Clients often ask how much cake (or cupcakes) they should order, and there are a lot of variables that go into the answer to this question. You need to consider if the party is for kids or adults, if a meal and/or other desserts are going to be offered, and take into account that not every person who cuts a cake will divide it up the same way. While there are no strict rules on this topic, this is what I typically recommend to my clients.
Children's Birthday Parties and Other Children's Events
Generally at an event geared toward kids, every child in attendance will want a piece of cake. Every once in awhile I hear of a kid turning down their slice, but that's very rare. On top of the kids, usually around 80-90% of any adults in attendance will also have a piece of cake if it is offered to them.
Grown Up Parties
Events geared towards adults can be separated into two categories, those where a meal is physically being served to the guests and those where the food is self serve.
Seated / Served Meals
A party where a plated meal is served is the easiest to plan when it comes to serving amounts. At a seated event, like a wedding where the cake is sliced and served to the guests at their table by wait staff, enough cake should be ordered for each guest in attendance. The wait staff usually move fast when delivering plates, so even if a guest wanted to decline, their server will probably be off to the next table before they can say no thank you. At this type of event, I recommend enough cake be ordered to cover the RSVP count.
Self Serve Events
For parties where the guests are responsible for picking up their own piece of cake, I recommend cake only be ordered for about 85% of the head count. There are any number of reasons people don't eat cake at a party - they left before the cake was cut, they were having too much fun on the dance floor, they wanted to hang out at the bar instead, they were too full from dinner, they were on a diet... the list goes on. Whatever the reason, if it is not served to them, not everyone will have dessert.
Additional desserts being offered
If you are having a dessert table, the size of the cake can be reduced even further. Guests will still want to try the cake, but because they also want a sugar cookie and chocolate dipped marshmallow they expect the slice of cake to be smaller than usual. Depending on the amount of other dessert offerings, I typically recommend cake be ordered for about 65-70% of the head count.
The overall design of the cake may also dictate if additional servings are needed. For instance, if a wedding cake has a large waterfall of flowers trailing down the side of the cake, a good number of those outer portions will be cut away and not served. Once the flower picks are removed, you will be left with slices that look more like Swiss cheese than cake. Not what you want to serve to Great Aunt Edna.
Be sure to relay the final head count and the food details of your event to your baker at least two weeks in advance or more depending on their requirements.
Curious how many servings you should expect from the different size tiers? Check out the chart on our Resources page.
Hi! I'm Melisa
I am the owner, baker, designer, decorator and all around 'one woman show' of Sweet By Design, a home based, custom cake bakery which is located just outside of Dallas, Texas. I hope to shed a little light on the wedding and event industry and make your day a little sweeter!
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