Types of cake

All cake masterpieces start with the basics. You want it to look good and taste good, so don't forget about all the options outside of decorations.

Some of the choices you'll have to make include flavors, fillings and icing.

Classic flavors like white, yellow and chocolate harken back to bygone eras while offering an inexpensive way to feed a large number of guests. More costly alternatives like custom marble swirls and the addition of fruit fillings can evoke decadence through depth of flavor.

Buttercream frosting acts as a simple and inexpensive treat with which to top cakes, whereas fondant icing showcases an intentional splurge on luxury. Whipped cream and royal icing afford great decoration versatility, but may require special care to maintain their delicate shapes.

Layering flavors can add interesting texture to any cake. Unique choices in size, such as creating very tall cakes or offering them in different sizes, can leave an impression on guests. Some talented professionals take decorating cakes to a new level by finding inspiration in their clients' careers, hobbies or even their wedding day garb. 

Cakes that need quick and cheap decoration can have candy incorporated into their designs. Basic square-shaped cakes generally have more pieces. 

Special occasion cakes

Any celebration can benefit from the addition of a cake. Here are some of the most popular special event cakes.

Wedding cake

Cutting the cake remains a popular tradition at wedding receptions. Classic, elegant cake designs are still popular, but brides and grooms are starting to go outside of the box with cakes that showcase their unique personality. 

To save money, some couples have a smaller cake for the cutting, and a larger sheet cake for the guests. Cupcake towers are also making their way into the events. 

Gender reveal cake

Baby shower cakes have always been popular, but a new trend for parents-to-be is the gender reveal cake. The cake is gender neutral on the outside, and you cut into it to reveal pink or blue. 

Birthday cake

With the popularity of shows like "Cake Boss" and "Ace of Cakes," custom birthday cakes are becoming a common component of birthday parties. Families look for and order cakes that will match the birthday celebrant's personality. Sheet cakes customized with writing in icing from a grocery store or bakery are a more affordable option than a complete custom cake. 

Other popular events to provide cake at are graduation parties, retirement parties and bridal showers.

How much does a cake cost?

Bakeries typically charge per slice or serving when making cakes for birthday parties or special events. Supermarket cakes range from 35 cents to $2 a slice. Basic bakery cakes range from $1 to $4 per slice, and more elaborate sculptured and 3-D cakes can cost $4 to $14 per serving. 

According to the Bridal Association of America, the average wedding cake costs $543. Tiered wedding cakes have to be carefully transported, and many times, assembled at your venue. The delivery fee can range from $50 to $100. While some places offer consultations and tastings complimentary, they can cost $25 to $100 per hour.

Budget-conscious consumers can save money by selecting basic flavors and no-fuss shapes, opting to assemble a cake at the event personally, and foregoing extra services like professional slicing. These choices can reduce a bill by hundreds of dollars. Couples who want to experience extravagance on their wedding days while on a moderate budget can consider ordering expensive cakes and cutting slices in half. They can also choose to create the smallest tier of the cake with decadent materials and ingredients, while saving common flavors and decorations for the bottom layers.

Pricing information via costhelper.com

How to order a cake

There are many things you want to consider when ordering a cake. After all, you're spending your hard-earned dollars on it and expecting guests to eat it. Here are some tips to help get the best bang for your buck. 

Select a style

Have an idea of what cake style you want before going into any bakeries. This streamlines the process and helps you get a cake that fits the occasion. Some consultations are charged by the hour, so doing your homework can save you some money. If you have some of the decorations for the event, you can bring them in to find a cake that matches the décor. Additionally, for wedding cakes, take into account the theme, colors and venue.

Finalize your guest list

It's important that you know how many people are attending your celebration. If possible, collect RSVP cards before nailing down the cake order. Also, let the baker know if you'll be serving other desserts. 

Set a budget

Tell the bakery your cake budget to get a realistic idea of the style and size you can afford. Bakers are willing to work with varying budgets, but you have to let them know what the number is.

Read reviews

Check out Angie's List's bakery reviews to find a highly rated shop. If you've been to a celebration in the past that had good cake, ask the host what bakery they used.

Taste the cake

Bakeries allow you to do a tasting to make sure you're pleased with what they're serving. If they don't mention one, be sure to ask about it.

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