Gosh, I hate starting an article with "back in my day" because that makes me officially old, but back in my day, I'd always hear the adult women, who were helping plan the family weddings, tell a bride to always get ".... an extra sheet cake, just in case." I always wondered "Just in case of WHAT?" I finally figured out these women were ordering a "just in case" cake because they wanted to be covered "just in case" they had more people show up than they anticipated.
Which never happens. I know you shouldn't use the word "never", but seriously .... in 30 years, I've never had a wedding where the couple/family invited 100 people and 130 showed up. Never.
I always wondered why they figured these extra people would show up just for the cake, because they never ordered an extra 10 lbs of chicken "just in case". And they never ordered 50 extra rolls "just in case". Nope, only cake.
Over time, I've observed that ordering sheet cakes has moved from the reasoning of having enough cake "just in case", to a cost saving method recommended by all the wedding magazines. The problem is that the magazines assume ALL bakers offer sheet cakes cheaper, which is just not true.
Many cake designers won't do sheet cakes. They just won't. They find it inappropriate to serve some of the guests a slice of wedding cake with multiple layers of cake and luscious filling .... and some of the guests get a piddly little square of single layer cake with no filling. And dont' kid yourself ..... the relatives who get the cheap knock off cake? They notice. They really notice.
My wedding sheet cakes are not cheaper and for a very logical reason. They are more work for me. Let me explain.
First, I dont' charge for 99% of design elements. That means a 4 tier basketweave designed cake with cascades of buttercream roses rolling down the sides will cost my bride the same money as a plain cake with just ribbon around the base. I dont' charge for most designs.
Ergo, since I dont' charge extra for ornate design, then I don't have anything to deduct for plain design .... which is the whole premise behind the "sheet cakes are cheaper" theory.
More work for me: To make a 3 tier cake for 150, I bake 3 tiers, using 6 cake pans that need prepped and washed. I ice and decorate 3 tiers.
But when a bride requests a 3 tier cake for 100 and a sheet cake for 50, I now have to bake 3 tiers using 6 slighty smaller cake pans that need prepped and washed, and I ice/decorate 3 tiers. PLUS I now have to bake a sheet cake and ice and at least border it. Another pan to wash, more baking time, more prep time, more space taken up in the delivery van. It takes longer to set up because instead of making one trip, carrying one 3-tier cake into the venue, I have to make 2 trips to the van to get the sheet cake. That may not sound like much to you, but the time (read "labor cost") adds up.
It's less work for me to do a 3 tier cake for 150 than it is for me to do a 3 tier cake PLUS a sheet cake that totals 150. If you order something that is more work for me, then you're not going to get it cheaper. It's just logical.
The good news for my brides is that this means they CAN get that grand creation of sugary centerpiece art for their reception at the same price than they would pay for a dinky little cake with some secret sheet cake hidden in the back room.
It's not that my sheet cakes are "not cheaper". It's that my wedding cakes are not "more expensive". We don't nickel and dime a bride for every little decorating aspect of her cake. It's easy for her to pick a design she likes instead of having to compromise her vision of her grand wedding cake design simply because of budget restraints. It's just our way of keeping it simple for our brides!