a skilled, trained professional to design their cake, purchase the ingredients, and spend days, weeks and even months crafting it into a work of art, all the while having spent years of their life practising their craft while paying their taxes, honing their skills for the love of the art rather than for any monetary compensation.

 

Custom cakes are a labour of love – but love doesn’t pay the bills.

 

I consider myself extremely fortunate that I love my job. Having performed some soul-destroying roles in my life, I appreciate being able to get paid (albeit not a fortune once I’ve covered all my costs) to do something I enjoy for people who appreciate what it is I am able to do for them. So I just smile and nod when I hear the “It’s only a cake” comment, and now I can point people at this page when they ask why I don’t keep a price list. Maybe one day I will, but I suspect that should that day ever arrive, it will mean my business has become so big that it has become impersonal and I am no longer providing a bespoke design service for my clients and giving them precisely what they want.

 

 

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About Emma

Baker, Sugarcraft Artist, Model Maker, Business Woman, Teacher, Designer, Troubleshooter, Mother and Occasional Sleeper. Turning dreams into edible reality for more years than I can remember.

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