Why are Cakes so Expensive?

This is a question that many professional cake makers are asked so I thought I’d go through some of the costs involved in making a cake to try to give an understanding of what is behind something that is most certainly a lot more than ‘just butter, flour, sugar and a few eggs’.

Individuals often say ‘but I can buy a cake for under £15 in a supermarket’. Yes, you can. You can also buy a t Shirt in Poundland or one from a designer store. Your choice is whether you wish to pay for something that is mass-produced or something that is bespoke. Cakes sold in supermarkets are either those made on a production line that will be neither bespoke nor personalized to your specifications or they will be those that are offered as ‘hand made’, picked out from a range in a catalogue. However, neither of these offer anything close to the size, individuality, quality and skills displayed in a cake made personally for you. I am pretty sure that no supermarket would produce a cake for example that is 3.5″ to 4″ deep…The quote “Good cake isn’t cheap, cheap cake isn’t good” sums it up pretty well.

Those of you who bake at home will know that good quality ingredients aren’t that cheap and recently there have been huge price hikes in the supermarkets. To make a 2 tier cake, for example, with 9″ and 6″ tiers you are looking at a lot of ingredients – over a dozen large eggs, three of packs of butter, over a kilo of flour, almost a kilo of sugar, not to mention the quantity of chocolate needed if the cake is more than a simple vanilla…..

In addition you then need to consider…:

• Sugar paste to cover the cakes and the cake drum (I often use at least 1.5k to just cover and decorate a 9” square cake)

• Buttercream to fill the cake and cover the cake with prior to sticking the icing on

• Sugar syrup to soak the layers and keep the cake moist

• A cake drum for the base

• A cake box

• Thin cake card for each cake that is going to be stacked to sit on, as well as one under the base cake (otherwise the supports will squish into the cake above and disaster will ensue))

• Dowelling rods – 3 or 4 per tier (these are vital if you are stacking cakes otherwise the whole lot will collapse)

• Then you have extras such as wires, jewels, posy picks, modelling materials and not forgetting electricity/gas to bake the cakes

• Throw in capital costs from business cards to mixers, cutters, ribbons…and you start to get an idea!

All in all, for a 2 tier cake (9” and 6”) that is a mix of, for example, vanilla and chocolate mud you are probably looking at £25-30 worth of materials and ingredients before you take into consideration my time. To make a sugar model you are looking at a good few hours work, depending on how intricate the model is. Decorating a cake is a time consuming task and very often I am working around the clock to produce something that I think is nothing less than fabulous…. This is not meant to be negative and you may ask why I’m doing it, and the simple answer is because I love it. I love being creative and I love seeing the look on a customer’s face when they collect their cake. It’s all worth it.

So please remember, if you ask an independent cake maker for a quote, you are not going to get it for supermarket prices – but it will look and taste an awful lot better. A cake maker who is passionate about what they do will always go that extra mile. That much I promise you!

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