I NEED HOW MUCH CAKE?!?!
I have been advised that a blog of my cakey thoughts would behoove the baking community. Apparently, I am witty, funny, down to earth, and have a “sort of charm” when I write. Ultimately, I think those people might want to check into a mental ward, but I figured, eh, what the heck. I will give it a go. Afterall, what is the worst that can happen? No one read this? Well then, nothing changed in that case.
I think, today, I want to ramble on about cake and how to properly calculate servings. Because of course I want to touch on something dreadfully dull and full of math. But Jen! CAKE! WE WANT CAKE!
I know. I know. But let’s hit the basics first. One of the most stressful and nerve wracking parts of just starting out is figuring up just HOW much cake you need. Yes, this is going to be boring and dull and I submit to you the option of looking at a cute kitten first to help sooth the frustrations of such a boring topic.
Now, want to see something a bit more terrifying? Teal and orange cats.
I wasn’t lying, was I? Can't say I didn't warn you.
Anyways. Let’s get started.
Truthfully, I don’t care how many guests were invited to an event. I care way more about how many will actually be there. I am not planning on shipping a cake slice to Aunt Bes and Uncle Ron since they decided to not show, nor would they really want me to.
I want you to bare in mind two numbers, 85 and 40.
Wedding experts who organize and work the math after many eons of experience have determined these are the two numbers you need to pay attention to. If your guests are local, expect 85% will show up to your event. If your guests are out of town, estimate 40% will show up. Please do not forget the plus one. Assume every invite is for 2.
Simply put, if you send 50 invites, you invited 100 people. If you are local, assume an average of 85 will show up. If you are having a destination wedding, assume only an average of 40 will show up.
But that is only averages. What about maximum capacity? In that case, assume 65% for out of towners and 90% for locals.
Your formula should look something like this:
(# of out of town guests * 65%) + (# of local guests * 90%) = total # estimated to attend
Now why does this matter when it comes to cakes? Because who wants WAY too much cake or not nearly enough??!
If you tell me that you want a cake that will serve 100, I am going to price you a cake that serves 100. But if you tell me you have a guest list of 100 well, that changes things. I am going to assume 20% will not show or will not eat cake, because that happens, so I am going to recommend a cake that serves up to 80. That can be a cost savings of $5-$10 per serving in and of itself, which can be helpful if you are trying to stay within a certain budget.
But what if that isn’t enough cake!?! I hear your fears now. I hear how you are going back and forth and opt to quote the 100 serving cake anyways. Go for it. But in that case, plan for maximum servings. What is maximum servings? It is were we estimate 80% of the guests will have cake…and they will have 1.25 servings each. No longer will you be planning for 100 servings, you will be planning for 106 servings. When might this be useful? When kids are involved, when the +1 is actually +5. When your bride or groom invites people verbally.
So if your bride or groom is on a budget, offer the most realistic option, 80%. If your bride or groom is concerned not enough cake will be there, offer the maximum serving option.
Please do not forget to give them a box. #1 mistake novice bakers make is not providing a box to take left overs home in. Because, chances are, there will be left overs. Especially when the groom cuts a HUGE slice and hides it back in the kitchen to eat for a midnight snack. Yes. They do this sometimes. And sometimes, the kitchen staff eats it thinking it is for them. You win some, you lose some.
Okay, so now we have a base idea how to figure up wedding servings. But what about birthday cakes!?
Actually, plan it the exact same way. Literally. It averages out to virtually identical to that of a wedding. You just don’t realize it because you tend to only invite 20 people versus 100 people.
And before you even scoff, I already hear your rebuttals, “But JEN! Parties tend to have larger cake servings!”
And by golly! You are right! They do! And they also tend to have toddlers throwing away about 4/5 of each slice. We are NOTORIOUS for over serving cake at parties. Chalk it up to gluttony. Chalk it up to a party that is not accompanied by a four course meal. Chalk it up to parents wanting to spoil Little Amelia and not having Junior feeling left out.
Please listen to me. Plan it the same exact way. Assume 80% will have cake….and then assume the average guest will have 1.75 servings. So for a birthday of 20 guests, I am going to assume 17 will have cake, which means I want to plan for 30 servings.
And hear me loudly here: DO NOT PRICE IT LESS JUST BECAUSE IT IS A BIRTHDAY CAKE! I will totally make a new post on this topic, it is for another day. But after doing cakes for 10 years, birthday cakes take SO MUCH MORE TIME AND ENERGY than wedding cakes. Yes, wedding cakes come with consults and insurance and follow ups and tastings and admin work. Guess what? Birthdays do as well. If you are lucky, most are pretty straight forward. But you are still going to be spending time on that quote, on the contract, on baking it, and Mia wants 800 little bitty LOL doll accessories out of fondant that is going to take 8 hours to create. That three tier wedding cake was done in only 90 minutes. Trust me. Birthday does not mean cheaper, wedding does not mean more expensive.
Moving on. Just how do we determine servings?
Take your pick. There are umpteen million charts in the wild that feature serving sizes. Calculators vary and there is no reason as to why this chart say 22 and that chart says 26, especially when they all list a serving size a 1” x 2” x 4”. I personally opt for the Wilton chart. It is the most common, used by most bakers, and is the most accurate for MY cakes. Pick one, and use that as your standard and NEVER deviate from it. And for the love of all things holy and unholy, choose the wedding serving one and NOT the party serving one. Do not be me. Do not make a full sheet cake for 30 people when in reality, it ended up serving nearly 80. That was a LOT of leftovers for a single mom of one. Whoops.
And there you have it. Wacky? Not really. Zaney? Not so much. Crazy and wild? Probably not. Informative? I hope so.
Until next time, unless I bored you to death.
Peace, Love, and Cake