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Cake Business — What’s In A Serving?

This is a topic I’ve put much thought and research into, because it’s something that is varied throughout business to business — cost per serving, and serving sizes. But when you assess your prices based on serving sizes, how do you determine your serving size?

Now let me disclose — I’m a closet math geek. So I wanted to do this as mathematically sound as possible, to get results that would be constant and certain, no matter the variable. So if you are wondering how prices are calculated, this is how I determine cake pricing in regards to serving size — by volume. Easy! Well — you’ll see what I mean by “easy” — at least mathematically speaking.

First — what is the volume of your serving? Industry wide, this depends on if you want wedding cake servings, or party dessert servings. Party dessert servings are larger; it’s not an inflation of cost for ordering a cake for a wedding, but an smaller serving size for a generally more technically difficult cake to make. When you are asking for how much per serving, make sure to ask the serving size so you know what to expect.

Wedding cake servings = 1 inch Length x 2 inch Width x 4 inch Height.

For your cake servings, the length is the cut along the perimeter of the cake, the width is your depth of each slice, and the height is how tall your cake layers are based (so, a shorter cake would affect your serving amounts). For unusually tall tiers, which is a very pleasing look — the serving size will be based off 4 inches, and your servings will increase if your cake height per serving is greater than 4 inches (i.e. — if your desired cake height is 6 inches, you will multiply the servings by 1.5 — if your desired cake height is 8 inches, multiply by 2, etc).

This makes each wedding-serving size to be at 8 cubic inches — 1 in x 2 in x 4 in.

For party dessert sized servings, you base your serving size on a desired larger portion of cake for your guests. So when determining your guest list and event, make sure to take into account how much cake your party will actually want (for example — my family eats large portions, and showing up with a cake that only allowed for wedding-size portions, well — this would cause mass chaos).

Party cake servings = 1.5 inch Length x 2 inch Width x 4 inch Height.

This makes each dessert-serving size to be at 12 cubic inches — 1.5 in x 2 in x 4 in.

What this means to you, is that one 8-inch round cake will have different servings, depending on how much cake you want to provide for your guests at your next event. This also means that a wedding cake meant to serve 50, and a party cake meant to serve 30, could cost the same. More important than servings, the price will depend on the level of skill and detail required for the cake specifically. An 8-inch wedding cake, decorated with buttercream, would require a lower level of skill and time than an equal-sized cake with fondant figurines, flowers, or other details, even if that cake was intended for a baby shower. And in this scenario, it would be very likely the baby shower cake would be the higher costing cake.

This is why it is incredibly difficult to quote a cake.

So back to volume  — knowing the volume of the serving sizes dramatically simplifies the process of determining how many servings are in what size of cake, since now it’s just a matter of finding out the volume of your cake, and dividing by your wedding size cake volume (8 cubic inches) and your party dessert size cake volume (12 cubic inches).

I.E. — for an 8 inch round cake:

Volume

So for our 8-inch cake, r = 4 (half of the diameter, which is 8 since we have an 8-inch round) — and the height is also 4, since we are basing our serving sizes on a cake with a 4 inch height (so h = 4 will be the constant for all cakes).  So if we plug in our numbers for r and h, we get this —

V = 3.14 (4) x (4)

This gives us a volume equaling 200.96 cubic inches for an 8 inch round cake.

Divide by 8 cubic inches for wedding servings = 25.12 servings.
Divide by 12 cubic inches for party dessert servings = 16.75 servings.

Here is what you get, when you run this same formula for different sized cakes:

Cake Size    Wedding    Party

3 inch          3.5                 2
4 inch          6                    4
5 inch          10                  6.5
6 inch          12-14             8-9
7 inch          20                  13
8 inch          24-25             16-17
9 inch          32                  21
10 inch        38-40             26
11 inch        47                  31-32
12 inch        56                  38

Now that you have the information — here’s how I want you to use it:

Decide how much cake you want your guests to have.
Then you can decide how much cake you need.

Don’t worry about what the portion sizes above mean, or which to choose — you are not going to be charged different amounts based on upon the size portion you need. You are going to be charged based on the total amount of cake you need, and the level of detail, skill, and time required to make that cake.

An 8 inch cake, whether it’s for a wedding or for a birthday party, is the same amount of cake. It’s just a matter of how far that cake will get you — that’s the purpose for having serving sizes available in different measurements. The price is then determined by if that cake will take your decorator 4 hours to make, or 100 hours. When you decide on a cake with intricate details, with multiple tiers, with fondant icing and hand-sculpted adornments — this will increase the time required, which is why the price increases. Telling your cake designer how many servings just gives them the base at which to start, your bottom line — how much cake you require.

Kate & Co. desserts + party prices our cakes starting at $4.00 per serving; this price is based upon wedding-sized servings. This would mean a basic six-inch, 1 tiered buttercream cake with basic flavors and fillings, would be a starting price of $50.00, with the cost increasing as you add custom design and detail. If that cake takes 4 hours start to finish to prepare and deliver to you, that’s $12.00/hour. If you take into account the tools required to make your cake — and then, the actual supplies and ingredients required to prepare the cake; well, you can see how difficult the pricing can be, to make sure not to fall below cost, to take into account the cost of your time. This would also mean that an basic six-inch cake you order for your birthday party would also start at $50.00, but could possibly only serve 8 people, with standard dessert sized servings (while if a wedding cake, could serve up to 14).

I hope this information has been helpful — if you have any questions on other items such as how other desserts are priced, requesting or giving discounts, how to price for family and friends — please list them below and I will try to answer them to the best of my ability. Also if you have any feedback or suggestions, please share!

(image source via etsy)

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Discussion

2 thoughts on “Cake Business — What’s In A Serving?

  1. Love this. I’ve never known how I would even price a cake, but this gives me a good idea of how to start if I ever branch out of my cookie zone!

    Posted by Carrie | May 10, 2012, 12:58 pm
    • It is very difficult! I loved this article Sharon Wee just wrote a few days ago. To be honest, I am not great at pricing cakes, and always come in much lower than what would be reasonable, just because I like doing what I do, and I like being able to give a great deal — but I am not yet profitable in any way, and barely breaking even on ingredients and supplies, not taking into any account the cost (and sacrifice) of my personal time. And since it is just something I’m doing part time, in addition to a full-time job, I need to be able to feel like I can justify (to myself, and others) how pricing works, and to be able to say specifically, this is how much cake to expect, and this is why!

      At least now I feel like I can understand well how I will price my cakes from here on out, and know exactly what I’m talking about when I say “per serving”. Yay, math!

      Posted by katiebuss | May 10, 2012, 1:42 pm

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