Monday, June 29, 2009

Cupcakes: Cheaper? Maybe ... Maybe Not

Cupcakes are all the rage .... well, if you listen to wedding magazines and websites, they are. These same magazine and websites usually imply how much cheaper cupcakes are.

Not always.

I want brides to go through the wedding planning process with their eyes wide open. I want them to be aware of all of their options. I want them to take nothing at face value and to do some in-depth research.

So with that thought, allow me to share what I've encountered with cupcake requests.

Bride hears that cupcakes are cheaper. Bride pops into the local grocery store bakery and sees that cupcakes are sold 12 to a pack for about $6 (50 cents each). The cupcakes are your basic grocery store cupcake ... standard size with a swirl of icing, maybe some sprinkles or candy stars on top.

Bride quickly calculates 100 cupcakes for her wedding will run her about fifty bucks. Great! What a boost to her budget!

Here's where the problem starts.

Bride doesn't WANT a grocery store cupcake with a swirl of icing on top. She wants the cupcakes the magazines are showing her, with the fondant icing, topped with a rose that has been hand made from gumpaste, with gumpaste leaves swirling out from under the rose and perhaps a small edible star on a wire rising from behind the rose. Oh, and how about those cute special cupcakes wrappers with hearts cut out in the design (available here: )

Those special cupcakes wrappers themselves start at $1.25 EACH. The baker has to make 100 gumpaste roses (instead of just 15 or 20 buttercream roses to cascade down a small 3-tiered wedding cake). Gumpaste roses can range from $1 to $2.50 EACH. Plus the time/materials for the gumpaste leaves....let's add 25 cents for those. The fondant stars that need to be hand cut out and applied to the food safe wire can add 50 cents to $1 to each cupcake.

What are we up to .... $5 per cupcake and we haven't even added in the cost of the cupcake yet! I know lots of custom design bakeries that will make a full size regular wedding cake for that price or less.

And the bride's mouth drops open as she says, "But it's just a 50 cent cupcake!"

No, darlin', it's not.

The plain, mass produced, made God-Knows-When cupcake at the local grocery store is a 50 cent cupcake. But that's not what you ordered from the custom cake designer.

You wanted a cupcake with bells and whistles. Bells and whistles cost extra.

If you are happy with a simple grocery store cupcake, then it's a smart purchase. But go into this decision with eyes wide open. I find it a conflicting message when the "experts" at the wedding magazines try to tell you cupcakes are cheaper and then show photos of nothing but custom designed "designer" cupcakes. It's confusing to brides and leads them to believe they can get a $7 cupcake for 50 cents.

Cupcakes usually require special stands that must be rented or purchased.

By the way, if you choose cupcakes for your wedding, I recommend you order extra (here you go, having to spend more money to have "cheaper" cupcakes!).
- When cupcakes are the wedding cake, guests are more likely to have more than one.
- If you have multiple flavors, guests are more comfortable having 2 cupcakes than they are having 2 pieces of cake. (After all, it's "just" a cupcake!)
- It's easier to grab a cupcake to take home than it is to grab a plate of sliced cake.

I've seen many incredible towering displays of cupcakes that were wonderous works of art. They can be as grand as any traditional wedding cake and can look truly regal at a reception. My intent, here, is to educate brides on what the cost can be ..... a custom designed wedding cupcake is not the same price as what you see in the grocery store.

So plan accordingly, price shop a few places, and go into this process with a taste of reality.

As a friend said to me once, "Cupcakes can be cheaper but only if you use cheap cupcakes."

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