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From 2 tiers to 5: Determining the Size of Your Wedding Cake Based On the Size of Your Guest List

A wedding cake is an important part of any wedding reception, although there are few things more embarrassing than running out of cake, so don’t worry quite yet. The best way to avoid that is to determine the number of guests and then decide how many tiers the cake should have. Obviously, the more guests there are, the bigger the cake needs to be. There are three main considerations you will want to consider before any more cake shopping:

1. The top cake tier

While the topmost tier can be served with the rest of the cake, some couples prefer to keep it for themselves to eat during their honeymoon. If you do that, you have to make certain the remaining cake can provide enough slices for the guests.

2. The size of the slices

The more high-end and ritzy venues tend to cut thin slices that less than an inch thick. Family-style venues tend to cut slices that are around two inches thick. Thicker slices, of course, means fewer pieces per cake.

3. Will there be seconds?

Some couples serve just enough cake so everybody gets one piece, while others offer seconds. Guests may either eat the seconds at the reception or take them home. If you plan on offering seconds, you will need a bigger cake.

Talk with your possible baker.

Whatever you decide, you should discuss your decisions with both the baker and the venue. The baker will have a chart of cake sizes that they uses as a reference, and you can use this to check the number of pieces per tier.

The baker may also have other wedding cakes on display, and you can use these as reference points. If you see one that’s about the size that you want, tell the baker so. It is not, however, the baker’s job to tell the venue staff how to serve your cake. You will have to tell their manager how thick you want the slices to be, if you plan to serve seconds, and if you want to keep the top cake for yourself. Most venues will throw away any leftover cake unless you give them instructions to the contrary.

How big will the cake be?

Cakes used to make the tiers of a wedding cake can range from 4 inches to 24 inches. Different bakers will have different charts indicating a different number of slices for each cake. For example, Earlene’s Cakes in Texas will tell you that a round 6-inch cake serves eight, while Wilton claims the same-sized cake serves 12. The difference, of course, lies in that Wilton cuts smaller slices than Earlene does. That’s why the size of the slices is so important. See the below list for the number of slices that a round cake of a given size might provide:

• 6 inches — 8 pieces (Earlene’s), 12 pieces (Wilton)
• 8 inches – 15 pieces (Earlene’s), 24 pieces (Wilton)
• 9 inches – 22 pieces (Earlene’s), 32 pieces (Wilton)
• 10 inches — 30 pieces (Earlene’s), 38 pieces (Wilton)
• 12 inches – 45 pieces (Earlene’s), 56 pieces (Wilton)
• 14 inches – 65 pieces (Earlene’s), 78 pieces (Wilton)

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Conquering Tiers

The cakes in the tiers will differ from each other in size by two, three, or four inches. Thus a four-tiered cake could have the following dimensions: 6 inches, 8 inches, 10 inches and 12 inches. Alternatively, it could have these measurements: 6 inches, 9 inches, 12 inches and 15 inches.

If your baker uses measurements like Earlene’s, the first cake will serve 8+15+30+45 =98 slices. If they use measurements closer to those of Wilton, that same four-tiered cake will serve 12 + 24 + 38 + 56 = 130 slices. That’s assuming you serve the topmost cake to your wedding guests. If you don’t, Earlene’s cake will produce 90 slices, while the Wilton cake produces 118 slices.

So, let’s break it down a little more.

Two-tiered cakes

These cakes are best for very small weddings, especially if the couple keeps the top cake for themselves, and cake size charts will take that into account. You therefore might see a cake with 6 inch and 8 inch layers being described as producing “40 servings; 26 w/out top.” Other examples of two-tiered cakes can include:

• 4-inch cake and 6-inch cake – 20 servings
• 8-inch cake and 10-inch cake – 64 servings

* These examples are under the assumption that the couple does not keep the top cake for themselves.

Three-tiered cakes

Three-tiered cakes are the best for normal, average sized weddings. Examples include the following:

• 4-inch, 6-inch, and 8-inch layers – 46 servings
• 6-inch, 8-inch, and 10-inch layers – 78 servings
• 6-inch, 9-inch, and 12-inch layers—100 servings
• 6-inch, 10-inch and 14-inch layers – 128 servings

* These examples are under the assumption that the couple does not keep the top cake for themselves.

Four-tiered and five-tiered cakes

If you are having a big, fat Greek wedding (if you have not seen this movie, we highly recommend it), then these are the tiers you may want to consider:

• 6-inch, 8-inch, 10-inch, and 12-inch layers –134 servings
• 6-inch, 8-inch, 10-inch, 12-inch, and 14-inch layers – 210 servings

* These examples are under the assumption that the couple does not keep the top cake for themselves.

What if the cake isn’t round?

So far, we’ve been assuming that your wedding cake will be round, simply because most of them are. But many bakeries can make cakes that are oval, hexagonal, square, heart-shaped, petal-shaped, and much, much more. Both companies (referring to Earlene’s and Wilton) have charts detailing how many slices a given cake of a specific shape and size will produce. True to form, Earlene’s cuts larger slices than does Wilton.

The shape of the cake does matter, for it can affect the number of slices produced. At Wilton, a 6-inch cake produces the following number of slices:

• Round – 12
• Petal – 8
• Hexagon – 11
• Heart – 14
• Square – 18

The oval cake at Wilton closest in size to the other cakes has measurements of 7 ¾ by 5 3/8 inches and produces 13 slices.

Another thing to think is that cakes of non-standard shapes may come in fewer available sizes. While Wilton has a lot of options with heart-shaped wedding cakes and therefore offers them in a lot of different sizes, Earlene’s carries them in only four sizes. If you want to order a five-tiered wedding cake from Earlene’s, you will have to get a round or square cake, for those are the only shapes with over four sizes.


So, in the end, you need to discuss with the bakery specifically what you are wanting, in order to figure out exactly what you want. While you can get a general idea with tiers, you still need to look through sizing charts to make sure that nightmare of running out of cake, does not come true!

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