Cupcakes. Cake. There’s a lot to love about these scrumptious desserts. But which one is the better choice for your wedding?
The truth is, the decision usually comes down to budget, personal preference, or both. To help make your decision easier, we’ve put together a comprehensive guide to help you compare the merits of wedding cakes and wedding cupcakes.
Let’s take a look at wedding cake and wedding cupcake prices and how much you can expect to pay for each of these delicious options.
Cupcakes Vs. Cake: Which Costs More?
Bakers can spend days creating a fancy wedding cake. From the actual baking to creating a solid structure with dowels to icing and decorating, there’s a lot of sweat equity in large wedding cakes.
Cupcakes are far less labor-intensive than a tiered cake. Bakers don’t have to worry about structure or creating a grand masterpiece that will be the focal point of your reception decor. That said, these sweet treats can still be costly if you choose something elaborate.
So which one is a better deal? Let’s take a look.
Average wedding cakes in the U.S. hover around $350 each, with most couples spending between $125 and $700. Couples who choose large, elaborate cakes will typically need to shell out between $1,000 and $1,200. Cake pricing is also impacted by a vendor’s location. Bakers in large urban areas tend to be more expensive.
Cakes are typically priced by the slice, with the average fondant-covered cake coming in at $5 per slice and buttercream frosted cake slices averaging $4. Slices of a very small, simple cake may go down as low as $2.50 but the cost can also go up significantly with elaborate or specialty cake slices which range anywhere from $7 to $12.
Just like cakes, cupcake pricing varies widely depending on flavor profiles, design complexity and the location of your baker.
Some small town bakers, for instance, charge as little as $1-$2 per cupcake while those in urban areas like New York City can charge $6 or more per cupcake. The average starting price for a wedding cupcake, however, is $3 each. If you want to pay less than that, your best bet is to find a new business trying to build up a clientele. New bakeries will often charge less to drum up business.
Another way to keep costs down is to choose a basic cupcake flavor like vanilla with plain buttercream frosting. With no fillings or added decorations, you would expect to pay around $2.50 to $3 per cupcake for a maximum of $36 per dozen.
If you wanted a more complex flavor profile, however, you should expect your costs to go up accordingly. A lemon cupcake with a lemon curd center and cream cheese icing with no added decorations would probably be around $4 per cupcake or $48 per dozen.
Gourmet pina colada cupcakes with a pineapple cream center and Swiss meringue buttercream frosting decorated with sugar flowers would come in at the high end of the price range: about $6 per cupcake or $72 per dozen.
Although cost per cupcake will vary from bakery to bakery, this will give you a rough idea of how much you’ll need to budget.
Factors in Wedding Cupcake Prices
There are a lot of elements to consider when choosing the right cupcakes for your wedding, including cost. The following list of factors will have the biggest effect on how much you pay:
- Location — Where the baker works will play a huge role in pricing. Wedding bakers in large cities tend to charge more than small town bakers.
- Ingredients — Vegan, gluten-free or specialty cupcakes with high-end ingredients will be more costly.
- Flavors — Adding fillings, fancy frostings and drizzles will increase the amount you’ll need to pay.
- Sizes — Most bakeries offer jumbo, regular and mini sizes. Opting for mini cupcakes can offer substantial savings (if you don’t increase the number you order), cutting costs by at least half.
- Decoration — Fancy cake decorating techniques and designs like edible gold leaves, sugar flowers or edible bows will increase the price.
- Frosting — If you want a fondant topper in addition to frosting, you can expect the price point to go up, especially if your baker adds any hand painting.
- Add-Ons — Most bakers won’t include a tower, stand or toppers in their quote. If you want these items provided, it will be an additional expense.
Cupcake Prices: What’s Included and What’s Extra
Every baker is different, so it’s vital that you speak directly with any vendors you’re vetting to determine what you can expect to be included in the price of your cupcake order.
In most cases, the price of your cupcakes will include:
- A design consultation and quote
- The actual cupcakes
The price may include:
- Tasting appointment
The price probably won’t include:
- Delivery fee
- Setup fee
- Cupcake tower rental fee
- Toppers for each cupcake
The Pros and Cons of Serving Cupcakes at Your Wedding Reception
Serving cupcakes can be a great choice for many couples, but it’s not the right fit for every bride and groom. If you’re still undecided on the merits of cupcakes, this handy pros and cons list can help you decide.
- A basic cupcake is about $1 cheaper than the average slice of cake.
- Asking for half of the amount of frosting can save you money. Many bakeries pipe on three inches of frosting, which can be too sweet for some people.
- You can have a small one-tier cake for the cake cutting ceremony and have it displayed at the top of a beautiful tower of cupcakes for an eye-catching dessert table. (If you stick with basic cupcakes, this is still cheaper than a full-size cake).
- They’re an easy grab-and-go snack for guests, especially if you offer mini cupcakes.
- Cupcakes can be customized just like cake. Your baker will talk with you about your preferences to create a few different flavor, filling, and frosting combinations you’ll enjoy.
- If budget isn’t an issue, you can have a full-sized cake to serve after dinner and have a cupcake table to fortify guests during the dancing.
- You can choose several flavor profiles from a rich red velvet cupcake with cream cheese frosting to a coconut cupcake with chocolate ganache and chocolate buttercream to a strawberry champagne cupcake with strawberry jam center and champagne buttercream.
- If you’re trying to choose between fancy gourmet cupcakes or an elaborate cake, the cupcakes will be cheaper. Even a high-end cupcake won’t be much higher than $6 while slices of a specialty tier cake with full decoration can range from $7-$12.
- Most bakers recommend ordering 1.5 regular sized cupcakes for every guest. While not everyone will indulge, some will eat two if there are multiple flavors.
- If you opt for mini cupcakes, ordering two per guest is wise. The smaller size means most people will eat two and some three or more, especially when there’s more than one flavor.
- If you want a gourmet cupcake complete with filling, fancy frosting and high-end cake decorating techniques, your cupcakes could be $6 each. That surpasses the price of $4-$5 for an average wedding cake slice.
- A cupcake tower rental from the bakery is an additional but necessary expense. You can buy your own as well but, either way, it will be a few more dollars out of your wallet.
Other Ways to Save Money on Dessert
Not every bride and groom are sentimental about a traditional cake cutting ceremony. If it’s not something that really matters to you or if you’re on a tight budget and are looking to economize, a dessert table with a selection of tasty treats is worth considering. Setup is easy and is a great idea for any style of wedding.
While cake or cupcakes are the most common desserts at a wedding reception, it’s certainly not your only choice.
If you’re hosting a black tie wedding, but want to offer non-traditional desserts, cheesecake, creme brulee, trifle or tiramisu are always popular. Throw in a platter of macarons, chocolate covered strawberries or truffles and your table will be complete.
Country or rustic-style weddings lend themselves well to a selection of pies or tarts in place of a cake or a cupcake tower. You can choose a few of your favorite fruit or cream pies to offer a variety of choice and accompany these delicious slices with freshly whipped cream. Other casual dessert choices include pound cake or platters of doughnuts, brownies or cookies accompanied by fresh fruit.
A bakery or your caterer can provide desserts for your table, depending on your preference, but often it’s cheaper to get them through your caterer. Get quotes and see which vendor offers a better deal.
If your wedding venue permits it, you can even bring in some of your own desserts. Brownie and cookie platters are often available at the supermarket for $7 to $10 each and can help you not only supplement the main dessert provided by the bakery or your caterer, but cut down on costs too.
Perhaps the best thing about having a table of desserts, however, is that your family and friends can help themselves throughout the reception with some of the easier grab-and-go options.
Remember, this is your wedding and there are no hard and fast rules when it comes to selecting which desserts you will serve. As long as the desserts are delicious and you have an ample supply, you will receive nothing but good comments from your guests. So, choose what works best for you — and your budget.