Baked goods aren’t cheap to begin with. And even if you’re paying top dollar, that certainly doesn’t guarantee quality, as anyone who has tasted a dry, pasty wedding cake before knows. Here’s a how-to guide to find the most delicious cake for the best price.

1. Before you being shopping, you need to have an estimate of how many servings you’ll need, so make sure you have a reliable guest list before embarking on the cake adventure.

2. Next, do your research. Your options include commercial bakeries (like a grocery store), caterers, your reception site, independent bakeries and pastry chefs. Think outside the box, too. Bridal Bargains, by Denise and Alan Fields (a fantastic book for anyone planning a wedding), suggests considering places like Wal-Mart or Costco for a surprisingly decent cake or hiring the cake decorating teacher at a craft store). Also ask your florist, wedding planner and photographer their recommendations. Bridal shows are another good way to find bakers. Pick two or three of your favorites to visit.

3. Go meet the bakers in person. It’s a good idea to make an appointment ahead of time. Ask to see photos of real cakes they’ve done. And definitely ask for a taste test. No matter what – make sure you taste the cake! Explain how formal your wedding is, the expected approximate size and your vision. Then ask for quotes based on several variations of styles you like. Then get estimates in writing.

4. Ask questions: How far in advance is it made? Who decorates the cake if you’re using flowers? What extra charges might there be? (Delivery, setup, decorations, etc.)

5. Make a decision. Get a signed contract.

Moroccan Fall Wedding Cake

Beware of:

  • Bakeries that don’t offer taste tests and bakeries that make you buy a cake to taste it.
  • Fondant: It’s the type of icing that gives the super-smooth look that’s so popular, but fondant is usually lacking in the taste department. If you’re set on fondant, absolutely positively taste your baker’s fondant before committing.
  • Cake stands and pillars: It can add to the overall price of the cake, and they’re really not necessary. In fact, they may even detract. A good baker should present the cake on a board that’s wrapped in ribbon and/or frosting for no extra charge, so that’s not something to worry about.

Wedding Cakes Whimsical

Tips to save:

  • Serve sheet cake. Have a smallish display cake with all the fancy layers and décor you like, but have the wait staff serve your guests from simple sheet cakes kept back in the kitchen. Sheet cakes can be up to 75 percent less than a tiered wedding cake, Bridal Bargains says.
  • Skip the groom’s cake. Just decide together what the cake will be.
  • Decorate with flowers. Fresh blooms are significantly cheaper than the hours of work you’d be paying for if your baker is doing fancy decorating.
  • Cut slightly smaller pieces for guests. Wedding cake can average up to $4.50 a slice. Most people will be more occupied with drinking or too full from just eating to have more than a modest piece anyways.

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