Hi There! I am a pastry chef, who specializes in Wedding Cakes ... I have read on a lot of boards some cake misconceptions and they really irk me! So I am clearing some things up, and hopefully this helps all of you with your cake selections.
Serving Cheap slab cakes from the grocery store: Really? Have you ever eaten one of those cakes? If you like it, then great, but please don't pretend that your guests are eating the gorgeous (and probably delicious) wedding cake, when in fact they are eating hydrogenated oil, artificial flavors and colors, and sugar. You won't be fooling anyone, in fact, some might be offended that they weren't importanat enough to get a slic of the 'real' wedding cake. Some cake bakers actually won't allow outside cakes to be served if their cake is on display .... it gives them a bad name, because people will think their cake tastes like gross grocery store cake.
Also, most grocery stores get their cake shipped in, frozen, and ice them with stuff that comes out of a bucket. Yum!
Slab cakes from the baker: You honestly won't save a ton of money this way. If your tiered cake is really elaborate and you are also getting plain slabs, you will save a buck or two per serving, but if your actual cake is pretty simple (plain ribbon for example) then your slabs will cost pretty much the same per serving as your cake.
Saving by getting cupcakes: Cupcakes aren't that much cheaper per serving that a slice of wedding cake (maybe 0.50 to a dollar cheaper). And if you want them each decorated, then your price goes up! Making each little cupcake a work of art takes time. Also, you will have to rent a stand.
Getting a fake cake: You will never find a baker who will make you a fake cake at a fraction of the cost. The longest part of making a wedding cake is the decorating! At best you would get 20% off. So, if you are being charged $5 a slice, you save $1. You are still getting all the ribbon, flowers, polka dots, topper etc that you would get on a real cake. There are deals to be had when you rent a previously made fake cake, but they are kind of gross ... do you want to showcase a cake that has been sitting on a shelf for god knows how long? And then you STILL have to get a cake (those gross one's from the grocery store
. Not saving too much money.
Saving by picking the cake up yourself: Seriously, how much will you save here? $40? I would gladly pay $40 for someone else to worry about that, especially on my wedding day!
There is a reason that baker is sooo cheap: If it seems to good to be true, then it probably is
. If a baker is way underpricing, it is probably because she doesn't know what she is doing. Make sure you see pictures of the baker's work, and make sure they haven't just gone to google images and stolen a bunch -- things like that are rampant in the cake community. Also, cheaper bakers are often 'illegal', working out of their home. Many venues will not allow this type of food to be served - if someone gets sick they will be on the hook.
That is not to say that all home bakers are bad, in fact there are many, many talented, legal, bakers working out of their home and producing gorgeous and tasty cakes.
That is all I can think of right now .... sorry this isn't more positive. I just can't bear to read another "I am going to save money by getting cheap slab cakes".
I read somewhere that you can think of it this way .... can you think of a single fancy restaurant where you can get a delicious, beautiful piece of cake for dessert for less than $5? You can't.