Wedding cake prices:
Like everything wedding-related, wedding cake prices can range from reasonable to astronomical - and everywhere in between. It's important to have an idea about what kind of cake you want before you start looking at bakeries, since wedding cake prices are determined more by what's on the outside than the inside - most of what couples are paying for is the labor that goes into decorating and assembling the cake, not the ingredients.
Also, wedding cake prices differ tremendously based on who's making it. A cake from a local bakery will cost less than one from a boutique pastry chef. Grocery store bakeries can often turn out beautiful wedding cakes that cost a fraction of the wedding cake prices of "designer" bakeries. And wedding cake prices (like nearly everything else!) tend to be higher in big cities than small towns.
Average cost of wedding cake:
Wedding cake prices on the ultra-elaborately decorated wedding cakes seen on reality television shows or in photos from celebrity wedding can run into thousands of dollars. But according to The Bridal Association of America, the average cost for a wedding cake is $543 (this is based on 2006 figures and most likely is somewhat higher by now).
For a traditional two- or three-tiered cake with buttercream frosting, wedding cake prices generally range from about $5-6 per slice. Fancy fillings, ganache, marzipan and cream cheese icings will also increase wedding cake prices. And wedding cake prices go up when rolled fondant icing and decorations are used - handmade rolled fondant decorations, which have become very popular features on wedding cakes, are labor intensive and can add at least $1 or more per slice to the cost. Other decorations - sugar or fresh flowers, wedding cake toppers, etc. - are less expensive but also add to wedding cake prices. All of this doesn't include cake-cutting fees, which is sometimes an additional charge as well.
Keep in mind that wedding cake prices naturally rise along with the tiers or layers on the cake. As the cake gets higher, so does the price. Again, this is largely because of the time it takes to decorate a large cake and, importantly, to make sure that a multi-tiered cake will stay upright throughout the reception. Wedding cake prices usually include a separate charge for delivery and assembly, which can be up to $100 or more, depending on the size of the cake and the distance from the bakery to the reception site.
Wedding cake prices - how to cut costs:
There are a number of ways to cut wedding cake prices. Sometimes the caterer who is providing food for a wedding reception can also bake the wedding cake - either as part of the package deal or for an additional fee that's often lower than other wedding cake prices. One new and unique way to save on wedding cake prices is to rent a fake, fancily-decorated cake that has a small section of real cake on the bottom for the cake cutting ceremony - once it's been cut, the faux cake is wheeled away, and guests are served sheet cake that's been sliced in the kitchen, outside of view. Similarly, couples interested in lower wedding cake prices might want to consider having a small decorated cake for the cake cutting ceremony and then serve sheet cake to their guests.