How to Find the Best Baker for Your Wedding Cake

What's pretty and tasty and doesn't have to be nearly as complicated as you might think?

How to pick a wedding cake written over flamingo three tier wedding cake

As a cake designer, I know how complicated ordering a wedding cake can be. Tastings in and of themselves are a mess. A couple often goes to so many that it’s hard to remember whose cake tasted like what (and how you actually felt about it). Pricing is another wild card. How do they come up with the numbers, and why are they so different from one bakery to the next? And then there’s the wondering. Will what you order actually be what you get? We all hope so.

Obviously you have options when it comes to cake. There’s no rule that says you can’t use a grocery store sheet cake and rock it. But if you’re going the baker route, I can help demystify the wedding cake ordering process. With any luck, after reading this you’ll feel comfortable enough to blast through this portion of wedding planning stress-free (with a few extra samples tucked away in the freezer).

Bakery Selection and Style

When selecting the bakery you’re interested in, be sure to check out their social media and website to get an idea of their visual style. Some bakeries may pride themselves on their rustic buttercream cakes with fresh flowers, while others may specialize in ornate fondant cakes (the type of icing that covers cakes, giving them an almost plastic, smooth look). There is no better or worse when it comes to these differences; it simply matters what you want.

Cake height is one of these stylistic characteristics that one wouldn’t think of until going through a few different portfolios. You will notice that a baker will be pretty married (pun intended) to their cake heights. A taller tier typically means more layers of cake and buttercream, which gives you more servings per tier.

Knowing what visual approach a cake designer has will allow you to determine whether or not they work within your stylistic parameters. For example, it wouldn’t be prudent to expect a primarily buttercream bakery to be versed in hand painting on fondant.

The Tasting

Each bakery will do tastings differently. Some will have cupcakes in the case and you will select from those, others will make a few fresh. As for tasting fees, expect to pay anywhere from $0 to $50. It is important that you come prepared with inspiration images. Pinterest boards and magazine cutouts are helpful. Much like a tattoo artist, we bakers are not mind readers, and we need you to be abundantly clear about what you’d like. Some bakers will sketch something with you right there at the tasting, while others will take a few days to come up with something.

Also, you’ll need to have your approximate guest count, as bakers typically charge per slice.  As long as your wedding isn’t within two weeks, you will not be expected to pay for the whole thing up front, but you may be asked to provide a deposit, which will typically be 50 percent.

If you’re getting a fondant cake, do taste the fondant that your baker uses. There are so many varieties, and despite popular opinion, not all of them are disgusting. My personal favorites are those with white chocolate in the recipe.

The Pricing

I mentioned to an old coworker of mine that I was writing this article, and she went, “Oof, I still find it hard to price cakes.” And she’s been at it far longer than I have.

I relate this to you so that you don’t feel alone. It actually is that difficult to understand, and it will never be a precise science because, ultimately, bakers are artists, and it’s very challenging to price one’s own art.

This said, there are general guidelines.

First, wedding cakes are priced per serving, so take that guest count you’ve got and subtract 15 to 20 percent, because unless you’ve got folks serving the cake to your guests’ tables, not everyone is going to take a piece of it. There are few things more heartbreaking to a baker than seeing a whole uneaten tier go to waste, because Aunt Ginny’s diabetic, and Grandma Lee doesn’t have a sweet tooth, and Cousin Leo hates chocolate, and so on. Be wary of the baker who says you should get your full guest count (unless you want leftovers, of course).

Slice prices vary from baker to baker, but on average, you’ll be looking at a base of approximately $5 each slice, which decoration in addition. If you’re going to get a mostly fake cake with a real layer to cut, you’ll not be getting that big of a discount, because the same amount of time will go into decorating it. If you want a small centerpiece cake, with a sheet cake in the back, this might be your most economical option, as most bakeries tend to offer a discount for simple rustic buttercream sheet cakes.

Second, decorations take time. If you’d like a personalized figurine set of you and your partner on the cake made of sugar, expect to pay at very least $100 for a simplistic one. With children’s birthday cakes for example, I typically suggest folks purchase small toys to place on the cake, because we’re going to be charging at least $40 for that 3D Snoopy head, and you can buy a whole Peanuts set for less than that. Etsy is very helpful for cake toppers such as figurines, and as long as they’re not made of sugar, you get to keep them forever. I’m not trying to dissuade folks from ordering figurines from bakers—I love making them—but seldom is it that people are willing to pay for how much time they take to make. Another way to save money is to use fresh flowers as opposed to sugar ones. If you’re looking for fantastical colors, sugar flowers are the way to go, but know that you’ll be paying anywhere between $30 and $60 per flower.

Dos and Don’ts when ordering your wedding cake.

Don’t bring a million people with you to your tasting without warning your baker. Most bakeries are barely outfitted with any chairs, so when a client rolls up with not only their betrothed, but their mother-in-law and three children, things get crowded, and frankly, it is very hard to have a business discussion under those circumstances.

Do ask a lot of questions. It makes everyone’s lives easier if everything is sorted out that first meeting, as opposed to stressing the whole lot out by having months of back and forth emails splitting hairs.

Don’t expect any baker to take you seriously if you ask for a super ornate cake for 150 guests, and your budget is under $200. That will never happen, and if your baker suggests you check out the Kroger bakery, don’t be surprised (or insulted).

Do expect your cake to taste the same as it did at your tasting. If it doesn’t, you have every right to complain to the bakery. You should also expect a moist cake. I’m not sure where this rumor came about that wedding cakes are dry, but I have never worked in a bakery where that has been the case, and I hope never to encounter.

Don’t change your design ideas two weeks before the wedding. Your baker will likely have started working on some decorations, or will not have the time to come up with a whole new design. Cake design is an art form; treat it with the respect it deserves.

Now go forth into the world and get that cake of your dreams!

Kaytee Caker

Kaytee is a Canadian artist living in Richmond, VA, specializing in bespoke cakes for fun folks. Her two favorite things at the moment are cheesy sci-fi shows and her cats. She posts about her caking adventures, as well as tutorials and other fun things at @kaytee_caker on Instagram.

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  • CamperHill

    My baker was pretty vocal about the fact that many flowers are NOT intended to be edible (and therefore growers can use harsher pesticides or chemicals when growing them), some are actually toxic and should not be used on wedding cakes, as pretty as they are. So, it might be a conversation to have with your baker about which flowers you are thinking about using (especially if you are planning on having your florist put them on your cake the day of your wedding, rather than your bakery), in case any are toxic or there is another good reason not to use them on the cake. Something I hadn’t considered before I was wedding planning!

  • Rebekah Jane

    These are seriously fantastic tips. Cutting the cake is a huge tradition on my mother’s side of the family, as we use my late grandfather’s sword to do it, after a speech from the last person in the family to be married. That means that we’ll have to consider the sheer magnitude of our cutting utensil when selecting a cake or we might just take out the whole dessert…

    • Another Meg

      “we use my late grandfather’s sword..”

      Rad. <3

      • Rebekah Jane

        Lol, what’s even more awesome is how my aunt has had to find a way to get that thing to so many of our weddings. We have a HUGE family (40+) so it’s been up and down the East coast tons of times, gotten magically delivered in the middle of a freak blizzard in Mississippi and once smuggled through baggage claim in a golf bag. I’m 1000% convinced it’s magic.

  • Lisa

    I’d be really clear with the baker about how the cake will be displayed if that’s important to you. We went with a bakery that we had visited several times before and had really enjoyed their desserts. At our tasting/ordering, I told them that I’d like to use my great grandmother’s cake plate, which fits a 9″ round, to serve our cake. The person taking the order went on about how sweet that was and helped us order a two tier cutting cake (9″ and 6″ rounds) and a bunch of sheet cakes.

    Imagine my surprise on the wedding day when we got to the reception to see our cake not on the cake plate but on a slab of cardboard. I was pissed off but decided it wasn’t worth being upset about it in the moment. We went back to the bakery to complain the next day and were met with a “What do you want us to do?” attitude.

    Moral of the story: ask the baker how they typically deliver or display their cakes! Make sure you know if you need to provide anything ahead of time or, if not, that they are fully aware of the dimensions of the serving platter you intend to use.

    • Eh

      That’s horrible customer service (especially their response the day after). I am glad you were able to put your feelings aside at your reception. Our baker came highly recommended (has done many cakes for weddings in my husband’s family). Her cakes are very tasty and beautiful but she doesn’t always follow directions. Every time wedding cakes are mentioned my SIL makes a comment about how the baker did not do the decorations correctly (I’m not sure what exactly was wrong, they had a very elaborate cake). We did not know about that until after our wedding and the issues we had with the baker. She was in the process of closing her business and moving so I don’t think she cared all that much. She changed the type of leaf design on the cake (i.e., the leaves were a different type and smaller than the leaves we picked out). It was one of the few things my husband picked out (my husband did not have many opinions but he did have an opinion about the design of the cake). When I saw the cake I was surprised by the design change since the baker never called us to mention it. I was a bit worried that it would upset my husband but he rolled with it. After seeing the cake and the modification I understand why she had to do it (the larger leaves would have looked funny). A call or an email to mention the change would have been appreciated. Based on our experience, I would have provided her that feedback or left a review but she was closing her business.

      • Lisa

        Yeah, if she was making design modifications, I think notifying you of that information is very important. I thought our bakery would at least offer us a dessert or maybe a small percentage back (I’m talking like 5% on a $350 order), but we were so stunned when they said, “What do you expect us to do about that now?” that we didn’t think to request any of that. We stammered that we wanted to voice our displeasure with the services, and they said “Ok” and went back to work.

        I probably should have left them a Yelp review or something, but it seems too late now. The cake itself was delicious (people are still talking about how good the food and cake was), but the customer service end really stunk.

        • I would have called the credit card company and cancelled the payment since you didn’t get what you ordered, and then see if their attitude changes…

        • EE

          I think a Yelp review that starts off “this was X months/years ago but still bugs me” would be worthwhile! Definitely something I’d want to know about if I were considering that bakery for my wedding.

  • Haley

    Do “naked” cakes dry out faster since they do not have as much frosting coating them? I hear different stories online.

    • scw

      we had a naked cake. I’m not sure how long before the wedding it was baked, but it wasn’t dry at all – and I didn’t get any until very late that night after it had been sitting out all day (and cut for hours of that). two of our tiers had fruit mixed into the batter and two were funfetti, and the fruit ones were a bit moister.

      our baker did warn us against trying to freeze part of the cake for our one year anniversary, so that might be something to think/ask about if it is important to you.

    • Lawyerette510

      Generally yes, say if you were baking them at home, but if you’re working with a baker who is experienced with naked cakes, it shouldn’t be a problem. Talk to your perspective bakers about the logistics, but if they are in your area they’ll be familiar with the climate and can address any concerns (or advise against it if you have logistics that complicate things like picking it up a day ahead of time, not having climate controlled storage and being in a dry climate).

  • the cupboard under the stairs

    Does anyone know how displaying the cake typically works? Do you supply the baker with the cake stand you’d like to use ahead of time? Does the bakery help you transfer it to your display of choice when it’s delivered? Or are you expected to do it yourself?

    Also, do some bakeries provide rental cake stands? I’d love to have one less decoration to worry about!

    • Leah

      The baker asked us to drop the stand off ahead of time – they then were able to provide it already on the stand for pick-up (we didn’t want to spend the $ on delivery, so had a friend pick up the cake and bring it to the venue).

    • LJ

      We rented the cake stands from the bakery. I think there was a minimal rental fee, and a deposit which we got back when they were returned. They would have used a stand of our preference if we brought them one. As is, we dropped off our cake toppers (we had 3 single-tier cakes instead of one big one) a couple days in advance. The delivery fee included set up and whatever else needed to be done (so worth the $40 or whatever it was- one less thing to worry about day of!)

    • Lisa

      It depends on the baker. You’ll have to ask each one individually what their policies are. Some of the ones we talked to would deliver if the order was over $X and withing Y miles of the bakery. The place we ended up with did not deliver so we sent our DOC to pick up the cake during the break between the ceremony and reception.

      Cake stand issue is similar and will vary bakery by bakery. Make sure you have complete clarity on this! (See my story above. I’m still bitter about it.)

      • Julie Lewis

        Wait. So the bakery didn’t deliver the cake? It was not the bakeries fault AT ALL that the cake was on cardboard. It has to be transported on something(cannot be transported on a stand..). Your cake issue was a total lack of communication on your part. I would be annoyed too if you came in pissed off at me for something you didn’t follow through to handle on your end.

        • Lisa

          Ummm, no. I communicated to them what stand I wanted to use and the size constraints of that. If they couldn’t accommodate that because of the need to put it on a larger slab of cardboard, the bakery should have told me at the consultation or called me for a follow-up so I could either adjust my order to the new constraints, figure out a way to make what I wanted work, or have an opportunity to find a different cake platter that could accommodate their needs. As the person in the situation with less information (how cakes are made and delivered), it’s important that a business providing services anticipate the customer’s needs since they best know their own constraints. If using the cake stand I wanted wasn’t possible, then the baker who took my order should have made that clear at my initial consultation.

          I find the tone of your response to be overly aggressive and hostile. I work in customer service, too, and so I’m very conscious of how I approach businesses when I’m unhappy with the service or product I receive. I wasn’t rude or demanding, just matter-of-fact that I didn’t get what I wanted and was disappointed. Even if they couldn’t have done something differently on their end, some empathy to the situation and an apology would have been significantly better than a snarky “What do you want us to do?”

  • A.

    For anyone with dietary restrictions, I wanted to say that, for the record, our experience with our cake was phenomenal. I have celiac disease and ensuring our cake was 100% gluten free was really important to us, so we vetted bakers on their understanding of gluten free baking (and how to prevent cross-contamination), as well as going through tastings. We ended up with an amazingly moist cake with half chocolate cake/cream cheese frosting and lemon-vanilla cake/guava&key lime frosting. It can be done!

    A lot of bakers tried to sell us on having a few cupcakes be GF for me and serve the non-GF main cake to everyone. I think this can be a good idea if you have budget concerns (our place had a $2.50/slice upcharge for GF). Full disclosure–we splurged on our cake ($850ish for 75 people), but really most of the cost came from the fact that my husband was insistent on a hand-painted cake (it was GORGEOUS and totally worth it, though I could definitely understand most people wanting to put funds elsewhere). However, do beware if a baker tries to convince you to do it for taste reasons–it most likely just means they aren’t that good at baking GF! Gluten free baking has come a long way and is becoming more and more popular…and delicious.

    And as another note, we got married in a small town in northern Florida, so it wasn’t even that we were in a choice-dense city either. So if it’s important to you, don’t give up! We also saw tons of vegan and nut-free options along our way, so bakers are definitely becoming more and more attuned to this.

    • Eenie

      I wish I could have attended your wedding, the cake sounds delicious! We scrapped the cake all together and will serve creme brulee. I did not have the patience to find a GF baker/cake!

      • A.

        Mmmm, crème brûlée though!! This thread is activating my sweet tooth. ;)

        • Eenie

          Yeah, I’m not disappointed in the slightest. It’s a good thing the only GF option is also delicious!

  • pistachio gelato

    Another thing to remember is your venue’s temperature. If you are having your wedding in a non-air conditioned barn, keep in mind that buttercream might not be the best option unless there’s a way to keep it cool before serving.

  • Amy Brown

    How far in advance should one contact bakeries for wedding cakes? We’re going to do a smaller, decorated cake just for the two of us, and undecorated sheet cakes for the rest of the guests (likely from Costco or the yummiest grocery store).

    • Eh

      I would say it depends if you have your heart set on a specific bakery (as we did). We contacted the bakery 10 months in advanced and she was actually booked for many weekends already (she only does two wedding cakes a week). She was still available for our weekend (we were also married in the fall which isn’t as busy for weddings here). If you aren’t set on a specific bakery I would say probably 2 to 4 months out would probably be fine.

      And Costco cakes are so tasty! I am really looking forward to my daughters first birthday so we can have Costco cake (maybe twice – since our families do not live near each other).

  • Vatsala Rastogi

    what great tips. if you are looking for some great ideas for an Indian Wedding, check out ShaadiElephant

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  • Kelley Redmond

    My daughter got married a few weeks ago. We met with the baker at least twice and made sure everything was in order for the bride and groom’s cake. We provided pictures and we thought all was good. The wedding day happens so fast and after the fact, I realized the logo the groom had picked out was not on the cake; the pictures confirmed it. I asked the baker what happened and she said she had run into copyright issues, didn’t want to bother me on the day of the wedding and added more peanut cups to make up for it. My frustration was in the fact she did not communicate with me to come up with Plan B, which I would have been happy to do. Her answer to me was, “I am sorry you were disappointed in the lack of logo.” It was clearly written in the contract. I thought her comment was a little “snarky” to say the least. We don’t get a do-over………….any thoughts?

  • Bangalore Florist

    and very sensible article on planning your wedding cake
    Cakes to Jaipur