Size matters: how much wedding cake do you actually need to feed your guests?

Working out the size and portioning of your wedding bake is no piece of cake, so Olivia Simpson asked the experts to weigh in…

I love having people round for dinner, but I have a problem: no matter how hard I try, I always, always make too much food. While this is fine for budget-friendly curry and cheap-as-chips chilli, the stakes – and costs – will be much higher should it ever be my turn to plan a wedding. Over-order on your cake and you’ll not only waste the bake itself, you’ll be throwing away a lot of money too. So, how to get it right?

A small but impactful bake from Heather Leigh Cake Design

First principles

Don’t know where to begin? Don’t worry: your cake-maker will. “The most straight­forward way to work out what size of cake you need is to tell us how many guests you’re hoping to feed with it,” shares Heather Leigh of Heather Leigh Cake Design. “This is not the only factor, though. Budget and style should also be taken into consideration. From a catering perspective, I’d usually expect at least three-quarters of the guests to take a slice, so we’ll bear this in mind too,” she adds.

Fake it ’til you make it

If you want the drama of a towering cake but don’t have the guestlist or the budget to justify it, there are plenty of props to help you get the look. “Decorated polystyrene layers, clear acrylic layers, or an invisible floating layer all offer great visual impact,” notes Heather.

Kate Jackson from Northern Lights Cakery in Argyll adds tall toppers or a plinth- or tower-style cake stand to the list of ways to generate height without blowing your budget.

She also has advice for couples with lots of mouths to feed but who are wary of spending too much: “Opt for a smaller cake (or a cake with dummy tiers), and then order a sheet cake (a flat, rectangular cake) in the same flavour as your wedding cake. This way, you have a beautiful cake to cut, but the portions are made up by the sheet cake that goes directly to the kitchen for the venue staff to serve to the guests. The portions coming from the sheet cake will look and taste exactly the same as those from the big cake.” This can also save time on the day, since the venue can slice the sheet cake before the ceremonial cutting.

Left: This two-tier beauty from Northern Lights Cakery could provide around 60 portions; Right: Dummy tiers could help you afford a three-tier design, like this one from Jappacakes

Portion control

As a general rule, there are two sizes of slice: finger (smaller) and dessert (larger), and deciding whether your cake will be served as the dessert or as an extra treat later on will help your baker figure out the best size for you. However, there’s still a risk that venue staff will cut the wrong size of slice and wreck your calculations. “To help prevent this, I usually send out a cake portion cutting guide to the venue (I got mine from HoneyBee Cake Academy) so that the caterers know what they’re doing,” says Kate. “The last thing you want is the wedding cake going out in birthday cake slices, giving you a fraction of the required portions!

“I also discuss slice size at the first con­sultation, and the tasters I send out are the correct size too,” she adds. “This way, there are no misunderstand­ings about how big the slices will be.”