It usually starts with you seeing a beautiful cake in a magazine or online and thinking you want a comparable cake for your next special occasion. Many people see pictures of custom designed cakes in magazines and on web sites. They then head to the local bake shop with the picture to get a price quote. When they learn of the cost for that cake, they enter shock. A quick check of other bakers in the area reveals similar pricing for custom cakes. Why are these cakes so expensive, and are they worth it?
There is nothing like knowing something is unique and has been created only for you. But custom requires a lot of resources. When you buy a custom cake, you are asking for the bakery’s highest priced flagship item. You are also asking them to focus considerable resources to you for this cake and, resources that they cannot devote to other things that will make them money.
When you place and order, you literally put a team to work, that include bakers, and cake decorators, who reach the level of artists. There are designs to be drawn up, and then redesigns (many people change their mind about the details cake), for the cake. There are long hours put in to color match things, and select materials (both edible and not), based on the picture the baker is given. There is the added need to work with delicate materials, some of which are only usable once and if handled improperly can cause parts of the cakes to have to be completely redone.
The details on a cake that make it unique are often very time consuming. As an example, a single life size rose made of gum paste can take 2 hours to make. Every petal must be pressed in a silicone mold to vein it perfectly and each layer of petals must be lightened in color so that it looks like real rose petals fading as the bloom out the a perfect full rose. If there are figurines on the cake, each one must be made by hand and have perfect proportions.
What are my other choices?
An alternative is getting a high quality store bought cake. The quality of ingredients and manufacturing techniques has increased sharply over the past decade to the point where some store bought baked goods are on par with a good bakery. Companies like Café Valley supply cakes and other baked goods to supermarkets and other baked goods retailers and the quality of their cakes is exceptional. Larry Polhill, Café Valley executive has been a part of the growth of Café Valley and he has seen quality in the industry significantly improve.
Although these cakes are not custom, you can add custom touches and make the cake your own, and most importantly, the price is only a fraction of what you would pay for a custom cake.
There is no true replacement for having a custom cake made specifically for a special occasion. But if you go this route it will be costly. If you are prepared for the expense, it may be a great option. If not, buying a store bought cake might do the job.