If you follow wedding groups on social media, read wedding blogs or magazines, or watch/read/listen to anything else related to this industry and are planning your wedding, I'm sure you've heard the term "faux cake"...but what IS a faux cake?
A faux cake (or "fake cake") is a cake that is styrofoam inside, but is decorated to look just like a real cake. They can come in all kinds of shapes and sizes, and the options when it comes to how they are decorated are endless!
Bakeries have used faux cakes for quite a while. They are an excellent way to display different styles and designs in a more tangible way, as opposed to looking at a 2D picture. When you're looking at ordering a custom cake, having that display cake to look at can help you get a better idea of what a cake with 100 servings looks like, or to see the difference between a standard height tier and a tall tier. The fact that they are made from styrofoam and not real cake means that they can be on display for quite a while and not go bad.
It's no secret that weddings can be costly. Big ticket items and smaller details all add up quickly, and brides on a budget are looking for ways to cut costs. Somewhere along the way, someone had an idea to save money on the cake by displaying a faux cake and keeping a sheet cake in the kitchen to slice and serve instead. Sheet cakes (usually coming from grocery stores or big box stores like Sam's or Costco) are CHEAP. To some brides, this can sound like an appealing way to save money.
Unfortunately, I find this suggestion rarely comes from bakeries (who have experience with cakes and understand the costs, the pros, and the cons), and usually is coming from someone who isn't well versed in cake. It sounds good, in theory, but let's take a closer look.
When it comes to cake, the biggest factor in price is labor. Raw ingredients like flour and sugar are relatively inexpensive. Some ingredients are more costly, especially if you are using a bakery that chooses quality ingredients over the cheap stuff, but when it's all mapped out in paper and ink, ingredients are what is least expensive and labor is where the bulk of the cost comes from. Labor costs will vary, of course. Inexperienced bakers will charge less for labor, and bakers with more skill and experience will charge more.
With a faux cake, you are swapping the cake portion...the ingredients...for styrofoam. Then, the styrofoam is prepped, iced in buttercream or fondant, and decorated the same way a real cake would be.
Styrofoam isn't super cheap, and because its bulky, shipping costs can double the cost of each piece. The cost of the styrofoam and the cost of the cake ingredients can actually end up being about the same. When comparing a faux cake and a real cake of the same size and design, the cost of ingredients used on the outside of the faux cake don't change, and the labor stays the same as well. This means that the cost of the faux cake and cost of the real cake are pretty much equal when all is said and done. Depending on where you are getting it, your faux cake might be priced a little less than actual cake, but, with a faux cake to display, you still need dessert to feed your guests
The cheapest option here is to buy sheet cakes from big box stores- but you get what you pay for here. This is a subject for another post, lol.
Many reputable bakeries choose not to offer sheet cakes at all because sheet cakes are generally regarded as less classy. Instead, they may offer "kitchen cakes", or "cutting cakes". These are usually priced at the bakery's base rate per serving.
Let's look at a few scenarios!
Let's say a cake design you LOVE would cost $10/serving, and you have 100 guests.
A real cake would cost you $1000.
If you decided to make that cake a faux cake, a cake the same size and design would still cost you $1000 and you'd still need to feed your guests. From my bakery, kitchen cake is $6.50/serving, so 100 servings would be $650. Total: $1650
However, if you decided to downsize and get a small 2 tier faux cake (equal in size to 36 servings), that would be $360. A kitchen cake would be $650. Total: $1010
If you decided to make that 2 tier cake REAL cake, with 36 servings, it would be $360. The kitchen cake would only need to serve 64 and would be $416. Total: $776
In these scenarios, a faux cake, no matter the size, was not cost saving. However, choosing a smaller tiered cake and supplementing with kitchen cake DID save money!
If, instead of serving kitchen cake, the bride chose to serve sheet cakes from Sam's, then yes, she would be more likely to save some money with faux cakes--but, depending on where you're getting your faux cake, this may not be an option. If you're buying a cheaper faux cake from Etsy or a more inexperienced baker, this would be doable. If, however, you're having a skilled baker create a custom faux cake for you, they can often have clauses in their contracts that the cake you serve guests must come from their bakery as well- whether it's kitchen cakes or perhaps cupcakes. This is because a bakery's reputation is valuable. If they are supplying a faux cake but your guests are being served cheap sheet cakes, guests may make the assumption that the cake they were served came from the same bakery- and if it tastes cheap and no different from grocery store birthday cakes, they will remember that and the bakery's reputation could be damaged.
In my experience, saving money is not a reason to choose a faux cake, but there ARE a few times that it could be a great choice!
One reason to choose a faux cake is if you are having an outdoor wedding/reception. Cakes do not do well in the heat, and having your cake sitting outside is a recipe for disaster. You could keep your cake indoors, but, if you'd rather have it out where people can see it, choosing a faux cake would be a good option! A faux cake will hold up much better outside, and your kitchen cake can stay safely indoors, ready to be sliced and served.
Some brides want a large showstopper cake to serve as a focal point and centerpiece of their reception, and they'd like it to stay for the whole reception and not be carted off to cut and serve. A faux cake is exactly what is needed for this!
Finally, if your heart is set on a certain bakery, but they will have to travel quite a distance (even from out of state), it can be wise to have a faux cake and kitchen cakes because both a faux cake and single tier kitchen cakes will stand up to long distance travel much better than a multitiered real wedding cake.
Faux cakes definitely have a place and serve a purpose! But, that purpose is very rarely to save any money. Instead, if you are looking for ways to save on cake cost, let your baker help guide you and give you suggestions! We often are more than happy to help!