Ever wonder why custom cakes cost so much more than cakes from the grocery store? I’ll try to compare, but honestly, there is not much to compare. The grocery store usually has X number of cakes to choose from. They have lots of layers mass-baked, for you and a number of other people. That fluffy white icing comes in a lovely white plastic 5-gallon bucket, and the raspberry filling was squeezed out of a see-through plastic sleeve that was on the shelf with all the other kinds of fillings. They purchase in bulk through the store chain, so the ingredients cost very little. The cake bases, cardboard circles, etc. are there, as there are only so many sizes of cakes offered. Customizing? That may vary some from one store to another. Production is key. Get it done fast. They will probably sell it to you at a price that barely breaks even, knowing that when you pick up your cake, you will probably purchase all the chips, soda, burgers, etc. that you need for the party.
Now lets go custom: I’ll be asking you lots of questions… How many people are you serving? Is this the only dessert? Do you need larger servings, or “typical” wedding-sized servings? Do you have an idea in mind? You want a 6-tier cake shaped like a kangaroo? Time to sketch the cake plans, to make sure it feeds everyone, and will stand upright. A few hours of planning, drawing up the contract, meeting with the customer, emailing… Vanilla-Almond Sour Cream cake with raspberry filling? I’ll be going to the grocery store and paying RETAIL for red raspberries, lemons, etc.. After all, raspberry filling should be made with raspberries, right? Chances are the ingredients will be purchased from 2 or 3 different stores. I just spent the afternoon shopping for your cake ingredients.
Now, off to the lumber/plumbing store… The base to hold the cake: Hmmmm… It needs to be very strong. I make a trip to the lumber store for a sheet of 1/2″ plywood, nuts, bolts, flat washers, and plumbing supplies. Then I’ll have to figure out the size and shape needed. Map it out, saw the plywood, sand the edges, make sure it is clean, and cover it with foil or wax paper. Then, it may also be covered in fondant in a color to match the cake. That tall kangaroo won’t stand on its own. There are 5 more plywood and/or cardboard plates to be cut, sanded, drilled, covered in foil, and make exact so that the kangaroo can be carved to actually look like a kangaroo. A center pipe will have to go from bottom to top, to keep this thing straight. The center hole in the cake will not actually be in the center of each of these boards. One long pipe will attach to the bottom board, and go clear to the top of the cake. Each plywood “plate” needs 4 to 6 holes drilled in it to attach PVC end caps underneath. Yup. Must drill a hole in each end cap, too, so that they can be attached with the right length bolts, flat washers, and nuts. As the cake is assembled, each iced tier is measured for height, and then pvc pipe is cut to exact lengths, put into the end caps, and lowered into the tier below. The weight of the cake has to be held by pipes and dowels, or it would crush the layers under it.
I’m going to need fondant… that will take about an hour and a half to make. I’ll need gum paste… there’s another hour. I’ll need modeling chocolate… another hour. All of these things will need to be tinted different colors and kneaded by hand. This is still a couple days before the cake is due. 2 days before the cake due date… Time to start baking. 6 tiers… a minimum of 12 cakes in varying sizes. The legs and head will probably need to be made of rice krispies treats… need a couple batches of those made. Some heavy wire will be needed to go through the front legs. The rice krispies treats are molded around the wire and pvc pipes here and there and then carved with a knife, made smooth, covered in butter cream, and then covered in fondant/ gum paste/ modeling chocolate, and decorated. We have not even baked the cakes yet! The filling must be cooked, too. HOURS of baking, making multiple batches of butter cream, icing, stacking, carving, icing the outside, wrapping in fondant and modeling chocolate, sculpting parts, painting with food coloring and airbrushing…
This cake is way too heavy, so it must be made in 3 parts and assembled at the venue. Everything that will be needed must go along in the Jeep. There must be a way to pack that cake in the Jeep for safe travel. It can not slip or fall over. Some dog better NOT run out in front of me. Time to travel. Must get there 2 1/2 hours before the party to set it up. There goes another half a day. Don’t worry, the other half of this day is waiting… the kitchen has to be cleaned. Your 3-D kangaroo probably took at least 35 to 40 hours, and a minimum of $145.00 in ingredients. This was your little peek into the world of extreme cake design. Now you understand why they cost more than $60.00.