Why are my custom cakes so expensive?

I’ve come across a number of articles giving a high-level explanation as to why custom cakes are so expensive. But if you’re a bit like me – you kind of want to see where your money is going exactly, right? I mean, how can a custom cake from a home baker really come with a $200 price tag when you can head down to the Cheesecake shop and get a party cake for less than $50?

I think the best approach to explain this, is to do a bit of a comparison. So let’s take the ever-popular unicorn cake as a sample-case – so we can see like-for-like, between other establishments and myself.

  • Cheesecake shop – $140 – double barrel 7″ mudcake decorated with truffle (I’m guessing this ready-made truffle white chocolate ganache product) – serves 20-25.
  • Coles – $25 – doesn’t state what it’s made of or serving size, only that it’s made in the United Kingdom (generally, cakes from Coles/Woolies are 7″) – estimated serves 12-18.
  • Anita of Cake – $170 – 6″ extended height mudcake decorated with vanilla buttercream – serves approx 18.

So of course, you can see there are already differences in the pricing. So let’s get into why my cake costs more:

My cakes are fully customisable: you’re not always going to find the cake you’re looking for readily available at every established bakery (such as this unicorn cake). And even if you do happen to find it, you are probably going to be limited as to what customisations you can do. With me, you are in complete control as to what you want changed – your cake is bespoke. Would you expect a bespoke wedding dress to cost the same as one off the rack? You’re paying to know that you’re going to get exactly what you want – from changing the dietary requirements, to choosing the colour scheme. I even include candles (if it’s a birthday cake) and fondant lettering for the recipient’s name on the board – even the finer details are taken care of πŸ™‚

All cakes are made from scratch: I make everything from scratch (only exception is fondant/gumpaste) – this include all cakes, fillings and buttercreams using quality ingredients. No artificial flavours or preservatives! Using the unicorn cake as an example: $10.70 for cake ingredients, $11.19 for buttercream ingredients, $1.97 for fondant. $23.86 total for ingredients only. Now let’s look at the other considerations:

  • I would need to first go shopping to buy the ingredients (I am a bespoke cakemaker, preferring to bake things fresh and do not bake in bulk) – that’s time and fuel.
  • It would take me about an hour to prepare the mudcake batter and tins, and then a further 1.5 hours of cooking time (electricity isn’t free for me unfortunately). It would take about half an hour to make the buttercream.
  • Like the look of the rainbow rosettes on the unicorn cake? That’s splitting and colouring 6 bowls of buttercream (oh yes, I forgot to include the cost of the 6 colours! Americolor is my fave πŸ™‚ ).
  • Gold accents – making up the gold paint and handpainting the horn, ears and eyes (all of which I have hand-made)
  • For cleanup, you’d be looking at 2 large bowls, 2 medium bowls, a large pot, 7 smaller bowls, 6 spoons, 2 spatulas, a wooden spoon, piping tip, 3x 6″ cake tins, measuring cup and measuring spoons. Anything that can go into the dishwasher does (running it takes water, electricity and detergent), but you’ll find half of those items are not dishwasher safe so I’m cleaning those items by hand.
  • And I’ve just remembered that I’ve forgotten to include cost of baking paper and oil spray (to line the 3 tins), cling wrap (to cover the 3 cakes as well as for the rainbow piping ‘sausage’) and a disposable piping bag (to pipe the rosette mane).

As you can appreciate, we’re talking hours of work, costly supply and utilities (water, electricity & gas) even before the decorating part has even started. I would say, in total, you would be looking at about 6 hours of labour for this unicorn cake. How much do you get paid an hour? Don’t I deserve at least minimum wage? When you order a cake from me, I am like your personal chef, buying the ingredients/supplies just for your cake, and baking/decorating just for you πŸ™‚

Appropriate packaging:Β  I don’t buy bulk packaging, because I don’t have the throughput (only taking on 1 order a week, if that), and I don’t have the space to store it all. For this unicorn cake, I would be using a tall box ($3.95 exc p&h) and would probably use a white or marbled-look masonite cakeboard ($4.85). Being a tall cake, I would be adding in extra support in the way of dowels (50c) and a middle cakeboard (23c). Naturally, I would be adding my brand label onto the box as well (19c). You’re looking at approximately $10 for packaging.

Overheads: This portion of every cake order helps pay for ongoing business expenses, such as home food business registration, insurance, website costs, mobile phone & internet costs, vehicle upkeep (maintenance & registration), background utilities (example running the fridge storing the ingredients/cakes), and new cake decorating tools/equipment when required. At the core of it, if I did not pass on those expenses to the customers, then I would be running my business at a loss. As mentioned previously, I limit orders to 1 a week, meaning that those costs are not able to be spread as thinly across more orders.

External additional costs: There are certain prices out of my control where I outsource elements, and I generally include these separately onto the invoice. Florals, edible images, toppers, etc. Did you know a small bouquet of florals sets me back $40? Did you know I needed 3x A4 custom edible images to complete this cake? And my driving out to those shops to collect those items – that’s ~40 minutes of driving time only, and fuel to drive ~39km.

That pretty much covers the big factors as to why my cakes are more expensive than others. This by no means is meant to suggest that the other offerings are inferior, or that my cakes are better than theirs – it is only meant to give an indication as to why the pricing is different, and why my products are different. I am not able to offer the bulk-produced pricing – I wish I could, so that my offerings were more affordable for everyone. But what I can offer, is a gourmet home-made bespoke cake for your special occasion, customised exactly how you want it.

Ordering from me, it is never just a cake – it is an experience.

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