Figuring out how much to charge for that race car cake your customer ordered for her son's fifth birthday is usually as much guesswork as it is a pricing formula. Custom cakes, like sculpted cakes, prove difficult to price effectively where the bakery still makes money and the customer is still willing to pay. Brian Pansari, La Bonbonniere Bake Shoppes; Charlie Tola, Lulu's Bakery Shop and Beth Fahey, Creative Cakes offered their tips on how to appropriately price specialty cakes.
Pansari stressed that pricing these cakes is more about labor and less about material. His bakery starts with a minimum charge based on a 20-serving cake and then adds on from there, and price is not proportional to cake size–dropping from a 40-serving cake to 20-serving cake doesn't cut the price in half.
Tola recommended charging separately for cakes that have several design elements. He sited a cake that had a wine bottle and a watch and he had a charge for both. And if a customers needs to cut the cost, a simple way to do that is to have them bring in a cake topper so you don't have to sculpt it out of fondant or gumpaste.
Fahey prices her custom cakes as the cake cost plus the artwork, wedding cakes are priced per serving and sculpted cakes are priced as art. She also recommends finding out what is important to them about the cake and why. By knowing what is important to the customer, you know where you can cut back if the price becomes to prohibitive. Also, she isn't afraid to ask the budget right off the bat. She also suggested giving the customer ranges of price and let them choose the elements they are willing to pay for.
But all agreed that sometimes the pricing science is off, sometimes you lose money and sometimes you make more than you expected.