It’s the ultimate wedding-planning conundrum: You don’t want to
overspend, but you want everything to
be really special. Well, for once, you can have your cake and eat it too. Wedding
cakes tend to be outrageously expensive (I know because when I make them, the
amount I charge is generally proportional to the anxiety of preparing and
delivering a flawless cake in time for the customer's big day). But, thanks to
these clever hacks, you can save a lot without sacrificing style — and the best
part is, they don’t involve any baking on your part.
With minimal planning
and 15 minutes of help from a creative friend or relative, these simple tricks
will help you save big bucks. Multiply the price per serving (estimated below)
by the number of guests to see just how
much. Depending on the size of your wedding, we're talking hundreds or even
thousands of dollars.
For An Urban Wedding: Tier Up
Do you get choked up thinking about the cost of a wedding, and
not in a good way? By stacking pastries on a tiered stand, you can achieve the
spectacle of a traditional wedding cake without the traditional price tag. Serve
a dessert that says something about you as a couple, instead of the same old
Scavenge thrift stores, browse Etsy, or DIY a pretty cake stand,
and ask your caterer or a designated family member to pile it high with your
favorite sweets. We bought this foamcore stand from NY
Cake, spray-painted it gold, and trimmed it with satin ribbon
attached with foam-mounting tape (all for under $100). For the cake
alternative, we chose fluffy coconut donuts from Peter Pan Donut & Pastry Shop. They
have all the visual impact of a fancier confection, without the drain on your
Doughnuts: $1.50 to $3 per serving
For A Simple Country Wedding: Go Floral
Instead of ordering an ornately decorated cake, ask for simple
buttercream icing and decorate it yourself with fresh flowers. According to Betsy Thorleifson from Nine Cakes in Brooklyn, a simple
tiered cake for 50 guests is a minimum of $500 during high
season ($250 during off-season), compared to $750 for a decorated cake.
Snag a handful of the blooms you're already using for decor, or if
you have a garden, pick your own for approximately zero extra dollars. Even if
you go all out and buy flowers just for the cake, you’ll be hard-pressed to
spend more than $100 — still far less than you'd pay for a decorated one.
farm flowers like dahlias, zinnias, and bachelor's buttons not only look
stunning but also hold up well. It's best to use organic or edible flowers, and
be sure to wash them.
You’ll have other things to worry about on your wedding day, so
ask a friend with a good eye to place the flowers on the cake a few hours
before serving. Simply trim the stems short and poke them into the icing. Beware of toxic plant varieties — if you are unsure, wrap the stems in plastic. Cluster the blossoms on top of the cake, and gracefully spiral them down the
side, leaving some gaps to let the eye rest. If you mess up the icing, just
cover it with petals. There’s no need to be too fussy — fresh flowers look great
no matter what.
Simple cake with fresh flowers: $5 to $10 per serving
For A Destination Wedding: Hot Sheet
Fancy, tiered wedding cakes are like stilettos: They look
fantastic, but can be more trouble than they're worth — especially at a beach or destination wedding. In fact, at traditional weddings, some couples choose to display a formal tiered cake, and hide
an additional sheet cake in the kitchen to actually serve the guests. But, why not forego
the tiered number altogether, and just order a big sheet cake? Any bakery will
make one, and you won’t have to worry about it toppling or melting in the sun.
For a truly tropical effect, cover the table in banana leaves.
(Even if you’re not on a tropical island, you can get them frozen from a Latin American or Southeast Asian market for around $2.50.) Surround the cake with colorful, exotic fruit (you can fill a shopping bag for $50), and
palms picked from overhead (or purchased from a florist for about $5 to $10 each). Use some supermarket
gel-icing to write something romantic — a favorite quote or your names. The
cost is easily half that of a tiered cake. You can spend the savings on an extra night of
Sheet cake: $1 to $4 per serving