For centuries, wedding cakes have been the main centerpiece at every wedding ceremony. The first three thoughts when visualizing a wedding usually starts with the Dress, of course a Wedding Ring, & the Wedding Cake. The groom at times, may even seem to be a minor detail. Some weddings may even choose not to serve a full meal, or may not have music & dancing, but sure enough there will always be a wedding cake. History tells us, the wedding cake is a symbol of the unity between two people in marriage & by eating the cake, the newlyweds will be blessed with good fortune. Some additional symbolism includes its traditional white color, symbolic of the bride’s virginity & purity. As well as, several years ago wedding cakes were traditionally made with fruitcake to symbolize fertility. All weddings alike, whether it is a crazy million-dollar event or a small & quaint ceremony at the local park, the wedding cake is a necessary symbolic piece of the ceremony.
In a study conducted by TheKnot.com, most American couples spent an average of $28,500 to tie the knot in 2012, not including the honeymoon. That’s an increase of $1,400 from 2011. In expensive cities such as New York, Chicago, & Los Angeles, weddings have an average cost of $75,000-$65,000. The average cost of a wedding dress was about $1,200 & the average number of guests was 139 in 2012.
With these fun facts in mind, let’s take a look at the opportunity for an available budget for a wedding cake. Traditionally to most brides, the wedding cake is the 2nd most important element of a wedding following the dress. With the average dress costing about $1,200, approximately 5% of the average budget, then conservatively we can assume that an available average budget for a wedding cake would be about the same. As business owners we must recognize the fabulous opportunity to make a beautiful cake for a special occasion & still have the opportunity to remain profitable.
Along with a healthy available budget, from my own experience of supplying cake artists in the baking industry, I have found in the past several years that the standard “Wedding Season” seems to be lengthening. In the past, traditionally, wedding season was structured around the months of good weather such as June, August, September, & October. However, in recent years, I have noticed more weddings are being scheduled in less popular months such as March, April, May & November stretching the available opportunity to sell a wedding cake by 3-4 extra months. From a small business perspective, what another fantastic opportunity for steady business! I believe that the lengthening of the season is due to the recession, and that couples are now exploring their wedding dates during less expensive months to be able to save on all expenses. This change in climate is great for any wedding cake business because now the busy season is healthier 9 months out of the year, whereas the past season was only 4-5 months of the year.
Wedding Cakes vs Custom Cakes
In recent years, with the extreme cakes shown on popular cake television shows, the emergence of custom cakes has been in great demand. “Everyone” wants a unique custom design & cake artists love the refreshing challenge of a new design to master. However, the risks involved with custom cakes are the uncertainty of time & materials needed to complete the cake, which could potentially lead to improper costing of the cake itself. A custom cake could take a few short hours to complete, or even all night depending on difficulty & unforeseen obstacles. Using time effectively is the most important asset that a cake artist must manage; as the saying goes in the workplace, “time is money.”
Wedding cakes, with their more traditional “template” of a tiered cake & classic style, are far more predictable to plan out. With repetition, the Cake Artist will be able to more accurately deduce how much time & ingredients will be needed to complete a traditional wedding cake design. Offering wedding cakes will allow for providing a high margin product with more accurate costing, now that’s good business. I believe that offering custom cakes is a great asset to any cake business & should continued to be offered, but wedding cakes are a more sustainable product line which will lead to more predictable & consistent business.
Increasing Profitability in Your Cakes
Designing cakes is a very profitable business, & as a Cake Artist an important practice to keep in mind when doing the wedding cake consultation is “stick to your strengths.” If for example, your specialty is fondant work, then try to showcase your fondant designs to persuade your clients to order a fondant cake. Sticking to your specialties allows you to sell a more familiar design, decorating process, & also allows you to know better how much time will be needed to complete the cake. Hopefully this results in proper pricing with a healthy margin & an increased opportunity to sell more cakes. As a business owner & cake artist (whether professional or hobbyist), your time is NOT free, so please don’t give it away on cakes that will occupy your available time to complete other cakes. Your hours have a cost, whether it is an hourly dollar amount or an opportunity to spend time with your family. Misbudgeting your time could result in a loss of opportunity to complete more cake orders which results in loss of profit, or the missing of precious family moments.
Another effective way to help increase profitability is to find ingredients & cake decorations that you believe in that will save you time. There are a lot of sources that provide high quality cake ingredients that take much less time & work to prepare & still taste delicious. Making gumpaste flowers by hand involves a great deal of time, whether you are an expert or beginner. Sourcing readymade gumpaste flowers & decorations is another great way to save several hours of your time per cake. By sourcing affordable readymade sugar flowers & décor, the cake artist can save hours, & as I mentioned before “time is money” so saving time is saving money.
Why Working withFondant Will Help Improve Your Business
Harnessing & being comfortable working with fondant is an essential skill for a cake artist to become profitable. For many, fondant is a scary thing, & an even tougher cake sale at times because many clients may not prefer fondant cakes, but lets not ignore the facts. If for example the standard market price per slice of a buttercream cake is $3 per slice, a fondant cake demands a $2-$7 markup in price because fondant work is a specialty skill, & the cake could be priced $5-$10 per fondant slice. Offering fondant cakes creates an opportunity to make double the money of a buttercream cake, while relatively taking the same amount of time to complete the cake. What a deal! A fair way to double your profits instantly. So, I encourage you to find a brand of readymade rolled fondant that you are comfortable working with & continue to educate yourself by taking classes with experienced cake instructors or even searching the internet & YouTube for free tutorials. Developing your fondant skills will only result in added value to your cakes & increased profitability.
I honestly believe that being a Cake Artist & having a cake business can be very profitable & is a great way to practice ethical business. Few people have the option to pursue their passion as a profession. It is very important to understand that your time is important & must be properly budgeted. Sometimes the blessing of being able to do what you love everyday as a career can make you feel as if “It’s ok if a cake takes me all night to complete, because I genuinely love it.” True, you may love decorating, but in the end, cakes are still a business & family still needs time dedicated. Finding a healthy balance will result in a long lasting healthy business. Hopefully, some of my tips & suggestions will be able to help you & your business along the way. Cake on!
Alan was born into the bakery business by growing up in his parents successful Southern California full service bakery turned specialty wedding cake studio. As a child, Alan could be found either sleeping on the flour sacks or making a Marble Cake & Custard sandwich while hiding in the walk-in freezer to escape the California heat. Through his family’s journey, Alan recognized the large amount of time, effort, & dedication needed to put into a successful bakery. The amount of sacrifice given by his parents has inspired Alan to help other cake businesses work more efficiently while still increasing profitability. “The beauty about the cake industry is the opportunity for artists to pursue their passion as a profession.” Alan now works with Caljava International, the largest source for Sweet Inspiration readymade Gumpaste Flowers & home of FondX Rolled Fondant. Caljava aims to provide beautiful cake decor to amazing cake artists. www.CaljavaOnline.com or www.facebook.com/Caljava.