Ultimate Wedding Dessert Guide

From that farm-to-table feel to modern-day masterpieces, wedding cakes and decadent desserts are adding a truly unique flavor to today’s weddings, big and small. There are many exquisite layers to wedding cake planning. In our Ultimate Wedding Dessert Guide, we’re serving up the hottest tips to help you maximize taste, style, and your budget when choosing the perfect confection for your reception!

We’ve compiled in one place everything you need to know about wedding cake planning and design to make curating your choices low on stress and high on impact!

Creating a budget and wedding dessert pricing

The first step in planning is to daydream. Think about the key elements of your wedding: the look, the feel, the people, and the emotions you envision for your day. Then it’s time to get serious about how much you and your partner feel comfortable spending. Finally, have a conversation with your Wedding Coordinator to determine how your overall budget will be dispersed between the various components of your wedding. Once you have decided on your venue, wedding date and guest list, you are ready to move on to the wedding cake planning process!

Hot tip: Since wedding cakes are often priced by the slice (avg, $2.50-8.00 per slice) and the range can vary widely, remember that dialing-in that guest list can make sticking to your price point easier.

On average, couples typically spend between $300-700 on their wedding cake or dessert bar. Keep in mind this number can be greatly affected by intricate decorative work, custom shapes, number of flavors, tiers, and types of frosting. Choosing to serve individual desserts, instead of one large cake, can seem like a smart way to go but those smaller servings can quickly add extra labor costs.

Finding the perfect wedding dessert vendor

Fine bakers and confectionary craftspeople tend to book up quickly, especially during peak wedding seasons. We recommend reaching out to our amazing NC wedding dessert bakeries, to begin the process, between 6 months to a year in advance.  It’s best to contact a number of bakeries and shops in the Raleigh area, narrowing it down to a few top-contenders that capture the overall essence of your wedding. The next step is to reach out and set-up initial consultations to inquire about availability, pricing, and delivery options. Connecting with vendors local to your venue may help you avoid additional travel fees. Take time to chat a bit. You’ll want to work with a baker you feel comfortable with, someone with lots of good reviews and years of experience.

“Choose a wedding cake that is not only delicious and moist on the inside, but outwardly presents a unique piece of artistry that will compliment your event décor. Your wedding cake doubles as dessert and decoration.”

~ Kristina Solloway, Love Cake, Raleigh NC

Wedding cake design

Now for the fun part — start gathering ideas and filling up your Pinterest board! Look for ideas on social media, wedding-related websites, and magazines. Creating an inspiration board will help you not only collect ideas, but it will give you and your baker a clear sense of direction – a blueprint for the design and structure of your cake. Sorting out important elements like your theme, preferred color palette and decor can make marrying the design details of your wedding with your dessert selection easier; talented bakers will be able to seamlessly incorporate inspiration from the lace detail on your dress or stationary pattern into the design of your cake.

Top trends in wedding dessert designs for 2022 include beautiful, pressed florals; bright, bold colorful cakes; the infusion of fresh citrus slices and gorgeous edible flowers as couples turn to nature for newly applied inspiration. Micro-weddings also continue to propel small, “cutting cakes” into the spotlight with an emphasis on minimalist design, innovative textures, and simplicity.

Wedding cake tasting – the icing on the cake

When you call to book your tasting appointment (typically about 6 months out), be sure to give your baker some insight into possible flavors or combinations you and your partner know and love. Consider seasonality, especially since you may be planning months in advance – some flavors may naturally speak to summer (like lemon or raspberry) or fall (like apple or pumpkin). Don’t be afraid to try a few unexpected flavors too – after all, this is a chance to embrace an exciting new chapter in your lives! 

You will also have a chance to try a variety of frosting possibilities – from classic creamy, buttercream, to silky smooth fondant. If you are looking for something outside of the box, consider the richness of a chocolate ganache, velvety white chocolate or the light, romantic appeal of swiss meringue. Each has its own taste, appearance and sensory experience that can add a custom flair to your cake.

Hot tip: We all know summers in North Carolina can be steamy. If you are planning an outdoor event in the summertime, be sure to choose a frosting that will hold up in the heat!

Remember, communication is key. Use your idea board to prompt questions about shapes, tiers and color combinations that speak to you. Trust your baker to make specific size, styling and flavor recommendations based on your guest count, budget, and theme. This is your special day. Your cake should integrate beautifully into your event and become an opportunity to truly wow your guests.

Topping it off

Your cake topper is another excellent way to add a distinctly personal touch. You can go big and bold with a custom monogram or sentimental with an heirloom piece or even lighthearted, adding a miniature replica of your pets. Etsy is a great place to search for customized toppers that reveal more about you as a couple, the options are endless!

Whether you choose a traditional cake or a decadent dessert bar, the display table can make a big visual impact, creating a showstopping moment for both you and your guests. Whether you are looking for drama, elegance, or whimsy – colorful, artistic details, the use of florals, layered fabrics and hand painted signage can enhance the beauty of your dessert display. Get creative and use this space to invite guests to share in an extra-special sweet treat (or two, or three!)

Fresh takes on cake alternatives

Maybe cake isn’t your first-love or your vision calls for a specific crave-able dessert, don’t hold back! Now is the perfect time to break-tradition and share your personality with your family and friends.  Choosing a decidedly different dessert is one way to pay homage to your family heritage, capture your laid-back spirit or simply sprinkle in extra joy. These are few on-trend alternatives that we love in real-life:

  • Doughnut towers
  • Macarons (or cookies) and milk
  • Cheesecake
  • Cake pops
  • Churros
  • Pies
  • Cinnamon rolls or waffles
  • S’mores

Ways to Save on Wedding Dessert Choices

If there is one thing we’ve learned, it is possible to have the wedding of your dreams and stick to your budget. You can save money and still have a cake that tastes fabulous and looks amazing! Check out our best suggestions for stretching your wedding cake budget

  • Small cake + a sheet cakes in the back:  work with your baker to design a smaller version of your dream cake to display and cut during the reception. Then, ask them to prepare simple sheet cakes for serving to your guests.
  • Add fresh flowers: Skip the labor intensive, hand-spun sugar flowers and incorporate fresh florals into your design. Less labor-intensive and stunningly beautiful, real flowers are a great way to add freshness and pops of color.
  • Choose buttercream: Buttercream frosting tends to be less expensive than other frosting options, like fondant. Unless you are concerned about summer heat, choosing this classic creamy icing may be one way to save without anyone noticing.
  • DIY Desserts: Have a friend or family member who loves to bake (and is really good at it), invite them to help build out your dessert bar – supplementing a smaller bakery cake with other sweets like mini-pies or cupcakes. After all, guests love the rustic appeal and variety of homemade treats. Nothing says love like a warm cookie or brownie. *Always be sure to follow proper kitchen etiquette and ensure homemade items are prepared safely.
  • Keep it simple: Keeping your design and flavor profile simple can be the easiest way to save. For example, “Naked cakes” (without outside layers of frosting) are very on-trend, especially for more casual, country inspired weddings.